||The Georges River Bridge crosses the Georges River on Newbridge Road, Liverpool. The Aboriginal occupants of this part of the river belonged to the Dharruk language group, for whom it provided a rich source of food. European settlement began along the Georges River from the late 1790s, encouraged by the good quality soil along the river's banks, though most of the early grants went to officers and officials. When Governor Macquarie arrived in the colony in 1810 he toured the newly settled areas of the Georges River and selected and surveyed a site for a new township to be named Liverpool in honour of the Earl of that Title, then Secretary of State for the Colonies. Macquarie was keen to establish new townships on high grounds to avoid the disastrous effects of flooding, as had recently been experienced on the Hawkesbury, destroying crops. He intended that Liverpool and other so-called "Macquarie Towns" would serve Sydney as depots for the shipment of grain and produce to Government Stores and as administrative centres for convicts employed by settlers and those in the various road and clearing gangs. (Kass, 1983, n.p.; Keating, 1996, p. 7)
Prior to the arrival of Governor Macquarie in 1810 there was little government expenditure on road development. Water transport was relied on heavily for conveying goods between settlements and tracks developed informally between grants and from Aboriginal pathways. In September 1810 a call was made for subscriptions to build five bridges on the Georges River Road (Milperra / Canterbury Roads) suggesting that this was a well used track well on the way to road status. The area developed slowly until after the Liverpool Road was constructed in 1814, after which, settlements sprang up along the road. (Pollon, 1996, p.19; HAAH, 2004, p. 52) It is thought that the earliest crossing of the Georges River other than by boat, was probably a dam just downstream of the site of the present bridge. It was built around 1836, possibly designed by David Lennox, Superintendent of Bridges, while he was supervising the building of the Lansdowne Bridge over Prospect Creek on the Liverpool Road, though Captain W. H. Christie, Superintendent of Ironed Gangs, oversaw the dam project. The dam was built primarily as a means of improving and conserving the district's water supply, but it was also used by pedestrians and gave vehicular access to the areas of Moorebank and Holsworthy lying on the south bank of the river. The work was of such importance to locals that they presented Christie with a piece of silver plate in June 1839 in gratitude for his securing them an abundant supply of fresh water. "Tegg's Almanac" claimed in 1842 that the dam would bring greatness and prosperity to Liverpool by opening up waste or inaccessible land to cultivation.
The role of transport is of great significance to Liverpool's development and important infrastructural links such as the dam and Lansdowne Bridge placed it in a closer relationship to Sydney. Eulogies about Liverpool's bright future all stress the importance of the bridge, the dam and the river. (Main Roads, June 1958, p. 107; Keating, 1996, pp. 63-64) In 1891 a Liverpool Council alderman reported that "many a child had a narrow escape" when crossing the dam, which, since 1836 had been the only crossing of the Georges River at Liverpool. A horse had also been washed over the dam and nearly drowned. Council had been lobbying the government for years to construct a bridge "to connect the agricultural with the commercial parts of Liverpool," and in 1894 George Weeks built a timber truss bridge, 452 feet long and 15 feet wide to cross the river just south of the railway station (the Great Southern Railway having reached Liverpool in 1858, extending to Goulburn in 1869). The western approach to the bridge was via a hairpin bend from the south end of Bigge Street, which remained a traffic hazard in Liverpool until the time of the present bridge's construction. (Main Roads, June 1958, p. 107; Keating, 1996, p. 133)
The military has a long association with the Liverpool area, with encampments and manoeuvres taking place in the area since the 1890s. In the years immediately preceding World War I a Remount Depot was established and a large area of land resumed for an army camp, now known as the "Old Holsworthy Camp", which included the Anzac Rifle Range, completed by 1916. In December 1917 work commenced on a rail link from Liverpool Station to the military area and lines were completed in 1919 linking a new Ordnance Depot, Remount Depot, Anzac Rifle Range and terminating at the Old Holsworthy Camp. The concrete supports for the railway bridge are now used to carry the footbridge (built c. 1940s or later) across the Georges River. (Keating, 1996, pp. 146-147, 155)
During World War I, an influx of heavy vehicle traffic travelling to and from army camps and military areas in the Liverpool / Holsworthy areas led to pressure to repair and upgrade roads. In 1915, however, Liverpool Council declined a request to widen the approaches to the bridge over the Georges River on Milperra / Newbridge Roads. The request was passed on to the Public Works Department. (HAAH, 2004, p. 19)The area was characterised by appalling roads in the early twentieth century. On many occasions it was necessary to lead a horse through the potholes and mire of the Georges River Road (renamed Milperra Road in 1918). A bridge was constructed on this road (to the east of the study site, close to the now Bankstown Airport) in 1931 to provide an eastern crossing of the river. Keen to promote further residential development in the area, Council believed it would make the extreme southern portions of the municipality more attractive to potential residents who had previously shunned this area due to its isolation. (Rosen, 1996, p. 102)
Some of the roads and bridges in the district were built as part of the unemployment relief schemes of the Depression years and its aftermath. Newbridge Road, which connected the new eastern crossing of the Georges River to the old western crossing at Liverpool, was built in the 1930s as part of this scheme. (HAAH, 2004, p. 17) This final link thus provided Liverpool with an alternative route east, using Newbridge Road, Milperra Road and Canterbury Road to give access to Sydney.
