Campbell Town, located on the banks of the Elizabeth River, 68 km south of Launceston, 134 km north of Hobart on the Midland Highway was once one of the early coaching stops. Originally established in 1821 by Governor Macquarie as one of the four garrison town and probation stations between Hobart and Launceston, Campbell Town today is located within a major pastoral region (famed for wool-growing) and tourist centre on the Heritage Highway in the Northern Midlands. Both Campbell Town, and the Elizabeth River, which flows through it were named by Governor Macquarie after his wife, Elizabeth Campbell.
Red Bridge Over Elizabeth River
With construction starting in 1836, and completion in July 1838, convict labour was used to build Red Bridge in Campbell Town. Each convict was paid six pence per day, and at the peak of construction 220 convicts were working on the bridge. Red Bridge was designed by James Blackburn (10 August 1803 – 3 March 1854), a convict himself, transported to Van Dieman’s Land as a sentence for forgery. James was an English civil engineer, surveyor and architect best known for his work in Australia.
Originally built for horse and cart, consisting of drystone abutments and a timber top (the top has now been replaced), the bridge was constructed using stone and 1,250,000 handmade bricks which were made by convicts in Campbell Town itself. Red Bridge is the oldest surviving brick arch bridge in Australia, and the oldest bridge on the Australian National Highway.
Containing three arch spans, each one 7.6 metres wide, the bridge holds two lanes of traffic and also has pedestrian walkways. Lying on the Midlands Highway, almost half way between Hobart and Launceston, over two million vehicles use the bridge each year. The most fascinating thing about Red Bridge is in the fact it was constructed on dry land, after its completion in 1838 the Elizabeth River was diverted to flow under the bridge.
Known to the Aboriginal people as Parndokerner liapinder (water flowing from the East), Elizabeth River flows through Campbell Town. Originally known as Relief Creek, (near the site of present day Campbell Town), the river was a meeting place for the aboriginal people on their travels from the East Coast to the Great Western Tiers. This region was inhabited by the Tayaranutapuna people, the area they called Waylata. Forester kangaroo and wallaby provided food as the grassy plains of the Midlands were fertile hunting grounds.
Flowing from the Eastern Tiers to the Macquarie River, the Elizabeth River eventually joins with the South Esk River, and finally flows through Cataract Gorge and into the Tamar Basin in Launceston. Elizabeth River was once only a seasonal river, flowing only in the wetter months. After Lake Leake was constructed in 1880 it became a permanent river. Today the river flows peacefully through Campbell Town, a delightful stopover for picnic or BBQ, with beautiful river walks and opportunities to feed the local ducks.
Named for James Blackburn, the designer of Red Bridge, is Blackburn Park, a delightful park and picnic ground located on the banks of the Elizabeth River beside Red Bridge. Complete with play equipment and BBQ facilities, a stroll around the park is delightful.
Three large macrocarpa trees which were planted in the 1930s, required to be felled for safety reasons, have been turned into works of art by chainsaw sculptor Eddie Freeman (originally from Campbell Town), famed for his chainsaw carvings throughout the state. These trees now depict various features of the natural and human history of Campbell Town and the region.
One tree closest to Red Bridge features a heritage theme with a British Soldier guarding a convict labourer during the construction of Red Bridge. Another tree highlights the region’s natural rich aquatic and terrestrial wildlife complete with platypus, duck, trout, Tasmanian Devil, dragonfly and more.
A third tree pays tribute to prominent people in Campbell Town’s history, Governor Macquarie and his wife; bushranger Martin Cash, Dr William Valentine and Harold Gatty, while the sheep and wool bales represent the Campbell Town Show, the longest running annual show in Australia. These sculptures capture the very essence of this beautiful town and region, and are a perfect tribute to the history of Campbell Town.
All photos strictly ©Carol Haberle, H&H Photography.
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