Tasmanian Bridge: Built by Convicts
How many times have you noticed a Tasmanian bridge being promoted as a heritage icon? You might be inclined to think: seen one, seen them all? But the inclusion of so many of these historic structures in the highlight reel is valid.
Here’s a small sample…
Tasmanian Bridge #1 – Richmond
The oldest of my sample collection of Tasmanian bridges was built by convicts in 1825. Made from sandstone and with arches spanning the Coal River in Richmond, it is also thought to be the oldest of its type in Australia. Despite the history of the Richmond Bridge, little has been changed over the last 185+ years.
Now included on the National Heritage List, the bridge is a regular inclusion on the tourist run from Hobart to the Port Arthur Convict Settlement. From the right angle, photographers can also capture Australia’s oldest existing Catholic Church in the background. The St John Catholic Church was built in 1836.
Tasmanian Bridge #2 – Ross
Not only the pride of Ross in Tasmania, this bridge is regarded as a significant construction in the whole of the Commonwealth. Like the Richmond version, the Ross Bridge was built from stone by convicts, but just over a decade later in 1836. That makes it the third oldest bridge still standing in Australia.
The Ross Bridge features beautiful stonework and carvings, apparently thanks mainly to the work of convict Daniel Herbert. The stonemason, who was transported to Van Dieman’s Land for robbery, was paid a shilling a day for his troubles.
Sir George Arthur, then Governor of Tasmania, was obviously pleased with his work. Herbert was released into the community when construction was finished, and was buried nearby when he died.
Tasmanian Bridge #3 – Campbell Town
Campbell Town’s entrant into this battle of the Tasmanian Bridge was finished in 1838. It has the distinction of being the oldest bridge still currently part of the National Highway. Not a bad achievement for a structure built over 170 years ago. More than two million vehicles travel through this section of the Heritage Highway every year.
The one and a half million bricks used in the construction of the bridge were locally made. Designed in Europe, the bridge (once again) was built by Tasmanian convicts. The colour of the bricks inspired the name Red Bridge, which is located at the southern entrance of Campbell Town near the Red Bridge Cafe.
As seen by the photos, each Tasmanian bridge has a unique quality and they’re all worthy of admiration. They are connected by the convict heritage of the region… and the ducks in the foreground! Each town has a legitimate stake in the claim for the best bridge in Tasmania. Maybe we should make it a combined challenge, and include the equally impressive local bakeries!!
Most of the photos in this article were taken by Dan Fellow
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