From the early twentieth century through to the post-World War II period, the process of urbanisation in the Liverpool area steadily intensified. Some of the factors influencing its development and swelling its population included the redistribution of some of Sydney's population through the slum-clearance program in the inner city; the establishment of army camps and other military facilities and the development of soldier settlement areas such as Milperra in the years following WWI. The decade to 1921 saw the population of the Liverpool area increase by 60 percent. During and after World War II industrial activity in the region increased, and between 1938 and 1947 the population grew by 84 percent. Coupled with an influx of migrants in the post-war period was the rapid rise in private motor vehicle ownership taking place across the state. All of these factors intensified the need for improved roads and transport infrastructure in and around Liverpool. (Keating, 1996, p. 143)
Part of the extensive road improvements carried out in the region in the post-war period was the new steel girder bridge built over the Georges River at Liverpool between 1954 and 1958 to improve the Newbridge Road. The bridge replaced the old timber bridge built c. 1894, which had reached the end of its economic life and was inadequate for existing and future traffic requirements in terms of width, loading capacity and the alignment of its approaches. The new bridge eliminated the dangerous dog leg on the Liverpool approach. (HAAH, 2004, p. 49) Consisting of a reinforced concrete deck resting on ten welded steel plate girder spans supported by concrete piers founded in some cases on reinforced concrete cylinders, and in other cases on reinforced concrete piles, the bridge was 912 feet long and 58 feet wide with two six-feet wide footways on either side. Three separate contracts were let for the manufacture and supply of metalwork and machinery; construction of concrete piers and abutments; and construction, erection and final completion of the bridge. All work was carried out by the Cleveland Bridge and Engineering Company Ltd. of Darlington, England. The new bridge was officially opened by the Hon. J. J. Cahill, M.L.A., Premier and Colonial Treasurer of New South Wales, on 15 March 1958. (Main Roads, March 1951, p. 96; Main Roads, June 1952, p. 127; Main Roads, June 1958, p. 105)
The Bankstown approach included a level crossing of the single-track branch railway line to Holsworthy. While traffic on this line was limited to about one train per week at the time of the bridge's construction, it was expected that the area south of the Bankstown approach would develop due to the establishment of commercial factories and staff residential areas surrounding them, which could lead to more frequent railway traffic and possible duplication of the track. With this in mind, the grade of the new bridge was designed so as to permit the bridging of the Holsworthy branch railway line and the rearrangement of the nearby intersection of Main Roads 512 and 167. The Liverpool approach to the bridge was designed so that local traffic would have convenient access to the business centre and railway station, while through traffic could avoid the busy main street. (Main Roads, March 1951, p. 96)
The bridge became a vital part of the transport infrastructure of Liverpool, forming an imposing structure over this major waterway. In the years following its construction, Liverpool again experienced a residential boom; commercial and industrial expansion and a huge increase in local traffic, as, despite the availability of the rail link and other public transport facilities, the majority of commuters rely on private motor transport.