Berrima, NSW. A Bunch of Bridge Blocks

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.

Bridge Blocks, Berrima. RG2021

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.

Bridge plaque

Restoration work was carried out by Messrs. Matthews & Jennings in 1860 followed by Loveridge & Hudson in 1897.

Bridge Blocks 1860 & 1897, Berrima. RG2021

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

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.

Lennox Bridge, Lapstone Hill, Mitchell Pass near Penrith, N.S.W., 1835 Conrad Martens NLA2390726

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:

BERRIMA   BRIDGE.  

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.  

Prospect Creek Bridge, D.G. Selkirk 1920

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.”  

Lennox’s Berrima Bridge opened 1836

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

Berrima Bridge Plaque 1962 RG2021

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.

Berrima Bridge 2021 RG2021

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.

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