Heritage and conservation register

Item

Field Value
Name of Item Kings Falls Bridge over Georges River
Item Number 4309611
Type of Item Built
Item Sub-Type Pre-1948 Concrete Beam Bridges
Roadloc  
Address **** Bulli - Appin Road Appin 2560
Local Government Area Wollondilly 
Owner Roads and Traffic Authority
Current Use Road bridge
Former Use Road bridge

Statement of significance

Field Value
Statement of significance The Kings Falls Bridge has local historical and aesthetic significance. The bridge and its setting are articulate about the history of transport on this important route and demonstrate the evolution of various crossing types at the site, from ford through timber bridges to the existing bridge, with its later modifications. The bridge's construction is directly associated with the program of main road improvement in the State, funded federally and carried out by the Main Roads Board cum Department of Main Roads from the late 1920s. The robust design of the bridge reflects recognition of the heavy use of the crossing by industrial traffic associated with coal haulage. Subsequent modifications to the bridge reflect the increasing importance of coal in the local economy from the 1970s and the bridge's location on an important coal haulage route, adjacent to the Appin Colliery, has ensured that it continues as a vital component of the transport infrastructure in the area.
Date Significance Updated 18 August 2005

Description

Field Value
Designer MRB - individuals unknown
Builder F Delatorre - under contract to the MRB
Construction years 1929 - 1930
Physical description This bridge crosses a stream (the upper reaches of the Georges River) running over broad sandstone outcrops in a wooded valley adjacent to the Appin colliery. The original bridge is a three span structure with three reinforced concrete beams which are continuous and have tapered haunches at the piers and abutments. The abutments are wall type with 0 degree returns, and the piers are solid wall type with tapers in both directions. The upstream face has a cutwater armoured with steel (possibly a rail line).

Widening has been effected by constructing new piers downstream of the existing, using similar design features. The abutments are similarly extended. The new deck is of reinforced concrete supported on (and continuous with) prestressed concrete girders, of which there are four per span. All footings are presumably directly on rock.

At deck level, the bridge has New Jersey kerbs and rails on both sides, those on the older bridge presumably having been retrofitted at the time of the widening.

Several metres upstream of the bridge, on an alignment which may have at one stage been a ford, there is embedded the remains of a timber pole cast with concrete into a rectangular rock socket. This may possibly have been part of an earlier structure or possibly a power pole.

Physical Condition
and/or
Archaeological Potential
Original condition assessment: 'The condition of the bridge appears good. Under the main span a car has been torched, staining the underside of the bridge and outer faces.' (Last updated: 10/09/2004.) 2007-08 condition update: 'Good.' (Last updated: 17/4/09.)
Modifications and dates The bridge was widened and kerbs modified in 1981.
Date condition updated 17 April 2009

History

Field Value
Historical notes Kings Falls Bridge crosses the Georges River on the Bulli-Appin Road, just outside Appin, about fourteen kilometres south of Campbelltown. The area was once the territory of the Dharawal Aboriginal people whose region extended from Botany Bay to the Shoalhaven River and inland as far as Camden. The Georges River and its tributaries provided water, food and shelter. After stray cattle from Sydney wandered away from the settlement at Sydney Cove, to be found in 1794 in the Menangle-Camden area, authorities banned unauthorised travel to the area, named the Cow Pastures, to protect the small but wild herd. John Macarthur and his partner, Walter Davidson, were the first Europeans to bypass the embargo and obtain grants of 5,000 acres and 2,000 acres for sheep breeding. Another early settler was Hamilton Hume, who settled at Appin in 1812. Land in the Minto, Airds and Appin district was good for agriculture as well as pastoralism, and by 1813 a sizeable farming community existed in these districts. Intensification of white settlement brought conflict with Aboriginal inhabitants, and a series of attacks against both Europeans and Aborigines culminated the Appin Massacre of April 1816, when soldiers and locals opened fire on an Aboriginal camp and drove others over cliffs, written records attesting to the deaths of fourteen people. The massacre is traditionally remembered as the annihilation of the Aboriginal people of Campbelltown, however, Dharawal continued to live in the Cowpastures until the mid-1840s, sometimes working with Europeans on farms. (HAAH, 1998, pp. 4-7; Liston, 1988, pp. 23-26)

