Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Meadowbank and the Ryde Riverwalk

Today we explored Meadowbank, New South Wales on foot. Being the site of both river, road and railway crossings of the Parramatta River, this area is rich in colonial history.

Starting from the Meadowbank Wharf, we did part of the Ryde Riverwalk south along Shepherds Bay.

Immediately we came across an historical photo of the area (at left below), of a ferry leaving Ryde Wharf, circa 1910-1915. This is contrasted with the modern view of Shepherds Bay today (photo at right below) looking back towards the railway bridge.

Shepherds Bay was named after James Shepherd, a convict who arrived in the Colony in August 1791 (per the Matilda). In 1795, he married Ann Thorn who had arrived in October 1794 (per the Surprise). Both had received land grants in the vicinity of modern day Meadowbank. [See below for details of the records held by History Services NSW on James Shepherd and Ann Thorn].*

The first rowing boat service across the river was established as early as 1794 as the Shepherds Bay Row Boat ferry service from Schooners Wharf (Belmore Road, near Helene Park) to the Concord shore. The three wind vane "boats" at the Ryde Wharf Reserve theme this early maritime history

A wharf at the site of the present day Ryde Wharf was completed in 1863, although it was not used by passenger ferries until 1866. This was the hub of transport services to Ryde until the coming of the railway in 1886. **

We then continued on over the present day Concord Road bridge (on the northbound traffic side - photo at right). This was the original road bridge opened on 7 December 1935 by the New South Wales Premier, Sir Bertram Stevens.*** Before this was constructed, a vehicular punt crossed the river just downstream from the railway bridge. An adjacent bridge to the east was completed in 1988 to carry southbound traffic.

The return journey from the southern side of the river at Rhodes is via the original railway bridge which is now a pedestrian and cycle way (opened in April 2000). It is fascinating to be up close and personal to the old steel truss bridge supported by cast iron pylons (photo at left).

This bridge was the work of the great NSW railway engineer, John Witton and was opened in 1886 as part of the main northern railway line. It was replaced in 1980 by a steel beam and concrete bridge which was called the John Witton Railway Bridge.****

Points to note:

*History Services NSW has records for James Shepherd of his conditional pardon, land grants, marriage and death, in the Convict Database at: http://www.historyservices.com.au/convicts.htm

and details of certain colonial petitions that he signed in the Local Government Petitioners Database at:

For Ann Thorn, History Services NSW has records of her land grant, marriage and death, in the Convict Database at:

** History Services NSW has a record of a government contract granted to a J Nightingale in connection with the construction of a,public wharf in Ryde in 1879, in the Government Contract and Contractors Database at

*** Refer to the History Services Blog, Conscript Pass and Lorna Brand of 25 April 2011.

**** Refer to the History Services Blog, John Witton and the Lapstone Viaduct of 24 September 2011.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Kevin,

    This is an interesting read, I have been traveling on Concord Road for 15 years, traveling between Gladesville and Lidcombe and never thought by whom or when the bridge was built.

    Keep up the great work!

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