Bloody Bridge, Bounty Street Bridge, Pier Street Bridge, Canal Bridge, New Bridge, Old Bay Street Bridge and Bligh Street Bridge.
Seven bridges, seven names that evoke almost every chapter in the long and romantic story of Norfolk Island’s capital and Australia’s second-oldest town.
Unlike the famous Seven Bridges of Königsberg, the less well-known seven bridges of Kingston are easy to take in on a gentle stroll through the Kingston & Arthur’s Vale Historic Area (KAVHA).
The most easterly is Bloody Bridge, tucked away at the eastern gateway to the Historic Area, on Driver Christian Road. By 1790 the road from Kingston to Ball Bay crossed the creek here, running through a vale of vegetable gardens. About 1832 construction of the bridge began, using convict labour. A creek channel was defined, and the oviform (egg-shaped) vaulted bridge tunnel was built. A coral stone wall was built on each side, each with six buttresses, and then the void was filled with rubble and soil. Raised causeways connect the bridge to the adjoining roadway, so that the whole structure stands high above the little flood plain of Music Creek. The road surface was sealed by the 1970s, keeping the carriageway between the grass verges that continue across the bridge surface. These causeways and grass verges are characteristic of all the larger bridges of Kingston. In about 1914 the western wall of the bridge collapsed, and was rebuilt in 1917 in the splayed or faceted form that still shows the extent of the collapse even today, and which reduced the width of the bridge deck by half.
Bloody Bridge, showing original form viewed from upstream side
The oviform vaulted tunnel beneath Bloody Bridge
Apart from its picturesque location in Music Valley, beside a grove of old Norfolk Island Pines that shelter a seasonal Bosunbird breeding ground, the name of Bloody Bridge always draws attention. According to folklore the convicts building the bridge drew lots to murder their unpopular overseer, murdered him and buried the body in the foundations. His blood stained the stone work and revealed their crime, after which the killers were sent to Sydney where justice was swift and ultimately fatal. However, there is no record of any such event taking place, and a more prosaic explanation may be that it was named by Irish convicts after Bloody Bridge in Dublin. The name and a story was probably told by the convicts to the Pitcairners in 1856, as described by a visitor on HMS Fawn in 1860 who wrote of the new residents telling visitors just such stories to illustrate the brutality that had shaped the convict landscape they inherited in 1856. In 1885 John J Spruson published a history of Pitcairn, Lord Howe and Norfolk islands that contains the earliest published version of the convict murder story for the bridge’s name.
Bloody Bridge is the only bridge to feature in Norfolk Post’s 2011 stamp issue commemorating the first anniversary of KAVHA’s inscription on the World Heritage List.
Bloody Bridge features on one of a twelve-set stamp booklet produced by Norfolk Post in 2011 to mark the first anniversary of the World Heritage listing of the Australian Convict Sites.
Pier Street Bridge is the most westerly of the bridges. It was built in 1831, and connects Quality Row to the Landing Place by a long causeway called Pier Street. A ford had been built over Watermill Creek on this alignment by 1796 when the route was called the ‘Road to Phillipburg’ (now Cascade), and it remains one of the oldest roads still in use in Australia. By 1829 Pier Street was following its present alignment, and construction of the causeway and the bridge began soon after. The causeway sits two to three metres above the ground level and when completed provided for the first time dry all-weather access between the landing place and the rest of the island. The bridge and street name indicates the importance of this connection, although the pier was not completed until some 15 years after the bridge. Whether its convict builders ever gave the bridge a name is not yet known. Pier Street Bridge, like Bloody Bridge, has a central vaulted channel made of massive coral stone. The walls of the bridge and causeway are built of rubble coral stone, and infilled with more rubble and soil. The roadway runs between grassed verges that cross the bridge, with regularly-spaced limber holes to drain rain water away from the road surface. Unlike Bloody Bridge, no buttresses were needed to support these walls, possibly because they are not of such a great height, but they have a slight batter similar to the walls of the pier to deflect flowing water away from the causeway and through the bridge tunnel.
Pier Street Bridge and causeway, seen from the Old Government House Kitchen (also called the Surgeon’s Kitchen or Wentworth Cottage).