Wheat farming and flour milling were the main local industries from the mid-1820s until the 1870s, giving way to dairying by the 1890s. Dairying and its related services remained the largest employer in the region well into the twentieth century, declining in the 1960s when farms were sold for residential development. (HAAH, 1998, p.10; Liston, 1988, pp.183, 217)

Roads in the district developed from cattle routes, but by February 1814 the road from Sydney to Liverpool had been completed and was later extended to Appin (Appin Road), though it was little more than a dirt track; and in the 1820s it was maintained by convict road gangs. A combination of cattle and cedar-getters' tracks remained the only land route to the Illawarra coastal flats until 1821 when Cornelius O'Brien, a settler of the Bulli district discovered a shorter and less steep route that would be suitable for a cattle road from the Illawarra to the district of Appin; the road was operating by 1822. In the early 1830s, Surveyor-General Mitchell proposed that a road be constructed from Appin into the Illawarra district to provide a general line of communication to the coast as soon as possible. In late 1834 Mitchell commenced work on the new route which passed from Appin through Broughton's Pass to the top of Mount Keira and continued to connect up with O'Brien's Road. By 1836 the new road was wide enough for a carriage, but only horses could complete the journey as a creek on the way to Appin remained impassable without a bridge. A new pass down the coastal escarpment was discovered in 1836 by Captain R. M. Westmacott and this route became known as Bulli Pass. The road from Appin to the Illawarra over the once impassable Bulli Mountain opened in 1838, increasing traffic via Appin and Campbelltown and it was proposed to run a mail coach on this route. Coach services remained the only form of public transport between Appin and the Illawarra until the railway from Sutherland to Wollongong was completed in 1887. (Liston, 1988, pp. 7, 53-55, 86; DMR, 1976, pp. 17-18, 34-35)

The bridge over the Georges River at Kings Falls replaced a timber bridge, probably dating from the late nineteenth century. Timber bridges of various types predominated from the mid-nineteenth century until the 1930s due to the availability and dependability of Australian hardwoods, particularly ironbark. Following the introduction of a system of Federal aid for road development and the establishment of the Main Roads Board in 1925, improvements were carried out on the State's major roads, a process which also necessitated the replacement of bridges, which by that time were inadequate. (DMR, 1976, p. 55, 88-89) In 1927 the Board was asked to consider constructing a concrete bridge at King's Falls in view of the great improvement to the road from Campbelltown to Bulli and the inadequacy of the existing timber bridge. The new bridge was to be built alongside the old timber one. When a large lorry fell through the deck of the old bridge in July 1927, construction of a new one became urgent. Mr F. Delattore's tender for the bridge and approaches for just over 4,000 pounds was accepted in May 1929 and the bridge was completed by February 1930. (RTA File: 496.1301)

Coal mining was another major industry in the district that developed later in the twentieth century. Coal deposits were found south of Campbelltown in the nineteenth century, but while the Illawarra coalfields were developed from the 1850s, the inland fields of the Wollondilly district were not opened until the 1930s and mines were expanded after World War II. With the expansion of the Appin mines and changing economies in the industry during the mid-1970s, coal was increasingly trucked by road to the Port Kembla coal-loader, built in 1964. By the 1970s the Appin-Bulli Road was used heavily by coal haulage vehicles and the King's Falls Bridge is situated near a junction with the road to Appin Colliery. (Liston, 1988, p. 218; RTA File: 496.1301)

