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Historic Thomas James Bridge: Restoration of a Colonial Relic

Jul 4, 2024

New images show the major restoration work to rebuild the historic Thomas James Bridge on Settlers Road near Lower Macdonald after it was extensively damaged by flooding.

The oldest road bridge still in use on the Australian mainland,  was built by hand in 1830 using stone quarried from the surrounding hillside. This bridge, part of the world heritage-listed Old Great North Road, is of significant historical value due to it role in connecting the Hunter Valley to Sydney and as the first road constructed north of the Hawkesbury River.

The restoration project – funded by state and federal governments and managed by Hawkesbury City Council (HCC) – has reached its midpoint following substantial damage caused by consecutive floods in 2021 and 2022. This extensive work has required excavation down to the bedrock to install new steel and concrete footings, along with advanced drainage systems designed to withstand future flooding, HCC said.

A key aspect of the restoration is the dismantling of the hand-cut sandstone block retaining wall, originally built by convict labour. Each block has been carefully numbered, its original position recorded, and stored safely to ensure accurate reassembly, HCC said. All restoration activities are being conducted under the supervision of an archaeologist.

Simultaneously, efforts are underway to clear and stabilise a substantial rock slip between the bridge and the Wisemans Ferry crossing, which had partially buried Settlers Road.

For residents the completion of the project is a long time coming with that date now forecast to be March 2025 according to HCC, weather permitting.

 

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