Spooky story haunts bridge
The Richmond Bridge, built by convicts, opened in 1825
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
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.
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.