May 16, 2020

Sydney Harbour Bridges: Gladesville Bridge

Gladesville Bridge from Huntleys Point (c) Rodrick Eime

Bridges are much more than simply a means to cross a river or bay. Bridges are a barometer of progress, both cultural and economic.

From simple wooden walkways to giant iron, steel, stone and concrete, bridge construction parallels the march of human ingenuity as much as it does the expansion of our settlements.

Sydney Harbour is well known for its iconic bridge, but Port Jackson and the waterway that feeds it, the Parramatta River, has numerous bridges, large and small, that define the scenic harbour. From the Glebe Island Bridge to smaller historic crossings like the Gasworks Bridge, have all played a critical part in the growth of Sydney as Australia’s premier city.


Another bridge that helped Sydney expand, was the Gladesville Bridge. While not actually located in Gladesville, the bridge was the important link from Sydney city to the north shore suburb of Gladesville, first established in 1830.

The original Gladesville Bridge was completed in 1881, well before the Sydney Harbour Bridge opened in 1932. At the time, it was the only way across the harbour east of Parramatta with a crossing between Drummoyne and Huntleys Point. The 273m iron lattice truss bridge had an opening swing span and offered just two road lanes. A tramline was later added in 1949 bit there was no pedestrian access.

Peak hour traffic across the old Gladesville Bridge in the 1950s

By the 1950s, the old bridge was a serious traffic bottleneck and it was clear a new bridge needed to be built for the rapidly growing suburbs on the northern side and the English firm of Guy Maunsell & Partners. The Department of Main Roads had originally proposed their own conventional steel truss design but agreed it would not accommodate the anticipated increase in traffic flow that the current Gladesville Bridge currently experiences.

So, we now have a four-box pre-stressed concrete arch with a span of 305m with a total length including approaches of 579.4m. The roadway across the bridge is 22m wide between kerbs and flanked by a 1.8m wide footway on each side. Originally designed with six road lanes, the bridge was later modified to provide eight.
Gladesville Bridge at sunset with Cambridge Road Reserve, Drummoyne, at its base. (Roderick Eime)

Commemorative cover in Daily Telegraph
The now heritage-listed Gladesville Bridge was formally opened to traffic on the 2nd October 1964 by HRH Princess Marina of Kent and the Hon P D Hills MLA, Deputy Premier and Minister for Local Government and Minister for Highways and described at the time as “one of the most spectacular of replacement bridges built in Sydney” and was, at the time, the longest reinforced concrete arch span in the world. Now it’s the Chinese Beipan River Bridge at 445m.

‘Spectacular’ it certainly is.


MORE BRIDGES: Gasworks Bridge, Parramatta || Glebe Island Bridge

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