Hampden Bridge, Kangaroo Valley | NSW Environment & Heritage

Culture and heritage


Hampden Bridge, Kangaroo Valley

Item details

Name of item: Hampden Bridge, Kangaroo Valley
Other name/s: RTA Bridge No. 875
Type of item: Built
Group/Collection: Transport - Land
Category: Road Bridge
Location: Lat: -34.7275 Long: 150.52083333333334
Primary address: Main Road 261, Kangaroo Valley, NSW 2577
Local govt. area: Shoalhaven
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
Main Road 261Kangaroo ValleyShoalhaven  Primary Address


Organisation NameOwner CategoryDate Ownership Updated
Roads and Maritime ServicesState Government 

Statement of significance:

The Hampden Bridge at Kangaroo Valley has historic, technical and aesthetic, and social significance and also has rarity value, as well as having the capacity to represent a small class of structures in the State. Hampden Bridge has historical technical and aesthetic significance at a State level as the second major suspension bridge in NSW, and now the only surviving timber decked vehicular suspension bridge constructed in the nineteenth century. The Hampden bridge has the capacity to represent some of the key characteristics of a small class of Australian suspension bridges, both vehicular and footbridges, many of which do not survive, or do not survive in their original form. The Hampden Bridge also has historic significance because it facilitated the agricultural prominence of the Kangaroo Valley area in the first decades of the twentieth century. The form of the bridge, its relatively sophisticated structural design and elaborate tower castellations, reflects the cultural importance of this crossing at its time of construction, on what was then both a major route to the south of the state, and an area of emerging prosperity. The bridge now facilitates the growing importance of the area as a tourist destination. It is readily viewed and interpreted from the surrounding recreational areas and is held in high esteem by the local and wider community for its historic, aesthetic and technical qualities.
Date significance updated: 15 Aug 05
Note: The State Heritage Inventory provides information about heritage items listed by local and State government agencies. The State Heritage Inventory is continually being updated by local and State agencies as new information becomes available. Read the OEH copyright and disclaimer.


Designer/Maker: E M DeBurgh
Builder/Maker: Loveridge and Hudson of Bowral
Construction years: 1895-1898
Physical description: The structure is a suspension bridge crossing a gorge with sheer cliffs on one side and steep banks on the other, with the Kangaroo River running westward beneath it. With a clear main span of 77m, a sag in the cables of 15m, sandstone tower height of 16.8m and height above water also of 16.8m, it is an impressive structure in the local landscape.

The main cables of the bridge consist on each side of fourteen 36mm diameter wire ropes, each with a specified tensile strength of 79.6 tonnes. They are anchored vertically in pits at either end of the bridge and have facility for length adjustment. From here they run upwards, over turning shoes in a sandstone pillbox, turn again at the towers on turning shoes which have rocker bearings, and cross the span with a low point approximately one metre above deck level.

The sandstone towers, constructed from sandstone quarried on the site (and possibly elsewhere) are of Gothic style akin to that used for its larger relative, the suspension bridge at Northbridge in Sydney (the central span of which is now a reinforced concrete arch). Each tower has two columns, joined by an arched crossbeam above traffic height. The suspension saddles are located near the level of the top of this beam, and each tower is then topped with an enlarged battlement.

From the cables, suspension rods hang in an inclined plane to support the deck. They terminate through crossbeams which were originally timber, but are now of galvanised steel. Sitting on these cross beams, the deck is of longitudinal timber stringers supporting transverse and longitudinal timber sheeting, and is stabilised by vertical side trusses. These have upper and lower longitudinal chords and verticals in timber, with steel rod cross diagonals. Each side of the bridge has two such trusses meeting at the centre of the span at a hinge connecting the lower chords only. This arrangement allows the bridge to articulate as loads move across it, the primary articulation being at the hinge, with secondary articulation provided by the flexibility of the trusses themselves. Lateral bracing is provided by steel angles bolted in a diagonal pattern to the bottom of the crossbeams.

