Gravesites Of Tasmania



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Construction of the Bridgewater causeway commenced in 1829 and for the time was an extraordinary achievement.  On completion it was 1.3 km long and built by a workforce of approximately 280 convicts who had been condemned to secondary punishment.  Each convict wore leg irons which had a chain connecting one leg iron through a belt to the other leg iron.  This chain could be shortened or lengthened by the supervisor depending on the degree of discomfort required.  As a further punishment the sides of a convict’s shoes were cut away so that the leg irons would cut into the flesh around his ankles. This happened to many a convict as the Commandant at the time, Ralph Clint, was known as a very cruel man.

These convicts, using nothing but wheelbarrows, shovels and picks and sheer muscle power, shifted 2 million tonnes of soil, stones and clay. It is said that the punishment for not doing a full day's work was to be sentenced to solitary confinement in a cell which was only 2 m high and 50 cm square. The convict labour was supervised by John Lee Archer and various other government engineers.



Considerable problems were encountered establishing a firm base to the construction works because of the river silt and the clay base.  The work was referred to as the “Bridgewater Folly” where it was tried for years to fill up a soft mud hole. The problem was eventually solved by laying green willow branches as a base.

Upon completion of the causeway in 1838, a ferry or punt operated across the deep section of the river. The first bridge at this point across the Derwent was constructed of local timber and opened in 1849 with users paying a toll of two pence and the town, which had been laid out on the southern side of the river, was moved (down to the last surveying detail) to the northern bank. It is still possible to see the original town plan near the Old Watch House. The settlement on the southern side of the river was originally known as South Bridgewater but is now known as Granton.   In November 1847 The Bridgewater Bridge Commission entered into a contract with James Blackburn and Alexander Thompson to erect a bridge with a moveable platform that could be swing back to allow boats through for the sum of 4866 pounds.

It was officially opened on 26th April 1849 by Sir William Denison and the first vehicle to cross the bridge was Mrs. Cox’s mail coach with the toll for coaches being fixed at 3 shillings.




The bridge was in use for many years before being replaced by a second swing bridge.

The pivot and the sandstone abutments of this bridge are still standing and can be seen on the left of the present bridge as one travels towards the north.



A serious accident occurred on the bridge on the 22nd July 1886 when a train from the north left the tracks and tipped over hanging above the water on the southern end of the bridge.





Second Swing Bridge




                          (Bridge 1890)


(Ferry Hobart to New Norfolk late 1800’s)






Construction of the current steel vertical lift bridge with Allan Knight as Chief Engineer began in 1939 and was finally completed in 1946 and is still in use to this day having the distinction of being the largest surviving lift span bridge in Australia.

(Bridgewater Bridge as it is today)

Photograph by Linda McKenzie




Thankyou to Geoff Dodge for allowing us to use his photo's.




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Gravesites Of Tasmania, Honouring the past, building understanding.

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