Hampden Bridge ‘best in the colony’

The first bridge to carry traffic in Kangaroo Valley was opened in 1879, however, it stood for only 20 years.

The entire structure was washed away in the 1898 flood, which rose to the underside of the newly opened Hampden Bridge.

The historic sandstone bridge was opened to vehicles on February 2, 1898, only 10 days before the raging flood water destroyed the old bridge.

The Valley was struck by the worst flood it had seen in almost three decades, receiving 20 inches of rain.

Together with his wife, Mr John King was given the honour of opening the bridge as he was instrumental in getting the first bridge built.

He drove his buggy drawn by a pair of horses, to the middle of the bridge to declare it open to traffic.

After crossing to the Nowra side of the bridge, Mr King’s horses were decorated with blue and pink ribbons on their necks by the oldest woman living in Barrengarry.   

The pair then travelled to Nowra to pass on the news, the bridge was open and operational.

Among those present were contractor Loveridge, engineer Rorison, Mr List, Mr Harder, Mr Smith and Mr Randall.

Those at the opening, examined the mouth of the Nowra drainage tunnel, jokingly suggesting it could be used to detain larrikins and drunks.

The official opening, however, took place on May 19, 1898 – 120 years ago.

The opening was performed by the Minister for Works, James Henry Young MP, accompanied by engineer-in-chief Robert Hickson, and his assistant, bridge designer Ernest De Burgh.

It was Mr Hickson who suggested the 77-metre long bridge be named in honour of Lord Hampden, who was the Governor of NSW at the time of construction.

In front of a crowd of more than 400 people assembled for the momentous occasion, the minister expressed his delight at being asked to perform the ceremony, stating he “might go over the great Australian continent and would find nothing equal to it”.

Following the ceremony, the minister and his party were kept entertained at the National Hall, where they enjoyed a banquet attended by about 86 guests. 

The Hampden Bridge construction was reported in The Sydney Morning Herald, which told readers it was the first bridge of this suspension type to be built in the colony by the Public Works Department. 

The total cost of the construction had been 8,382 pounds.

The bridge has served as a focal point in Kangaroo Valley since it was built and has undergone many refurbishments to maintain its structural integrity.