The bridge is signposted for a maximum truck load of 42.5 tonnes, with no more than one truck to be on the bridge at a time, and is lanemarked to only provide a single lane (leaving two moderately narrow pedestrian walkways).

Some 50m upstream there is a modest weir, and the waters below the bridge sustain a canoe hire operation.
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
Original condition assessment: 'The general condition of the bridge is good. The continual heavy traffic causing the deck and trusses to undergo reversed flexure for each load passage has resulted in a deck system which probably requires moderately high levels of maintenance. Loose bolts and sprung joints were observed. Despite this, the deck appears to be coping well. The steelwork appears in good condition and there appears to have been effort put towards sealing the cables at the anchorages to prevent ingress of corrosion. The condition of the sandstone of the towers, walls and anchorages is also quite good.

Recently, the eastern truss had two extra horizontal timber elements added as a temporary repair following the failure of a splice. The top chord timber and splice have since been repaired and the extra elements removed. Because of the ongoing problems with the stiffening trusses, the RTA is engaged in another assessment of the bridge with a view to reducing the deterioration. (Kevin Kennedy, RTA, January 2005)' (Last updated: 18/11/2004.)

2007-08 condition update: 'Fair.' (Last updated: 17/4/09.)
Date condition updated:17 Apr 09
Modifications and dates: 1935 - alterations to the expansion joint on the bridge's deck

1938-42 - major redecking works were undertaken with the top layer of decking, in brushbox, replaced with tallow wood or ironbark, and timber stringers were added alongside the original. Replacement of like with like on the timber deck has continued to the present.

1960/1 - longitudinal sheeting was added to the deck.

1967 - some chords were replaced, and steel sway bracing was installed. At this point it was noted that some of the timber cross girders had been previously replaced with reinforced concrete cross girders.

1986 - A major rehabilitation was carried out in 1986. At that time, the cables and hangers were repainted with a modern paint system and the diagonal bolts and their anchor plates were changed to try to reduce the frequency of failures. Since then the RTA has tried several different types of bolts because of these ongoing failures (Kevin Kennedy, RTA).

1991 - The cross girders were changed to steel in 1991 following a detailed assessment of the structures and its capability of carrying the then current highway loading. At the time the girders were changed to steel, the angles that give lateral bracing were installed and the number of stringers increased (Kevin Kennedy, RTA).

As noted above, the cross girders have now been completely replaced with galvanised steel. Also as noted, the bridge now operates as a single lane structure.
Current use: Road bridge
Former use: Road bridge


Historical notes: The Hampden Bridge, constructed between 1895 and 1898, crosses the Kangaroo River on Cambewarra Road in Kangaroo Valley on the NSW south coast. The area was once the territory of the Wodi-Wodi tribe, which occupied the area from Five Islands at Wollongong to the Shoalhaven River. Sharpening grooves at Barrengarry, north of the Hampden Bridge, cave paintings and other sites within the Kangaroo Valley mark their occupation. European settlement of the valley began in the late 1810s, with Richard Brooks sending cattle into the valley from the already settled districts of Berrima and Sutton Forest in 1817 and then taking up a grant in the valley in 1820. Cornelius O'Brien took up a grant in 1823, close to Brooks' grant in the vicinity of the present Kangaroo Valley village. Others moved into the valley from Sutton Forest to occupy land around Brogers Creek. Kangaroo Valley was surveyed by Hoddle in 1831. Several areas were selected for cattle stations in the 1830s, but the 1841 census showed only seven men inhabiting the valley. Charles McCaffrey, one of a group of settlers from Fermanagh in Ireland, brought dairy farming into the Kiama-Shoalhaven region, settling at Barrengarry in 1846. He began a dairy, and butter production, and once Kangaroo Valley was opened to free selection, the population grew from 200 in 1861, to 1,400 in 1881 as dairy farmers flocked to the valley. The Kangaroo Valley – Berry – Kiama area developed as the Colony's major butter producer. A two span timber truss bridge was built over the Kangaroo River in 1875 or 1879 by Kelly and Walsh and butter from Barrengarry was transported over the bridge then via Brogers Creek Road, possibly following the line of the present Wattamolla Road, or over Good Dog Mountain, to port at Kiama (Regional Histories, 1996, pp. 187-8). Five butter factories were operating in Kangaroo Valley by 1900, and the Kangaroo Valley village gained a school, Post Office, churches and hotel, and the surrounding small centres such as Barrengarry prospered also. (Regional Histories, 1996, 186, 188)

