Prince Alfred Bridge over Murrumbidgee River | NSW Environment & Heritage

Culture and heritage


Prince Alfred Bridge over Murrumbidgee River

Item details

Name of item: Prince Alfred Bridge over Murrumbidgee River
Other name/s: RTA Bridge No. 6637
Type of item: Built
Group/Collection: Transport - Land
Category: Road Bridge
Primary address: Regional Road 279, Gundagai, NSW 2722
Local govt. area: Gundagai
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
Regional Road 279GundagaiGundagai  Primary Address


Organisation NameOwner CategoryDate Ownership Updated
Roads and Maritime ServicesState Government 

Statement of significance:

The Prince Alfred Bridge at Gundagai is significant for aesthetic, historical, engineering and tourism reasons. The bridge has considerable technical and design significance. The bridge is possibly the oldest iron truss bridge built in New South Wales. The steel section of the bridge which spans the river is of an unusual design, consisting of three under-slung Howe trusses, spanning 94m which are seated on four pairs of piers. The timber approach spans are among the longest such timber structures in New South Wales. The bridge is an important engineering achievement for its time. The bridge had a lengthy association with transport, communications and trade on the very important Sydney-Melbourne route extending over a century; it has played a role in the development of south-eastern Australia. The bridge has social importance for the local community and for the many users of the bridge during its operation. The landscape at Gundagai is dominated by three bridges which span the Murrumbidgee flood plain. The Prince Alfred Bridge is next to the railway bridge, both steel and timber structures. Both bridges spring virtually from the same point on the northern side, but separate at an angle as they continue on to South Gundagai. Further to the west is the newer Sheahan Bridge which is of steel and concrete construction. The Prince Alfred Bridge has always been highly valued by the residents of Gundagai and from its earliest days it became a fashionable place to promenade, particularly on Sunday afternoons, when large numbers of people enjoyed a stroll on the bridge, admiring or criticizing the new structure.

The Prince Alfred Bridge has significance because:

* it contributed significantly to the social and commercial development of southern New South Wales;
* it is representative of the endeavours of the local settlers in the region;
* it is aesthetically distinctive, clearly exhibiting the technical excellence of its design;
* it is highly valued by residents and tourists alike;
* it is an important benchmark as the oldest metal truss road bridge in New South Wales
* it is representative of the half-through road bridge structures
* it is a rare example of this type of bridge in New South Wales.

This bridge has been assessed as being of State significance.
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: JA MacDonald
Builder/Maker: Francis Bell
Construction years: 1861-1867
Physical description: The Prince Alfred Bridge is a wrought iron half through bridge which stands close to the site of the original crossing of the Murrumbidgee River used by early stockman and early explorers, including Charles Sturt. Timber and steel construction. Consisting of three wrought iron girders spans of 103 feet each over the main channel of the river. The design is unusual in that whereas the lower chord normally supports the cross members but in this case the top chord does. The top chord is also continuous through the three spans. It is supported by roller bearings on standards fixed to each pier. The decking of the road surface is supported by two layers of planks placed at right angles. The southern timber approach is 18m long. The northern approach consists of seventy five spans each over 10m long and one span of over 8m; the total length being 809m. Each trestle pier is built of four timber piles. The total length of the iron bridge and the timber approaches is 921m.
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
Original condition assessment: 'The Bridge is in good condition.' (Last updated: 16/01/2001.)

2007-08 condition update: 'Good.' (Last updated: 17/4/09.)
Date condition updated:17 Apr 09
Modifications and dates: 1867, 1896, - replace timber approach viaduct.
Current use: Road bridge
Former use: Road bridge


Historical notes: In 1861 a grant of 10,000 pounds was given for the construction of a road bridge across the Murrumbidgee flood plain at Gundagai, but the appropriation of the money was held up pending a survey. Tenders were called for the construction of an iron bridge at Gundagai in the Government Gazette No. 121 of 26 June 1863. The tender for construction for the section of bridge which spans the river was awarded to Francis Bell for the total cost of 19,210 pounds.

The Fitzroy Iron Works of Mittagong NSW [first iron foundry in Australia] were awarded the tender for the casting of the cylinders and other iron work. The bridge had 54 cylinders in all, each weighing 2.5 tons, six feet long and six feet in diameter. The cast iron cylinders were delivered by bullock dray and assembled on top of each other as internal excavation proceeded. When they finally founded on rock the piers were filled with concrete.

This bridge consists of three wrought iron girder spans of 103 feet each over the main channel of the river, was the first iron truss bridge to be built in New South Wales. The structural wrought iron was imported from England and fabricated in Sydney by P.N. Russell & Co. before being forwarded to the site for installation. Originally the total length of the bridge was 1,030 feet and commenced at the same point at South Gundagai as the present structure but terminated nearly 2,000 feet short of the abutment on the North Gundagai side.

Various realignments over the years have extended its length to 3,021 feet. Hammond & Bocking's tender for the construction of the northern approach was accepted by the Government on 4 April 1866. This work was completed by October 1867.

On 17 April 1867 Mr David Baillie, who had built the Wagga Wagga Bridge was commissioned to construct the viaduct linking the Hammond & Bocking sections of the bridge and finish the northern side near the present Cenotaph. With the approaches still incomplete at this time, the river punt, which could only cross the river when it was low, was still the only form of safe transport across the river, much to the discomfort of everyone. After many complaints, the contractors Hammond & Bocking proposed to construct a temporary approach on the northern side [at a cost of 200 pounds], which was completed by 18 September 1867 and enabled horsemen and vehicles with light loads to cross on the new bridge.

