A photograph of one of the many walking trails in the area under the bridge.
The original inhabitants in the Northbridge/Cammeray area were the Cammeraygal and Wallumedegal. Governor Phillip in a dispatch of 1790 reported: “... About the north-west part of this harbour there is a tribe which is mentioned as being very powerful, either from their numbers or the abilities of their chief. This district is called Cammerra, the head of the tribe is named Cammerragal, by which name the men of that tribe are distinguished ...". They are recorded as being a very powerful people and by far the most numerous. They were also the most robust and muscular and had the extraordinary privilege of extracting a tooth from the natives of other Bands and Tribes inhabiting the sea-coast.
The first grants of land made in the area by the crown were in 1837, however little was done until the public auction of land in 1855. One of the first settlers was Henry Hocken Bligh who bought land in 1856. He helped petition the government for the incorporation of Willoughby as a Municipality and he later became Mayor of Willoughby in 1869 and 1871. Another early settler was William Tremlow. Tremlow was a Sydney jeweller who built a house at Fig Tree Point. It was not accessible by land and he had to go to work by boat every day.
An early photo of the original suspension bridge.
The North Sydney Investment and Tramway Company was formed to take advantage of the demand for land in the 1880s. It purchased much of the land in the area around Northbridge and planned to build a bridge and tramway to open the area up and make the land more attractive as residential blocks. The bridge was designed by W H Warren and J E F Coyle and took two years and nine months to build at a cost of 42,000 pounds. It was opened for use in January 1892. The suspension span of 500 feet was considered an engineering marvel, being the fourth largest in the world at the time, and became a tourist attraction for Sydney residents who were charged three pennies a time to be taken across the bridge and back. The span was supported by steel cables, which in turn were supported by two sandstone towers and then anchored into bedrock on each side of the gorge. The deck was made of wood and designed to carry two lanes of traffic, two tramways and two pedestrian walkways.
Economic conditions in 1892 were such that the North Sydney Investment and Tramway Company went into liquidation and the tramway was never built. In 1912 the bridge was given to the Government with the conditions that the tramway be extended across the bridge and that no tollway be charged for people using the bridge. The tramway was built across the bridge in 1914 and ended in Sailor's Bay Road.
However the bridge was used less and less and needed repairs done to it. In 1935 it was transferred to the Department of Main Roads. An inspection found that the bridge was badly corroded, this was partly due to a design fault which had water accumulating around the suspension rods, and many of the cables were badly corroded and needed replacing. The towers were in good condition and it was recognised they held considerable historical significance. The suspension bridge was replaced by an arch. The main span was 344 feet supported by two concrete ribs rising to 167 feet above the stream below. The roadway was supported on the arch by columns holding up 14 reinforced concrete beam slabs. When rebuilding the bridge a walkway was cut through the towers and the roadway widened. The new bridge was opened in September 1939.A view of the magnificent bridge towers today.
During World War II tram services were started to Vale Street, Cammeray. This continued until 1948. In 1992 floodlighting was installed on the bridge by Sydney electricity.
A view of the bridge from the playing fields below.
A view of the bridge showing the barriers being erected.
The RTA investigated various designs for these barriers amidst much public discussions. A design was decided upon and the barriers are currently under construction. In the meantime security guards are patrolling the bridge 24 hours a day to discourage any further attempts to jump from the bridge.
If after crossing the bridge from the Cammeray side a person takes the first road to the right they wind down to the water at Middle Harbour and playing fields at Tunks Park. These are set in lush bushland. Walking up under the bridge a person soon enters bushland and can follow trails along the creek or wind up through the bush where they can hear birds or find small lookouts. It is the ideal place for picnics or bushwalks. I have found similar places in Melbourne around Templestowe where I have seen kangaroos and even a platypus in the river......but this is a different story.
The area under the bridge contains many well defined bush walks.
The walkway cut through the towers can be seen here. The security guards are standing inside the walkway.