Charles Throsby had passed through the Kangaroo Valley in 1818 in search of a route from the coast to the settled districts along the Great South Road (Hume Highway). Throsby's route may have laid the line for the Cambewarra Road, and is likely to have been guided by Aboriginal pathways from coast to inland areas. The Cambewarra Road remained an important connection between the more closely settled districts to the north-west, with road access to Parramatta and Sydney, and the south coast. The coastal route from Sydney through Wollongong to the south coast remained difficult into the early twentieth century. A direct route between Sydney and Wollongong followed by the Princes Highway was laid out by Mitchell in 1843, but travelling to the south coast via an inland route on the Great South Road, and then heading to the coast from Appin, Bowral or from Moss Vale, via the Cambewarra Road, remained a popular way to reach the south coast. A horseback mail service from Moss Vale via the Kangaroo Valley to Nowra, three times a week, commenced in 1870, increasing to a daily service in 1874. (Antill, 1982, p. 36; DMR, 1976, pp 36, 37, 48; Derbyshire & Allen, 1984, p. 64, Regional Histories p. 187)

The Hampden suspension bridge was built to replace the timber truss bridge of 1875/9, which was in a state of decay by 1893. The new bridge was designed by Ernest Macartney de Burgh, assisted by Percy Allan. Both men were eminent bridge designers, de Burgh having a bridge over Lane Cove River named after him, and Allen giving his name to the Allen Truss. Work began in 1895, the bridge constructed by one of the colony's principal contractors and stonemasons, Loveridge and Hudson. Up to forty men were employed in its construction. The bridge was officially opened on 19th May 1896 by the Minister for Works Hon. J H Young, and named after the Governor of the day, Lord Hampden. The keystones of the two arches were laid by two different persons, one by Miss Conner, in June, 1895, and the other by I Karnafsky the following September. (Antill, 1982, p. 36) The 1897-8 Annual Report of the Department of Public Works noted that a suspension bridge design was selected for the site as the banks rise sharply from the river bed, a foundation would have been difficult to obtain in the river bed itself and because of the ample building quality stone to be found on the site. Only six days after the bridge was completed, a great flood carried away the old timber bridge which was in the process of demolition. (RTA General File 404.1307;1) A similar suspension bridge had been constructed over Long Gully at Northbridge/Cammeray in 1892 (now supported by a concrete arch), and de Burgh designed another suspension bridge, the Maldon Bridge, built in 1903 near Picton. The Main Roads Board took over administration of the bridge from the Public Works Department in 1929. A thorough inspection at the time revealed the bridge to be in good condition. Minor adjustments and repairs were undertaken at that time and up to the present and the replacement of timber components like with like, or sometimes involving minor alterations, has continued to the present. The bridge was, for some periods, maintained by a caretaker, whose responsibilities included sweeping the bridge deck once every week, taking precautions in the case of fires in the area, and warning campers around the bridge of fires, and keeping the bridge free from graffiti and advertisements. (RTA General File 404.1307;1)

A rope for swimmers to swing on had been removed from the underside of the deck during repairs to the bridge in the 1940s. In 1947 the Cambewarra Council requested that the rope be allowed to be replaced, and the DMR concurred. (RTA General File 404.1307;1)

Farm amalgamations in the twentieth century have reduced the population greatly, and hobby farmers and retirees are increasingly attracted to the valley. The Valley is a popular tourist destination and the bridge forms a landmark and an attraction. (Regional Histories, 1996, p. 188) The bridge is well-known to those by reside in the valley, and to the wider public of Sydney and the South Coast. A number of interpretive signs on site relate the story of the bridge.

