Crossing the Hunter River
Planning for the first Belmore Bridge in central Maitland
The site of the first Belmore Bridge was decided by the government surveyor, G.B (George Boyle) White, to be located upstream from McDougals Punt which operated from Horseshoe Bend.
Designed by the Engineer-in-chief for Harbours and Rivers (Mr. E. O. Moriarty), and built under the direction of his department, construction of the first West Maitland Bridge commenced in 1865. Bell was assisted by Mr. Franklin, who acted as Superintendent.
The opening of the first Belmore Bridge in Maitland
On 4 October 1869 amid great processions and ceremony the bridge was pronounced open for public use by the Hon John Sutherland, Minister for Lands.
The Mayoress of West Maitland, Mrs W.H. Mullen, broke a bottle of champagne decorated with ribbons and flowers against the ironwork of the eastern railing and christened the “Belmore Bridge” in honour of the Earl of Belmore (Sir Somerset Richard Lowry Corry) who was then the Governor and Commander in Chief of New South Wales. The Earl subsequently visited Maitland in October 1870.
In consideration of the great cost of the structure (£23,564) which had been provided from the revenue of the colony, Mr. Sutherland stated that it was necessary to impose a toll of one penny, to be paid only once in any day.
Planning begins for a new Belmore Bridge
By 1934 plans were initiated to replace the first bridge as part of a state wide plan to improve main road linkages.In May 1940, a proposal was put forward to West Maitland Council by the Department of Main Roads for a more modern structure to replace the Belmore Bridge, however Postwar construction works delayed any further decision making or progress on this proposal.
By August 1954, a new Belmore Bridge was in the design stage and was to be located upstream from the existing structure in almost direct line with Maitland Courthouse. But progress was delayed because of post-war work initiatives being undertaken by the Department of Main Roads.
The old iron and timber bridge continued in use, withstanding the periodic floods that battered and choked it and the surrounding riverbanks which led rise to claims that the bridge would be washed away before the Department of Main Roads completed its repair works.
Having been in service for over 90 years, the old bridge had never been fully covered by floodwaters, even in the record flood of February 1955.
The new Belmore Bridge is opened in 1964
The first test pylon of the current Belmore Bridge was driven on the 5 October, 1961. At a cost of £300,000, the new concrete and steel bridge was designed with the deck constructed above record flood level on single column round-shaped piers to deflect flood water and debris and consisting of eight spans and is 643 feet (198 metres) in length.
The new Belmore Bridge bridge, built by Mr John Scott of Carrington, was opened on 4 April 1964 by the Minister for Local Government and Minister for Highways, Mr. Pat. Hills, in the company of The Mayor, Ald. H. Skilton, and Milton Morris, the State Member at the time.