Saturday, 12 September 2015

Celebrating 110 years of the Richmond Bridge

During the early 19th century, the Hawkesbury River was crossed by punt at what is now known as North Richmond. Two of the early operators of the service included Mrs Faithfull and George Matcham Pitt. Cattle travelling from the west, swam across the river but the sheep were put on the punt, which held about 180 sheep. Alfred Smith, another punt operator, recalls taking as many as 5,000 head of sheep, across in one day during the mid-1800s. 

Richmond Bridge 1879
Courtesy State Library of NSW

In 1857, the Richmond Bridge Company was established and their aim was to replace the punt with a bridge over the Hawkesbury River. A wooden bridge was built in 1860, the first over the Hawkesbury River, at a cost of between £9,000 - £10,000. This bridge had 19 spans and was 537 feet in length. It was a low-level bridge only about 4.4m above the water level. The first toll charges were 1/4d for each sheep, lamb, pig or goat; 6d per horse and 2d per person.  No tolls were charged on Sundays or for funeral parties. In 1876 the Government purchased the bridge for £7000 and tolls were no longer collected. 

During the 1850-1860s, floodwaters weakened the bridge. In 1867 the deck was covered with 52 feet of water! A new bridge was planned and eventually given approval in the 1902-1903 budget. Tenders called were called in June 1903. The bridge was designed by the Public Works Department under Mr W. J. Hanna the Commissioner and Principal Engineer for Roads & Bridges. The construction was supervised by Mr W. F. Burrows the resident engineer. The contractor for the project was Mr F. J. Carson.

In January 1904, Sir John See, the Premier of NSW turned the first sod and construction commenced shortly after. The new bridge, 214m in length, was built from reinforced concrete with 13 arched spans, each 30 feet long built on the Monier principle of round steel bars forming a grill to strengthen the concrete. The steel bars were produced at Sandford & Company steelworks at Lithgow. The handrails were collapsible for during times of floods. The piers were concrete caissons and were sunk into the bedrock and also secured upstream. This was the first time this method was used in NSW. The caissons were adjusted and then filled with concrete. It was reported that this was only the second bridge in the world to be built as a "low level structure of reinforced concrete on a river subject to flooding" - the other was in Maryborough in Queensland. It was also touted as a "flood free bridge."

Richmond Bridge opening 1905
Courtesy Sydney Mail & NSW Advertiser 13 Sep 1905 

The new bridge opened with much pomp and ceremony following an official function on 4 September 1905. The newspaper described the official ceremony as "a Colossal function" with a "vast assemblage" of the officials and the community in attendance. 

The Hon. Joseph Carruthers, the Premier of NSW, as well as Hon. C. A. Lee the Minister for Works, local politicians, plus other dignitaries were welcomed by the Mayor of Richmond, Mr. T. J. Griffiths, Rev. James Cameron and Mr Potts the Principal of the Hawkesbury Agricultural College. A procession led by De Groen's Vice Regal Band guided the party through Richmond to the site. The Ministerial coach had a mounted escort and a trail of dust enveloped the procession through the town as it was a very dusty, windy day. 

Richmond Bridge opening

The bridge was decorated with flags and greenery and students from Richmond Public School lined the bridge. At the ribbon ceremony were three children dressed appropriately representing a soldier - Harry Mawbary, a young Australian - Norman Woodhill and Lawrence Cambridge as a sailor. Completed construction costs were between £19,000 and £21,000.  The bridge was also designed to attach a railway line. 

Following the cutting of the ribbon by the Premier and the speeches, the official party inspected the bridge and then adjourned for lunch. At 2pm the Vice Regal band gave a recital of music in Mr J. Town's paddock and then a sports afternoon was held with races etc. There were about 2000 people in attendance.  

The event was reported in many newspapers including the Town & Country & Journal, Sydney Mail, Nepean Times, as well those below.  

