Spooky story haunts bridge

The Rich­mond Bridge, built by con­victs, opened in 1825

Big Rigs - - BIG RIGS | FEATURE - Alf Wil­son

RICH­MOND Bridge in south­ern Tas­ma­nia was built by con­victs in 1823 and 195 years later has trucks up to 25 tonnes trav­el­ling across it.

Rich­mond is a small coun­try ham­let about 26km from Ho­bart and the bridge that spans the Coal River is the old­est in Aus­tralia and is still be­ing used for nor­mal traf­fic.

It opened for pedes­trian and horse and cart traf­fic in 1825, a far cry from mod­ern days.

In re­cent times there have been calls for the load limit of the bridge to be re­duced to 15 tonne ve­hi­cles how­ever that has not been ap­proved by au­thor­i­ties.

One of the rea­sons is that many buses carry tourists across it daily and they spend lots of money boost­ing the lo­cal econ­omy.

How­ever work is on­go­ing to en­sure the bridge con­tin­ues to be sta­ble for now and fu­ture gen­er­a­tions.

A Tas­ma­nia Depart­ment of State Growth spokes­woman said the Rich­mond Bridge was widely recog­nised as Aus­tralia’s old­est bridge and was in good con­di­tion, con­tin­u­ing to serve its orig­i­nal func­tion of pro­vid­ing trans­port in­fra­struc­ture for the lo­cal com­mu­nity.

“A Con­ser­va­tion Man­age­ment Plan is in place for the bridge, and states how the con­ser­va­tion of the bridge, which is a na­tion­ally recog­nised her­itage struc­ture, may be achieved in the short, medium and longer term,” the spokes­woman said.

“Geotech­ni­cal in­ves­ti­ga­tions were un­der­taken in March 2017 to help bet­ter un­der­stand how changes to en­vi­ron­men­tal con­di­tions may im­pact the bridge’s foun­da­tions.

“This was the first time geotech­ni­cal in­ves­ti­ga­tions have been done on the bridge. A vi­bra­tion mon­i­tor­ing sys­tem is also in place to as­sist in iden­ti­fy­ing is­sues and pro­gram­ming pre­ven­ta­tive main­te­nance work. The bridge is used by both ve­hi­cles and pedes­tri­ans, and cur­rently has a 25 tonne load limit.”

Traf­fic counts on the bridge were last con­ducted in 2014, show­ing an­nual av­er­age daily traf­fic of 3210 ve­hi­cles per day.

Of those ve­hi­cles trav­el­ling across the bridge, 93 per cent were light ve­hi­cles (in­clud­ing light com­mer­cial ve­hi­cles), while seven per cent were heavy ve­hi­cles in­clud­ing buses over 4.5 tonnes.

The bridge has a colour­ful his­tory and for the first 80 years was used by many horse and drays that were the road trans­port in­dus­try’s mode of trans­port.

These days the bridge is a big tourist at­trac­tion with vis­i­tors from around Aus­tralia and var­i­ous parts of the world vis­it­ing it with many pho­tograph­ing the ducks and bird life that thrive in and around the shal­low wa­ter un­der­neath it.

Rich­mond Bridge also has a spooky story told about it by many lo­cals.

Tales abound around Rich­mond that the bridge is haunted by the ghost of one of the su­per­vi­sors dat­ing from the con­struc­tion and early main­te­nance.

The spec­tre of wicked flag­el­la­tor Ge­orge Grover has al­legedly been sighted near the Rich­mond Bridge.

Grover was re­port­edly mur­dered by be­ing thrown off the top of the bridge by some of the con­victs he tor­tured dur­ing the con­struc­tion stages.

Grover was trans­ported to Van Die­man’s Land for steal­ing and ar­rived on the ship Earl St Vin­cent in Oc­to­ber 1823.

He re­port­edly spent time on a chain gang work­ing on the bridge.

How­ever in 1829 Grover had be­come a flag­el­la­tor at Rich­mond at the same time the Colo­nial ar­chi­tect John Lee Archer au­tho­rised the re­build­ing of the piers at the bridge.

Grover su­per­vised the con­victs fetch­ing the sand­stone from nearby Butcher’s Hill and he was al­leged to of­ten stand on the heavy hand­carts full of the ma­te­rial, which were be­ing dragged by the crim­i­nals.

He died at the be­gin­ning of 1832 af­ter fall­ing from the bridge, and it was sus­pected he was pushed by the con­victs he whipped and tor­tured.

The Ho­bart Town Courier of the day re­ported that there was a six-day in­quest into the death of Grover who fell eight me­tres to his death.

It noted that he used to lay and fall asleep on the top of the bridge while drunk: “Grover ap­peared to be a very un­pleas­ant per­son and it was writ­ten across his record that he was mur­dered and ‘thank good­ness’.”

Grover was buried in St Luke’s Ceme­tery on March 3, 1832 aged 27 and his ghost has re­port­edly been seen hun­dreds of times since.

❝were Geotech­ni­cal in­ves­ti­ga­tions un­der­taken in March 2017 to help bet­ter un­der­stand how changes to en­vi­ron­men­tal con­di­tions may im­pact the bridge’s foun­da­tions — Tas­ma­nia Depart­ment of State Growth spokes­woman

Ross bridge

AN­OTHER old Tas­ma­nian bridge is at the small ham­let of Ross and it was built in 1836 and can still take traf­fic up to 20 tonnes.

Ross is also a his­toric town in the Mid­lands re­gion of Tas­ma­nia and is 78km south of Launce­s­ton and 117km north of Ho­bart.

The Ross Bridge was carved by con­vict stone­ma­son Daniel Her­bert in 1836 and the nearby wa­ter­way is the home of 186 an­i­mals, birds, in­sects and plants.

Ross Bridge is be­lieved to be the third old­est bridge still be­ing used in the coun­try.

The town­ship is also renowned for its bak­eries and old churches.

PHO­TOS: ALF WIL­SON

SPAN­NING HIS­TORY: Aus­tralia’s old­est bridge built in circa 1825 still has trucks up to 25 tonnes trav­el­ling across it and needs sta­bil­is­ing.

The bridge is recog­nised as Aus­tralia’s old­est.

Work is on­go­ing to en­sure the bridge con­tin­ues to be sta­ble.

Many want the load limit re­duced to 15 tonne ve­hi­cles.

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