||The Haberfield/Fivedock area traversed by Ramsay Road is bounded to the north by the Parramatta River, and to the south by the Parramatta Road, the earliest transport conduits in the Colony. By 1789 the Rose Hill Packet was ferrying people and goods up the Parramatta River, and in the same year a track was begun, three metres wide, hacked through the bush, between Sydney and Parramatta. By 1794, the track was widened and cleared to make it more suitable for carriages. Francois Peron wrote in 1802 that the road between Sydney Town and Parramatta "is almost every where wide enough for three carriages to pass abreast, and bridges have been thrown over such parts of it as are interrupted by the waters: so that the traveller meets with no obstacle on his journey." (Peron cited in DMR, 1976, p. 9; Coupe, 1988, pp . 30-2; Perumal Murphy, 1989, p. 5)
John Harris, posted as surgeon to Parramatta in 1790, was granted 1,500 acres on the Parramatta Road in 1906, known as the "Five Dock Farm", annulling several earlier grants to low-ranking officers. Harris did not reside on the land and it remained a patchwork of bush and scrubland. The area's population increased through the 1820s and 1830s as Parramatta Road was greatly improved, with the first bridge across Iron Cove Creek probably constructed in 1828. (Perumal Murphy, 1989, pp. 5, 13-4) The construction of the Great North Road (surveyed 1828/9), which bisected Harris's property, improved access to the area between the river and the Parramatta Road, and channelled all road traffic to and from the northern side of the river through the Five Dock area. The Great North Road departed from the Parramatta Road just to the west of the Iron Cove Creek, at today's Five Dock, crossed the Parramatta River via the Bedlam Point Punt (commenced 1832), and continued northward to Wiseman's Ferry and beyond (McAndrew, 2001, p. 103-4; Perumal Murphy, 1989, p. 14). Improved access to the area facilitated the subdivision of Harris's land in the late 1830s into 133 lots, most with a water frontage. A description of the allotments noted that the Iron Cove Creek was navigable for small boats in high water almost up to the bridge on Parramatta Road (Perumal Murphy, 1989, p. 16, Russell, 1971, p. 62). This and successive subdivisions over the following decade resulted in scattered settlement, mostly by the well to do, such as Brent Clement Rodd, a wealthy Sydney lawyer, who acquired 55 acres and built Barnestaple Manor. The area also became a favourite for tourists and picnickers. In 1871 Five Dock was declared a Municipality, with a population of 636. (Perumal Murphy, 1989, p. 26)
From 1874 horse drawn buses travelled along Parramatta Road to Burwood Station and steam trams began to serve the area in 1890. Further improvements in transport during the 1880s had sparked further subdivisions and the beginnings of the area's urbanization. The Department of Public Works constructed a series of five bridges joining the city to the northern suburbs, including one from Five Dock Point to Gladesville; and one across the Iron Cove from the north of Sisters Bay to Rozelle (both steel). The route remained the quickest way to get from Sydney to the north side of the harbour until the completion of the Sydney Harbour Bridge in 1932. (Perumal Murphy, 1989, p. 27-9)
Iron Cove Creek flowed through large areas of virgin bush and provided several picturesque swimming holes and habitat for water birds and snakes. (Coupe, 1988, pp.58-59) Ramsay Road is named after Dr Ramsay and his family, who owned Dobroyde Estate in the 1870s; and an area known as Ramsay's Bush covered the area between the Great North Road and Iron Cove at that time. (Russell, 1971, pp. 103, 104, 120, 132-3). Subdivision intensified across the 1860s and 1870s. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries land reclamation works were carried out along the mangrove-lined banks of Iron Cove, and the creek was contained within a concrete and brick channel. (Godden Mackay Pty. Ltd., 1993, p. 20)
From 1890 Ramsay Road carried the Abbotsford steam tram line from Leichhardt to the junction of the Great North Road and Lyons Road. At the time the tram line was constructed (1890), the Tramway Department acquired land in the vicinity of Iron Cove Creek and built an open timber viaduct to carry the tram line across the valley. The Tramway Department bore the full cost of the new structure; and subsequently the bridge was decked to enable road and pedestrian traffic to use it and around 1913 portions of the road approaches were dedicated as public road. By the mid-1930s the timber bridge was in need of replacement. Ashfield and Drummoyne Councils, the Tramways Department and Department of Main Roads reached an agreement whereby each would contribute to the cost of constructing a new reinforced concrete bridge alongside the timber bridge. The new bridge was intended to carry the tram line. The creek was tidal and rarely rose more than eighteen inches from the bottom of the canal, which the Public Works Department was in the process of concreting. The new bridge would comprise a 42 foot carriageway and two twelve-foot footways, with the abutments to form part of the channel walls for the width of the bridge. Sections of the roadway either side of the site were in need of improvement and it was resolved to undertake this work in conjunction with the bridge construction, to bring the roadway up to the standard required for through traffic. Construction of the bridge necessitated the temporary deviation of the tram tracks and their subsequent relocation in their original position. Reconstruction of a part of the roadway at the bridge's approaches necessitated alterations to the levels of the tramway tracks on each side of the area affected by the deviation. The new bridge was completed by mid to late 1939. (Roads and Maritime Services Files 124.1541; 10.168 Part 1)
The bridge was one of over 1,000 bridge constructed by the Main Roads Board (MRB) and Department of Main Roads (DMR) during the period 1925-1940. During this period the Department of Main Roads adapted existing standards of bridge design to meet the requirements of improved motor vehicle performance - they were generally wider than previously with an improved load capacity. The principal types of bridges constructed during the period were: reinforced concrete beam; concrete slab; steel truss on concrete piers; and timber beam bridges. Concrete was favoured in many instances because it was perceived to be a low maintenance material (The Roadmakers, DMR, 1976, pp.169, 170). Based on Roads and Maritime Services bridge database records, reinforced concrete beam or girder bridges were the most common form of concrete bridge construction to 1948, with more than 160 extant. They have been very popular in NSW, and elsewhere, providing an efficient and often aesthetically pleasing solution to a wide range of crossing types. For the Iron Cove Creek Bridge on Ramsay Road a common beam design was adapted to carry the tramway (see description)
The bridge has had no major maintenance issues since its construction, apart from some cracks, spalling and leaching in the 1970s. (Roads and Maritime Services File 124.1541;1) It is unclear when the tram service was discontinued.