Thursday, July 3, 2014

The old Gamtoos River Bridge

When the first Dutch farmers arrived in the Kouga and Gamtoos region they had to travel upstream some distance to cross over the Gamtoos River. In the mid 1800's a pontoon was used to convey traffic across the Gamtoos River.  The ferry was close to the Gamtoos River Hotel, and was owned by the late Mr. G. D. Smith, of Nocton Farm.  The problem was that this very primitive method of crossing a broad tidal river was frequently a source of much annoyance and delay, owing to freshets, and it often happened that carts and wagons were delayed on either side of the river for several days owing to the inability to cross.  As the country districts became more thickly populated the volume of trade on this, the main road connecting the Eastern Province with the west, increased, the need to find a way to bridge the river increased.  All our local members of Parliament advocated such a bridge, with the exception of Major-General Nixon, who wished to see a causeway erected, so that, in his opinion, it could be used as a roadway as well as a means of damming the river and so irrigating the immense flat on the western side. General Nixon's idea, however, did not meet with much support, and ultimately the present (old) bridge was decided on.  

It took several years to plan and build the bridge owing to the unfavourable conditions of the bed of the river for solid foundations, but was eventually completed and opened on the 3rd December, 1895. The " christening" ceremony was performed by Mrs. Garcia, the wife of the Civil Commissioner of Uitenhage. who was accompanied by Mrs. C. W. Andrews, wife of the Humansdorp Magistrate.

The originally estimated cost of the bridge was £20,000, but this sum was considerably exceeded on account of the delay caused by the difficulty of finding suitable foundations. It is a cylinder bridge of six 100-feet spans, and is therefore 600 feet long, with 16 feet between the abutments. The approaches to the bridge on either side cost £6ooo to construct.  A little while ago I stopped at the bridge for the first time and took a walk across.  Yes, yes, I had an ulterior motive as there is a Geocache located somewhere on the bridge.  But I did take my camera with and snapped a couple of pictures. 

Information courtesy of "Uitenhage  - Past and Present" Centenery 1804-1904"

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