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Bull's Creek Road

Page history last edited by anthony.presgrave@bigpond.com 10 years, 10 months ago



Anthony Presgrave.



Historical Background.

Readers are reminded that much of the information regarding early road routes is very sketchy and open to interpretation and I have used my knowledge of the roads to try and piece together the actual routes.

Discrepancies may arise if further information is located.

All of the road routes into the Currency Creek and Goolwa areas in the early years of the colony were poorly formed and surviving descriptions of the routes are very vague. A number of roads have been recorded in early publications but none of them are described in sufficient detail to enable accurate positioning.

Descriptions of early roads place the approximate routes as being via

a.                   Noarlunga, Willunga and Square Waterhole, (at the junction of the Victor Harbor and Goolwa Roads near Mount Compass);

b.                  O’Halloran Hill, Clarendon, Kangarilla, Meadows and Bull’s Creek;

c.                   Belair, Coromandel Valley, Clarendon, Kangarilla, Meadows, Bull’s Creek and Finniss Flat, now Ashbourne; and

d.                  Bull’s Creek, Strathalbyn and Finniss.

One road route into the Goolwa area was along the south road to Noarlunga, Willunga, Square Waterhole and then down the escarpment at what is now Crows Nest Road to Horseshoe Bay. Another route followed the Intercolonial overland telegraph line and came out at Abbott’s Bridges then along Glenford Gully Road near Middleton.

A report dated 19 April 1859 on these lines of road from Noarlunga to Port Elliot with a branch to Goolwa and branches to Rosetta Cove and Victor Harbor recommended that rather than this route, the best line of road to Goolwa was by way of Clarendon, Meadows and Bull’s Creek.

Another road branched off the south road at what has been interpreted as Square Waterhole or somewhere near there, and came through Currency Creek to Goolwa. In the 1850s a road following a similar route to this is described in the book “The Life and Adventures of Edward Snell.” It is probably not the line of road in use today, but some of it could be. The early descriptions are so vague that many interpretations can be made.



The road via Bull’s Creek appears to have been the most commonly used in the 1850s and this line of road was recorded as being from Bull’s Creek to Strathalbyn, Finniss and Currency Creek. The road came from Adelaide along the line of present day Unley Road and Belair Road, then known as Mitcham Road and Princes Road through Mitcham Village and Belair Road (now Old Belair Road) to Belair and on to Coromandel Valley, (via the present Winn’s Road, then known as Shepley’s Hill) and Clarendon, continuing to Kangarilla, Meadows, Bull’s Creek and then Strathalbyn.

Another road came via O’Halloran Hill, Chandler’s Hill joining the previous road at Clarendon.

In about 1860 the present Belair Hill (via Windy Point) road was surveyed from near Mitcham Village, on a continuation of Mitcham Road  in a straight line to the foot hills at what is now Clapham. It was gazetted  as open on 16 May 1861 and constructed between then and 1865. Following the gullies and spurs, the road climbed the escarpment to Belair, then followed the original road through what later became Blackwood to Shepley’s Hill where it then followed the valley of the River Sturt west of Coromandel Valley, crossed the river downstream of the valley, through to Clarendon, Kangarilla, Dashwood’s Gully and Meadows, and continuing to Finniss Flat (Ashbourne), Currency Creek and Goolwa.  The original route through Currency Creek followed the surveyed roads to a large degree, although there was one section that cut across some allotments The roads used were Kay Street, Hussey Street, Duncan Place, Thompson Place, Edward Street, Bevan Street, then crossing some public land and vacant allotments to meet up with O’Halloran Street before heading to Goolwa.

The contractors listed for this were John Prince jr., Joseph Norton, who surrendered the contract, J.W. Matthews, C. Andrews and S. Saunders from 4 October 1864. This road is recorded as the Adelaide to Goolwa road in all Central Road Board, Highways department and Transport SA records even today.

With deviations at Torrens Park, Coromandel Valley, Bull’s Creek, Ashbourne Tooperang and Currency Creek, this is the same route followed by the present road.


The Deviations.

