||The Cabramatta Creek Bridge crosses Cabramatta Creek on the Hume Highway, near the present site of the Warwick Farm Racecourse. The area was once home to the Cabrogal clan of the Darug Aboriginal peoples, who took their name from the cobra (or cahbro) grub or shipworm on which they relied as a food staple. Cabramatta Creek means literally "creek of the cobra." The creek is a tributary of the Georges River and European settlement began in the 1790s due to the excellent soil found along the river bank. Cabramatta's first settlers were Irish political prisoners. The district was chiefly known for agriculture, with timber, fruit and vegetables growing in abundance, and its early settlers worked on freehold and leasehold farms and dairies. (Keating, 1996, pp. 1-2; Pollon, 1996, p.44)
For many years Cabramatta remained isolated and relied on its neighbour, Liverpool, for supplies. In the 1830s the Southern Road, which would eventually become the Hume Highway, was a bullock track, providing the most convenient path between Liverpool and Sydney. The Post Office Directory of 1832 notes a "bridge on Cabramatta Creek" 18 ¾ miles from Sydney on the way to Liverpool. (George, 1982, p. 63) In 1856 the railway came as far as Liverpool, and this stimulated further development in the region, and by the early 1870s, when a railway station was built at Cabramatta, the area was becoming well established. (Pollon, 1996, p.44)
Racing and horse breeding had long been a part of the gentry's social and financial business in Liverpool. Warwick Farm Racecourse, located close to the present bridge, was established in the 1880s on the site of the Warwick Park grant. The Australian Jockey Club bought the track in 1922 and built new palatial stands. (Keating, 1996, pp. 116-117, 177)
Grape growing and wine making also featured prominently in the Cabramatta area. In 1885, Thomas Ireland established a vineyard along the Hume Highway near Warwick Farm, near the site of the present bridge. The grapes flourished in the rich alluvial soil on the banks of the Cabramatta Creek and Sunnybrook Vineyards became a well known landmark in the area. The vineyards survived several floodings and in 1913 a concrete dam was built across the creek to provide an extensive irrigation system, and also a rough crossing for pedestrians and vehicles. The name, Ireland's Bridge, was possibly first applied to this crossing, and the name has continued to be used for subsequent crossings, including a timber bridge and the present bridge, commemorating the pioneer winegrower of Sunnybrook. In 1927 part of Ireland's land was subdivided into fifteen "business sites" on the Liverpool Road opposite Warwick Farm Racecourse and auctioned as Ireland's Estate. The Ireland family continued the wine growing business well into the twentieth century and operated Sunnybrook wine cellars on the corner of the Hume Highway and Liverpool Street, then a hotel-motel, named "the Sunnybrook" was built beside the wine cellars in 1968. (George, 1982, p. 66; Keating, 1996, pp. 158-159; Fairfield Leader, 8 May 1968)
The present Cabramatta Creek Bridge (or Ireland's Bridge) was completed in 1951 and carries the Highway over the creek near what was the southern boundary of the vineyard. The four-span four-lane reinforced concrete structure replaced an old narrow timber beam bridge which had poorly-aligned approaches and a deck level that was too low, leading to traffic blockages during floods. From the 1920s calls were made for the bridge to be strengthened and widened and for provision to be made for pedestrians as the volume of traffic on race days was excessive and the bridge was considered dangerous. A sharp curve on the northern approach to the bridge had also contributed to a number of fatal accidents. Designs for the new bridge and approaches addressed these problems. The new bridge was situated immediately downstream of the old bridge at the narrowest part of the stream and the eastern approach was on a deviation about 4,500 feet long. (Main Roads, March 1953, p. 93; Roads and Maritime Services Files: 259.12 Part 1; 259.1147 Part 1)
Plans were prepared in 1947 under the supervision of Mr S. Dennis, Bridge Engineer. Dennis had served in the Public Works Department before transferring to the Main Roads Board when the Board took over control of bridges and ferries. During his service with the PWD and DMR he was associated with the design and construction of over 1,000 bridges, including the Sydney Harbour Bridge project, the bridge over the Hunter River at Hexham and the Iron Cove Bridge. (Main Roads, September 1951, p. 26)
The contract for bridge construction was let to John Grant & Sons Pty. Ltd. in October 1947. However, shortages of materials and labour as well as heavy floods in 1950 caused extensive delays in constructing the bridge. The contract provided for the bridge to be completed in two halves so that traffic could still use the bridge. The southern side being completed in August 1950 and the whole bridge was finished in June 1951 except for the northern rubble wing walls, which could not be constructed until the old bridge was removed entirely. The Australian Jockey Club had wanted the old bridge to remain open for horse traffic using Warwick Farm Racecourse, but because of the danger that horse's hoofs could become caught in the deteriorating planking, for which the Department would be liable, it was decided to remove the old bridge. (Main Roads, March 1953, pp. 93-94; Roads and Maritime Services File: 259.1147 Part 2)
Reinforced concrete beam bridges were the Department of Main Roads' most common form of concrete bridge construction through the 1930s and 1940s, as the Department adapted existing standards of bridge design to meet the requirements of improved motor vehicle performance. Concrete was favoured in many instances because it was perceived to be a low maintenance material (DMR, 1976, pp.169, 170). These bridges on the State's main roads and highways, constructed to replace high-maintenance and aged timber bridges or open crossings, along with other road improvements, ushered in the age of comfortable motor transport and efficient road transport of goods and produce to which we are accustomed today.
Roads and Maritime Services files note that in 1960 the AJC constructed a private access road under the southern span of the bridge to facilitate access to a motor racing circuit, which the AJC had established at Warwick Farm. As a large number of vehicles were expected to attend this venue, the road was intended to relieve congestion and to provide a connection across the Highway between the Racecourse and AJC car parking area. (Roads and Maritime Services File: 2/259.1140) No evidence of such a road was found during the site inspection.
No major maintenance problems have arisen over the bridge's history apart from some headstock cracking, deck joint leaking and minor spalls in the 1970s. In 1984 plans were made for the reconstruction of side strips on the northern approach and the approaches were widened in 1985. (Roads and Maritime Services Files: 2/259.1140; 2/259.1876)