Right Windsor & Richmond Gazette 9 Sep 1905 & left Sydney Morning Herald 5 Sep 1905    

During the 1880s the community proposed that the rail service be extended from Richmond to Kurrajong. The railway had reached Richmond in 1864. There was much debate and it wasn't until 1924 the project commenced and the line was officially opened to Kurrajong on the 8 November 1926. 
Car and steam train crossing Richmond Bridge, Hawkesbury River ca 1945 / E. W. Searle
Courtesy National Library of Australia

There were several stations on the line as well as sidings where passengers could catch the train. The line ran at a loss and following flood damage and landslides the line was officially closed in 1952. In 1988, as part of the Australia’s Bicentenary celebrations, the RTA and the NRMA erected the following plaque on the bridge:

Ups & Downs of an Old Richmondite / Alfred Smith (Nepean Family History Society, 1991) p. 3
Richmond Bridge Company Act 1857  
Windsor & Richmond Gazette 9 Sep 1905 p. 6. Retrieved from 
Windsor & Richmond Gazette 12.Mar 1958 
Sydney Morning Herald 5 Sep 1905 p. 7. Retrieved from 
"…The Story of the Kurrajong Line" by John Oakes in Australian Railway Historical Society Bulletin July 1997 (Volume 48 No 717)

Saturday, 22 August 2015

Windsor's McQuade Bridge

There are several things in Windsor named after the McQuade family including McQuade Park and McQuade Avenue but did you realise there were plans to call the bridge across the Hawkesbury River  at Windsor, McQuade Bridge?

In 1871 local government was established in the Hawkesbury when the Windsor Borough Council began. The newly established council named the reserve, Windsor Park, however this was rescinded in 1874 by John McQuade, the Mayor.

John Michael McQuade was born about 1826 and was the son of convict Michael McQuade and his wife, Sarah Conolly. McQuade was elected as one of the first councillors and served two terms as Mayor, first in 1872 and then in 1874. After he rescinded the decision to to name the reserve, Windsor Park, he then used his casting vote to rename it McQuade Park. 

A sign “was erected with McQuade Park painted in gold letters.” It was vandalised on more than once and “was smeared with tar and had to be repainted.” On 6 March 1878, When William Walker was serving as Mayor, all of the previous resolutions relating to the naming of the park were rescinded and the name Windsor Park was given. This however was futile was as the name was in the common use and it has remained unofficially McQuade Park.

In June 1874 a letter to the editor of the Australian, Windsor, Richmond & Hawkesbury Advertiser newspaper, published in Windsor, was printed. The writer was anonymous, using the non-de-plume 'Sagittarius' informed readers that friends of Mr. McQuade were trying to have the new bridge in Windsor called the McQuade Bridge. It goes on to state:
To be forewarned is to be forearmed. Surely it is sufficient, and more than sufficient, to have the park called after that individual, but pray do not tamely submit to having the new bridge burlesqued in this way. Whatever has McQuade done for the district to entitle his name to be appended to your public buildings in any way? Whatever has he or his ancestry or descendants ever done to deserve any distinction—any public recognition whatever? Have they added to the moral stamina of the district? Have they added to its respectability? Have they increased its intelligence? What have they done? If so name the bridge 'McQuade' it is a pretty name! These are most important questions, and to my mind not to be trifled with. I therefore trust that some influence will be used, to prevent the name of the new bridge from being prostituted by any other name than that of the ' Windsor' or ' Hawkesbury' bridge. I do think I would be a grave mistake to name the bridge after McQuade. The bridge crossing the Macquarie at Bathurst, is named after the Governor of the day, ' Denison.'
Other bridges are named after the townships in which they are built, and I know of none in the colony where they are named after a comparatively obscure individual. Call it 'Robinson Gap' or the 'Devils Causeway' ; but do not, pray do not give a name that will puzzle future generations, and perhaps in their minds give rise to Tipperary ideas or Donnybrook notions.
Should the bridge be called McQuade what will those say who come after us? Who was McQuade? Where did he come from?  Where has he gone to? Are his sons living? If not what were they when in the flesh? All these ideas will burst upon the innocent minds of future generations, and it will be well if a Gosper, a Primrose or a Moses should be alive to answer them. Much better if a Dean should then exist, to whip their recreant imaginations beyond the McQuade folly.
The plan never came to fruition and the structure was named, and remains, the Windsor Bridge. It was officially opened on the 20 August 1874 and still stands proudly crossing the majestic Hawkesbury River.

McQuade died 19 August 1891 aged 65 and is buried in the Windsor Catholic Cemetery.