Historic themes

Australian theme (abbrev)New South Wales themeLocal theme
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Transport-Activities associated with the moving of people and goods from one place to another, and systems for the provision of such movements (none)-

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]
Hampden Bridge has historical significance at a State level as the second major suspension bridge in NSW. In service for over one hundred years, on a route of major importance for the dairy industry of Kangaroo Valley and a route for communication and transport between both Sydney and inland centres and the south coast, the Hampden Bridge facilitated the agricultural prominence of the Kangaroo Valley area in the first decades of the twentieth century. The application of a relatively sophisticated structural design, in combination with elaborate (and structurally unnecessary) tower castellations and other embellishments, reflect the cultural importance afforded this crossing on what was then both a major route to the south of the state, and an area of emerging prosperity. The bridge now facilitates the growing importance of the area as a tourist destination.
SHR Criteria b)
[Associative significance]
The Hampden bridge, as a major work of design and construction and a rare application of the suspension bridge principles in New South Wales is strongly associated with E.M. de Burgh and Percy Allen, eminent design engineers in NSW, who designed the bridge, and also Loveridge and Hudson the contractors, specialists in stone work and prominent contractors in the late nineteenth century, the company continuing into the 20th century.
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
The bridge is a highly attractive and highly distinctive structure. It has landmark qualities, spanning a serpentine ravine and announcing its presence with magnificent castellated sandstone towers, through which traffic passes. The structure forms a gateway to the Kangaroo Valley township, and even to the South Coast along the road from Moss Vale. The construction of the bridge at the end of the nineteenth century was a major and technically challenging undertaking incorporating sophisticated structural engineering for its time. The suspension bridge form is well suited to the site, with its deep, sheer sided ravine, and the necessity for a single long span was exemplified by loss of the previous bridge (of two spans) to flood waters. The structural properties of the bridge are readily visible and interpretable from deck level and from public spaces provided to each side of the bridge and in the gully below. The movement of the deck and cables as heavy traffic passes across the bridge is a distinctive experience for drivers, pedestrians and observers in this age in which bridge crossings are so often sped over with little attention and taken for granted.
SHR Criteria d)
[Social significance]
In service since 1898 on a major road, this bridge has become well known to the public of Kangaroo Valley, the wider Sydney and South Coast Regions for its rarity value and historic and aesthetic qualities. The bridge is connected with a sense of place both for those who live at Kangaroo Valley and those who visit.
SHR Criteria f)
The Hampden Bridge has rarity value at a State level as the only surviving timber decked vehicular suspension bridge from the nineteenth century.
SHR Criteria g)
The Hampden bridge has the capacity to represent some of the key characteristics of a small class of Australian suspension bridges, both vehicular and footbridges, many of which do not survive, or do not survive in their original form.
Integrity/Intactness: Good
Assessment criteria: Items are assessed against the PDF State Heritage Register (SHR) Criteria to determine the level of significance. Refer to the Listings below for the level of statutory protection.


Heritage ListingListing TitleListing NumberGazette DateGazette NumberGazette Page
Heritage Act - s.170 NSW State agency heritage register     

Study details

TitleYearNumberAuthorInspected byGuidelines used
Study of Heritage Significance of a Group of RTA Controlled Bridges & Ferries2004 HAAH - Sue Rosen and Associates  Yes

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
Written  RTA Bridge File 404.1307 Part 1
WrittenAlan Clarke1998The Hampden Bridge Story, Kangaroo Valley
WrittenDepartment of Main Roads, NSW1998Weekly Notice, Vol 21, No 23
WrittenDonald J Fraser1999The Hampden Bridge over the Kangaroo River, Kangaroo Valley, NSW. Nomination as an Historic Engineering Marker.
WrittenHeritage Office and Department of Urban Affairs and Planning1996Regional Histories of New South Wales
WrittenJim Derbyshire and Dianne Allen1984Land Between Two Rivers
WrittenR. G. Antill1982Settlement in the South

Note: internet links may be to web pages, documents or images.

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Data source

The information for this entry comes from the following source:
Name: State Government
Database number: 4301059

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