Postcards from 100 years ago




The Spit Bridge and Road


13 Spit Road

13 Spit Road 

THE  FIRST SPIT BRIDGE was built in seven months from timber, 46 years after the residents of Manly first requested one and 37 years after the first plans were drawn up.   



Manly Council completed it in Decmeber1924 and a toll paid for the construction by Christmas 1929. Fifteen years after completion, the Spit Bridge was described as not only inadequate but also dangerous.  





As early as 1927, only three years after the first bridge was completed, it was noted that the amount of traffic using the bridge was higher than expected and the subsequent revenue from tolls providing a financial boon. Use of the bridge had risen by 60% over that of the punt for the year prior to the bridge opening, but with this improved access came problems of a different kind. It was noted at the time that:

While the bridge solved a traffic problem which existed prior to its construction, it has created a traffic problem of its own, because of the facility it provides for people desirous of travelling to Manly and the many beaches to the north.



  The current bridge was finished in 1958 almost eight years after the contract had been let. As well as running over schedule, it had cost almost twice as much as anticipated.


The new bridge was to be built downstream of the existing wooden structure, and would be higher and wider, carrying four lanes of traffic and two footways. It was designed by the Department of Main Roads (DMR). At the time there was considerable debate and disagreement with the chosen design, resulting in a  spokesperson for the National Roads and Motorists Association (NRMA) stating “We did everything we could to protest against perpetuating the existing evil of an opening span”.

The first to cross the bridge were two young cyclists who raced ahead of the waiting cars. At 4.00 pm foot traffic was allowed onto the bridge and a Miss Dorothy Riddle was reported as the first pedestrian. Apparently Miss Riddle had promised her father (deceased ten years earlier) that when a new bridge opened she would cross in his place. Mr. Riddle had apparently built the first house at The Spit in the 1880s when only the hand operated punt was in use. He had attended the earlier bridge opening in 1924 as a guest of honour (Sunday Telegraph, 23/11/58).

The final cost of the bridge was approximately 1,100,000 pounds, well over the budget projections. The bridge had taken four years longer to complete than anticipated and it was reported that during construction a total of 12 months had been lost due to 33 separate industrial disputes while difficulties in constructing the foundations had also caused delays (DT, 20/11/58). Work was continuing on the road approaches and would be finished some time in early 1959

The Spit Bridge is the only lift bridge still operational on a major arterial road in NSW. It has been assessed as being of State  significance.    

The Spit Bridge Cultural Landscape also contains the remnant features and locales of the former bridge and punt crossing and the remains of other transportation links such as the tramways. These additional items add to the significance of the Bridge through their ability to add to contextualise the current bridge as a single element of the crossing points colourful history. 




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