A trio of historic Tasmanian bridges – three of Australia’s four oldest – serve as both the destination and part of the journey: Richmond Bridge, Ross Bridge, and Red Bridge. There are three bridges that span more than rivers in Tasmania’s historic heartland between Hobart and Launceston. Here are the historical stories of Tasmanian Bridges: Richmond Bridge, Ross Bridge, Red Bridge, Tasman Bridge, and more. Cross them and let the past wash over you. Ghosts may pursue you.
3 Historic Tasmanian Bridges
Richmond Tasmanian Bridge
It’s difficult to believe, but bucolic Richmond village, which is only 25 minutes from downtown Hobart, was once Tasmania’s third-largest town.
Richmond Bridge became a convict-era time capsule when a new highway to Sorell bypassed it in 1872: stone buildings delightfully framed by lightly forested hills and a fetchingly curved Georgian streetscape.
Richmond Bridge’s elegant arches span the tranquil Coal River, providing the perfect backdrop for a lazy afternoon of duck feeding and novel reading on grassy banks. It appears to be more The Wind in the Willows than His Natural Life, but it wasn’t designed for romantic perspectives.
Richmond bridge, which opened in January 1825, was part of the colonial push into fertile farmland. Richmond bridge is not only Australia’s oldest bridge, but it’s also our most haunted, which adds a chill to an after-dark stroll across, even if you’re more Scully than Mulder when it comes to the supernatural.
George Grover, a despised convict overseer and flogger is the most sinister spook. Stumbling home drunk in 1832, he fell asleep on the bridge and was heaved over the side by unknown people. He named an assailant with his dying words and was discovered on rocks eight meters below, but no one was convicted.
Grover now joins a headless man (some say Grover himself), a long-dead local in a straw boater, and ‘Grover’s Dog,’ a phantom pooch that follows women and children across the bridge at night.
Ross Bridge: Tasmanian History
If the Richmond Bridge depicts how convicts once retaliated against the system by murderously misusing its infrastructure, the Ross Bridge depicts the psychic wounds of transportation being healed by the power of art.
Ross bridge, 117 kilometers from Hobart and less frequented by day-tripping coach tours, is more laid-back than Richmond.
Ross is a storybook stone village that rewards a relaxed stroll and a sharp eye. It is a tiny island of convict-built, Georgian-era real estate in a sea of sheep pastures. If you look closely at Ross Bridge (binoculars are recommended), you might notice that it is staring back at you.
Grim elven faces abound, as do swirling patterns and strange creatures. The dazzling array of 186 carvings is an outpouring of creative artistry unparalleled in Australian convict construction.
Real people are said to be depicted. Lieutenant-governor Arthur has the appearance of death warmed up beneath a large hat. A flower held by an aboriginal head has been interpreted as a sympathetic gesture toward people who are already on the verge of extinction.
The ‘King and Queen’ appear to be playing cards, but they are most likely Danish adventurer Jrgen Jrgensen and his wife, Norah.
The nickname is doubly appropriate because Jrgensen was known as the “King of Iceland” – he briefly held executive power in Iceland after a coup in 1809.
Jrgensen ended up a convict constable at Ross, driven insane by the theft of quarried stone, which was slowing bridge-building to a crawl.
One north-facing keystone depicts a lion devouring a lamb, which could be interpreted as a startlingly bold comment on imperial cruelty. Nonetheless, the sculptor, a highwayman named Daniel Herbert, was pardoned for his work.
Whether or not he intended the subversive symbolism now visible in his carvings, Herbert was hell-bent on incorporating the human spirit into a business that required nothing more than basic functionality.
Strangely, none of the project’s numerous official documents mention his extravagant masonry, but someone in charge must have given the go-ahead, perhaps as a morale boost.
If that’s the case, this act of kindness has left a one-of-a-kind legacy: the world’s only stone bridge with carvings on every arch.
The Red Bridge was not only built by convicts but it was also designed by them. In 1833, James Blackburn was sentenced to prison for forgery, but as a qualified architect, he was so useful that he went straight from the convict ship to the Department of Roads and Bridges – effectively sentenced to office politics.
He’d be pleased to see his design still in service two centuries later, taking two million vehicles a year and serving as an enduring reminder of a past that still echoes in the fabric of this land alongside soulmates at Richmond and Ross.
