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A View from the Bridge

'You can see it from every corner of the city, creeping into frame from the oddest angles, like an uncle who wants to get into every snapshot … Everything that is in it – the stone blocks in its four towers, the latticework of girders, the metal plates, the six-million rivets (with heads like halved apples) – is the biggest of its type you have ever seen.’
Bill Bryson, Down Under (2000), pp 80-81.

One of Australia’s most famous landmarks – the Sydney Harbour Bridge – was opened to the public 80 years ago, on 19 March 1932.

The completed bridge was almost upstaged at its inauguration by a political stunt. A man in military uniform surged forward from the official party on horseback, slashed the ribbon ahead of Premier Jack Lang and declared the bridge open. See footage from the day and learn about the intriguing legal battle that unfolded afterwards in Francis De Groot’s Sword, presented by Chris Taylor of The Chaser team.

A bridge to link Sydney’s north shore and the city was first conceived in 1815. A century later, Dr John Bradfield – Chief Engineer on the project and the 'Father of the Bridge’ – began working on a design in 1912, until progress was halted by the First World War.

Construction began in 1924. In 1928, a smaller 'copycat’ bridge in the same design opened at Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England. Although the Tyne Bridge opened four years earlier, the designs and tender process for construction of the Sydney bridge came first (see Australian Government bridge website).

The Sydney Harbour Bridge is still the world’s tallest (and fifth longest) steel arch bridge. According to the Guinness World Records, it is also the world’s widest long-span bridge. So celebrate the anniversary by taking a bridge climb, visiting the Pylon Lookout exhibition, driving, riding or walking across it, or watching home movie or newsreel footage of the opening.

See all titles on ASO tagged Sydney Harbour Bridge. Watch short films on the bridge’s construction and maintenance on the NFSA’s Film Australia Collection YouTube channel.

For educational resources, see the NFSA Digital Learning websites on Constructing the Bridge and the opening, and the NSW Board of Studies website.

The Bet feature film – 2006

Here Comes Santa advertisement – 1929

Sydney Harbour and Anzac Day home movie – c1946

Comments

  1. I still marvel at its beauty every time I cross it, and think of the men who worked on it in treacherous conditions - some of whom died.

    It was also a stunning accessory in Philippe Petit's high wire walk in 1973, featured in 'Man On Wire'.

  2. #1 from beth – 2 years, 9 months ago.
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