The construction of the Intercolonial Railway in 1881 created two crossings of the road, one at Mitcham station and the other near present day Clapham. With the duplication of the railway to Sleep’s Hill in 1914 a deviation at Torrens Park removed these two crossings by re-routing the road to the east of the railway. The old section of road then became Price Avenue and was accessed from Wattlebury Road and Springbank Road.

On 22 June 1865 a petition was presented for the main road to go through Coromandel Valley from section 2206 (now Blackwood) crossing the River Sturt near the bottom of Shepley’s Hill, probably the route of the present road. A newspaper report dated 1 October 1873 records the completion of construction of the road through Coromandel Valley. This would have included the construction of the stone bridge over the River Sturt near the foot of Ackland’s Hill Road.

Another deviation at Bull’s Creek removed a bad corner, but created two crossings of the creek in a very short distance.

At Ashbourne a new bridge over the Finniss River caused the construction of a short section of new road in the 1960s.

A map dated 1941 shows the road crossing Tookayerta Creek at the present Deep Creek Road crossing and then following what is now Quarry Road to its intersection with the present road. The present road at “Double Bridges” was on the route to Strathalbyn. There were two bridges here in earlier years, hence the name.

As at Ashbourne, the removal of a bad corner probably in the late 1950s and later the construction of a new bridge at Currency Creek in 1967 necessitated the construction of short sections of new road.

Apparently the winter of 1861 was not kind to the new road because a petition was presented requesting the repair of Bull’s Creek Road from the 4th mile post towards the Belair Post office at a cost of £3750 on 21 August 1861. Works are also recorded on this road from the Adelaide City boundary to Goolwa in 1861.






It was claimed that the laminated  timber arch design was first introduced into South Australia by Messrs England and Coulthard who had the contract for the Company's Mill Bridge in 1855. Others stated that the design had been in existence before England & Coulthard arrived in the Colony and that a bridge of this type had been built about 1851.

It is known that a Mr. Green of Newcastle-on-Tyne, England developed the design between 1827 and 1834.

Drawings of a laminated timber arch bridge are appended to the Report of the Select Committee on Roads and Bridges 21/11/1852.

The bridges on the line of road from Adelaide to Goolwa exhibited a number of construction styles in stone and timber and a brief description of each bridge has been included.

Mitcham Village.

The first major bridge was at the village itself where Brownhill Creek was crossed by a stone arch bridge built in 1866. Prior to this the crossing had been slightly further downstream with a ford at Muggs Hill Road. With the by passing of Mitcham Village this stream was crossed just near the extension road junction with Princes Road.

Coromandel Valley.

The next bridge was the crossing of the River Sturt below Coromandel Valley. This was achieved by means of a stone arch bridge built in 1866 by S. Saunders and N. Horner, the bridge being generally known as Horner’s Bridge. The bridge is a beautiful example of the stonemasons craft and has a marble tablet set into the wall. The tablet reads:




Contractors 1866

This stone was erected to the memory of my late father


And presented to the Mitcham District Council by



The bridge is one of the oldest in the state still in daily use by all classes of traffic including Trans Adelaide buses. Another similar  but smaller bridge is situated on the present road through Coromandel Valley near the foot of Ackland's Hill Road and this was built in 1872 when the road was re-routed through the valley.


A laminated timber arch bridge over the Onkaparinga River at Clarendon was constructed in 1858. Prior to the construction of the bridge the river was forded at a point near where the pipeline to Happy Valley Reservoir enters the tunnel in the hill.

The original bridge was demolished in 1919 and replaced by the present concrete arch bridge.

Kangarilla, Meadows and Bull’s Creek.

A number of small bridges cross streams along the road between these towns including three across Bull’s Creek. There is a very old bridge crossing Bull’s Creek just near the Bull’s Creek Church on a section of road that has been bypassed by one of the deviations mentioned earlier.



A newspaper clipping dated 15 April 1864 records that repairs to a bridge over Bull’s Creek on the Bull’s Creek to Goolwa road were requested as the bridge was privately built and owned by Mr. Keeling and that the public used the bridge.