 McQuade's headstone in Windsor Catholic Cemetery.
Photo: Michelle Nichols

Friday, 20 February 2015

Fruit growing in the Hawkesbury

Fruit has been grown in the Hawkesbury since the early 1800s and by 1810 there were over 100 hectares of orchards growing peaches, plums and apricots.  From the 1820s the cooler climate in the Kurrajong area became popular to grow fruit and the hills were covered with fruit bearing trees.

Stone fruits and apples were well-suited to the elevated areas of Kurrajong and Bilpin were suitable for stone fruits and apples. Granny Smith, Delicious and Jonathan apples were grown. Some orchards grew peas in between the trees as an additional crop.

Orchards at Kurrajong early 1900s
Courtesy State Records NSW Digital ID: 12932_a012_a012X2450000131

Did you know by 1890 the Hawkesbury grew over 195,000,00 oranges? In the 1930s the district was struck with an outbreak of fruit fly forcing a number of orchards to shut down. Other fruit grown included pears, plums, currants, gooseberries, strawberries and cherries all performed well. Melons were grown up and down the river and were easily transported by riverboat. By 1944 there were still 286,000 citrus bearing trees all over the Hawkesbury which was 20% of NSW total. The 1956 flood destroyed a lot of the orchards situated along the riverbanks. Beautiful peaches also were grown around Wisemans Ferry and Maroota – who can ever forget the taste? 

Unfortunately the number of orchards in the Hawkesbury has drastically reduced over the past 30 years with only a handful remaining.

Friday, 16 January 2015

The Hawkesbury River - the Rhine of Australia

One of Britain's most popular nineteenth century authors, Anthony Trollope 1815-1882, wrote in 1873, the following, comparing the Hawkesbury River to other grander rivers found elsewhere around the landscape.

The Hawkesbury River has neither castles or islands, nor has it bright clear water like the Rhine 
but the headlands are higher, the bluffs are bolder, and the turns and manoeuvres of the 
course which the waters have made themselves, are grander, and to me more enchanting 
than those of either the European or American River.

Riverscape scene near Wisemans Ferry on the Hawkesbury River NSW, 1880-1909. One of a series of photographs probably taken on the Hawkesbury River by William Frederick Hall between 1880 and 1909.
From the collection of the Australian National Maritime Museum, viewed on Flickr 

Trollope was visiting his son Frederick who was living at the time in Grenfell NSW, he then travelled extensively around the countryside. He went by boat from Sackville past Wisemans Ferry and onto Sydney, accompanied by a number of politicians including the then Premier of NSW, Sir James Martin. Trollope was very impressed by the Hawkesbury as a destination and compared it favourably to the Rhine in Europe. He took copious notes and he published several books following the trip including his travels in a publication titled 'Australia and New Zealand' in 1873.

Title page of Australia and New Zealand published in 2 volumes

Trollope Reach, located just past Wisemans Ferry on the Hawkesbury River, was named in his memory. Trollope passed away 6 December 1882 in London and is buried at Kensal Green. He wrote over 50 publications, most of which can be viewed for free online at eBooks@Adelaide

Friday, 2 January 2015

Government Labour Settlement at Pitt Town

On the outskirts of Pitt Town is Nelson Common, it was established by Governor King in 1804 for settlers to use for grazing stock. One of several commons in the Hawkesbury district, it covered an area of over 2,000 hectares and later became known as the Pitt Town Common. 

In the early 1890s, part of Pitt Town Common was set aside as a Government Labour Settlement or Camp. Set up on 930 hectares, the settlement enabled the breadwinners of selected families during the 1890s depression, an alternative lifestyle operating along the lines of a co-operative or commune. By 1894 over 500 residents were living onsite; however it was disbanded after only a few years. 

Windsor & Richmond Gazette 30 September 1893 p. 5 

In 1894 the local newspaper reported that, "Close upon 600 men, women, and children are now located on the Pitt Town Labour Settlement, the men all industrious and hard-working beings, compelled through stress of bad times and absolute lack of employment to seek to make homes for themselves under new and altered conditions." The powers to be did not have the means to provide the inhabitants with clothing, in light of winter coming, so the media appealed to the community for help. The editorial stated,"It is not too much to ask that those who have been more favoured by Fortune should lend a hand in a good cause, and assist in rendering the lot of men, women, and children brighter and happier than will otherwise be the case."

