|Articles on this page with permission from GREG WANE, are taken from the Barwon Heads,Ocean Grove, and Wallington news .||Issn 13290371|
Published by Whistler Publishing
PO. Box 358, Ocean Grove
Editor Greg Wayne
EARLIER this century various means of spanning the Barwon River between Barwon Heads and Ocean Grove had been proposed including a punt, ferry boats and a road bridge,
Although it had been possible to reach either side of the river by motor launch, for those wishing to drive to or from the Bellarine Peninsula, they had to travel to Geelong to cross the Barwon River. Plans for a pontoon ferry service were first put before councils in 1910, but was abandoned for several years though lack of interest The idea was revived in May 1925 when pontoon ferry was again proposed to transport vehicles across the river. The pontoon would operate from a point at the end of Geelong Road across the river to the Ocean Grove side, The cost was expected to be about £600 for road making on either side of the river.
Representatives from the Shire of Bellarine and the Shire of South Barwon were greatly interested in the scheme with the relatively inexpensive pontoon. They said a bridge was out of the question with costs expected to be many thousands of pounds. By September 1925, the costs of road making and a pontoon ferry had been estimated to be £5000 and the Geelong Harbour Trust (responsible authority for the Barwon River at the time) asked for public subscription to help pay for the service.
By mid 1926, the pontoon ferry idea was dropped in favour of a road bridge due to the dramatic increased in the number of motor vehicles and tenders were called for the construction of a bridge. However Ocean Grove fishermen opposed the bridge because they claimed by would not be able to sail their vessels under the bridge and upstream to their harbour at Ocean Grove at the end of Guthridge Street.
A tender from a GippsIand contractor, Mr. Stan Patience, was accepted on 1 October 1926 for £10,400 to construct the 1000 feet (305 meter) long timber bridge. The Country Roads Board was to bear half the costs while the Shire of Bellarine and the Shire of South Barwon would contribute £1000 each and the balance would be from public subscriptions, Bellarine Shire Council levied a special rate of sixpence in the pound on properties in Ocean Grove and Wallington, The rate levy raised considerably more money towards the cost of the bridge than what the Shire of South Barwon had raised and it was suggested the bridge be named the Ocean Grove Bridge.
Ocean Grove fishermen still opposed the bridge and engineers; examined ways of constructing the bridge to allow the tall masted couta boats to be able to sail be. neath the bridge, Erection of davits was suggested on the new bridge as was supplying the boats with collapsible masts.
However the construction of the bridge caused the end of the Ocean Grove fishing industry when the fishing fleet moved to the jetty a Barwon Heads where a safe harbour and more modem facilities had been promised.
During construction of the bridge in 1927, tragedy struck when construction company boss Stan Patience was killed in an industrial accident at his Marshall timber yard, Marshall is about 10 miles on the Geelong Road from Barwon Heads,
The bridge was finally opened on Christmas Eve, 1927 as the 'Barwon Heads Bridge', Although maintained and upgraded over the past 70 years the bridge remains almost unchanged in appearance to when it was first built. With increased traffic flow, decking planks were covered with bitumen in 1933, After severe flooding in the region in 1952, the bridge experienced stresses and undermining from floodwaters and major repairs were needed to make the bridge safe for traffic again.
In 1961 the deck was remodelled and in 1965 the bridge was widened and the pedestrian footway was moved to the north side of the bridge, Since 1927 pedestrians had used a footpath, on the ocean side of the bridge, which had cantilevered fishing platforms. The most recent upgrade of the bridge was last year when cantilevered fishing platforms were built similar to the original versions,
Today the Barwon River bridge is the longest timber road bridge in Victoria and was recognised in a recent heritage study as being of State cultural significance. The study claimed "the impressive timber pile construction is an excellent example of timber bridge engineering of the 1920s,"
The bridge is one of the most photographed icons in the region and plays a major role in the popular ABC television drama SeaChange. although in the fictional drama the bridge is condemned and unusable, the Barwon Road bridge in its 71 year existence has only been closed to traffic for four days after the 1952 floods.