An extract from either the Register or Observer Newspapers dated 24 March 1866 reports that the Ashbourne Bridge over the Finniss River was opened by the Governor Sir Dominic Daly on 22 March 1866. The abutment walls were of stone with a dressing of cream coloured freestone from McHarg’s Creek. The bridge was built by Robert Redman of Port Elliot.

Two smaller bridges were also opened at the same time. The stonework in them was by Wm. McNamee. One was named Mayfield Bridge, it cost £641.2.0 and an almost illegible stone tablet in the bridge wall records the date 24 March 1866. The other bridge crosses Balderson’s Creek at its junction with Bull’s Creek north of Ashbourne. This bridge is a beautiful example of the stonemasons craft for such an insignificant stream and unfortunately it has been compromised with a concrete extension on one side when the road was widened.

The River Finniss bridge was a laminated timber arch bridge that consisted of a 75 foot span and was constructed by Robert Redman at a cost of £2,700.  In 1872 contract 4135 dated 24/4/1872 was let to R. Nutt to screw and tar the bridge at a cost of £23.

Central Roads Board minutes of 20 April 1882 record that the Superintendent Surveyor reported that; “the late fires had burnt the bridge over the Finniss River on Bull’s Creek Road. The whole of it was destroyed with the exception of the abutments and wing walls. Some masonry was injured. A ford has been constructed a little higher up the river to meet present needs”.

Contract 114 was let to R. Trenouth of Strathalbyn for masonry work to the bridge (this would have been for repairs to existing work and also the additional centre pier.)

Contract 149 was let to Hooker, Edwards & Co. of Adelaide, for the supply, carting and fixing of ironwork for the bridge over the River Finniss at Finniss Flat.

The bridge is recorded as completed on 3 October 1883.

There is also a small stone culvert adjacent to the present concrete bridge but not on the

old line of road.


Although not on the Bull’s Creek line of road, this bridge was on an alternative route via Strathalbyn.

Central Roads Board minutes for 21 August 1879 record that the contractor for the Finniss bridge (J.S. Harding), corrected an error in the building survey.

A newspaper report dated 27 December 1879 records the opening of the bridge over the Finniss River at Finniss and that it was named Willow Bridge. It consisted of a 114 foot span; 4 x 20 feet and 1 x 34 foot span. The abutments were of dressed freestone and the contractor was J.S. Harding.

Long Swamp.

Contract 154 dated 2 March 1853 was let to Thomas Collinson for £370 for the construction of a log bridge over the Long Swamp at the lower crossing place (probably what is now Double Bridges). No further information has been found relating to bridges at this location or any others in this area, but any timber bridges have been replaced more recently by a single concrete and steel structure.



An 1840 watercolour of Currency Creek held by the Art Gallery of South Australia shows a simple timber platform bridge crossing the creek possibly at this location.

The Central Roads Board summary of contracts for the period 21 November 1851 to 20 November 1852 records that contract 130 of 21 August 1852 was let for two bridges over Currency Creek, the contract awarded to J. Cox for £120. Apart from the bridge in Currency Creek township, there are three other bridges over the Creek, one at the locality known as Stewart’s Bridge on the road to Square Waterhole, one on Mosquito Hill Road and the other on the main Victor Harbor road. Details are sketchy so whether contract 130 refers to Stewart’s Bridge, Mosquito Hill Road, the Victor Harbor road or Currency Creek township is not known, however given the development of roads at the time the Victor Harbor Road and Currency Creek are the most likely.

A report on Southern Roads dated 20 October 1859 seems to confirm the work referred to in Contract 130 above. This report refers to an old bridge at Currency Creek and that a new bridge could be built near this when necessary.

Central Roads Board Minutes for 21 March 1872 record a Surveyors Memoranda stating that the approaches to the bridge at Currency Creek would be partly by O’Halloran Street and sundry allotments and also across a reserve.

A newspaper clipping dated 13 June 1872 reports that Trenouth & Dick of Strathalbyn were the successful contractors for the Currency Creek Bridge and 35 chains of road. Mr. Irvine, overseer.

