Abbotsford Bridge over Murray River | NSW Environment & Heritage

Culture and heritage


Abbotsford Bridge over Murray River

Item details

Name of item: Abbotsford Bridge over Murray River
Other name/s: RTA Bridge No. 5149
Type of item: Built
Group/Collection: Transport - Land
Category: Road Bridge
Primary address: Silver City Highway, Curlwaa, NSW 2648
Local govt. area: Wentworth
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
Silver City HighwayCurlwaaWentworth  Primary Address


Organisation NameOwner CategoryDate Ownership Updated
Roads and Maritime ServicesState Government 

Statement of significance:

Abbotsford Bridge, completed in 1928, is of Local significance. The form and setting have high aesthetic and social significance. The bridge is a unique type in the Murray River Crossing in the combination of materials and lift span.
Date significance updated: 14 May 98
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: H. Leahy
Physical description: Abbotsford bridge is a steel truss, lift-span, bridge generally two lanes wide, across the Murray River at Curlwaa. The main axis of the bridge is NE-SW.

There are four main spans including one lift span, supported on concrete piers. On the northern approach there are six approach spans, and on the southern side there are three. The approach spans have steel beams on concrete piers. The approach spans have a timber deck. The main spans have a buckle plate and concrete deck.

The three main truss spans are of riveted steel (approximately 37m span). The trusses have diagonal transverse braces that reduce the available clearance . The trusses support cross girders and longitudinal stringers on which are the buckle plates

The approach spans on both ends are approximately 7.3m spans, and have six steel I-beams in each span supporting the deck. These beams sit on reinforced concrete piers of the trestle type.

The lift span superstructure is also of riveted steel (approximately 20m span). The deck narrows across the lift span and is reduced to one lane. The lift span beams are riveted girders. The lift span appeared to be still functional.

The main piers are concrete with oval diaphragms giving a similar appearance to the cast iron piers under older bridges.

There is no footway. A guardrail has been installed, except in the lift span.

The bridge has a clearance over normal water level of 7.1m with the lift span closed, and 16m with the lift span open.
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
Original condition assessment: 'The bridge has no structural deficiencies according to the Border Bridge Maintenance Strategy, and appears to be in generally good condition.' (Last updated: 14/05/1998.)

2007-08 condition update: 'Good.' (Last updated: 17/4/09.)
Date condition updated:17 Apr 09
Modifications and dates: N/A
Current use: Road bridge
Former use: Road bridge


Historical notes: The district on both sides of the Murray between Mildura and Wentworth is heavily irrigated and intensive fruit-growing has a century-long history. To connect the Victorian Sturt Highway without going as far east as Mildura, a route through Merbein north to Abbotsford and the outskirts of Curlwaa, just east of Wentworth, has been convenient since the nineteenth century. Wentworth, formally laid out in 1858, had a vitally strategic position at the junction o the Darling and the Murray as the clearing port for the wool trade: all manner of overland teams, with camels or bullocks, brought wool-bales to Wentworth for shipment to coastal markets. With the irrigation fever of Sunraysia in the 1890s, population and local traffic strongly increased. The Murray crossing at Abbotsford became more and more important and a punt was installed. in 1924 it was decided, however, that the traffic warranted the expense of a substantial bridge. In 1928 the Abbotsford bridge was completed by the Department of Public Works.

Historic themes

Australian theme (abbrev)New South Wales themeLocal theme
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Technology-Activities and processes associated with the knowledge or use of mechanical arts and applied sciences (none)-
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)-
4. Settlement-Building settlements, towns and cities Utilities-Activities associated with the provision of services, especially on a communal basis (none)-

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]
The Abbotsford bridge has historical significance as an important link in the evolving pattern of growth in the Sunraysia District.

This bridge forms a link in the road transport pattern that developed between the NSW production areas north of the Murray, and around the Darling. Transport to the railhead at Mildura was essential.

First a punt and then the Abbotsford Bridge provided the link that allowed the development of this major primary producing area.
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
The Abbotsford Bridge has aesthetic significance due to its outstanding setting and landmark qualities.

The bridge provides a gateway to NSW and the town of Curlwaa. It dominates the river valley and is a landmark on the reach of the river above Wentworth. The river at the bridge site is extremely wide and the bridge provides a dominant feature in the landscape.

The setting across the wide river is rare. The combination of size and setting provides an excellent and rare example of road and river, and road and river traffic. The bridge is unique in the Sunraysia Region.
SHR Criteria d)
[Social significance]
The Abbotsford bridge has high significance to the Sunraysia District as the only remaining example of a lift span bridge in the region. There were other similar bridges at Wentworth and Mildura but these have been demolished in recent times. The bridge is a reminder of the need for clearances for river traffic. Although the bridge was constructed after the time of frequent commercial traffic, it remains the only reminder in the area of those days. Remains of the Mildura and Wentworth Bridges remain at the sites of the new bridges.

The social importance o the bridge is tempered by its perceived traffic inadequacies.

The Mayor of Wentworth Shire Council, Mr Don McKinnon and Mr Peter Lamb of the Sunraysia Daily expressed the concerns of the community that the bridge restricts commercial activity. Mr Lamb suggested that diversion of heavy traffic to the Mildura bridge would be a possible compromise.
SHR Criteria e)
[Research potential]
This bridge is the only steel truss and lift span bridge on the Murray. The drawings were signed by Percy Allan and can be assumed to indicate his design intention, and is an important benchmark in the development of the lift bridge, with the change from timber to steel approaches.

The bridge is in good condition and has high integrity. It includes all the characteristics of the steel truss bridges constructed between the wars (see also Yarrawonga (1924) and Bethanga (1930)) but has the additional inclusion of the Allan Type span. It is the last of the lift span bridges to be built over the River Murray, and was unusual in being designed to carry railway loadings.

The bridge has increased significance as a unique member of the Murray group of bridges.
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
Murray Crossings Heritage Study1998 Hughes Trueman Reinhold  Yes
Study of Heritage Sig. of pre 1930 RTA Controlled Metal Road Bridges in NSW2001 Cardno MBK  Yes

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
WrittenD J Tulloch1969History of Wentworth, Sunraysia's Oldest Town
WrittenD J Tulloch1959100 Years of Wentworth
Management PlanDepartment of Public Works1923Plan of proposed Abbotsford Bridge, 1923-4
WrittenR P Whitworth1866Bailliere's New South Wales Gazetteer and Road Guide

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

(Click on thumbnail for full size image and image details)

Data source

The information for this entry comes from the following source:
Name: State Government
Database number: 4301082

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