Sydney Architecture Images- Gone but not forgotten

Bridge Street Bridge Plaque 15 of the Green Plaques


James Dempsey


Bridge St., cnr. Pitt St.


Built- 1804   Demolished- 1840’s


Old Colonial Georgian


Rendered brick Stone


Government bridge
Summary It was initially a simple log bridge which had to be replaced on numerous occasions with more substantial timber structures. In 1803 Gov. King asked the semi- retired Augustus Alt to have the log bridge replaced by a more sturdy stone arch tall enough for small sea- going vessels to pass under it. King laid the corner stone for the new 9m long bridge at this spot. Its construction proved to be somewhat of a chore. Continual rock hewing activities by convicts for government buildings and public works had sapped the strength of the few able bodied men capable of carrying out this task. This led Gov. King to appeal to the colony’s free settlers to help in the bridge’s construction. Struggling to survive a drought, colonists refused point-blank to labour on the bridge under the hot sun and the job was left to five convicts supervised by stone-mason Isaac Peyton. Built in haste, it was opened to traffic on 5 January 1804 but collapsed nine months later due to a combination of poor workmanship and heavy rains which caused the creek to flood. Repairs were undertaken immediately and again in 1806. The bridge was later completely remodelled by John O’Hearn, which included widening and lowering of the arch. O’Hearn’s labour was paid for with 675 gallons of rum. It was demolished in the 1840’s when the Tank Stream was channelled underground and the area beyond the bridge reclaimed and remodelled as part of the construction of Circular Quay.
This bridge was important as it served to unite the two areas of colonial life- the government area up towards the first Government House and Macquarie Street and the commercial area, docks and the Lieutenant Governor's House (Rum Corps). It was also adjacent the important Lumber Yard. Some people have said that this bridge was as important as the Harbour Bridge is today.
Exchange Corner (the location of the Sydney Stock Exchange) on Bridge Street, with Department of Lands building on the right and Macquarie Place on the left, c. 1900,
Macquarie Place: this historic site is situated on the north side of Bridge Street and was originally part of the first Government House. Governor Lachlan Macquarie intended it to be a significant public square but it was gradually whittled down over the years. It includes the obelisk designed by Francis Greenway and constructed in 1818; the bronze statue of Thomas Sutcliffe Mort erected in 1883; the cannon and anchor from HMS Sirius, the anchor having been placed on its pedestal in 1907; and the men's lavatory built in 1908, which features stucco and a glazed dome.
View east along the middle section of Bridge Street, with the Department of Lands building on the right
Bridge Street, view east from near George Street c. 1900 and Bridge Street, contemporary view east from George Street

As the numbers of Jewish immigrants in Sydney grew, the need for a place to hold regular services and to express religious identity was evident. Former convict Joseph Marcus, who had trained as a rabbi, is said to have conducted occasional services for Sydney’s Jews between 1817 and 1825. Phillip Joseph Cohen, who arrived as a free immigrant in 1828, held regular services in his house in George Street.

By 1833, a community known as the Sydney Hebrew Congregation was flourishing. The congregation initially met in a makeshift synagogue above Mr Rowell’s chemist shop in George Street, and established a set of laws to govern it. The published laws (below) appear to be the first item of Judaica printed in Australia.

The building above, located at 4 Bridge Street, was the first building in Australia to be specially set aside for use as a synagogue. The Sydney Hebrew Congregation used it from about 1837 until the construction and consecration of the York Street Synagogue in 1844. The building was later a liquor warehouse, before becoming W. N. Beaumont & Company’s Federal Electrical and Engineering Works. It was demolished to make way for the office/residential complex that was constructed in 1915, and now known as Cliveden.

Bridge Street has the honour of being one of Sydney’s as well as Australia’s first streets. It began as a path from the Governor’s house to the Military Barracks and was known as Governor’s Row until 1811 when Gov. Macquarie gave the street its present name. Originally terminating at the original Government House which was located where it meets Phillip Street, Bridge Street was extended up the hill to Macquarie Street when the building was replaced in the 1840s. Gov. Phillip established governmental offices and stores on its high side beyond the stream, a location which afforded a view of the whole of the settlement from it. This precinct has remained the centre for government administration ever since. It included the blacksmith’s workshop (Cnr Pitt & Bridge Sts along side the Tank Stream), a storehouse (Cnr Bridge & Young St), a guardhouse (Macquarie Place) and the very first Government House, the colony’s first brick building which was erected on what is now the corner of Bridge and Phillip Streets. Many fine houses were built at the lower end of the street in the first half of the 19th century, but these were gradually replaced by commercial buildings which, due to their close proximity to the harbour, attracted shipping and trading companies which established their head offices there.

Above- Image of the Wool arch, Bridge Street, Commonwealth Day Procession, Sydney, 1901