Features, Geology

The story behind Richmond Bridge and Tasmania’s quarries


Australia’s oldest surviving freestanding bridge tells the story of Richmond and the proud contribution of Tasmanian quarrying to its creation.  

The Butcher’s Hill quarry was highly productive for Tasmania two centuries ago. Its sandstone has also contributed to several well-known houses, including Prospect Villa, which resides in Hamilton.  

The heritage-listed 19th Century Georgian country house is one of the last remaining works of colonial architect Edward Winch.  

But the quarry’s most well-known contribution is to Richmond Bridge, which celebrated 200 years in December since it was originally constructed.  

The foundations of the Richmond Bridge were laid on December 11 in 1823. It’s construction was helped by the use of convict labour who worked on the icon for two years with the sandstone transported from Butcher’s Hill quarry by wooden cart.  

The structure is regarded as Australia’s oldest surviving free-standing bridge and the only one to feature on the Tasmanian and National Heritage lists.  

“Despite its age, it continues to serve its original purpose as an important piece of transport infrastructure with over 4,000 vehicle crossings daily, and it is also now a key tourism attraction for Tasmania,” Tasmanian Infrastructure and Transport Minister Michael Ferguson said.  

“Our ongoing work will help preserve this historic landmark so it can continue to be used and admired by Tasmanians and visitors for many years to come.”  

The Tasmanian government maintains extensive works to keep the bridge in operation, including regular inspections, sensor monitoring and restoration works. 

It comes as the township of Richmond celebrates its bicentennial. The celebrations started in December and will conclude in March of 2024.  

“Richmond is the jewel in the crown and Clarence, and it’s one of the most visited villages throughout the state and indeed through the country,” Clarence Mayor Brendan Blomeley told Pulse Hobart.  

“There are many long-standing families in the area and some fascinating stories to be told of the people, buildings, agriculture and industry of Richmond and the surrounding area.”

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