Opening of Smollett Street bridge sparked debate

MOMENT: This photograph of the Smollett Street bridge came from a postcard. No publisher or printer was credited.
MOMENT: This photograph of the Smollett Street bridge came from a postcard. No publisher or printer was credited.

Before the Smollett Street bridge opened on September 17, 1888, there was much debate regarding the unmade Smollett Street road reserve, west of Wodonga Place.

This road reserve separated the Botanic Garden part of the Botanic Garden and Recreation Ground, dedicated in 1864 from the Recreation Ground part.

In late 1878, the unmade Smollett Street road reserve was fenced in. This caused complaints, including the illegality of the fencing and closing of Smollett Street.

To objectors, retaining of the road reserve would complement the proposed new Howlong Road, improve access into and out of Albury, allow for a carriage drive to and around the recreation ground and tree planting in the reserve to enhance the visual amenity of the locality.

In support for closing the road, the Albury Banner argued its opening was absurd and would destroy “the symmetry of the grounds” and it might become “the thoroughfare to Howlong Road”.

Despite the objections and a Crown Lands Department request to remove the fencing, council resolved that application be made to close that part of Smollett Street by legislation. Around the same time, council resolved to relocate Bungambrawatha Creek to the west of the Botanic Gardens to minimise flood risk to the centre of the town. In late 1880, this relocation was completed.

Also completed in 1880 was the construction of the new Howlong Road.

By late 1883, Smollett Street was formed through the grounds without provision however for a bridge over Bungambrawatha Creek. Complaints were soon received regarding damage to the relocated creek banks by stock crossing the creek.

In 1884-85, estimates on the cost of a bridge were prepared while argument regarding the need for a bridge persisted. According to the Albury Banner in February 1885, a bridge’s construction would be a “criminal waste of money”.

In late 1886, the government decided to build the bridge and tenders were called for the erection of a single span wrought iron arch bridge. Designed by Englishman John McDonald, a leading bridge engineer, work on the bridge began early in 1888.

The Australian Town & Country Journal reported: “The ironwork was manufacture in the colony by Messrs D and W Robertson, the contract price being £737. The erection was carried out by Mr Francisco Romero for the contract sum of £1227, under the supervision of Mr E O Bowyer-Smyth, AMIOE, local road superintendent.”

The historical society meets at the Commercial Club on the second Wednesday of the month from 7.30 pm. For more details, visit www.alburyhistory.org.au