1845 First Bridge in Melbourne


A drawing of the plans for the proposed First Bridge for Melbourne in 1845, designed by David Lennox.

Melbourne was settled in 1835 on the north side of the Yarra, but as the city grew north and south, there was no permanent crossing point of the Yarra River. Over time various punt and ferry operators were granted licences to ferry people and other traffic across the river. Discussions regarding the need for a bridge were commenced around 1842, with Superintendent LaTrobe wanting the bridge located at the south end of Elizabeth Street, but the town's traders preferred a bridge from the end of Swanston Street to connect to St Kilda Road.

In 1844 David Lennox, the Superintendent of Bridges in Sydney, was sent to Melbourne to manage the design and construction of bridges in Port Phillip. In 1845 Lennox designed a simple wooden trestle bridge that was designed to be temporary until the Government and town traders agreed on where a substantial bridge should be built. The bridge was leased to Mr. R. A. Balbirnie, who collected tolls, and the bridge was known as "Balbirnie's Bridge" - never as "Prince's Bridge".

Eventually in 1846, agreement was reached that Melbourne's first stone bridge, a beautiful single arch stone bridge, would be built to connect Swanston Street and St Kilda Road. Lennox also designed this bridge and it was a remarkable achievement, opened on the 15th of November 1850. Named as "Prince's Bridge" it provided Melbourne with an important, impressive structure that highlighted the rapid growth in the Port Phillip area.

For nine years, between 1844 and 1853, Lennox had charge of all roads, bridges, wharves and ferries in the colony, and acted as advisory engineer to various government departments. In this period he built fifty-three bridges, the most notable being the first Prince's Bridge over the Yarra River in Melbourne, a stone arch of 150-feet (46m) span, and the largest bridge built by Lennox; it was completed in 1850 and lasted until replaced some thirty-five years later in 1888, because of the necessity to provide for more traffic.

(Some people - including Wikipedia - refer to this trestle bridge as the first Princes Bridge, but that is incorrect. As stated above, the first Princes Bridge was the stone single-arch bridge, opened in 1850 in honour of the Prince of Wales at that time. The second Princes Bridge was opened in 1888 as the replacement for the stone bridge. Wikipedia also claim that the stone bridge was opened in 1851, which is wrong.)

All text © HotPress

This is a digitally retouched reproduction of the original held by the Public Records of Victoria. All prints are reproduced without the HOTPRESS watermarks.

Our team of conservators have worked on a high resolution digital image in order to remove blemishes and artifacts such as stains, mould, scratches and damage caused by the handling of the original. We strive to provide authentic representations of the original work that are suitable for enlargements that retain the tones and character of the original.

Collections: Melbourne 1840-1860, Melbourne Maps

Related Items