The bridge was constructed by Trenouth & Dick.under contract 4176 and consisted of one 40 foot span with the cost of £1,240. Other sources record the cost as £1274/16/5.

The minutes of 18 June 1872 report that the Currency Creek bridge work had just commenced. The minutes of 17 July, 20 August, 17 September and 15 October report work in progress. The minutes of 18 February 1873 report the bridge completed and also that an amount of £450 to £500 remained unexpended and could be used to construct about ½ mile of unmade road leading to Goolwa. The minutes of 19 March 1873 record that the expenditure was approved. The present day road was not opened until much later, and the original road approaches to the bridge were along O’Halloran Street, across the vacant allotments and the reserve, over the bridge, along Bevan Street, Edward Street, Thompson Place, Duncan Place, Hussey Street, Kay Street and across vacant allotments. An unsealed road still follows this route from the top of O’Halloran Street to the foot of the hill at the bridge and Edward Street is still defined by fencing. Portion of Thompson Place has been closed and sold to the adjoining land owner and Hussey Street, Kay Street and the vacant allotments are included in the survey of the present road. Long time residents of Goolwa remember this road in use.

The large parcel of land either side of the bridge may have been used as a water reserve although not designated as such.

A newspaper report dated 31 January 1873 records the opening of the new Currency Creek Bridge by Miss Emma Sunman on 17 January 1873.


Materials Used in Construction.

The bridge is constructed of bluestone and freestone. The freestone is believed to have come from a quarry just upstream of the railway bridge, probably also the source of stone for the railway bridge. The bluestone possibly came from Port Elliot where a quarry is still visible in the hills face near Nangawooka, above Waterport Road.


Features of the Bridge Structure.

Apart from the laminated timber arch structure which is well documented, there were originally matching dressed stone piers at the top of each abutment and the end of each wing wall and although no written record of the removal of the abutment piers has been found it has been established that they were demolished in the 1940s. A photograph taken in 1941 shows the piers intact but since the Sturt monument erected in 1950-51 in Richard Ballard Park (the old caravan park on Liverpool Road) which commemorates Captain Sturt’s landing in 1830 contains stone from the piers and is topped with one of the capstones, they must have been removed in this 9 year period. It is known that during this time a local farmer’s truck was involved in an incident that resulted in the rear wheels falling through the failed timber decking of the bridge and it was possibly at this time the bridge was strengthened and widened by placing the iron girders on the outside arches between the road surface and the top of the arch.

The fire surround at the picnic ground adjoining the bridge uses dressed stones which appear to have come from the bridge.

The piers on the western side wing walls remain although the capstone on the north western one is slightly dislodged. An early photograph shows a stone retaining wall extending parallel with the road embankment from the south western wing wall pier – this may still be in place buried under the earthworks at the entrance to the reserve. The piers may still be in place on the eastern side wing walls. With the demolition of the piers on the abutments an inappropriate concrete finish was added.

The new bridge was built in 1967 by the Highways and Local Government Department and opened in 1968. The old bridge was immediately placed out of use and recommended for demolition. Requests from local farmers resulted in it being left for use as a stock crossing. The road approaches were closed in 1979.




1.                    The Richmond Papers; Mortlock Library of South Australiana; PRG 1122 Series 2.

2                     History of the Use of Timber in South Australian Bridges; Stacy, W.

3                     The Angle Vale Bridge; Stacy, W.

4                     Heritage SA Heritage Survey 1983.

5                     Register of the National Estate File No. 3/09/086/0010 Database Number 007633.

6                     Mortlock Library Photograph Collection.

7                     Record of the Mines of South Australia; Brown H.Y.L. 1908.

8                     Port Elliot and Goolwa Heritage Study; Noack, Marsden and Dallwitz 1981.

9                     Australian Heritage Engineering Record Survey S.295, 1980.

10                  Sanctuary in the Hills, A History of Coromandel Valley since 1837, Winter, Max, self published 1975 and 1987 ISBN 0 86408 0 78 6.

11                  The Tuckwell Collection and personal communication L.F. Tuckwell, 2002.


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