At Berrima Marketplace Park there are a few odd sandstone blocks near the carpark. The plaque tells us they are from the original Berrima Bridge built by convicts for David Lennox in 1836 & restored in 1860 & 1897. Surely, there is a story here to investigate & a lot more blocks somewhere else, so let’s explorer further.
REMNANTS OF BERRIMA’S 1836 BRIDGE
The Berrima District Museum & Story Centre is nearby but there are no further clues there, although they suggested the Berrima District Historical Society Archives at Mittagong.
Restoration work was carried out by Messrs. Matthews & Jennings in 1860 followed by Loveridge & Hudson in 1897.
The Berrima District Historical Society website has an image library but the images are copyright. The description for image 103469 of a wooden truss bridge reads:
Timber truss bridge over the Wingecarribee River at Berrima was constructed in 1896 to replace the Martindale Truss Bridge constructed in 1866. The original Lennox Bridge (1836) was swept away by flooding of the Wingecarribee River in 1860. The wooden truss bridge was situated 58 metres downstream from the first bridge.
There is also image 102444 of David Lennox’s 1836 bridge at Sutton Forest which looks similar to the Lennox Bridge at Lapstone. It is described as:
View of the bridge showing the 1836 stone abutments and the central concrete arch constructedin 1896 to replace the original timber beam bridge. The bridge was designed by David Lennox and constructed by convict road gangs.
David Lennox also built the Lennox Bridge at Lapstone in 1835, so perhaps they are similar. Trove reveals Conrad Martens 1835 watercolour of the Lennox Bridge at Mitchells Pass, which is out of copyright.
Trove Digital Library has The Royal Australian Historical Journal from 1920 Vol 6. part 5 with an article by Henry Selkirk on David Lennox, the Bridge Builder, and His Work which is also out of copyright. It includes a description of the Berrima Bridge and the only known illustration, by Sir Thomas Mitchell. It reads:
On May 30, 1833, David Lennox, writing from the ‘‘Grey Hound Inn,” near Liverpool, refers to his instructions for a stone bridge over the Wingecarribee River at Berrima, and shortly afterwards reports that, on inspection, he finds the site an excellent one, with abundance of building stone on the spot. For this work he proposed a replica on a reduced scale of the bridge at Prospect Creek, with an arch span of fifty feet, and width of twenty-seven feet, including parapets, and this proposal was duly approved. In his report he mentions two smaller bridges with stone piers to be built on the Southern Road, referring evidently to those subsequently erected over the Midway Rivulet and Black Bob’s or Crawford’s Creek.
There does not seem to have been any ceremonial opening of Berrima Bridge, but the date of its completion is approximately fixed by the following brief notice in the Sydney Herald of June 30, 1836: “The new stone bridge at Berrima is just completed.; carriages and loading have been crossing it this last fortnight.”
In November, 1836. Major Mitchell, returning from his expedition to the Rivers Darling and Murray, makes this entry in his journal:— “2nd November On entering the township of Berrima, I had the satisfaction of crossing one bridge at least which was worthy of a British colony.”
THE BERRIMA BRIDGE DAMAGED 1858, REPAIRED & SWEPT AWAY 1860.
For twenty-two years the Berrima Bridge fully served its purpose, but in a period of heavy flood in 1858, it received such serious damage, that necessary repairs were estimated at £8OO. Parliament, however, not feeling disposed to face so large an outlay, proposed as an alternative to place a timber superstructure across the broken arch at a cost of £200. [Sydney Morning Herald, April 22, 1858].
Whatever the precise nature of the repairs effected may have been, we learn from a report by Captain Martindale, dated October 1, 1859, that they were then complete, and the bridge once more open to traffic; but further disaster was in store, as we learn from the Goulburn Chronicle of February 11, 1860, that during the disastrous floods of that year:—
“The Berrima Bridge has been entirely swept away, which took place yesterday. The fate foretold of this structure has overtaken it at last.”
In a later report by Captain Martindale, dated September 1860, he states that the old stone bridge, destroyed by recent floods, was being replaced by a truss bridge on stone piers, twenty-five feet high, with three bays two of sixty feet, and one of seventy feet span, and roadway fifteen feet eight inches wide. This bridge, erected by Messrs. Matthews and Jennings, was in turn severely damaged by flood, and was in 1897 replaced by the present structure erected by Messrs. Loveridge and Hudson.
The original piers were raised ten feet, the width of road way increased to sixteen feet three inches, and a span of twenty-five feet added at each end, the new abutments being Umber piles with concrete surrounds.
BERRIMA BRIDGE 1962 &2021
This may mean that the original stone was part of the replacement bridges but there is another plaque on the bridge dated 1962, which reveals there is another chapter to our story.
Perhaps some maps might help to determine the different bridge locations relative to today’s bridge. It would be great if you have any further insights, stories, maps, plans or images, if you contact us and help us discover the story of the Berrima and its Bridge.