Our History | Of bridges and crossings

Following the footsteps of travellers and early settlers, a variety of tracks and places were used to cross the Yass River. One was Flat Rock Crossing, which is still in use today. Horsemen to Port Phillip rode along Rossi Street past Laidlaw's grave and the cemetery crossing where the river began to go south again and onto Bookham. Another crossing was at the foot of Dutton Street near the old tramway bridge. A track to Goulburn went from the town boundary between Hovell and O'Brien Streets using Flat Rock Crossing through Yass town.

By 1840, Parish Road Trusts were established to raise funds for road improvements. This was followed in 1843 by the establishment of 29 district councils including Yass. Their responsibilities included roads, but funds were a problem due to drought and rural depression.

In 1848, £500 was allocated to build a bridge, but controversy followed. Would it be stone, or stone and timber? Allegedly the contractor built three piers of rubble rather than hammer-dressed stone as specified. By 1850, the bridge piers and abutments lay abandoned.

Eventually, the Hume Bridge, named in honour of Hamilton Hume, was built on the laminated arch suspension principle using ironwork from Sydney and timber from the Yass area. It was opened September 18, 1854 with great fanfare.

In 1859, WH Downey of Queanbeyan carried out repairs to the bridge. In 1861, further repairs followed. By 1866 there were problems with white ants and a section of the bridge was collapsing. In 1867, 1,000 guineas were allocated to build a new bridge. Again there was controversy - concerning materials, side platforms and the need for a ford during construction, which finally began in 1870.

Two beams of the new bridge were in position awaiting riveting when tragedy struck. On April 5, river waters began rising until flood waters destroyed both bridges on April 26. A month later a decision was made that the bridge cylinders would be raised by eight feet and 25 foot spans added to both ends. The new Hume Bridge was officially opened on July 25,1871, two years prior to the death of its namesake. Apart from raising the height of the arches three feet to accommodate trailers carrying aeroplanes during WWII, and some strengthening work, the bridge remained largely unchanged for the next 100 years.

Our current Hume Bridge was quietly opened in October 1977, at a cost of more than $1 million. Two of the old bridge arches have been restored and placed in Riverbank Park by local council in 2011. Information for nearby interpretive signage was provided by Yass & District Historical Society.