Historic Lansdowne Bridge

10 July 1957 The Biz (Fairfield, NSW)

(By Tom Fitzpatrick)

As I drove over Lansdowne Bridge recently and noted the comparatively slow progress of the new bridge, being built to help cope with' present-day traffic requirements, my thoughts went back to the building of the first Lansdowne Bridge completed by convict gangs, with the primitive equipment of the times, in a period of two years. 

Now 121 years old, historic Lansdowne Bride, a masterpiece of the skill of the late David, Lennox, has witnessed, many changes from title slow- moving and lumbering bullock waggons, bringing wool and wheat from the hinterland, to the rubber-shod motor traffic of to-day. 

It has heard the clank of the chain gang in the bad old   days when this was a penal settlement, and the mail coach ratted over it for twenty years prior to the opening of the railway to Liverpool, and today Lansdowne Bridge is as solid as the day it was first opened. 

Following the bullock tracks, the Great Southern Road, or Hume Highway as it is now called, was partly formed in 1806 and a low-level bridge, known as "Bowler's Bridge," was erected.

The name Bowler was derived from mine host Bowler, who kept the adjoining "Grey-hound Inn." 

As the bridge was frequently flooded and damaged, it was decided to erect a stone bridge. 

But bridge builders in those early colonial days were hard to find.

One day Major Mitchell chanced to walk along Macquarie Street, Sydney, and noticed a man cutting stone for the dwarf wall outside the Legislature Council Chambers, now known as Parliament House, and observing his skill entered into conversation with him.

He learned that the workman was David Lennox, a recent arrival with bridge building experience, having been foreman on the building of the Gloucester Bridge across the Severn River. 

Mitchell engaged him as a bridge builder for the sum of 120 per annum.

His first job was to construct a bridge on the then Western Road at Lap- stone Hill. The bridge still stands and is well worth the deviation from the Western Highway at Emu Plains for an inspection.

Lansdowne Bridge, over Prospect Creek, was his next work, and was of similar design to the Gloucester Bridge.

The stone was quarried some seven miles down stream opposite East Hills, a favourite picnic place for Liverpool folk years ago, then known as The Quarries. 

The Governor of the time, Sir Richard Bourke, laid the foundation stone on January 1st, 1834.

An engraved brass plate and some coins were deposited beneath the stone, but "disappeared" before the mortar was dry.

In his speech the Governor announced that he intended to call the structure Lansdowne Bridge after the President of Her Majesty's Council.

The bridge took two years to build at a cost of "rather more .than 1000" and was opened by Governor Bourke on Anniversary Day, January 26th 1836 before a huge gathering including Navy officers of the colony and about 1000 spectators. 

A procession followed His Excellency over the bridge, and consisted of twelve dray loads of wool, a cart containing two casks of wine from "Regentville" the estate of Sir John Jamieson at Penrith, an Agora goat and some pure Saxon sheep belonging to Mr. Riley of Raby, a cart, with two emus, and a native boy followed by a cart containing samples of colonial grain and fruit.

The bridge was then declared open.  

In the early days of the colony tolls were levied on important roads leading out of Sydney.

The first toll gate was situated at Bowler's Bridge, over Prospect Creek, and transferred to Lansdowne Bridge upon its opening.

The toll gates operated until 1873.

The last toll master being Mr. Thomas Kelly, who then acquired the property now known as Hargrave Park, and where for many years he conducted one of the most successful vineyards in the district.

Messrs. James and John Kelly, of Liverpool are sons of the late Thomas Kelly. My grandparents often spoke of a fatal accident at Lansdowne Toll Gates, where a bolting horse with vehicle crashed into the gates, killing the occupant. 

Next time you dross over Lansdowne Bridge take note of two blocks of sandstone (on the Bankstown side) about thirty yards from the bridge, I understand they mark the site of the toll gates. 

Probably the earliest shop in the district was a butcher's, owned by a Mr. Woods, who later sold out to the late George Knight who carried on the business for some time, and was situated adjacent to the bridge.

His son George Knight, a well-known long distance bike rider of the period about 1911, still lives at Lansdowne, or Lansvale as it is now known.