Heritage and conservation register

Item

Name of Item St Albans Bridge over MacDonald River
Item Number 4300129
Type of Item Built
Item Sub-Type NSW DeBurgh Truss Bridges
Roadloc  
Address **** Regional Road 181 St Albans 2775
Local Government Area Hawkesbury City 
Owner Local Government
Current Use Road bridge
Former Use Road bridge

 

Statement of significance

Statement of significance Completed in 1903, St Albans Bridge is an early example of a DeBurgh timber truss road bridge. In 1998 it was in good condition.

As a timber truss road bridge, it has strong associations with the expansion of the road network and economic activity throughout NSW, and Ernest DeBurgh, the designer of this type of truss.

DeBurgh trusses were fourth in the five stage design evolution of NSW timber truss road bridges. Designed by Public Works engineer Ernest M. DeBurgh, the DeBurgh truss is an adaptation of the American Pratt truss design. The DeBurgh truss is the first to use significant amounts of steel and iron, and did so in spite of its high cost and the government's historical preference for timber.

DeBurgh trusses were significant technical improvements over their predecessors. The St Albans bridge also has the largest DeBurgh truss spans, which lends it further technical significance.

In 1998 there were 10 surviving DeBurgh trusses in NSW of the 20 built, and 82 timber truss road bridges survive from the over 400 built.

The St Albans bridge is a representative example of DeBurgh timber truss road bridges, and is assessed as being Nationally significant, primarily on the basis of its technical and historical significance.

Date Significance Updated 15 July 2002

 

Description

Designer E M DeBurgh
Builder John Ahearn & Son, Burwood
Construction years 1902 - 1903
Physical description St Albans Bridge is a De Burgh type timber truss road bridge. It has two timber truss spans, each of 36.0m (118ft). There are 3 approach spans at one end and one at the other. The overall length of the bridge is 116.1m (381ft).

The main spans are supported by twin tapered cylindrical iron piers with metal cross bracing. The bridge provides a single lane carriage way with a minimum width of 4.6m. An Armco guard rail extends the over the majority of the bridge with some of the approach spans having a timber post and rail guard rail.

Physical Condition
and/or
Archaeological Potential
Original condition assessment: 'Good' (Last updated: 23/10/1998.) 2007-08 condition update: 'Poor.' (Last updated: 17/4/09.)
Modifications and dates ****
Date condition updated 17 April 2009

 

History

Historical notes St Albans Bridge is an early example of a DeBurgh timber truss road bridge. It was completed in 1903.

Timber truss road bridges have played a significant role in the expansion and improvement of the NSW road network. Prior to the bridges being built, river crossings were often dangerous in times of rain, which caused bulk freight movement to be prohibitively expensive for most agricultural and mining produce. Only the high priced wool clip of the time was able to carry the costs and inconvenience imposed by the generally inadequate river crossings that often existed prior to the trusses construction.

Timber truss bridges were preferred by the Public Works Department from the mid 19th to the early 20th century because they were relatively cheap to construct, and used mostly local materials. The financially troubled governments of the day applied pressure to the Public Works Department to produce as much road and bridge work for as little cost as possible, using local materials. This condition effectively prohibited the use of iron and steel, as these, prior to the construction of the steel works at Newcastle in the early 20th century, had to be imported from England.

Ernest DeBurgh, the designer of DeBurgh truss and other bridges, was a leading engineer with the Public Works Department, and a prominent figure in early 20th century NSW. He was born in Dublin and arrived in Sydney in 1885. He joined the Department of Public Works concentrating on bridge design and construction, becoming Engineer for Bridges in 1901-03. He went on to work on rivers, water supply and drainage, designing Cataract and Burrenjuck dams, becoming Chief Engineer for Harbours and Water Supply in 1909. His bridges were the fourth type of timber truss bridge in a series of five used. These included 1865 Old PWD, 1884 McDonald, 1894 Allan, 1899 de Burgh and 1905 Dare. Each was a technical improvement on its predecessor.

Timber truss bridges, and timber bridges generally were so common that NSW was known to travellers as the "timber bridge state".

This bridge was officially opened on Saturday 27 June 1903. It is one of 10 surviving de Burgh truss bridges and has the longest span, 118 feet (36.1 metres). Eighteen were originally built.

 

Listings

Heritage Listing Reference Number Gazette Number Gazette Page
Heritage Act - s.170 NSW State agency heritage register       
Heritage Act - State Heritage Register  01480     

 

Assessment of Significance

Historical Significance Through the bridge's association with the expansion of the NSW road network, its ability to demonstrate historically important concepts such as the gradual acceptance of NSW people of American design ideas, and its association with Ernest DeBurgh, it has historical significance.
Historical Association ****
Aesthetic/Technical Significance The bridge exhibits the technical excellence of its design, as all of the structural detail is clearly visible. Also visually attractive in its setting, and with ornate iron piers, the bridge has substantial aesthetic significance.
Social Significance St Albans bridge is highly valued by the local community. Situated near a popular pub and regular stop off area for tourists from nearby Sydney, the bridge is also valued by the many visitors to the area. Timber truss bridges are prominent to road travellers, and NSW has in the past been referred to as the "timber truss bridge state". Through this, the complete set of bridges gain some social significance, as they could be said to be held in reasonable esteem by many travellers in NSW.
Research Significance The bridge has technical significance because it is a DeBurgh truss, is representative of a range of major technical developments that were made in timber truss design by the Public Works Department. The St Albans bridge has the largest DeBurgh truss spans constructed, giving it further technical significance.
Rarity Rare in the Sydney region, and rare technical features
Representativenes Highly representative of DeBurgh trusses
Integrity/Intactness Intact
Assessed Significance State

 

References

 

Type Author Year Title
Written  Don Fraser    De Burgh Composite Truss Bridge, St Albans, NSW. Summary paper for the Engineering Heritage Committee 
Written    1903  Windsor and Richmond Gazette 4 July 
Written    1903  Daily Telegraph Monday 29 June 
Written  Fraser, D J  1985  Timber Bridges of New South Wales 
Written  Department of Main Roads, NSW  1987  Timber Truss Maintenance Handbook 

 

Study details

Title Year Author Inspected by Guidelines used
Relative Heritage Significance of all Timber Truss Bridges in NSW  1998  McMillan Britton & Kell    Yes 

 

Custom fields

Roads and Maritime Services Region Sydney
Bridge Number 413
CARMS File Number ****
Property Number Bridge
Conservation Management Plan In progress (December 1999)

 

Images

Distant deck view from above
Distant deck view from above

St Albans Bridge over MacDonald River
St Albans Bridge over MacDonald River

St Albans Bridge over MacDonald River
St Albans Bridge over MacDonald River

Distant elevation of bridge from above
Distant elevation of bridge from above