Other Amazing Bridges In Tasmanian
Spiky Bridge was built in 1843 by a convict road gang from fieldstones laid without mortar or cement. The parapet is made of vertically laid fieldstones, giving the bridge a spiky appearance. The spikes were allegedly designed to keep cattle from falling over the sides.
An Irishman’s cunning and ingenuity were required to improve a notoriously difficult road on Tasmania’s east coast. Major de Gillern, the then-superintendent of the Rocky Hills Probation Station, knew Edward Shaw. Edward took matters into his own hands after becoming tired of his requests to improve the road that traverses the steep gully south of Waterloo Point, about 7.5 kilometers south of Swansea.
He took the gully at full gallop one night while driving the Major home, making the journey somewhat uncomfortable for the Major. A convicted gang was quickly assigned to build a bridge across the sharp dip.
This fieldstone bridge appears to be constructed of dry stonework. Its random rubble side walls make it more of a causeway with a small arched culvert. It has stone buttresses on the west side, next to a central channel. During the 1920s, the lower side of the west wall (the sloping side) was reinforced. The bridge’s current name was inspired by the bridge’s parapets, which are made up of large and small upright stones. The bridge is located near Swansea on the Tasman Highway.
Kings Bridge near Launceston, Tasmania, is a very elegant and gracefully arched, open girder steel bridge that carries Bridge Road/Trevallyn Road across the Tamar River. It was built in two complementary sections forty years apart (1863 and 1903).
The bridge was built to carry main road traffic north from Launceston to the towns on the Bass Strait coasts, but it is now protected from heavy West Tamar traffic by the newer adjoining Paterson Bridge, which opened in the 1960s. Kings Bridge is now only open to local traffic.
The bridge’s appeal stems in part from its location at the end of the renowned Launceston Gorge within the Trevallyn State Reserve. On all sides except the northern, the reserve is bounded by the South Esk River. Trevallyn Lake, formed by the Trevallyn Dam, is to the east, as is Cataract Gorge.
Kerry Lodge Bridge
Kerry Lodge Bridge, also known as Strathroy Bridge and Jinglers Creek Bridge, is located 9.6 kilometers south of Launceston on the former Midland Highway. Lieutenant William Kenworthy oversaw the construction of the convict-built bridge in 1834.
Kerry Lodge Bridge, also known as Strathroy Bridge and Jinglers Creek Bridge, is located 9.6 kilometers south of Launceston on the former Midland Highway. Lieutenant Governor Arthur authorized the bridge, and construction began in 1834. Lieutenant William Kenworthy was in command on the ground, with John Lee Archer in command in Hobart. Archer was also in charge of the magnificent Ross Bridge.
This bluestone masonry bridge and causeway span a deep gorge with a high single-barrel vault. A colonnade of narrow pilasters, string courses, and relief panels in the parapet walls adorn the massive facades. The copings are made of random rough stones set on edge, which is unusual in Tasmania and especially intriguing given that the bridge was designed to have molded freestone copings.
Tasman Bridge connects Hobart to the suburbs on the eastern bank of the Derwent River. It replaced the original crossing across the Derwent River, a one-of-a-kind floating bridge that opened in 1943.
The bulk ore carrier “SS Lake Illawarra,” loaded with zinc concentrate, drifted out of the main navigation lane and collided with the Tasman Bridge on the evening of Sunday, January 5, 1975, at 9.27 p.m. Two piers and 127 meters of decking were destroyed. It was raining and dark, so visibility was limited. Bridge traffic continued to pour over the bridge’s rise and into the river below. The collapsed span was noticed by one of the drivers. He came to a halt and tried to warn others, but most of them ignored him and continued on their way to their deaths. Five people died when four cars crashed through the gap into the Derwent, while several others managed to escape from their vehicles that were hanging on the edge of the gap. Seven crew members from the “SS Lake Illawarra” were also killed.
Tasman bridge collapse had an immediate impact, severing Hobart in half. Residents on the eastern shore were severely harmed, transportation facilities were put to the test, and to make matters worse, the majority of hospitals, schools, businesses, and government offices were located on the western shore. Three private ferries and a government vessel were operational by the next day. Health services were also prioritized, and most of the essential services required by Clarence residents were delivered within four months.
The Bridge took about two years to rebuild at a cost of $44 million, which was nearly three times its original cost due to inflation. Because there is too much debris on the site, engineers decided not to replace pier 19, so only one pier was replaced, and two of the three spans that were brought down in the collision were replaced by a single, new span. On Saturday, October 8, 1977, the Tasman Bridge reopened to the public.