Clarence Town Bridge over Williams River | NSW Environment & Heritage

Culture and heritage


Clarence Town Bridge over Williams River

Item details

Name of item: Clarence Town Bridge over Williams River
Type of item: Built
Group/Collection: Transport - Land
Category: Road Bridge
Location: Lat: -32.5808494145 Long: 151.7822642230
Primary address: Main Road 567, Clarence Town, NSW 2321
Local govt. area: Dungog
Local Aboriginal Land Council: Worimi
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
Main Road 567Clarence TownDungog  Primary Address


Organisation NameOwner CategoryDate Ownership Updated
Roads and Maritime ServicesState Government 

Statement of significance:

The Clarencetown bridge is an Old Public Works Department (Old PWD) type timber truss road bridge, which was completed in 1880, and was completely rebuilt in 1926/7. In 1998 it was in a fair condition.

As a timber truss road bridge, it has many associational links with important historical events, trends, and people, including the expansion of the road network and economic activity throughout NSW, and William Bennett, the Commissioner for Public Works responsible for construction of many of the bridges.

Old PWD trusses were the first in the five-stage development of NSW timber truss bridges. Constructed from timber to conform with the 1861 parliamentary decree that local materials should be used in public works, the trusses took advantage of the high quality hardwood that was available in NSW. The design is essentially a copy of the European timber truss bridges that had their origins in the work of the 16th century Italian architect Andrea Palladio.

Clarencetown Bridge is located in the Hunter region, which has 15 historic bridges each constructed before 1905, and it gains heritage significance from its proximity to the high concentration of other historic bridges in the area.

In 1998 there were 2 surviving Old PWD trusses in NSW of the 147 built, and 82 timber truss road bridges survive from the over 400 built. The Clarencetown bridge is the oldest surviving timber truss bridge in NSW.

The Clarencetown bridge is a representative and rare example of Old PWD timber truss road bridges, and is assessed as being Nationally significant, primarily on the basis of its technical and historical significance.
Date significance updated: 12 Sep 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: Public Works Department
Builder/Maker: J K McKenzie
Physical description: Clarencetown Bridge is an old PWD type timber truss road bridge. It has two timber truss spans, each of 30.5m (100ft). There are 3 timber approach spans at one end and 1 at the other giving the bridge an overall length of 115.8m (380ft).
The main spans are supported by twin cast iron cylindrical piers braced with iron stiffeners and provides a single lane carriage way. The minimum width of the carriage way is 4.6m. A timber post and rail guard rail extends the full length of the bridge.

At the time of the study Bailey trusses were located on the bridge for temporary support during major repairs. Cables have been retro-fitted to strengthen the bridge structure.
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
Date condition updated:12 Sep 05
Modifications and dates: Completely rebuilt 1926/7. Cables have been reto-fitted to strengthen the bridge structure.
Current use: Bridge
Former use: Bridge


Historical notes: Timber truss road bridges have played a significant role in the expansion and improvement of the NSW road network. Prior to the bridges being built, river crossings were often dangerous in times of rain, which caused bulk freight movement to be prohibitively expensive for most agricultural and mining produce. Only the high priced wool clip of the time was able to carry the costs and inconvenience imposed by the generally inadequate river crossings that often existed prior to the trusses construction.

Timber truss bridges were preferred by the Public Works Department from the mid 19th to the early 20th century because they were relatively cheap to construct, and used mostly local materials. The financially troubled governments of the day applied pressure to the Public Works Department to produce as much road and bridge work for as little cost as possible, using local materials. This condition effectively prohibited the use of iron and steel, as these, prior to the construction of the steel works at Newcastle in the early 20th century, had to be imported from England.

Timber truss bridges, and timber bridges generally were so common that NSW was known to travellers as the "timber bridge state".

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 Engineering the public road system-
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)-
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 Bridging rivers-
4. Settlement-Building settlements, towns and cities Utilities-Activities associated with the provision of services, especially on a communal basis Building Bridges-
4. Settlement-Building settlements, towns and cities Utilities-Activities associated with the provision of services, especially on a communal basis Roadways to Inland Settlements-

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]
Through the bridge's association with the expansion of the NSW road network, its ability to demonstrate historically important concepts such as the gradual acceptance of NSW people of American design ideas, and its association with William Bennett, it has historical significance.
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
The bridge exhibits the technical excellence of its design, as all of the structural detail is clearly visible. In the context of its landscape it is visually attractive. As such, the bridge has moderate aesthetic significance.
SHR Criteria d)
[Social significance]
Timber truss bridges are prominent to road travellers, and NSW has in the past been referred to as the "timber truss bridge state". Through this, the complete set of bridges gain some social significance, as they could be said to be held in reasonable esteem by many travellers in NSW. The Clarencetown bridge is valued by the people of the Hunter region.
SHR Criteria f)
Highly rare- two Old PWD bridges survive from 147 built
SHR Criteria g)
Highly representative of once prolific form of construction
Integrity/Intactness: Intact, but completely rebuilt, and under-cables added
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.

Procedures /Exemptions

Section of actDescriptionTitleCommentsAction date
21(1)(b)Conservation Plan submitted for endorsementClarencetown Bridge CMP - revised Revised CMP submitted for consideration 21 November 2003.  
57(2)Exemption to allow workStandard Exemptions SCHEDULE OF STANDARD EXEMPTIONS
Notice of Order Under Section 57 (2) of the Heritage Act 1977

I, the Minister for Planning, pursuant to subsection 57(2) of the Heritage Act 1977, on the recommendation of the Heritage Council of New South Wales, do by this Order:

1. revoke the Schedule of Exemptions to subsection 57(1) of the Heritage Act made under subsection 57(2) and published in the Government Gazette on 22 February 2008; and

2. grant standard exemptions from subsection 57(1) of the Heritage Act 1977, described in the Schedule attached.

Minister for Planning
Sydney, 11 July 2008

To view the schedule click on the Standard Exemptions for Works Requiring Heritage Council Approval link below.
Sep 5 2008

PDF Standard exemptions for works requiring Heritage Council approval


Heritage ListingListing TitleListing NumberGazette DateGazette NumberGazette Page
Heritage Act - State Heritage Register 0146220 Jun 00 --
Heritage Act - s.170 NSW State agency heritage registerRoads & Traffic s.170    

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
Tourism 2007Clarence Town Bridge over Williams River View detail
TourismAttraction Homepage2007Clarence Town Bridge over Williams River View detail
WrittenEco Images2008Clarence Town Bridge capacity improvement works : archival photographic recording of heritage item
WrittenRTA Proposed rehabilitation and strengthening works on Clarence Town Bridge over the Williams River South of Dungog, NSW : statement of heritage impact
WrittenRTA Environmental Technology Branch.2003Clarencetown Bridge conservation management plan

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

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

Data source

The information for this entry comes from the following source:
Name: Heritage Office
Database number: 5051362
File number: S91/01630

Every effort has been made to ensure that information contained in the State Heritage Inventory is correct. If you find any errors or omissions please send your comments to the Database Manager.

All information and pictures on this page are the copyright of the Heritage Division or respective copyright owners.