St. Albans Bridge over MacDonald River | NSW Environment & Heritage

Culture and heritage


St. Albans Bridge over MacDonald River

Item details

Name of item: St. Albans Bridge over MacDonald River
Other name/s: St Albans Bridge; deBurgh Truss Bridge
Type of item: Built
Group/Collection: Transport - Land
Category: Road Bridge
Location: Lat: -33.2942047369 Long: 150.9725713870
Primary address: Main Road 181, St. Albans, NSW 2775
Local govt. area: Hawkesbury
Local Aboriginal Land Council: Metropolitan


The bridge is located approximately 21 kilometres north of Wiseman's Ferry on the St Albans Road.
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
Main Road 181St. AlbansHawkesbury  Primary Address


Organisation NameOwner CategoryDate Ownership Updated
Roads and Maritime ServicesState Government 

Statement of significance:

Completed in 1902, St Albans Bridge is an early example of a DeBurgh timber truss road bridge. In 1998 it was in good 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 Ernest DeBurgh, the designer of this type of truss.

DeBurgh trusses were fourth in the five stage design evolution of NSW timber truss road bridges. Designed by Public Works engineer Ernest M. DeBurgh, the DeBurgh truss is an adaptation of the American Pratt truss design. The DeBurgh truss is the first to use significant amounts of steel and iron, and did so in spite of its high cost and the government's historical preference for timber.

DeBurgh trusses were significant technical improvements over their predecessors. The St Albans bridge also has the largest DeBurgh truss spans, which lends it further technical significance.

In 1998 there were 10 surviving DeBurgh trusses in NSW of the 20 built, and 82 timber truss road bridges survive from the over 400 built.

The St Albans bridge is a representative example of DeBurgh timber truss road bridges, and is assessed as being Nationally significant, primarily on the basis of its technical and historical significance.
(RTA Heritage Inventory, 2000)
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: John Ahearn & Son, Burwood
Physical description: St Albans Bridge is a De Burgh type timber truss road bridge. It has two timber truss spans, each of 36.Om (1 18ft). There are 3 approach spans at one end and one at the other. The overall length of the bridge is 116.1 m (381 ft).
The main spans are supported by twin tapered cylindrical iron piers with metal cross bracing. The bridge provides a single lane carriage way with a minimum width of 4.6m. An Armco guard rail extends the over the majority of the bridge with some of the approach spans having a timber post and rail guard rail.
(RTA Heritage Inventory, 2000)
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
(RTA Heritage Inventory, 2000)
Date condition updated:31 Mar 04
Current use: Road Bridge
Former use: Road Bridge


The lower Hawkesbury was home to the Dharug people. The proximity to the Nepean River and South Creek qualifies it as a key area for food resources for indigenous groups (Proudfoot, 1987).
The Dharug and Darkinjung people called the river Deerubbin and it was a vital source of food and transport (Nichols, 2010).

Governor Arthur Phillip explored the local area in search of suitable agricultural land in 1789 and discovered and named the Hawkesbury River after Baron Hawkesbury. This region played a significant role in the early development of the colony with European settlers established here by 1794. Situated on fertile floodplains and well known for its abundant agriculture, Green Hills (as it was originally called) supported the colony through desperate times. However, frequent flooding meant that the farmers along the riverbanks were often ruined.

Governor Lachlan Macquarie replaced Governor Bligh, taking up duty on 1/1/1810. Under his influence the colony propsered. His vision was for a free community, working in conjunction with the penal colony. He implemented an unrivalled public works program, completing 265 public buildings, establishing new public amenities and improving existing services such as roads. Under his leadership Hawkesbury district thrived. He visited the district on his first tour and recorded in his journal on 6/12/1810: 'After dinner I chrestened the new townships...I gave the name of Windsor to the town intended to be erected in the district of the Green Hills...the township in the Richmond district I have named Richmond...' the district reminded Macquarie of those towns in England, whilst Castlereagh, Pitt Town and Wilberforce were named after English statesmen. These are often referred to as Macquarie's Five Towns. Their localities, chiefly Windsor and Richmond, became more permanent with streets, town square and public buildings.

Macquarie also appointed local men in positions of authority. In 1810 a group of settlers sent a letter to him congratulating him on his leadership and improvements. It was published in the Sydney Gazette with his reply. He was 'much pleased with the sentiments' of the letter and assured them that the Haweksbury would 'always be an object of the greatest interest' to him (Nichols, 2010).

In marking out the towns of Windsor and Richmond in 1810, Governor Macquarie was acting on instructions from London. All of the Governors who held office between 1789 and 1822, from Phillip to Brisbane, recieved the same Letter of Instruction regarding the disposal of the 'waste lands of the Crown' that Britain claimed as her own. This included directives for the formation of towns and thus the extension of British civilisation to its Antipodean outpost (Proudfoot 1987, 7-9).

St.Albans Bridge over the MacDonald River:
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.

Ernest DeBurgh, the designer of DeBurgh truss and other bridges, was a leading engineer with the Public Works Department, and a prominent figure in early 20th century NSW.

Timber truss bridges, and timber bridges generally were so common that NSW was known to travellers as the "timber bridge state".
(RTA Heritage Inventory, 2000)

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-
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. Developing roles for government - building and operating public infrastructure-

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 Ernest DeBurgh, it has historical significance.
(RTA Heritage Inventory, 2000)
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
The bridge exhibits the technical excellence of its design, as all of the structural detail is clearly visible.
Also visually attractive in its setting, and with ornate iron piers, the bridge has substantial aesthetic significance.
(RTA Heritage Inventory, 2000)
SHR Criteria d)
[Social significance]
St Albans bridge is highly valued by the local community. Situated near a popular pub and regular stop off area for tourists from nearby Sydney, the bridge is also valued by the many visitors to the area. 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.
(RTA Heritage Inventory, 2000)
SHR Criteria e)
[Research potential]
The bridge has technical significance because it is a DeBurgh truss, is representative of a range of major technical developments that were made in timber truss design by the Public Works Department. The St Albans bridge has the largest DeBurgh truss spans constructed, giving it further technical significance.
(RTA Heritage Inventory, 2000)
SHR Criteria f)
Rare in the Sydney region, and rare technical features.
(RTA Heritage Inventory, 2000)
SHR Criteria g)
Highly representative of DeBurgh trusses.
(RTA Heritage Inventory, 2000)
Integrity/Intactness: Intact
(RTA Heritage Inventory, 2000)
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
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 0148020 Jun 00 --
Heritage Act - s.170 NSW State agency heritage registerRoads & Traffic s.170    

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
Tourism 2007St Albans Bridge over MacDonald River View detail
TourismAttraction Homepage2007St Albans Bridge over MacDonald River View detail
WrittenD.J. Fraser1985Timber Bridges of New South Wales
WrittenDepartment of Main Roads1987Timber Truss Maintenance Handbook
WrittenMcMillan, Britton & kell Relative Heritage Significance of all Timber Truss Bridges in NSW
WrittenNichols, Michelle (Local Studies Librarian)2010Macquarie and the Hawkesbury District
WrittenRTA Heritage Inventory2000St Albans Bridge Over MacDonald River

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

rez rez 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: 5051384
File number: H00/00312

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.