National Heritage List inscription date 25 November 2005
The sandstone arches of Richmond Bridge have spanned Tasmania’s Coal River since 1825. Built by convict labour, it is Australia’s oldest surviving large stone arch bridge.
Its design and build were a significant technical achievement for the new colony, and for ten years it had the longest span of any bridge in Australia. Still in use today, it is an enduring reminder of the forced migration of convicts and the use of their labour for the development of the new colony.
Click an image for a larger view.
Founding the Richmond area
From 1803 to 1853, over 73,500 convicts were transported to Tasmania. Richmond was one of the first areas to be explored following English settlement of the Island.
In 1803, a small party led by Lieutenant John Bowen crossed the hills from the Derwent Valley to look for suitable land for settlement. Richmond soon became an important crossing point for people travelling by land between Hobart and the east coast and Tasman Peninsula.
Rapid population growth and Tasmania’s emerging agricultural industry soon necessitated the need for a connecting bridge over the Coal River. Construction began in 1823, with convicts building the bridge by hand from local sandstone.
The Richmond boom
The completion of the bridge saw the town of Richmond and the surrounding region rapidly expand. By 1835, Richmond was Tasmania’s third largest town and had grown into an important military outpost and convict station. Richmond became a transport hub for travellers moving between Hobart and Port Arthur.
The aesthetic significance of Richmond Bridge is appreciated both locally and nationally. Its picturesque image has been used widely in national and international tourism promotions since the 1920s, and has inspired the work of major Australian artists, including world renowned Australian photographer Max Dupain.