||The Gladesville Bridge, completed in 1964, connects the suburbs of Gladesville, which is located on the northern bank of the Parramatta River, and Drummoyne, which is located on its southern and eastern sides.
Europeans first settled in this part of Sydney soon after landfall at Sydney Cove, when Crown grants of thirty-acre lots were made in the vicinity of Gladesville in the 1790s to encourage agricultural pursuits to the area. Two of the first grantees were John Doody and Ann Benson.
Gladesville is named for convict John Glade, who arrived to the colony in 1791. Glade prospered soon after his arrival, and by 1802 owned 60 acres in the district (encompassing earlier land grants to Doody and Benson). In 1836, Glade received an additional Crown grant of 50 acres between Glades Bay and Looking Glass Bay (including Gladesville Point). In the late 1830s, a limited number of settlers were attracted to the area by the employment opportunities associated with the establishment of the Tarban Creek Asylum in 1837.
The future suburb of Gladesville remained isolated and rural until the middle of the nineteenth century. In 1856, William Whaley Billyard purchased and subdivided the early land grants to Doody, Benson and Glade into large urban building blocks; this subdivision was known as the Gladesville Estate. Billyard promoted land in the Gladesville Estate as suitable for 'gentlemen's residences' and sold blocks on which he had built villas to wealthier settlers of the colony of NSW.
Billyard erected a wharf at Gladesville on the Parramatta River to provide better access to Sydney, and therefore to ensure the sale of land from his estate. This wharf was connected to the Great North Road (now Victoria Road) via Wharf Road, which was also built under instruction from Billyard. In 1881, a bridge was built across the Parramatta River between Drummoyne and Huntleys Point (Gladesville), thereby connecting Gladesville to the rest of Sydney. The first Gladesville Bridge was a 'two lane swing span iron bridge' to the south west of the present Gladesville Bridge (Russell, 1971, p 106). The introduction of tram services to the area in the 1880s meant that both Gladesville, and Drummoyne were increasingly populated from this time.
Drummoyne lies on the eastern side of the Parramatta River from Gladesville, and was also an agricultural district in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. By 1806, land grants to members of the NSW Corps were cancelled and 1,500 acres of land was granted to surgeon John Harris; this land grant was known as Five Dock Farm and encompassed the future suburbs of Five Dock, Drummoyne, Chiswick and Abbotsford. Harris sold Five Dock Farm in 1836, and the following year the estate was subdivided for sale into 30- and 60-acre lots. In 1853, merchant William Wright purchased land in area, and named the suburb Drummoyne after his family home in Scotland.
From the 1860s onwards, local residents agitated for Drummoyne to be connected to Sydney by direct road. By 1882, the Iron Cove bridge between Drummoyne and Rozelle had been completed, which encouraged further subdivision and settlement to the area (as did the Gladesville Bridge to the north). By the 1890s, Drummoyne was being serviced by regular ferry services and a public tram system, encouraging further suburban development. Five Dock and Drummoyne were amalgamated to form the Municipality of Drummoyne in 1902 (the Municipal district of Five Dock, including Drummoyne, had been incorporated in 1871).
By the 1950s, traffic along the original (1881) Gladesville Bridge was becoming congested, commuters complaining of long delays in crossing the bridge. Clearly a new bridge was needed to alleviate traffic build up. In 1959, the Department of Main Roads (DMR) let the contract to build a 'six-lane high level concrete arch bridge over the Parramatta River' to the partnership of Reed & Mallik Ltd (Engineers, Salisbury, England) and Stuart Bros (Builders, Sydney, Australia). The new Gladesville Bridge was built to a design by the engineering firm of Messrs. G Maunsell & Partners (London, England) (Main Roads, September 1961, p 16).
The Gladesville Bridge, described as one of the 'most spectacular of replacement bridges built in the Sydney', was officially opened on 2 October 1964 by Her Royal Highness Princess Marina of Kent and the Hon P D Hills MLA, Deputy Premier, Minister for Local Government and Minister for Highways. The bridge was opened to traffic on 24 October 1964. At the time of its construction, the Gladesville Bridge was the longest reinforced concrete arch span in the world. The new Gladesville Bridge was constructed as part of a program of works undertaken by the DMR in the 1960s to provide a series of freeway systems out of Sydney. The new bridge was to form part of a proposed North Western Freeway leading from Newcastle to the centre of Sydney via the inner city suburbs of Glebe and Annandale. It was one of three projected freeways leading out of the city. The North Western freeway was intended to replace the Five Bridges route (which also included Pyrmont Bridge, Glebe Island Bridge, Iron Cove Bridge and Fig Tree Bridge). By the early 1970s, protests about the route of the proposed freeway through some of Sydney's inner city suburbs (such as Glebe and Annandale) meant that the DMR's plan was never realised. Gladesville Bridge was one of three bridges constructed along this proposed route; the other bridges were the Tarban Creek and Fig Tree Bridges, and as such are vestiges of the DMR's unrealised plans (Ansara and Heimans 2001, pp 84-87).
The DMR regularly inspected the bridge from the time of its completion (1964), until at least the early 1970s. DMR records indicate that divers inspected parts of the bridge exposed to water (namely the submerged abutments and thrust blocks) every 6 months from December 1965, to check for spalling in the reinforced concrete and for marine growth (Roads and Maritime Services File 124.1539 Part 1 Drummoyne MR165. Bridge over Parramatta River/Gladesville Bridge in Victoria Road, Drummoyne. General. 1965-1971). It is unclear whether these inspections continue to be carried out, however, oral history testimony from engineers involved with its construction suggest that the bridge has not been rigorously maintained in recent times, with complaints about condition of the concrete (discolouration and spalling) (Ansara and Heimans 2001, pp 90-93).
The roadway of Gladesville Bridge was widened in the 1970s, in order to allow for greater traffic flow over the bridge, and along the heavily trafficked route of Victoria Road. The roadway of the bridge was increased from six lanes to eight, taking in some of the width of pedestrian walkways on either side (Ansara and Heimans 2001, pp 90-93).
At the time of inspection in August 2004, the Gladesville Bridge was in sound structural condition.