Cup and Saucer Creek Culvert | NSW Environment & Heritage

Culture and heritage


Cup and Saucer Creek Culvert

Item details

Name of item: Cup and Saucer Creek Culvert
Other name/s: RTA Bridge No. 190
Type of item: Built
Group/Collection: Transport - Land
Category: Road Bridge
Location: Lat: -33.92305555555555 Long: 151.1075
Primary address: Bexley Road, Campsie, NSW 2194
Local govt. area: Canterbury
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
Bexley RoadCampsieCanterbury  Primary Address


Organisation NameOwner CategoryDate Ownership Updated
Roads and Maritime ServicesState Government 

Statement of significance:

The Cup and Saucer Creek Culvert has historical and aesthetic significance in the Canterbury area and representative significance within the inner suburbs of Sydney as a composite structure. The additions to the original basic reinforced concrete culvert that provided a crossing of the creek in the 1920s are articulate about the transformation of Bexley Road, an important local and through route, into a State-managed Main Road in the early 1930s, and about the process of the channelisation of the Cup and Saucer Creek under an emergency relief work project. The physical evidence of the lack of co-ordination between the two undertakings provided by the addition of the third culvert cell, with its lower floor level, has the capacity to demonstrate one of the difficulties experienced in co-ordinating such works, more commonly only evidenced in documentary sources. The two 1930s additions to the original culvert, with their pleasing pointed arch form, demonstrate an attention to the appearance of this very modest structure, and perhaps pride in workmanship, by both the Department of Main Road's contractors and the Department of Public Works.
Date significance updated: 29 Oct 04
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: Concreters Ltd
Builder/Maker: Concreters Ltd
Physical description: Crossing the concrete lined channel of Cup and Saucer Creek, this structure is a composite consisting of three culvert cells. The original structure, a single span reinforced concrete crossing, has been widened by the addition of two culvert cells on each side. The final structure was formed by the addition of a third cell to the west of the existing.

The original work has a flat soffit, formed using timber 12" (300mm) wide. Abutting this, the two cell widenings are of arched shape, and appeared to have been formed using flexible plywood or similar, with some corrugated iron to blend to the existing work. The final culvert is formed using narrow timber, indicative of a different constructor. Interestingly, the invert of the third cell is approximately 0.5m lower than the older works, and matched the slope of the lined channel, which was apparently completed at around the same time.

Footpaths on both sides of the four lane roadway have galvanised fencing of recent appearance. Inlaid in the footpath are warning plates by the GPO warning of buried cables, presumably within the cast footpath.
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
Original condition assessment: 'The crossing is in good condition, with one minor spall noted.' (Last updated: 15/09/2004.)

2007-08 condition update: 'Fair.' (Last updated: 17/4/09.)
Date condition updated:17 Apr 09
Modifications and dates: The date of the initial narrow, single span structure is not known but is likely to have dated from the 1920s. The widenings occurred in 1933 and the extra cell was added in 1934.
The current mesh fence appears less than 20 years old and appears to have replaced a timber post and rail system bolted to the outer face of the structure.
Current use: Culvert
Former use: Culvert


Historical notes: The subject culvert crosses Cup and Saucer Creek on Bexley Road in the Canterbury Local Government Area. Cup and Saucer Creek is one of four tributaries of the Cooks River, the creek is so named because of sandstone formations in the former bed of the creek (Larcombe, 1979, p. 56).

