The Cottage Creek Bridge in Hunter Street, Newcastle West, is one that most people are probably unaware of – even if they use it every day. The City of Newcastle is currently reviewing the 120-year-old bridge with a view to future replacement.

Early history of the bridge itself is unclear. Heritage consultants engaged by City of Newcastle reviewed a range of historic plans of the area. They determined that there has been a bridge in this location across Cottage Creek at Hunter Street for a considerable time, as detailed below.

  • In 1887 a steam tram line from Newcastle to Plattsburg (near Wallsend) was opened, with the route along Hunter Street and over Cottage Creek, and it is believed that a concrete bridge was in place at that time.
  • In 1892 a proposal was developed by the Department of Public Works to construct a covered sewer from the Throsby Creek Junction upstream to the coal railway bridge over Cottage Creek (which was located roughly near King Street).
  • Department of Lands plan drawings located by the Heritage Collections Librarian at Newcastle Library detail the bridge’s location in 1896.

Department of Lands survey, 1896

Department of Lands survey, 1896

 

On 24th June 1897 Sydney Morning Herald reported that “plans and specifications for extending the Cottage Creek Bridge to the full width of Hunter-street were submitted by the city engineer. The matter was referred to the improvement committee.” Sydney Morning Herald reported later that, “the city council has decided to proceed with the construction of the new bridge spanning Cottage Creek in Hunter Street West.” On the 3rd September 1900, Sydney Morning Herald announced that “the work of constructing the new bridge to span Cottage Creek at Hunter Street West has been commenced. The cost of the new structure will be about £1000, which will be equally born by the Government, the Railway Commissioners, and the Newcastle Council”.

In 1927, further widening of the channel from 20ft to 30ft, and the construction of a duplicate channel was undertaken through a NSW Public Works Department scheme. There was also suggestion by John Shine, Newcastle Council Engineer, that the channel should be covered at Hunter Street to allow for the construction of shops along the Hunter Street frontage. Once the Scheme was completed it was transferred to the Hunter Water District Board in 1930.

 

Cottage Creek stormwater drain under construction, upstream of Hunter Street – Ralph Snowball, 1896

Cottage Creek stormwater drain under construction, upstream of Hunter Street – Ralph Snowball, 1896

 

A “jack arch” bridge

The form of the older part of the bridge is what is known as a “jack arch”. It predates the use of reinforced concrete and was typically used for constructing fireproof floors in warehouses. There are a number of “jack arch” bridges known in NSW and it is understood that they may have been a common bridge design for rail overbridges from the late 1880s until the 1920s. Most of the bridges over the channels of Cottage and Throsby Creeks are small concrete beam bridges – a simple reinforced concrete design that replaced the “jack arch”, making this bridge type uncommon in the Newcastle area.

 

Cottage Creek Bridge jack arch construction

Cottage Creek Bridge jack arch construction

 

This story first published by City of Newcastle Libraries – click here to read more about the history and project.

 

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