The Battle of the Tasmanian Bridge

Tasmanian Bridge: Built by Convicts

How many times have you noticed a Tasmanian bridge being promoted as a heritage icon?  You might be inclined to think: seen one, seen them all?  But the inclusion of so many of these historic structures in the highlight reel is valid.


Here’s a small sample…

Tasmanian Bridge #1 – Richmond

The oldest of my sample collection of Tasmanian bridges was built by convicts in 1825.  Made from sandstone and with arches spanning the Coal River in Richmond, it is also thought to be the oldest of its type in Australia.  Despite the history of the Richmond Bridge, little has been changed over the last 185+ years.

Tasmanian Bridge - Richmond

Richmond Tasmania – Bridge over the Coal River

Now included on the National Heritage List, the bridge is a regular inclusion on the tourist run from Hobart to the Port Arthur Convict Settlement.  From the right angle, photographers can also capture Australia’s oldest existing Catholic Church in the background.   The St John Catholic Church was built in 1836.

Tasmanian Bridge - St John Catholic Church Richmond

Tasmanian bridge & Catholic Church in Richmond

Tasmanian Bridge #2 – Ross

Not only the pride of Ross in Tasmania, this bridge is regarded as a significant construction in the whole of the Commonwealth.  Like the Richmond version, the Ross Bridge was built from stone by convicts, but just over a decade later in 1836.  That makes it the third oldest bridge still standing in Australia.

Tasmanian Bridge - Ross

A well-respected Tasmanian bridge, located in Ross

The Ross Bridge features beautiful stonework and carvings, apparently thanks mainly to the work of convict Daniel Herbert.  The stonemason, who was transported to Van Dieman’s Land for robbery, was paid a shilling a day for his troubles.


Sir George Arthur, then Governor of Tasmania, was obviously pleased with his work.  Herbert was released into the community when construction was finished, and was buried nearby when he died.

Tasmanian Bridge - Built by Convicts in Ross

This Tasmanian bridge was built by convicts in Ross in 1836

Tasmanian Bridge #3 – Campbell Town

Campbell Town’s entrant into this battle of the Tasmanian Bridge was finished in 1838.  It has the distinction of being the oldest bridge still currently part of the National Highway.  Not a bad achievement for a structure built over 170 years ago.  More than two million vehicles travel through this section of the Heritage Highway every year.

Tasmanian Bridge - Campbell Town

Red Brick Bridge Campbell Town Tasmania (also built by convicts)

The one and a half million bricks used in the construction of the bridge were locally made.  Designed in Europe, the bridge (once again) was built by Tasmanian convicts.  The colour of the bricks inspired the name Red Bridge, which is located at the southern entrance of Campbell Town near the Red Bridge Cafe.

Tasmanian Bridge - Red Bridge, Heritage Highway

The Red Brick Bridge, Heritage Highway, Tasmania

As seen by the photos, each Tasmanian bridge has a unique quality and they’re all worthy of admiration.  They are connected by the convict heritage of the region… and the ducks in the foreground!  Each town has a legitimate stake in the claim for the best bridge in Tasmania.  Maybe we should make it a combined challenge, and include the equally impressive local bakeries!!

Photo Credit
Most of the photos in this article were taken by Dan Fellow

Map: Tasmanian Bridge…



  1. Ross Graham says:

    I know I could be accuses of being biased because of my name, but I still think the historic bridge at Ross is the best.

  2. roger findlay says:

    These bridges were built to last and still serve the same purpose today as originally intended. I have never stopped for a good look at the Red Bridge but it is on the list now.

    1.5 million bricks is a lot of bricks and would have created work for many people. Did the convicts make the bricks as well as build the bridge?

    • Hi Roger

      You can get a good look at the Red Bridge from the park on the eastern side. The ducks will expect a feed though!!

      I found this online and thought you might be interested…

      …this famous bridge was built entirely with convict labour. They hand made 1,250,000 bricks and then built the bridge on dry land. When completed they were then told to divert the river beneath its arches. This was accomplished by digging the new river course a kilometre on both sides of the arches. Built for horse and cart it is today the oldest bridge in Australia still in use on a major highway, such was the workmanship of our forefather convicts.

  3. Louise Lee-Archer says:

    I wonder why John Lee Archer the Colonial Engineer and Architect who designed the Ross Bridge is not mentioned. He was very well trained in London by the renowned bridge builder John Rennie. We also have him to thank for the Richmond Bridge, not his design, but when he arrived in Hobart in 1826 he realised the bridge was in danger of falling down and had one pier underpinned and the mill further up the river removed whose water was causing the problem. By examination of John Lee Archer’s London sketch books it is easy to see that the Red Brick Bridge at Campbell Town is also his design and was built the same time as the Ross Bridge.

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