THE Shoalhaven Historical Society will launch a campaign to save the heritage-listed Old Nowra Bridge from destruction after it is replaced by a new southbound bridge.
The 132-year-old bridge has gathered many stories over the years. Many locals have heard of the legendary Phyllis, the circus elephant who in 1914 decided to nap on the bridge for several hours.
Commerce ground to a halt behind Phyllis’s imposing behind as locals gathered to debate solutions. Opinion is divided on what finally moved the petulant pachyderm: the male elephant (pictured) who gracefully head-butted Phyllis or a washing tub full of beer provided by the Bridge Tavern.
However it’s not just local colour that gives the landmark historical significance. It was the first bridge in Australia to use “whipple truss iron”, according to the president of the historical society, Lynne Allen.
Mrs Allen said the bridge was a beautiful piece of work. “In 1881 [when the bridge was finished] you’ve got horses and carts and the odd bullock team. Now, thousands of cars go over it.
“They weren’t like us, doing the bare minimum; they over-engineered things so they’d never fall down.”
Planning is under way for a new bridge, although it is unclear where exactly it will go and what will happen to the old one.
A Roads and Maritime Services spokesperson said the cost of maintaining the bridge for pedestrian use would be assessed early next year as part of a continuing investigation.
“You could have marches, you could have markets. You could have festivals that bring people into the area,” Mrs Allen said.
“I think the Shoalhaven River Festival shows how much people want to not spend too much money and just simply be entertained and have a place to talk and engage with our beautiful river.”