The construction of the permanent approach was commenced by David Baillie on 23 October 1867, which on completion would make the Prince Alfred Bridge the longest bridge in New South Wales [until 1932 with the construction of the Sydney Harbour Bridge]. By 1896 the northern timber viaduct was completely rebuilt on a new alignment, consisting of 105 timber beam spans which were from 15 to 30 feet each. The new approach was constructed by W. Pickering, with the total length of the bridge being extended to 3,025 feet.

The bridge was passed to the control of the Main Roads Board [DMR] in February 1929, by which stage the timber portion of the bridge was in a very bad state of repair. It was estimated that the cost of immediate renewals of timbers necessary to put the bridge into reasonable order would be 19,100 pounds. It was also estimated that a further 19,700 pounds would need to be spent within five years to renew the balance of the old timber. The bridge was closed at this time for a period of three years to undertake necessary repairs. The bridge was reopened in August of 1932, although it was realized that eventually a new bridge would be needed to replace the Prince Alfred, as it was gradually falling into disrepair and becoming harder to maintain. The Gundagai Council was advised by DMR in May 1927 that, after the completion of the new bridge, the DMR would be willing to maintain the Prince Alfred Bridge for the remainder of its economic life, which was estimated to be 20 to 25 years. The new Sheahan Bridge was finally built as part of the Hume Highway by-pass around the town and was opened on 25 May 1977, taking the main road traffic away from the Prince Alfred Bridge for the first time in 100 years. The bridge continued to be utilised for local traffic between north and south Gundagai.

The Prince Alfred Bridge was classified by the National Trust [NSW] in 1975, and was included on the first Register of the National Estate under the Australian Heritage Commission Act 1975, as being a structure of unique historical significance worthy of preservation. At this time the intention of the DMR, with support from the Gundagai Council was to burn the bridge down. Due to the condition of the northern approach, and dilapidation state of the overall structure, a new road was constructed in 1984, to take local traffic across the flood plain via a new bridge across Morley’s Creek. Upon completion the northern timber approach spans up to the ramp were closed to all traffic. The iron truss bridge continues in service under the control of RTA, while the viaduct is now the property of the Gundagai Historic Bridges Inc.

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]
The Prince Alfred Bridge was called the grandest bridge in the colony at the time of construction, and it has historic associative value based on its ability to represent the endeavours of the local settlers in the region, and their need for safe and reliable access across the Murrumbidgee River. In providing this, the Bridge helped open up the south west regions of New South Wales, thereby keeping the Riverina in the State, and also contributing significantly to the social and commercial development of southern New South Wales. The Bridge, therefore, is a good indicator of significant human activity.
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
The Bridge exhibits the technical excellence of its design, as all of the structural details are clearly visible. In the context of its landscape it is visually attractive and has strong aesthetic lines.

It is set in a wide section of the river and forms a local landmark.
SHR Criteria d)
[Social significance]
Gundagai is known as the 'Town of Historic Bridges', and the Prince Alfred Bridge is highly valued by locals and tourists alike, contributing much to the community's sense of identity. When the Bridge was threatened with demolition after the new bridge was built, the residents fought to save it, thus showing the esteem in which the community holds the Bridge, and the sense of loss that would fall upon the community should the Bridge be damaged or destroyed (Wagga Wagga Daily Advertiser 23 June 1976). It is therefore clear that the Bridge is exceptionally important to the community's sense of place, and therefore has high social significance.
SHR Criteria e)
[Research potential]
The Bridge is a British pin-jointed Warren truss of a type that did not appear in the USA until the 1880s. The trusses are continuous over the piers and this was achieved by carrying the upper chord over vertical iron posts with rollers between the chord and the post tops. The continuous truss is made up of a series of trusses that are rigidly connected together at both the top and bottom chords at the piers. The Prince Alfred Bridge is the oldest metal truss road bridge in New South Wales and one of the oldest in Australia, as well as being Australia’s longest timber viaduct. As such, the Bridge is an important benchmark, giving insight into early bridge design and construction practices that would be difficult to gain from other sources. The Bridge has high technical significance.
SHR Criteria f)
Warren trusses are relatively rare, and by 1895 steel had displaced wrought iron as the material used in bridge construction. Therefore, the Prince Alfred Bridge is a rare example of a wrought iron pin-jointed Warren truss road bridge in New South Wales, providing evidence of defunct customs of bridge design and construction.
SHR Criteria g)
The Prince Alfred Bridge is a fine example of a half-through road bridge. It retains all the features which characterise it as a half-through bridge and is therefore representative of this class of bridge structure.
Integrity/Intactness: Intact
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.

Recommended management:

Continued sympathetic management.


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

Study details

TitleYearNumberAuthorInspected byGuidelines used
Study of Heritage Sig. of pre 1930 RTA Controlled Metal Road Bridges in NSW2001 Cardno MBK  Yes

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
WrittenButcher C2002Gundagai: A Track Winding Back
WrittenFinal NEGP Report1996Prince Alfred Bridge, Gundagai
WrittenHuges Trueman Ludlow1984Prince Alfred Bridge Gundagai, Timber Approach Spans
WrittenO'Conner1983Register of Australian Historic Bridges
WrittenPrince Alfred Bridge Committee1986Prince Alfred Bridge Committee 'Interim Report'

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: 4301652

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