Parramatta Road improvements, July 1840 / original plans by Cornelius Lundie (Image courtesy of State Library of NSW. XV1B/Parr/2)
In 1793 it was a six hour trip to cover the 28 km (17 miles) from Sydney Cove to Parramatta by land. The unsealed track travelled alongside the current alignment of Parramatta Road until Flemington where it then veered south to cross nearer to the current Mona Street Bridge in South Granville. After this it turned northward, to enter Parramatta between current Church Street and Pitt Street.
In 1797, Governor John Hunter made many improvements and commissioned Australia’s first properly planned and constructed bridge to cross the Duck River. Supervised by Surveyor General Augustus Theodore Henry Alt; Governor Hunter must have been impressed by the bridge construction, reporting back to England:
“Built an excellent framed bridge over Duck River, capable of bearing the weight of several heavy laden carriages at one time”.
The French naturalist Francois Péron made the journey in 1802 and remarked:
“A large road leads from Sydney Town, to Parramatta; it is not paved, but is well made, and kept in good condition. It is almost everywhere wide enough for three carriages to pass abreast, and bridges have been thrown over such parts of it, as are interrupted by the waters; so that the traveller meets with no obstacle on his journey. Having been opened through vast forests, that were never before assailed by the axe, this grand road appears at a distance, like an immense avenue of foliage and verdure. A charming freshness, and an agreeable shade always prevail in this continuous bower, the silence of which is interrupted only, by the singing and chirping of the richly plumed paroquets, and other birds which inhabit it”.
The wooden bridge and unpaved road required constant repairs and by 1811 the road had a toll bar at A’Becketts Creek near the current junction of Church Street and Parramatta Road. The Construction Plans above are from 1820 and is thought to be the bridge in use until an Iron and Cement bridge replaced it in 1915. The 1915 bridge has been strengthened and widened several times to form the current Bridge over Duck River.
Historical Records of Australia, Series 1 v2 1797-1800, The Library Committee of the Commonwealth Parliament.
Department of Main Roads, New South Wales. (1976). The Roadmakers : A History of Main Roads in New South Wales. Sydney : Dept. of Main Roads, New South Wales
Kass, T., Liston. C. & McClymont. (1996). J, Parramatta: A Past Revealed. Parramatta, N.S.W.: Parramatta City Council.
Auchmuty, J. (1966). ‘Hunter, John (1737–1821)’, Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/hunter-john-2213/text2873
Dowd, B. (1966). ‘Alt, Augustus Theodore Henry (1731–1815)’, Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/alt-augustus-theodore-henry-1702/text1845
Marchant, L. & Reynolds,J. (1967). ‘Péron, François (1775–1810)’, Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/peron-francois-2545/text3463