In 1853, some years before Hunter’s Hill Municipality was incorporated, Jules Joubert and others began to agitate for a bridge over the Parramatta River to replace the existing punt ferry which ran from Huntleys Point to Drummoyne. This marked the commencement of a 30-year battle before victory was won.
In 1869 three of the early Hunters Hill Councillors (Aldermen), Jules Joubert, James Squire Farnell and Comte Gabriel de Milhau formed the Parramatta Roads, River and Bridges Association to continue the fight for improved transport, including bridges. Finance, as ever, was the problem. At one stage it was actually proposed to sell part of the Field of Mars Common in Ryde to pay for a bridge over the Parramatta River. However, a Select Committee of the NSW Parliament subsequently decided it would not produce enough funds. In passing, it is of interest to note that the Field of Mars derived its name from the fact that all of the original grants around that area were made to soldiers – Mars, of course, being the God of War and the soldiers were regarded as disciples of Mars – hence the name.
After over 20 years or sustained agitation, as initiated by the Hunters Hill Councillors, bridges were built. Iron Cove Bridge and Gladesville Bridge were opened in 1882 and 1881 respectively and Fig Tree Bridge over the Lane Cove River in 1885.
It is somewhat significant that all three of these bridges have been replaced by modern structures and, in addition, a new bridge was built over Tarban Creek. In the case of the new Gladesville Bridge, forming part of the North-Western Expressway, the concrete blocks were all pre-cast at Woolwich on Clarke’s Point. This bridge was officially opened by Her Royal Highness, Princess Marina on 2 October 1964. The construction of the new Gladesville, Tarban Creek and Figtree Bridges and Overpass meant the resumption of scores of dwellings in the Huntley’s Point and Fig Tree areas.
Two main benefits flowed to residents of Hunters Hill and Woolwich in particular as a result of these major works. The time occupied and distance travelled by car to the city proper was substantially reduced and the area was geographically made a little more remote from the main stream of suburban traffic and growth, north and north west of Sydney.
Before leaving the subject of bridges reference might be made to considerable thought, talk and rumour in the early 1930s and 1940s, and agitation for and against, the desirability of constructing a bridge from Woolwich Point across to Greenwich Point in the Municipality of Lane Cove. Much to the relief of both councils and their people, the proposal really never got off the ground and met an early demise.