Statement of SignificancePyrmont Bridge is an item of State heritage significance for its aesthetic, historical and scientific cultural values. An essential link between the city and the inner western suburbs, Pyrmont Bridge is closely associated with the economic and social development of Sydney at the end of the 19th century. Pyrmont Bridge is closely associated with Percy Allen, PWD Engineer-in-Chief of bridge design, who was responsible for the introduction of American timber bridge practice to NSW and designed over 500 bridges in NSW. The quality of the carved stonework of the piers and portals added to the aesthetic appeal of the bridge. At the time of construction the swing span of Pyrmont Bridge was one of the largest in the world. It was one of the first swing bridges to be powered by electricity. The timber approach spans demonstrate a rare example of deck type Allan trusses; there being no other known example. The bridge's Australian design and technological innovation was a source of pride for the people of NSW.Despite the demolition of the eastern approach to the bridge and the construction of the mono-rail track, Pyrmont Bridge retains its essential heritage values.
Transport - Land
Construction Years: 1899 - 1902
Physical Description: Pyrmont Bridge has a number of discrete components: the masonry and concrete abutments and retaining walls and embanked approaches, faced with sandstone; the timber Allan truss side spans; the stone pivot and rest piers; and the central steel swing span.
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Historic Notes and Themes
Historical notes: The old Pyrmont Bridge (1857) crossing Darling Harbour was purchased by the Government in 1884 for £49,600, after the tolls were abolished. In 1891 competitive designs were invited for a new bridge on the south side of the old structure, but due to the economic depression no further action was taken until 1894, when, after prolonged inquiry and the consideration of about twenty six schemes, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works decided in favour of a design for a steel bridge with a swing span of 54 feet, affording two 70-foot clear fairways, submitted by the Public Works Department (PWD).The foundations stone of the new bridge was laid by the Hon. E.W. O?Sullivan, State Minister for Works, on 6 September, 1899; and the bridge opened for traffic on 28 June 1902, by his Excellency Vice-Admiral Sir Harry Holdsworth Rawson, K.C.B., Governor of New South Wales.Powered by electricity from the Ultimo Powerhouse, the swing bridge could be opened and closed in 45 seconds. Percy Allan, PWD Engineer-in-Chief of bridge design, designed over 550 bridges in NSW. In 1981 the bridge was permanently closed to traffic and the Government ordered the bridge to be demolished, but later revoked this decision. In 1984 the Darling Harbour Authority was formed with the task of redeveloping Darling Harbour. The Pyrmont Bridge was restored, with the swing span in full working order, and incorporated as a pedestrian bridge in the redevelopment of Darling Harbour. A section of the Monorail was built across the bridge at this time. The Pyrmont Bridge was re-opened to pedestrian traffic in 1988.
Historical significance: Pyrmont Bridge, an essential link between the city and the inner western suburbs, is closely associated with the economic and social development of Sydney at the end of the 19th century. Pyrmont Bridge is closely associated with Percy Allan, PWD Engineer-in-Chief of bridge design, with the assistance of JJ Bradfield and Gordon Edgell. Percy Allen was responsible for the introduction of American timber bridge practice to NSW, and designed over 500 bridges in NSW.
Historical association: Indicating the high standard of civil engineering works achieved by the NSW Department of Public Works, the finest of the 583 bridges in the state designed by Percy Allan, the PWD Engineer-in- Chief of Bridge Design. Other prominent engineers involved with the design of the bridge were John Bradfield and Gordon Edgell. Indicating the widespread use of Australian hardwoods in building and bridge construction in NSW prior to World War 1, reflecting a deliberate decision by the Public Works Department to use locally produced materials in bridge construction. NSW was well known to travellers as being the timber bridge state.