Two hundred metres eastwards is Bounty Street Bridge, built about 1832 after the completion of Pier Street Bridge. Whereas Bloody Bridge and Pier Street Bridge both have a round arch tunnel, Bounty Street Bridge shows a fine elliptical (a flattish curve) four-metre wide arch. Unfortunately, the bridge has suffered much damage to its eastern face, which was largely rebuilt, probably in the late 1930s after flood damage, when the arch was replaced by a flat concrete lintel. The western face still retains its original arch, with fine segmented stonework. The street provided rapid access during times of trouble from the New Military Barracks on Quality Row to the Prisoner’s Barrack and the prisoner’s mess on Bay Street. There was also a long terrace and several cottages around the northern end of the street for constables and overseers who also needed easy access to the convict quarter. Its current name of Bounty Street dates from 1904, and reflects the later Pitcairner settlement of the town. The causeway on either side of the bridge is very short in length. In recent years the northern end of the bridge and its causeway have been sinking and is now over a metre lower than the southern end. An ongoing monitoring program is currently in place to measure the bridge’s movements, and eventually to inform conservation works to stabilize and possibly reverse the sinking.
The eastern parapet of Bounty Street Bridge, nearly sunken into the reed banks, looking eastwards from the bridge carriageway towards Chimney Hill.
Another two hundred metres further eastwards and the creek channel dissipates into several channels, forming a sort of delta where the waters from Watermill Creek, Town Creek and Government House Rill meet. During wet weather this area is a bird lover’s paradise, and a sense of the old primeval Kingston Marsh that once covered most of the Kingston Common can still be experienced.
The current formal entrance to Government House on Quality Row masks the existence of Bligh Street constructed in 1831. The street formerly ran from Quality Row through to Bay Street, parallel to Bounty and Pier streets, and at least three crossings were needed for it to traverse the marshes. The southern end of the street is probably really a long causeway with various stone-built crossings to allow for the passage of water. The name Bligh Street Bridge today refers to the original stone bridge that can still be seen in place, near the ruin of another stone bridge that formerly crossed the Serpentine. The causeways through the marshes around this area were formed by earthen embankments without stone retaining walls, perhaps due to difficulties in locating firm bedrock. Bligh Street Bridge is built of rubble coral stone abutments with a large slab of massive coral stone spanning the channel. Rubble parapets sit on the edges of this slab to provide sides to the roadway, which is now entirely covered with a thick layer of soil and turf. Bligh Street runs directly from the Old Military Barracks entrance to Bay Street, and may have been first formed to move stone and lime from the quarries and lime kilns on Bay Street to the Barracks construction site. Once competed, Bligh Street, like Bounty Street, provided rapid access for the military to the convict quarter along Bay Street, as well as from 1838 a new formal entrance to Government House. Like Bounty Street, the name Bligh Street dates from 1904, and it is the only place name in Kingston commemorating a former viceroy. It provides a street address for Australia’s oldest vice-regal residence, and is forms a name-pair with Bounty Street, commemorating the street and bridge names the legendary captain and mutiny of 1789.
Bligh Street Bridge is marked by the two stone parapets in the middle of the picture. The Old Military Barracks terminate the northerly vista.
Bligh Street Bridge covered in flood waters after heavy rain, with only the parapets above water.
Another 20 metres along the channel is Old Bay Street Bridge. Now a pedestrian timber bridge sits on the site, but evidence of the older bridge can be clearly seen in the rubble coral stone bridge abutments. There may have been a ford at this site since 1802 when construction of Government House began. It is located on the Old Bay Street embankment or causeway that curves northwards and runs along the base of Chimney Hill, across the marshes and up to Government House. The street was raised on the earthen embankment that can still be seen, and the stone bridge abutments were built between 1825 and 1835, with a timber deck, presumably of Norfolk Island Pine, used to span the creek. The lightest of the bridges, it was only used for a few years until about 1838 when the new Bligh Street entrance to Government House came into use, and this section of Bay Street was reduced to a lane for separate access to the stockyards and gardens behind Government House.
