Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Jordan River Bridge, Pontville

This bridge is old for an Australian bridge, and although the deck is new, the massive nature of the piers, together with their fine detailing means that the bridge has retained much of its original character. It is on the old Hobart to Launceston road and there was originally a bridge across the Jordan River at Pontville dating from the 1830’s. In 1835, John Lee Archer reported that it had become necessary to strengthen it. He recommended the construction of a new pier under the central span of 60 feet.

By the 1840’s a new bridge had been erected close to the military post which had been established near the river. On October 22, 1847, W.P.Kay reported that owing to defective masonry, four piers must be rebuilt from the foundations. On September 25, 1848, Kay informed the Colonial Secretary that the Pontville New Bridge would be open to public traffic on Wednesday morning, 27th September when the work would be completed except one wing wall at the north end. The whole would be finished at the end of the month.

A drawing of this bridge dated April 1848 on which the plan elevation and section are set out to scale shows two long stone abutments curving outwards as the road approaches and four stone piers nearly six feet wide with cut waters carried up to the level of the platform. This is twenty feet above river bed and is composed of logs laid longitudinally with planks laid across them supporting a layer of earth. The five open spans vary in length from twenty feet to twenty five feet and the width of the roadway is twenty five feet. Balustrade piers in stone are carried above the cut waters supporting the ends of wooden fences and a recess is formed on the road side of each pier.

A modern concrete deck was laid on the substructure of this bridge in 1945 and while the motorist is now conscious of only the roadway and pipe railings in concrete posts, history buffs should take the time to go down the side of the bridge to the river bank to view the magnificent stone piers that date back to the 1840’s. They appear to remain in wonderful condition to this day, easily surviving the stresses of modern day cars & heavy traffic. The bridge is a tribute to the skill of the stonemasons & bridge builders of the 1840’s.

Main Text & Information Source –
Australian Heritage Database
“Early Tasmanian Bridges” – R.Smith 1969