The Cooks River was traversed and described by settlers in 1789 and given its present name by 1796. The districts surrounding the lower reaches of the river on both banks were initially known as Bulanaming. The Reverend Richard Johnson, an army chaplain who arrived with the first fleet, was the first grantee in the Canterbury area. Johnson received his grant, named Canterbury Vale, in 1793, the grant was successfully farmed, and more land was added in 1796 and 1793, though Johnson returned to England. (Kennedy, 1982, p. 42) Although much of the land to the south of the Cooks River was alienated by grants between 1804-1830 and although the stands of timber and the shells along Botany Bay which had potential for lime-making, were attractive to the colony, the swamps of the lower reaches of the Cooks River made the area difficult to access. Hunting parties and those intending to flee the colony were regular visitors to the area, followed by timber getters, but until the 1830s the problem of access across the river prevented a significant number of settlers from making the Canterbury-Arncliffe area their home, and created difficulties for those who did. (Kennedy, 1982, pp. 112-3) Crossings were made initially by fording the River, often necessitating circuitous routes (Larcombe, 1979, p. 58-9) Hannah Laycock, owner of the Kings Grove Estate, probably had a bridge built before 1809; surveyor James Meehan described it as 'a very slender bad bridge - rather dangerous for a carriage'.

In 1831 Cornelius Prout, owner of land on the southern bank of the Cooks River, fronting Beamish Street and today's Bexley Road, established a punt service across the river, which was accessed via a track through his land and in 1841 he replaced the punt with a three span bridge. (Larcombe, 1979, p. 77; Austral Archaeology, 2004, p. 34; Austral Archaeology, 2000, pp. 4-8) Prout's punt may have been preceded by and co-existed with others further downriver. Another important access point was formed in 1840, when a dam was constructed on the river, in the vicinity of Undercliffe, with the intention of providing a more reliable and abundant fresh water supply to Sydney than that provided by the Tank Stream and the Botany swamps. While not entirely successful as a dam, it provided a very important crossing point between its construction and its ruin by floods in 1864, possibly forming the crossing for the Sydney-Wollongong Road surveyed by Mitchell and constructed with convict labour between 1842 and 1845, following the current Wollongong and Forest Roads (Larcombe, 1979, p. 58-9, 77; Kennedy, 1982, p. 113-4)

Bexley Road (formerly known as Kingsgrove Road, the present Kingsgrove Road was known as Sharp Street until 1930) leaves Canterbury Road south of the Cooks River and continues south easterly across Cup and Saucer Creek, Wolli Creek and Bardwell Creek, meeting Forest Road at Bexley. The former name of the road indicates that it may follow the line of the favoured access route to Hannah Laycock's Kings Grove Estate. The route most likely gained importance from the 1830s and 1840s as an access route from Prouts Bridge, on the present Canterbury Road, to the Earlwood, Kingsgrove and Bexley Districts, and beyond, linking up with Mitchell's Sydney - Wollongong route. To the north of the Cooks River it linked up with Beamish Street, a government road. (Larcombe, 1979, p. 85)

The development of the three rail networks - the Hurstville line, through Rockdale, opened in 1884, the St Peters - Belmore line, with platforms at Canterbury and Campsie, opened in 1895, and the Tempe-East Hills line, opened 1931, would have enhanced rather than detracted from the importance of Bexley Road, as it runs perpendicular to the three lines, linking them. (Rosen, 1996, pp. 97-8; Kennedy, 1982, p. 114) With the opening of each line, the residential development of the surrounding areas was spurred on. In the 1880s, for example, with the opening of the first line, many of the larger estates in the Bexley area were subdivided. Associated with this residential development was a greater need for improvement in local transport links and infrastructure including improved roads and bridges. Kingsgrove Road (for the most part following the route of the present Bexley Road, although the northern portion may have followed the present Northcote Road) was cleared of stumps in c 1880 and provided with a bridge over Cup and Saucer Creek. (Larcombe, p. 89, 163)

