Convict sites along the way
Finchs Line and Devines Hill
The original line of the Old Great North Road was surveyed in 1825 by Heneage Finch, the colony's Assistant Surveyor. It probably followed an Aboriginal travelling route, and local Aboriginal people may have purposefully diverted the European road surveyors away from their sacred sites.
Finchs Line was the original ascent up the steep escarpment from Wisemans Ferry. Construction began in March 1828, carried out by the No 25 Road Party and part of the No 3 Iron Gang under the supervision of Lieutenant Jonathon Warner. The gangs worked from either end of the line.
Governor Darling inspected the route later in 1828, and found it too steep and winding. He demanded that a new route be surveyed. Work was abandoned in January 1829 in favour of this new route, which travelled up Devines Hill.
The middle section of Finchs Line was never completed. However, enough work had been done for the route to be used by travellers while the Devines Hill road was being constructed.
The Devines Hill route, with its steep two-kilometre ascent, was selected by surveyor general Sir Thomas Mitchell. Over 500 convicts, many in irons, constructed the road. It features impressive 12-metre-high buttressed retaining walls and an elaborate drainage system.
Clares Bridge is the second oldest bridge in mainland Australia (the oldest is on Wisemans Ferry Road, near the start of Devines Hill). It was built between January and September 1830, and is named after overseer Arnold Clare, supervisor of the convicts who built the bridge.
The bridge's sandstone blocks were quarried from an outcrop above it. Jumper marks, split rock faces, shaped stone and unsplit wedge pits can be seen here.
If you look closely underneath the bridge, you can also see large cobblestones. They prevent the bridge's foundations from being undermined during heavy water flows.
The Convict Trail Project completed conservation works on Clare's Bridge in 2004. This included removal of the steel decking and reconstruction of the western side of the southern abutment.
Ten Mile Hollow
This area was used as a stockade site (where the convicts camped), while the road was being built. Solomon Wiseman (who gave Wisemans Ferry its name) was given 100 acres here to set up an inn. It is not known whether the inn was ever built, but some sandstone foundation blocks can be seen amongst the bracken ferns.
A township called Snodgrass Valley was planned for Ten Mile Hollow, as a stopping point for weary travellers. Snodgrass Valley never came into being, but its proposed street names were Solomon Street, Eagle Street, and Bulga Street.
Circuit Flat Bridge
The same bridge-building party responsible for Clares Bridge probably constructed this bridge in 1831. It has lost its original decking, but is still substantially intact and an impressive example of colonial engineering.
Conservation and erosion control works were carried out in 1998-9 by the NPWS, the Convict Trail Project and Gosford City Council. Several sandstone blocks, which had been removed by vandals, were replaced with newly quarried and picked blocks.
Protecting the road's convict heritage
The Old Great North Road is gradually being restored. Work undertaken by the National Parks and Wildlife Service over the last three years includes:
- Archaeological Survey, Assessment and Management Plan for Simpson's Track
- reconstruction of two walls on Simpson's Track
- Archaeological Survey, Assessment and Management Plan for Devine's Hill Stockade
- wall and buttress movement monitoring on Devine's Hill
- pavement protection works on Devine's Hill
- completion of the Maintenance Plan
- completion of the Conservation Management Plan
- detailed recording of the wall opposite Hangman's Rock
- conservation of numerous artefacts relating to the Old Great North Road
- regular maintenance including:
- clearing drains and culverts of silt and debris
- vegetation removal from walls and road surface.
These measures have been set out in a conservation management plan for the Old Great North Road.
Page last updated: 26 February 2011