Aesthetic significance: The Pyrmont Bridge is potentially of national significance as a technologically innovative swing span bridge, the design of which combined recent American technology: the central pivot span, electricity and the D/C tram motor, with European steelwork and the locally developed Allan Truss bridge, an improvement, made by Allan in 1894 to the American Howe Truss. The elegant steelwork to the swing span and the carved stone detailing of the Sydney sandstone to the piers and balustrade of the approaches are combined with utilitarian timberwork to the piles and Allan Trusses, employed below the deck. Technically a difficult structure to build, the construction involved the use of divers in sinking the permanent wrought iron caisson and pouring concrete under water. A photographic record of the construction of the bridge, and a series of handcoloured drawings recording the construction survive at State Records, indicating the meticulous care that was taken with the design and construction of the Pyrmont Bridge.
Social significance: The design continued the high standard of civil engineering works undertaken by the NSW Department of Public Works since its formation in 1857, engineering works that were both a source of pride to Australians and innovative at an international level. Currently the bridge is recognised as a significant engineering work by the Institute of Engineers. An example of the careful application of the Burra Charter principles to a structure that continues to be used, largely as intended, on a daily basis. The Pyrmont Bridge is a well known Sydney landmark and is used on a regular basis by numerous pedestrians and cyclists. Utilised as a venue for during events, it is also a popular viewing spot. The Pyrmont Bridge has continued to be used, by pedestrians, for over a century, continuing a route that has existed since the 1850s.
Research significance: Considerable research potential exists into the pioneering use of structural steel by the Department of Public Works in NSW and the prefabrication, in Belgium, of the steel and wrought iron of the swing span. The Pyrmont Bridge provides evidence of the practical application of the improved timber trusses developed by individual engineers within the NSW Department of Public Works , primarily the introduction of steel for tension members. Showing the introduction of the materials testing developed by Professor Warren at Sydney University. The combination of local and international technical advances shows the degree to which the staff of the NSW Department of Public Works kept up with international bridge design, their designs having been published internationally since the 1870s. Allan?s paper contributed to the body of knowledge on the subject at an international level, proving that the colonies could build more innovatively than in London.
Rare assessment: A rare, possibly unique, example, in NSW, of the use of Allan trusses below deck. The combination of timber work to the approaches and a steel swing span does not occur in the American examples and would appear to be particular to the major timber producing countries ie Canada and Australia. For its time the steelwork to the swing span is potentially one of the largest steel spans in Australia. The design, and surviving structure, provides evidence of the transfer from the use of wrought and cast iron to steel, contains examples of each: the wrought iron caison; the ornate cast iron work to the control cabinet and the steelwork that supports the bridge decking of the swing span. At the time of construction steel was not manufactured locally. An early example of a swing span bridge to be powered by electricity, marking the transfer in Sydney from steam or hydraulic power to direct current electricity, which powered the gates, the swing span and the arc lights to the decking as well as the navigational lights, predating the use of electricity for street lighting in Sydney by 2 years.
Intact assessment: Pyrmont Bridge is no longer used as a public road, the eastern approach having been removed, however, the bridge still functions as a pedestrian link between the central city and Pyrmont. The bridge swing span, the centrepiece of the design, is opened on a regular basis. Thus, the bridge retains its integrity as a swing bridge.
Physical condition: Pyrmont Bridge is maintained in a sound condition.
|Australian Theme||NSW Theme||Local Theme|
|Developing local, regional and national economies||Activities associated with the moving of people and goods from one place to another, and systems for the provision of such movements.|
|Developing local, regional and national economies||Activities and processes associated with the knowledge or use of mechanical arts and applied sciences.|
|Heritage Listing||Listing Title||Listing Number||Gazette Date||Gazette Number||Gazette Page|
|Register of the National Estate||1/12/036/0044||Pyrmont Bridge||21/10/1980||1835|
|Royal Australian Institute of Architects register||4703178|
|Institution of Engineers (NSW) Historic Engineering Marker||Pymont Bridge (Plaqued item)|
|Heritage Act - s.170 NSW State agency heritage register||Place Management NSW|
|Heritage Act - State Heritage Register||1618||Pyrmont Bridge||28/06/2002||4987||106|
|Management Plan||Otto Csrhalmi||2006||Pyrmont Bridge|
|Written||Engineering Heritage Committee, Sydney Division, I.E. Australia||1991||The Pyrmont Bridge, Darling Harbour|
|City of Sydney||Sydney City Heritage Study|