From 1929 the Main Roads Board and Municipality of Canterbury co-operated to fund the reconstruction of today's Bexley Road, between Canterbury Road and Wolli Creek with a view to secondary roads status and the transfer of administration of the road to the Board. The road was then known as Kingsgrove Road or Beamish Street South, the work included kerbing and guttering and the provision of footpaths, residents making contributions for work on their frontages. Over two branches of Cup and Saucer Creek at that time were a pair of concrete slab culverts with timber footbridges adjacent. The two culverts were approximately 60 ft apart, and, at approximately 11ft and 13 ft in width, both were deemed too narrow to be satisfactory on a Main Road. The Town Clerk of Canterbury Municipality wrote to the Board in November 1932 to urge the commencement of widening works, citing several recent reports of near accidents on the narrow culverts, and the work was prioritised over other projects. Designs were commissioned from Concreters Limited for the widening of the structures. The company quoted 1,185 pounds for the widening, on both sides, of the southern culvert, over the creek channel proper, with a two celled, arched structure, and the construction of a pipe culvert in place of the northern culvert. The work was completed in the latter months of 1933, under the Department of Main Roads, which replaced the Main Roads Board. Meanwhile, the Public Works Department began the channelisation of Cup and Saucer Creek as a 'rush' Unemployment Relief project. The survey for the channel levels did not take into account the levels of the culverts, already well-advanced in construction, and required the bed of the channel to be over a foot lower than the level of the new culverts. A proposal to modify the culverts was rejected by the Main Roads Board on structural grounds, and the only alternative for the subject southern culvert was the construction of an additional cell at a lower level. The additional cell was constructed by the Public Works Department on the northern side of the twin cells built by Concreters Limited, matching their arched design. (RTA General File 78. 125) Concreters Limited also designed and constructed a similar arched culvert, of a larger scale with three cells, over Wolli Creek on Bexley Road some time between 1932 and 1934. (RTA General File 78.143)

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)-
4. Settlement-Building settlements, towns and cities Utilities-Activities associated with the provision of services, especially on a communal basis (none)-
5. Working-Working Labour-Activities associated with work practises and organised and unorganised labour (none)-
7. Governing-Governing Government and Administration-Activities associated with the governance of local areas, regions, the State and the nation, and the administration of public programs - includes both principled and corrupt activities. (none)-

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]
As a composite structure, incorporating reinforced concrete cells from three different phases of construction, the highly idiosyncratic Cup and Saucer Creek Culvert is articulate about the development of both Bexley Road and the Cup and Saucer Creek in the 1920s-1930s. The widening of the original concrete culvert took place as part of the transformation of Bexley Road, an important local and through route, into a State-managed Main Road in the early 1930s, and its positioning and width embody some of the standards for Main Roads at that time. The addition of a third cell shortly afterward, with a lower floor, is a relic of a failure of the Public Works Department to co-ordinate its channel works, an emergency relief work project, with the contemporaneous roadworks on Bexley Road.
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
The widening of the Cup and Saucer Creek Culvert employs an unusual culvert design, a stylish pointed arch structure which is indicative of attention to the aesthetic qualities of this modest structure on the part of the contractors, who designed and built it. The construction of the third cell in an arched configuration, represents a sympathetic addition to the structure by the Public Works Department, which, although it was necessitated by a mistake, was not to be allowed to look poorly.
SHR Criteria g)
The Cup and Saucer Creek culvert has the capacity to represent some of the challenges experienced by the Public Works Department and Department of Main Roads in co-ordinating bridge and channel works in a period in which both were at a peak of activity around Sydney. In many other cases, there is only documentary evidence of the effort required to co-ordinate the timing, waterway area, levels and suchlike these projects, but at the crossing of Cup and Saucer Creek by Bexley Road, the readily interpretable physical evidence of the failure of the two departments to communicate about creek bed levels is instructive.
Integrity/Intactness: Good - as a composite structure.
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  18 Aug 05   

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 General File 78.125
Written  RTA General File 78.143
WrittenAustral Archaeology Pty Ltd2004Phase 1 Heritage Study Botany RTA sub-Region, Vol 1
WrittenAustral Archaeology Pty Ltd2000A Heritage Assessment and Statement of Heritage Impact, Cooks River Bridge, Canterbury
WrittenKennedy, Brian and Barbara1982Sydney and Suburbs: A History and Description
WrittenLarcombe, Frederick A1979Change and Challenge: A History of the Municipality of Canterbury, NSW

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: 4305007

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