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New South Wales. Photographs of Roads and Bridges. W.C. Bennett M. Inst. C.E., Commissioner and Engineer

Reference Code: GBR/0115/RCS/Y3086F

Scope and Contents

An album containing mounted prints of various sizes showing views, roads, bridges and engineering construction work on the New South Wales Roads. The title is blocked in gold on the cover. All prints are captioned in neat printing, giving details of locations, and most of the bridges also have their technical dimensions noted, and in some cases the name of the engineer under whose supervision the work was done. The photographer is unknown.

Road building in New South Wales in the nineteenth century shows a history of steps forward followed by lapses back into inertia. Like the railways, the roads played a major part in the expansion and exploitation of the Colony's resources, but for some years little attempt was made to build lastingly for the future. In the early years lack of equipment, or trained surveyors, engineers and bridge-builders determined the slow progress made: roads were unsurfaced and little provision was made for maintenance or drainage, and were moreover made with the unwilling labour of convicts.

Governor Macquarie was perhaps the first official to make a serious attempt to provide New South Wales with adequate roads. In his second term of office, from 1810-1821, he caused 276 miles of roads to be built, and in 1814 sent William Cox to build a road through the Blue Mountains in the path of the explorers who first crossed the range in 1813. Cox and his team of convicts accomplished the feat of building 101 miles of road in six months.

In 1832, through the recommendation of the Surveyor-General Thomas Livingstone Mitchell (1792-1855), the Colony employed its first skilled bridge builder in David Lennox (1788-1873), who had been employed by Thomas Telford when in England. Mitchell had been commissioned by Governor Darling in 1827 to organise a systematic approach to road building, and he used Lennox to construct many of the bridges. After this start, however, Mitchell's retiring report in 1855 paints a dispiriting picture of the lack of response to his efforts: '[the roads which] might have still continued good, are in a state of dilapidation by no means extraordinary when it is for a moment considered that during the last twenty years many of them have been left to the mercy of the elements and the public... a public, which instead of approving, finds grounds for censure, even in the ruin which it itself creates'.


  • Creation: 1885


Conditions Governing Access

Unless restrictions apply, the collection is open for consultation by researchers using the Manuscripts Reading Room at Cambridge University Library. For further details on conditions governing access please contact Information about opening hours and obtaining a Cambridge University Library reader's ticket is available from the Library's website (

Biographical / Historical

William Christopher Bennett (1824-1899), who was the fourth Commissioner for Roads from 1865-1889, and some of whose work this album illustrates, was made Engineer to the Department of Roads, which he helped form, in 1859. Under his direction the main roads of the colony were extended to nearly 6000 miles, plus 4000 miles of unsurfaced roads and 40 miles of bridgework.


71 item(s) (71 images)

Language of Materials


Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

Prints in varying condition but all showing some degree of fading at the edges.

Existence and Location of Copies

This collection is available on microfiche: Australasia, fiche numbers 37-39.

Related Materials

For photographs of the railways in New South Wales see Y3086E.


This collection level description was entered by KS using information from the original typescript catalogue.

Date information

DateText: The date is approximate..


Bennett, William Christopher, 1824-1899

Includes index.
2003-07-04 15:02:24+00:00
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Cambridge University Library Repository

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