Heritage and conservation register

Item

Field Value
Name of Item Cabramatta Creek Bridge
Item Number 4305003
Type of Item Built
Item Sub-Type Concrete Beam
Roadloc  
Address **** Hume Highway Cabramatta 2166
Local Government Area Fairfield City 
Owner Roads and Traffic Authority
Current Use Road bridge
Former Use Road bridge

Statement of significance

Field Value
Statement of significance The Cabramatta Creek Bridge, also known as Ireland's Bridge, is historically significant at a local level for its association with Thomas Ireland, a pioneering wine grower of the area, whose Sunnybrook Vineyard was located near the bridge and remained a local landmark for several decades from its establishment in 1885. The Ireland family have a long association with the area, having operated businesses on the site until at least the late twentieth century. The crossing itself is associated with a number of phases in the area's history. A bridge over the creek dating from the early 1830s, was associated with the development of the Hume Highway, initially formed as the road between Sydney and Liverpool, then developing as the main route south to Victoria. Later crossings developed in association with Ireland's vineyard and the Warwick Farm Racecourse, which attracted large volumes of traffic on race days, necessitating an adequate crossing to enable access to the racecourse. The present bridge, replacing a timber structure, is associated with the DMR's program of improving road and bridge infrastructure in the post-war period and its construction history reflects the difficulties in obtaining labour and materials at that time. The bridge was designed under his supervision of Mr. S. Dennis, Bridge Engineer, who was involved in the design and construction of a number of important bridges in the State for the Public Works Department and the Department of Main Roads.
Date Significance Updated 30 September 2004

Description

Field Value
Designer DMR S. Dennis - supervising Engineer
Builder John Grant and Sons
Construction years **** - 1951
Physical description This four lane and two footway bridge crosses a stream (possibly tidal) in relatively flat land near the Warwick Farm Racecourse. The bridge is on raised approaches to give flood clearance, and there is a levee bank leading to its northwestern corner. Both east and west of the bridge the Hume Highway is six lanes, leading to widening pressure on the bridge. The bridge is of four spans with ten longitudinal reinforced concrete beams integral with the concrete deck and cross beams. The bridge was constructed in two halves, and the deck and cross beams are not continuous across the centreline. The piers have four outer columns, with the central piers being split to the level of the circular footings. The piers are rectangular except that the outer columns have modest cutwater shaping. Longitudinally, the spans are simply supported except that the beams are continuous into the abutment walls and curved down where they join. At deck level, there are original concrete endposts framing steel railings. There is a central median which separates traffic by use of a post and twisted wire rope system. Beneath the upstream side of the bridge, some timber is visible below waterline. This may be residual from the previous crossing, but is more likely from support falsework for the current bridge.
Physical Condition
and/or
Archaeological Potential
Original condition assessment: 'The bridge is in good condition. Minor spalls have been repaired, but no current distress was noted.' (Last updated: 27/09/2004.) 2007-08 condition update: 'Good.' (Last updated: 17/4/09.)
Modifications and dates The median and post system appears to be a retrofit. Various utility pipes are carried in purpose designed utility spaces detailed through the cross beams under the bridge.
Date condition updated 17 April 2009

History

Field Value
Historical notes 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 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; RTA 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; RTA 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.

RTA 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. (RTA 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. (RTA Files: 2/259.1140; 2/259.1876)

Listings

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

Assessment of Significance

Field Value
Historical Significance The bridge over Cabramatta Creek is associated with a number of historical phases in the area's development. The first bridge across the creek dates from pre-1832 and was associated with the early development of the Hume Highway, the main route between Sydney and Liverpool. Later crossings, near the site of the present bridge, including a dam across the creek, were associated with the area's agricultural activities, which predominated in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Traffic travelling to and from Warwick Farm Racecourse, another major activity of the area, led to demands for improvements in the crossing from the 1920s. The present bridge, built in 1951 to replace an inadequate timber structure was associated with the Department of Main Roads' program of replacing deteriorating timber bridges in the post-war period using designs and materials that were better able to meet the demands of increased volume, weight and speed of traffic that existed by that time, while improving safety. Its construction history and attendant delays reflect the difficulties in obtaining labour and materials in the immediate post-war period.
Historical Association The present bridge, like earlier crossings is also known as Ireland's Bridge, named after Thomas Ireland, the pioneer wine grower of the area, whose Sunnybrook Vineyards, established in 1885, were a well known landmark in the area until well into the twentieth century, still existing at the time of the present bridge's construction. The bridge site is located at the southern boundary of the vineyard. The Ireland family continued to operate businesses at the site until at least the 1960s and thus have a long association with the locality. The bridge is also associated with Mr. S. Dennis, Bridge Engineer for the Department of Main Roads, who, during his service with the Public Works Department and DMR, was involved in the design and construction of over 1,000 bridges including the Sydney Harbour Bridge, the Iron Cove Bridge and Hexham Bridge.
Aesthetic/Technical Significance ****
Social Significance ****
Research Significance ****
Rarity ****
Representativeness The bridge is representative of reinforced concrete beam bridges, the most common type of bridge constructed by the DMR in the 1930s and 1940s, but continuing to be built in the 1950s.
Integrity/Intactness ****
Assessed Significance Local

References

Field Value
Type Author Year Title
Written  George, Vance  1982  Fairfield - A History of the District 
Written  Department of Main Roads  1953  Main Roads (March 1953) 
Written    1968  The Fairfield Leader, 8 May 1968 
Written  Department of Main Roads  1951  Main Roads (September 1951) 
Written  Roads and Traffic Authority (RTA)    RTA File: 259.12 Part 1, Reconstruction of Bridge over Cabramatta Creek and Deviation. Survey and Design. 1925-1948 
Written  Keating, Christopher  1996  On the Frontier: A Social History of Liverpool 
Written  Roads and Traffic Authority (RTA)    RTA File: 259.1147 Part 2, Construction of Reinforced Concrete Bridge over Cabramatta Creek. 1947-1950 
Written  Pollon, Frances (ed)  1996  The Book of Sydney Suburbs 

Study details

Field Value
Title Year Author Inspected by Guidelines used
Study of Heritage Significance of a Group of RTA Controlled Bridges & Ferries  2004  HAAH - Sue Rosen and Associates    Yes 

Custom fields

Field Value
Roads and Maritime Services Region Sydney
Bridge Number 293
CARMS File Number ****
Property Number Bridge
Conservation Management Plan ****

Images

Southwest wingwall
Southwest wingwall
Outer face of bridge at northeast corner showing curved beam soffit, triple step of outer face, and bridge endpost
Outer face of bridge at northeast corner showing curved beam soffit, triple step of outer face, and bridge endpost
View south across bridge showing third lane restarting (road is 6 lanes either side of bridge)
View south across bridge showing third lane restarting (road is 6 lanes either side of bridge)
Utility carried through preformed holes in cross beams
Utility carried through preformed holes in cross beams
Nameplate DMR 1951
Nameplate DMR 1951
Outer face of bridge and pier showing cutwater nosing
Outer face of bridge and pier showing cutwater nosing
View of abutment showing beams continuous with abutment wall
View of abutment showing beams continuous with abutment wall
Residual timber under bridge, probably from construction falsework
Residual timber under bridge, probably from construction falsework
View of underside of bridge with split centre pier visible. Note ten longitudinal reinforced concrete deck beams with pier and midspan cross beams
View of underside of bridge with split centre pier visible. Note ten longitudinal reinforced concrete deck beams with pier and midspan cross beams
View of railing and endpost. Also, central median with steel post and wire rope restraint system.
View of railing and endpost. Also, central median with steel post and wire rope restraint system.


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