“To do any restoration work on bridges, you have to work on the history of them, the people who built them and their expertise,” heritage engineer Peter Spratt says.
This is especially true when restoration work has to be completed on a bridge as old as Campbell Town’s Red Bridge.
The iconic symbol of the midland town was designed in 1836 by British architect James Blackburn, who also designed the Holy Trinity Church in Hobart and the St George’s Church at Battery Point.
Construction on Australia’s oldest standing brick arch, and the oldest bridge on Tasmania’s Heritage Highway, was completed in 1838 using more than 1 million bricks.
The convict labour-built arch provided a key crossing over the Elizabeth River for early settlers, ensuring safe passage of cargo all-year-round.
Even after all these years, the bridge is able to withstand the force of 2 million cars each year, thanks to restoration works.
Mr Spratt said the restoration of the Red Bridge also made it a distant relative of Rome’s Colloseum.
“The replacement mortar that was used [in the restoration] went back 2000 years to what the Romans used on the Colloseum,” he said.
“It is a a special volcanic material from Germany.”
Now at 179 years of age, the bridge was recognised with a National Heritage Marker by Engineers Australia on Thursday.
Four members of the Militaria Collectors of Tasmania dressed in 19th century British military uniform for the occasion.
The bridge meant such great quantities of agricultural products could have been carted through both seasons.Speak of the Tasmanian House of Assembly Mark Shelton
The military enthusiasts ordained Campbell Town’s infamous bridge as national heritage icon with a four-gun salute, providing the occasion with a feeling of colonial nostalgia.
Speaker of the House of Assembly Mark Shelton was in attendance at the ceremony, and commented on how important the bridge was to the history of Northern Tasmania.
“It plays a significant part in our history, of course, when linking the agricultural areas of the Midlands, along with the Ross bridge, to the north,” he said.
“It was a very difficult area, because of the situation with the Elizabeth river and not being able to be passed in the winter time.
“The bridge meant such great quantities of agricultural products could have been carted through both seasons.”
Her Excellency, the Governor of Tasmania, Professor Kate Warner also attended the bridge’s coronation.
“It’s significant for its architectural values and it also has a wonderful history,” she said.
“Now that it has a historic marker here, it will make people stop, look at it and enjoy the park.”