Australian Screen

Australia’s audiovisual heritage online

Farey: Opening of Sydney Harbour Bridge (1932)

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clip View from bridge education content clip 1, 2, 6, 7

Original classification rating: not rated. This clip chosen to be PG

Clip description

Leslie Francis Farey films his first walk across the Sydney Harbour Bridge in 1932 and the panoramic view he enjoyed of Sydney Harbour. Farey has captured other curious pedestrians inspecting the newly-built bridge, the tramlines and Sydney Harbour from Kirribilli to Circular Quay.

Curator’s notes

From this film we gain a sense of what Sydney Harbour and the Sydney Harbour Bridge were like when the bridge was first built. A tram drives towards the camera and people take in the harbour view.

Leslie Farey pans from Kirribilli to Circular Quay and then up the harbour past Fort Denison as he walks from the north side to the south. All hand-held, this gives a personal account of his experience.

The edits in the clip were probably in-camera edits, resulting from simply turning off the camera and recommencing filming.

Teacher’s notes

provided by The Le@rning FederationEducation Services Australia

This clip shows the newly opened Sydney Harbour Bridge and views of Sydney Harbour. The footage, taken from the northern end of the Bridge, was shot by Melbournian Leslie Francis Farey as part of a home movie. The clip opens with shots of harbourside houses and then cuts to the Bridge, on which vehicles, a few cyclists and pedestrians can be seen. Farey then films the Harbour from the Bridge, panning from Kirribilli on the North Shore and then cutting to Circular Quay.

Educational value points

  • The clip shows the newly opened Sydney Harbour Bridge. Until the Bridge was built, the only way to cross between the northern shore and the city was by ferry or a circuitous 20-km car trip. The idea of linking the two sides of the Harbour by a bridge was first proposed in 1815. In 1912 the New South Wales Government appointed the engineer John Bradfield to draw up a design, but the project was shelved during the First World War. In 1922, the Government selected the British firm Dorman Long and Company to oversee construction, which began in 1924 and took 8 years to complete.
  • The Harbour Bridge has become synonymous with Sydney and Australia. Built during the Great Depression, the Bridge became a symbol of hope for Australians because it suggested that a return to prosperity was possible. Each phase in its construction was reported extensively in the media, providing the public with a welcome distraction from economic woes. It also created much-needed employment for some 1,400 men each year, and boosted the local economy through the demand for materials such as the stone used for the pylons, which was quarried from the south coast of NSW.
  • A major engineering feat for its time, the Sydney Harbour Bridge is still the world’s widest steel arch bridge. It has a 49-m-wide deck, is 1,149 m long and has an arch that spans 503 m. The Bridge comprises 52,800 tonnes of steelwork, including 39,000 tonnes in the arch. It was founded on sandstone rock excavated to a depth of 12 m and filled with reinforced concrete. The arch was built out from each side of the Harbour, using a creeper crane that slowly moved up the arch lifting steelwork into position. The complex calculations needed to build the Bridge filled 28 books.
  • The steel plates were fabricated on-site at purpose-built workshops at Milsons Point. These plates were then transferred to the Bridge by barge and crane. In that period, welding was unreliable and nuts and bolts too expensive, so some 6 million hand-driven rivets were used to join the plates. Rivets were heated to a white-hot state in small furnaces and then thrown to a catcher, who passed them to the riveters. One man held the rivet firm while another hammered it with a pneumatic hammer.
  • In 1932, about 11,000 vehicles crossed the Bridge in both directions each day and the clip depicts volume of traffic. Today, despite the opening of the Harbour Tunnel in 1992, this figure has risen to about 160,000. Bradfield had the foresight to ensure that the Bridge was wide enough to cope with future traffic demands. When the Bridge was built, it carried six traffic lanes, two rail lines and two tram lines. In 1958 the tram lines, which were on the eastern side of the Bridge, were converted to traffic lanes.
  • In the 1930s the Harbour foreshores were not as developed as they are today and landmarks such as the Sydney Opera House had not yet been conceived. The linking of the two shores of Sydney harbour was much anticipated by real estate agents and contributed significantly to the commercial and residential development of the North Shore.
  • The clip depicts Sydney Harbour at the time. While Sydney Harbour was a working harbour in 1932, there was significantly less commercial traffic on the water than today.
  • Pedestrians are shown crossing the Bridge. In 1932 there was a pedestrian walkway on both sides of the Bridge, but the path on the eastern side is now a dedicated cycleway.
  • Leslie Farey shot this home movie footage using 16 mm film. Amateur filmmaking such as this took off after the 16 mm camera was introduced in 1923 as an inexpensive alternative to the conventional 35 mm film format. At that time the camera was still priced beyond the reach of most people and therefore the home movie footage we are able to see dating from the period generally comes from fairly privileged sources. These sources offer a record of the lifestyles, cultures and traditions of Australians, and significant events in the nation’s history.

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  • You may download materials for your personal use or for non-commercial educational purposes, but you must not publish them elsewhere or redistribute clips in any way.
  • You may embed the clip for non-commercial educational purposes including for use on a school intranet site or a school resource catalogue.
  • The National Film and Sound Archive’s permission must be sought to amend any information in the materials, unless otherwise stated in notices throughout the Site.

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