In the mid-1960s preliminary investigations were made into the widening of the pavement and improvement of approaches to the King's Falls Bridge. In 1969 a large earthmoving machine hit the Wollongong end of the bridge and the downstream side end post, cracking it and causing it to shift laterally. The abutment wing wall was also affected. An inspection revealed that there appeared to be no steel reinforcement in the concrete, so instead of extensive repairs it was recommended that the bridge be widened on the downstream side. In 1972 the handrails and endposts were replaced with corrugated steel guardrails. (RTA File: 496.1301)

In the early 1970s extensive realignment of a section of the Appin-Bulli Road was planned to eliminate a crest curve combination east of Appin. The western approach to the bridge was reconstructed in 1973, and in 1975 the eastern approach was under construction. Both approaches involved steep grades and, as the coal haulage vehicles tended to increase speed on the downgrades to overcome the loss of speed on the steep upgrades, the existing width of 20 feet between kerbs was considered dangerous as vehicles travelling at high speeds risked colliding with oncoming traffic. It was recommended, therefore, that the bridge be widened to 28 feet between kerbs on the downstream (northern) side to utilise the widened pavement on the northern side of the road and to provide two continuous lanes for east bound traffic. The bridge was widened by 6.4m by Wollondilly Shire Council at a cost of approximately $151,000, and it was re-opened to traffic in December 1981.

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 Kings Falls Bridge is a component of a very important route in the development of communication and transport connections between Sydney and the Illawarra, enabling access to the Illawarra via the Bulli Pass from the late 1830s. The crossing is articulate about the history of the route; the geography of the streambed, comprised of sandstone shelving, suggesting that earliest crossings were probably by ford, followed by possibly two or more generations of timber bridges at the site. The existing bridge's construction is directly related to the program of road improvement funded by the Federal government and carried out by the newly established Main Roads Board from the late 1920s to upgrade the State's main roads and other important routes. Subsequent modifications, including widening and realignment of the bridge's approaches are associated with the development of the coal industry, particularly the establishment of the Appin Colliery adjacent to the bridge, which, from the 1970s has been used heavily by coal haulage vehicles, necessitating its adaptation to the greater speed and weight of such traffic. The site demonstrates the evolution of technology associated with bridge building, from timber structures to the reinforced concrete beam form developed from the mid-1920s and popular throughout the 1930s and 1940s; to the use of prestressed concrete girders (a technology developed in the mid-twentieth century) in the widening in 1981.
Historical Association ****
Aesthetic/Technical Significance The bridge is a very robust structure, which sits well in its attractive natural setting. The robust nature of the bridge's design reflects a concern for the coal traffic.
Social Significance The bridge and its site are apparently frequented and enjoyed by the youth of Appin and surrounds. It is not known whether the groups involved hold the bridge in any esteem.
Research Significance ****
Rarity ****
Representativeness ****
Integrity/Intactness Moderate
Assessed Significance Local

References

Field Value
Type Author Year Title
Written  HAAH (Heritage Assessment And History)  1998  Heritage Assessment, "The Silos", Ambarvale 
Written      RTA File: 496.1301, General, 1966-1984 
Written      RTA File: 496.1301, General, 1927-1988 
Written  Department of Main Roads  1976  The Roadmakers - A History of Main Roads in New South Wales 
Written  Liston, Carol  1988  Campbelltown, The Bicentennial History 

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 Southern
Bridge Number 823
CARMS File Number ****
Property Number Bridge
Conservation Management Plan ****

Images

Bridge centeline with old deck on right
Bridge centeline with old deck on right
Eastern abutment
Eastern abutment
View of three span bridge from upstream with shelving sandstone in foreground. Note central span staining from vehicle burnout
View of three span bridge from upstream with shelving sandstone in foreground. Note central span staining from vehicle burnout
Old pier and deck with three beams
Old pier and deck with three beams
Pier detail, showing steel rail cast in as cutwater nosing for wall type pier
Pier detail, showing steel rail cast in as cutwater nosing for wall type pier
Widening, using four prestressed concrete girders
Widening, using four prestressed concrete girders


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