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The bridge

Perth bridge

Postcard of the original Perth bridge, with cows in the foreground. Reference: Tasmanian Archives; Perth [Tasmania] - collection of postcards, AUTAS0016125437012 1840-1940.

It soon became clear that a bridge was necessary. This was moslty for two reasons. First, the amount of traffic justified. Second, the punt was unreliable - both because of weather and difficulties with the punt operators.

 

The old Perth Bridge, a vital link between North and South, had its tragedies as well as its moments of grandeur. It was mooted as early as 1826. In 1835 a meeting was held at the first hotel, St Andrew's Inn, with a view to bringing about the erection of a bridge. The stone for the original structure came from the side of the hill not far from the Tabernacle. Lieutenant William Kenworthy was the first supervisor of the prisoners called to work on the structure. Mr James Purves was superintendent of bridge works.

 

The original cost was £10,000, and then when Captain Alexander Cheyne took over as Director of Road Works in 1837, work was begun embodying alterations, which increased the cost. The length was extended to 900 feet, and the price was estimated at £20,000. It was completed in 1839, only to be damaged in 1840-41, part of the retaining wall giving way. In the time of Sir William Denison, as Lieutenant Governor, in 1852 the bridge was so severely damaged that a new suspension iron bridge was ordered from England. This, however, was to be sold to Sydney for £5,000, and the reconstruction of the old bridge undertaken, with Sir William Denison visiting Perth and staying at the Perth Hotel to watch the works in progress, being an engineer himself.

 

The bridge was destroyed by the great flood of March 1929, and the present one was erected in 1931 under the supervision of Mr G.D. Balsille, Director of Public Works. There was a fatal accident at the bridge, not long afterwards, when a truck crashed over the structure, dropping 34 feet: two men were killed. A few months later, two men in a car crashed and the driver was killed. In 1956 seven floods struck the bridge. The area near the bridge was the scene of the early Perth Regattas, held on the waterfront down from the old cemetery. As many as 6,000 persons attended. Paired oared craft as well as foot races were on the pro- gramme. A highlight was a pig in a box to be retrieved from the end of a greasy pole.

 

Most of the streets of Perth were laid out in 1833. The route of the Highway was finally resolved with the building of the bridge in 1837-39.

Reference: Rait, B. 1971 'Perth and its story', Advance Publicity Co, Hobart. 

Early bridge designers apparently lacked the means to make an arch of wide span, but trusted to heavy masses of masonry, occupying a large part of the waterway, with smaller arches alongside or between them. The result was that in flood time the river was dammed about the bridge which increased the scour at the base up of the piers and so in time tended to defeat the very object of heavy piers and to make the whole bridge insecure. It was largely this fault which lost us the superlative bridge at Perth in the floods of 1929. The heavy piers collapsed beneath the pressure of logs and water.

Reference: Sharland, M. 1952 'Stones of a Century', J. Walch & Sons, Hobart, p 11.

AUTAS001124065814

Sketch of the Perth bridge by Emily Stuart Bowring, circa 1859. This sketch is from the South looking North. The buildings in the background are Perth proper, you can see the old punt road leading to the river behind the bridge. Reference: Tasmanian Archives; Sketchbook of Tasmanian scenes FA424, SD_ILS:74100 1859.

AUTAS001124065764

A sketch of the Perth bridge looking South. The multi-storey building behind the bridge is likely the old mill at Scone, and the buildings in the foreground are part of the Government District on the East bank of the river. Reference: Tasmanian Archives; Sketchbook of Tasmanian scenes FA424, SD_ILS:74092 1859.

LPIC147-1-185

An excellent photo to observe the construction of the bridge. Note the tree branch wrapped around the pillar. Reference: Tasmanian Archives; Launceston Collection of Photographs of Places, Events, Buildings and General Subjects, LPIC147-1-185 1859-2013.

LPIC147-5-255

Family photograph in front of the bridge. Reference: Tasmanian Archives, Launceston Collection of Photographs of Places, Events, Buildings and General Subjects, LPIC147-5-255 1859-2013.

LPIC144-1-28

Note Scone (now Eskleigh) in the background. Reference: Tasmanian Archives; Collection of Glass Plate Negatives, LPIC144-1-28 1905-1920.

PH30-1-1535

Note the veteran car on the bridge. Reference: Tasmanian Archives, Miscellaneous Collection of Photographs, PH30-1-1535 1929.

NS392-1-811

Note the windmill and water pump in the foreground. Reference: Tasmanian Archives; Glass Plate Negatives Probably Taken by C. P. Ray, NS392-1-811 1900-1929.

LPIC147-5-254

Date unknown. Reference: Tasmanian Archives; Launceston Collection of Photographs of Places, Events, Buildings and General Subjects, LPIC147-5-254 1859-2013.

PH30-1-4471

A wonderful photo of the old bridge. Note the figures sitting on the edge. Circa 1900 Reference: Tasmanian Archives, Miscellaneous Collection of Photographs, PH30-1-4471 1900.

NS4627-1-21

A colour postcard of the bridge, circa 1908. Reference: Tasmanian Archives; Photographs of Vaudeau and Dowling Families, NS4627-1-21 1908.

LPIC27-2-34

Reference: Tasmanian Archives; Photographs of Various Trips, LPIC27-2-34 1920.

PWD266-1-1613

A plan of the Perth bridge. Reference: Tasmanian Archives; Plans, Architectural Drawings, Elevations and Sections of Public Buildings and Infrastructure, PWD266-1-1613 1845-1977.

QVM-1991-P-0840 View of the bridge Perth Tasmania 1901

View of the bridge Perth Tasmania 1901. Collection of the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery, Launceston, Tasmania: QVM-1991-P-0840

WC1929041706

Photos from the Weekly Courier showing the destruction of the Perth bridge in April of 1929. Reference: State Library of Tasmania; The Weekly courier photo-lithographic inserts collection, SD_ILS:1010593 1929.

NS1013-1-843

Perhaps one of the last photographs ever taken of the old Perth bridge. The 1929 flood waters begin to consume it. Reference: Tasmanian Archives; Photographs and Glass Plate Negatives collected by E R Pretyman, NS1013-1-843 1929.

LPIC84-1-38

Perth bridge underwater during the 1929 floods. Reference: Tasmanian Archives; Photographs of 1929 Flood, Launceston, LPIC84-1-38 1929.

Perth Bridge remains

All that remained of the original Perth bridge after the floods. Reference: Tasmanian Archives; Perth [Tasmania] - collection of postcards, AUTAS0016125436824 1840-1940.

LPIC147-3-78

When the 1929 floodwaters receded, this was all that remained of the original Perth bridge. Reference: Tasmanian Archives, Launceston Collection of Photographs of Places, Events, Buildings and General Subjects, LPIC147-3-78 1929.

PH30-1-7284

The punt returns! Here, Launceston Telephone Exchange staff run new lines to replace the ones washed away with the bridge. Reference: Tasmanian Archives; Miscellaneous Collection of Photographs, PH30-1-7284 1929.

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