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Fremantle Stuff > bridges.

First Fremantle Traffic Bridge, 1866

Fremantle has had arguably five road bridges crossing the Swan River, two of which remain:
North Fremantle Bridge aka High Level Bridge, 1866-1909
Low Level Bridge, 1898-1909
Renovated High Level Bridge, 1909-1939/1947
Fremantle Traffic Bridge, 1939-
Stirling Bridge, 1974-

bridge 1

The first Fremantle bridge, 1866, was built out of timber by convict labour 1863-7, and was officially opened 2 October 1867 (Hitchock: 52). It was called the North Fremantle Bridge, and then, after the second bridge was constructed, the High Level Bridge.


The first bridge in 1890 in use for viewing some activity on the river - a rowing regatta, for example.


The second bridge was built 1896-8 just downstream of the first and called the Low Level Bridge; 1905 photo.


The Low Level Bridge was wider and stronger but much lower. It was required by the increased commercial traffic mostly as a result of gold discoveries. It was, however, not suitable for the tramway which Councils wished to extend to North Fremantle in 1908. (photo 1907, Battye Library)

bridges 1906

The two bridges in 1906. Photo from Hitchcock: 95, credited to Nixon.

traffic bridge

My photo shows the still existing remains of some of the piles of the 1866 bridge.

A note from historian John Dowson

It was the 1866 Bridge of Styx that saved the Swan River from destruction. Once that bridge was built, and the railway bridge soon afterwards, it was just too hard to get the bridges out of the way to expand the port further upriver. Various plans had the port expanding all the way to Perth, with Freshwater Bay being totally filled in. The railway bridge built in the 1880s was later moved closer to the traffic bridge but thank goodness for Governor Hampton's Folly. The other thing that saved the Swan River of course was the limestone bar across the mouth of the river. If that hadn't been there the lovely river would have been a commercial traffic sewer all the way to Perth. The bar wasn't able to be removed until 26 years after the traffic bridge was built. (John Dowson, personal communication)

References and Links

Fowler, Audrey 1974, Notes on the oldest traffic bridge in Fremantle, the newsletter of the Fremantle Society, March.

Garry Gillard | New: 27 June, 2020 | Now: 9 January, 2021