Heritage and conservation register


Field Value
Name of Item Iron Cove Creek Bridge
Item Number 4309581
Type of Item Built
Item Sub-Type Pre-1948 Concrete Beam Bridges
Address **** Ramsay Road Haberfield 2045
Local Government Area **** 
Owner Roads and Traffic Authority
Current Use Road bridge
Former Use Road bridge / Tramway Bridge

Statement of significance

Field Value
Statement of significance Iron Cove Creek bridge on Ramsay Road is located in an area with a long and rich history of European transport routes, strategies and technologies. The Iron Cove Creek Bridge makes a significant contribution to this history because of its former key role in the Leichhardt - Five Dock , or Abbotsford tramway. This role is visibly reflected in the design of the bridge, an adaptation of the popular concrete beam design. The bridge has three deep central beams, designed to carry the heavy weight of fully loaded trams, and three shallower beams on either side, to carry private road traffic and footways. The bridge has historic and aesthetic significance and rarity value locally, as an intact item of transport infrastructure dating from the 1930s, and as a remnant of the tramway.
Date Significance Updated 18 August 2005


Field Value
Designer DMR
Builder DMR
Construction years 1938 - 1939
Physical description This single span reinforced concrete beam bridge spans a lined tidal channel in the headwaters of Iron Cove. The deck has three central beams which are deeper than the three beams on either side. These beams were designed for tram loading. Cross beams connect the three beam sets. Reinforced concrete railings line the footways on both sides of the bridge and terminate in massive endposts which extend the length of the abutment side walls. Various utilities are suspended beneath the bridge.
Physical Condition
Archaeological Potential
Original condition assessment: 'The bridge is in good condition, despite some minor patching to endposts.' (Last updated: 11/10/2004.) 2007-08 condition update: 'Good.' (Last updated: 17/4/09.)
Modifications and dates It is not known when the tram service was discontinued. The tram tracks have been taken up or covered over.
Date condition updated 17 April 2009


Field Value
Historical notes 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. (RTA 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 RTA 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. (RTA File 124.1541;1) It is unclear when the tram service was discontinued.


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 Iron Cove Creek Bridge has historic significance locally. The bridge can demonstrate a phase in the development of transport in the area as it was constructed as a replacement bridge to carry the Abbotsford tram line as well as motor and pedestrian traffic. The tram service, beginning in 1890 was influential in the residential development of Haberfield and surrounding areas, and like Sydney's other tram services, has been discontinued. The Iron Cove Creek Bridge has three deep central beams, designed to carry the heavy weight of fully loaded trams, with three shallower beams on either side, to carry private road traffic and footways.
Historical Association ****
Aesthetic/Technical Significance The bridge is significant as it demonstrates aesthetic and technical characteristics associated with its design and construction to form part of the pre-existing Leichhardt - Five Dock tramway. The common concrete beam design has been adapted for tram loadings: the bridge appears to have been constructed in three sections, the already solid girders of the outer sections deepening in the centre where the tramway was located. By virtue of its generous original width, the bridge has retained both of its original, visually distinctive, concrete handrailings, which herald its presence at deck level.
Social Significance ****
Research Significance ****
Rarity The bridge has rarity value locally, as an intact item of transport infrastructure dating from the 1930s, and as a remnant of the tramway.
Representativeness ****
Integrity/Intactness High
Assessed Significance Local


Field Value
Type Author Year Title
Written  Perumal Murphy  1989  Drummoyne Heritage Study - Thematic History 
Written      RTA File 10.168; Part 1. 
Written  McAndrew, Alex  2001  An ABC of Epping, A Handbook for Residents 
Written  Department of Main Roads,  1976  The Roadmakers. A History of Main Roads in New South Wales 
Written  Coupe, S  1988  Speed The Plough. Ashfield 1788 - 1988 
Written      RTA File 124.1541. 
Written  Russell, Eric  1971  Drummoyne, A Western Suburbs' History, 1794 - 1871 - 1971 

Study details

Field Value
Title Year Author Inspected by Guidelines used
Heritage Study of Pre-1948 Concrete Beam Bridges (Sthn, Sth West, Sydney)  2005  Burns and Roe Worley and Heritage Assessment And History (HAAH)    Yes 

Custom fields

Field Value
Roads and Maritime Services Region Sydney
Bridge Number 185
CARMS File Number ****
Property Number Bridge
Conservation Management Plan ****


Southeast endpost with adjacent parkland visible
Southeast endpost with adjacent parkland visible
Oblique view looking downstream under bridge showing shallow side beams, deeper central beams under tramway, and cross girders
Oblique view looking downstream under bridge showing shallow side beams, deeper central beams under tramway, and cross girders
View of bridge looking downstream at low tide
View of bridge looking downstream at low tide
Oblique view of upstream face
Oblique view of upstream face

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