In 1896 the site was converted to a Casual Labour Farm, this time the aim was to house unemployed men, in return for their upkeep. The local newspaper recorded the object of the farm was 'to enable men who could not obtain employment though ill put in a few weeks of comparatively light labour under wholesome conditions. They must all work but the work is to be suited to the strength and capacities of the men'. The chores consisted of light manual duties around the farm including the cutting of firewood. The number of men living and working on the farm peaked around 1907 with about fifty men and twenty boys recorded. Again this operation was short-lived and by 1910, the Labour Farm had ceased to operate.

The site was then set up as the Government Agricultural Training Farm in 1910 and named Scheyville, closing in the 1930s. For more information about the farm see the Scheyville Government Agricultural Training Farm post. In later years the site was used as a Migrant Accommodation Centre (1949-1964) for those wishing to settle in Australia after WW2. Then an Officer Training Unit during the late 1960s. National Servicemen were trained as part of their deployment in the Vietnam War. 

Over the last forty years the site at Scheyville has been used for a wide range of purposes including the accommodation for the Hawkesbury Agricultural College, now the University of Western Sydney - Richmond campus. There were also proposals for the site in the 1980s for a prison complex, an airport, rubbish tip and a residential development. In 1996 the Scheyville National Park covering over 920 hectares was established to conserve the fragile environment of this area. 

Friday, 19 December 2014


Do you when the first traffic lights appeared in the Hawkesbury and where? 

These days we take traffic lights for granted as they appear on most major roads. A bit of background on traffic lights - the first set of traffic lights appeared in NSW in Sydney in 1933, on the corner of Kent and Market Streets but it wasn't until 1937 more lights appeared. In 1959 the then Department of Motor Transport actually established the first linked set of traffic lights in Australia along the Parramatta Road. 

It wasn't until the 1960s that traffic lights became more widespread throughout the greater Sydney Metropolitan area and rural centres in NSW. The first set located outside the Sydney metropolitan area and the districts of Newcastle and Wollongong was in Tamworth in 1966.

The image shows Mr Deane with 2 officers of Department of Motor Transport.
Windsor & Richmond Gazette 21/2/1968 

The first set of lights in the Hawkesbury was officially switched on in Windsor on the 19 February 1968, according to the local newspaper.[1] These were situated at the busy intersection of George Street and Richmond Road near McQuade Park which was (and still is) well-known for car accidents. They were a ‘vehicle actuated system’ which meant they were adjusted to the traffic flow. The lights were turned on by the local politician Mr Bernie Deane who gave a short speech to the small crowd. Deane was the local member for Hawkesbury between 1950 and 1971. He was was sure that the lights would assist the pedestrians particularly the young and the elderly trying to make their way across the busy intersection. He also thought the lights would be very useful if the local swimming pool went ahead in McQuade Park. Although there were plans for the pool in the park, it was eventually constructed in Church Street, South Windsor. 

Mr Deane also stated in his speech that the installation of the lights in Windsor was "yet another indication of the progress being made in this district."

For more information about traffic signals in NSW see Paul Rand's website.

[1] Windsor & Richmond Gazette 21 February 1968 p. 1

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Struck by lightning 1816 - Trove Tuesday

In October 1816 it was reported in the Sydney Gazette, that a young lady had died in the Hawkesbury after being tragically struck by lightning. 

Mary Ezzy who lived on the outskirts of Windsor NSW was finalising the preparations for her forthcoming marriage, which was to take place on the 21 October. Ironing her wedding gown adjacent to a window, Mary aged 16, was observed by her older brother and a friend Miss King. A storm hit mid-afternoon with rain, thunder and lightning. All three were knocked over by the force of the strike but Mary was “enveloped in a blaze, her hair having taken fire.”  James Mileham, the local surgeon, was sent for but was unable to do anything and it appears she died instantly.  A dog was also “found dead” at the scene. Mary was singed on her chest, back and one of her arms. 

Mary died whilst ironing her wedding outfit in 1816. Photo: M. Nichols, 2014.

Ten of the twelve panes of glass where the lightning struck were broken and the floor scorched from the window to where Mary lay. The vehicle which was to carry Mary and her mother to Sydney for her special event a few days later was then used to convey the news of her death and later transport the family to her burial on the 19 October held at St. Matthew’s Church of England Cemetery, Windsor.