Old Bay Street Bridge in the mid-ground, with contemporary timber pedestrian bridge spanning 1941 channel in foreground.
Bay Street had split into two arms at Chimney Hill, and while this northern arm became a back lane, the southern arm survives as Bay Street proper. It had come into use in the 1790s when the quarry and lime kilns were being developed, and the first burying ground was set aside. The first attempts to drain the marshlands began in the early 1789 when a channel was cut through the limestone saddle that connected Doves Plot Hill (the site of Government House) and the Chimney Hill ridge and then ran along its eastern side to drain into Emily Bay. This separated the burying ground from the rest of the town, and required the building of a ford or bridge to re-connect them. The channel was known as ‘the canal’, and the name of Canal Bridge reflects this earliest phase in the draining of the marshes.
Canal Bridge, spanning the canal reconstructed in the 1830s
The northern section of the canal running around Chimney Hill was filled in during the 1830s, while the southern reach was rebuilt and the current bridge built in about 1835, possibly incorporating the earlier 1789 bridge over the canal. Like Bloody Bridge and Pier Street Bridge, a vaulted channel was built of massive coral stone, this time with a pointed arch, and rubble walls filled with soil to road level. Two small buttresses support the bridge wall on its northern side, and the stone walls on the canal are connected to the bridge structure. This is the smallest and narrowest of Kingston’s bridges, and it and the New Bridge are the only ones spanning a waterway affected by the ocean tides.
Just a few metres away is the New Bridge, adjacent to the old lime kilns. As the name suggests, this is the newest of Kingston’s road bridges, dating from 1941. The concrete-lined channel was built between 1937 and 1941 following severe flooding in 1936. It provided a straight cut across the marshlands and through the southern end of Chimney Hill that was intended to quickly drain away into Emily Bay any build-up of water in the marshes. The bridge consists of a reinforced concrete deck that sits directly on coral stone abutments formed by cutting the channel straight through the natural rock. The timber rails that provide a safety barrier on each side have been replaced several times over the years. The soil excavated for the channel was spread over the marshlands to raise the ground level, almost burying the Bligh Street bridges. The channel and bridge show the earliest use of concrete on a large-scale public works project on Norfolk Island, and illustrate the changes in bridge building technologies since the 1830s.
New Bridge, showing 1940s concrete structure
New Bridge, viewed from the 1941 channel mouth
These cameos of Kingston’s bridges indicate the scale of the public works around Kingston in the 1830s that could be achieved with unlimited and often well skilled convict labour. They also tell us something about the Commandants and their vision for the town and its future. Kingston’s history has been dominated by horror stories of the gallows, whip and lash, but the bridges tell us another story.
Lieutenant Colonel James Morisset of the 48th (Northamptonshire) Regiment commanded the penal establishment between 1829 and 1834. And was responsible for the earliest of the bridges in the old swamplands.
Morisset’s successor as Commandant, the Scotsman Major Joseph Anderson of the 50th (Queen’s Own) Regiment, had the Bligh Street, Old Bay Street and Canal bridges built as part of his scheme for creating a suitably picturesque domain for the vice-regal residence.
Anderson’s successor Major Thomas Bunbury of the 80th (Staffordshire Volunteers) Regiment converted much of the domain into sporting fields. He also demolished Irish Town behind the New Military Barracks, and by the time the regiment was withdrawn from the Island both Irish Town and the romantic serpentine had been replaced by manly, utilitarian grounds for sports and parades.
The bridges hint at a Celtic heritage in Kingston: Bloody Bridge, Irish Town, the supposedly dour Scotsman Major Anderson. The convicts, the military and civil officials have for a long time been treated as an amorphous mass, a single story of brutality and harshness. Walking the bridges of Kingston gives us pause to stop and look, and appreciate a rich landscape of many cultural layers and a shared history.
A Kingston bridges walk will reward the rambler with many different views across Kingston, a variety of environments from the open Common to elegant street vistas to the more intimate groves of Norfolk Island Pines, a mix of oceanic, wetlands and forest birds, and of course the ever-present Georgian townscape and the brooding ruins of another age.
