Inspire : Public Works Mar Apr 2015
46 Public Works Professional March-April 2015 Today Richmond Bridge in Tasmania is a popular tourist attraction. However, when the stone arch bridge was ﬁrst constructed in the 1820s, it held more signiﬁcance as a feat of engineering – holding the record for the longest bridge span in Australia until 1836. It is believed that Royal Commissioner John Thomas Bigge ﬁrst identiﬁed the site for the bridge when he visited Richmond in 1820 as part of his commission of inquiry on agriculture and trade. Constr uction on a road to Richmond was already under way and the need for a bridge was apparent. Construction on Richmond Bridge commenced a few years later in 1823. Richmond had ear ned the name 'the granary of Australia’ in the 1820s due to the widespread cultivation of wheat in the area. As the agriculture industry grew, so too did the population – the bridge is strongly linked with the town’s development. EARLY CROSSINGS Traditionally locals had crossed the Coal River at a nearby ford, but this proved a challenge in the winter months when the river was prone to ﬂooding. The Hobart Town Gazette wrote on 13 December 1823 that the ﬁrst stone had been laid in the construction of the bridge in the presence of locals James Gordon and George Western Gunning and “a number of respectable settlers of the vicinity”. However, historians are unclear as to who designed the bridge. The three options include Superintendent of the Stonemasons William Mason, Colonial Architect David Lambe and Major Bell of the 49th Regiment, who was Acting Engineer and Inspector of Public Works. The latter being the most popular contender to the crown. The bridge’s distinctive chocolate-box appearance can be attributed to the local sandstone used in its constr uction. It became a popular tourist attraction in the 20th century, often appearing on postcards. Years later in 1976 and again in 2004, it appeared on its own stamp. Convict labour was used to construct the bridge and it retains historical importance for this reason as well as the role it played in the development of Richmond. TO THIS DAY The bridge has been in continual use since it opened. Sixteen vibration monitors were mounted on the inside of the bridge parapets as a test in June 2009 on the recommendation of the 1997 Conser vation Management Plan of the Richmond Bridge. A permanent vibration meter and camera were installed on the bridge in 2011 with sensors positioned over each arch. The resulting data is monitored 24/7 and provides valuable base-line data for the department in managing the future maintenance of the bridge. There is currently a 25-tonne vehicle load limit and a 30kmh speed limit on the bridge. It was awarded National Heritage status in 2005 and attracts more than 200,000 visitors annually. ••• WHAT Richmond Bridge WHERE Tasmania WHEN CONSTRUCTED 1823 -- 1825 RETROSPECT DOITONOUR ONLINE FORUMS: Visit goo.gl/jhguf5 to discuss this article. MORE TO ADD? Photo: State Library of Tasmania, SLIDES 334S :CD IMAGES62, online It became a popular tourist attraction in the 20th century, appearing on postcards.
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