Timber foot bridges spanning the 1941 channel, on alignment of Old Bay Street (mid-ground) and Bligh Street (far-ground), viewed from the top of Chimney Hill. These are not counted in the ‘seven bridges’.
It is possible to make a circuit of the bridges without every having to cross any bridge more than once – provided that you don’t stick to the sealed roads and can make a few cross-country diversions. It shouldn’t present you with the same puzzle that the Königsbergers posed in the 18th century – unless you like to set yourself (or your friends or family) a real challenge!
This post was first published, in a slightly edited form, in Your World Inflight Onshore (Norfolk Air), No 4, October-December 2011, pages 34-39.
 For more information on each of the seven bridges of Kingston, visit the KAVHA Public Research Centre at No 9 Quality Row, Kingston and see the KAVHA Inventory volumes. The relevant inventory numbers are: Bloody Bridge N1A, Bounty Street Bridge F18, Pier Street Bridge F19, Canal Bridge A11A, New Bridge J6A, Old Bay Street Bridge A5C and Bligh Street Bridge A4E.
 The Seven Bridges of Königsberg is the name of a famous mathematical problem that arose from attempts to solve a puzzle in the medieval German university town of Königsberg. The city was located on an island in the Pregel River and by the 18th century had spread out across the riverbanks facing the island. Seven bridges connected the island to its riverside suburbs, and the puzzle often posed was to find a way to walk around the town, crossing each bridge once and only once. Visitors to the town, especially after a few visits to the local beer halls, were often challenged by the townsfolk to solve their riddle, but none ever succeeded. In 1735 the Swiss physicist Leonhard Euler proved that there was in fact no solution to the puzzle, and this could be shown by a mathematical analysis focused on the sequence of bridge crossings instead of the routes between them (rather than the usual method of an erratic, beer-fueled walk!). Euler’s negative solution laid the foundations for graph theory, which can be used to represent the structure of the world wide web (www), and topology, the study of properties under continuous deformation such a stretching which has created products like continuous-loop recording tapes. Unfortunately, the city was the scene of vicious siege and battle near the end of World War Two. It was captured by the Red Army, and today only two of the original bridges survive. The city is now a Russian possession re-named Kaliningrad.
 Coral Stone is the name used on Norfolk and other Pacific islands for limestone, especially that found around the Kingston district. Its scientific name is calcarenite, which is a type of limestone composed of broken corals, shells and sand formed by erosion of older limestones, with particle sizes of less than two millimetres. ‘Massive’ coral stone refers to blocks of solid stone cut from the reefs in Slaughter and Cemetery bays and Nepean Island. ‘Rubble’ coral stone refers to the loose rocks and stone pieces quarried from outcrops of sedimentary limestone. The best known source is Chimney Hill, where the lime kilns were also located to produce quicklime by slowly burning the stone for mortar, plaster and lime washes, as well as limelight for lighting theatre stages such as in Kingston’s various convict theatres between 1789 and 1846.
 Bloody Bridge in Dublin, adjacent to the Guinness Brewery on the Liffey River, was officially named the Rory O’More Bridge/Droichead Ruaraí Uí Mhóra in 1939. The current iron bridge was built in 1859 and named the Victoria & Albert Bridge, replacing an earlier stone bridge built in 1704. That bridge was officially known as Barrack Bridge, and itself replaced an even earlier timber bridge that had been the scene of several deaths of rebellious ferrymen’s apprentices who tried to destroy the timber bridge in 1670. The popular name Bloody Bridge commemorated the ferrymen’s violent deaths and was transferred by popular usage to all subsequent bridges on the site, regardless of their official names. Bloody Bridge in Newcastle (An Caisleán Nua), County Down, on Bloody Bridge Creek, was the scene of the killing of Protestant prisoners during the Irish Rebellion of 1641 when the conflicts in Ireland first took on a Catholic v. Protestant character.
 Hughes Truman, Structural Report Bounty Street Bridge, Kingston & Arthur’s Vale Historic Area Norfolk Island, April 2010: 5
 Australian Construction Services, The Swamp Creek and Serpentine Area Conservation Study and Interpretive Design, June 1994: 14.
 Bunbury quoted in Australian Construction Services, op. cit.: 20