Points of Interest Category: Historical POI's 1841-1860, Historical POI's 1861-1880, Historical POI's 1961-1980, Historical, and Site | InfrastructurePoints of Interest Tags: Gippsland and History | Historical - Gippsland
Though there is no evidence remaining of the Bairnsdale Punt that faithfully serviced the community from c 1847 until the 4th December 1875, it was the only means of crossing the Mitchell River for some 28 years . . .
However, towards its final years of service, the public were desperately in need of a permanent structure. The following excerpt from an article published in the Gippsland Times on the 3rd April 1869, provides an insight into the sentiment of the people at that time:
” . . . The punt is an abomination in the eyes of the townspeople, a source on continual delay to the traffic, and intercourse between the residents of the town and those on the other side of the river. In fact, an intolerable nuisance to every one from the toddling schoolboy to the pumping puntman, whose avocations compel them reluctantly to avail themselves of this “modern ark” to float them across the River Mitchell, and lastly, as a means of locomotion, is positively dangerous. No one denies the absolute necessity that exists for the construction of a bridge over the river, for one thing is certain, our old acquaintance the punt is in its last stage of existence . . . “
The 1850’s and 1860’s saw the township of Bairnsdale grow. Originally referred to, and defined as, the:
‘Mitchell Township – Situate on the West side of the River Mitchell Gipps Land – and on the South Side of the Main Road’
Interestingly, ‘Punt Reserve’ as marked on the map dated 1860, was sited from the Punt Service (and later – at the base of the bridge), on the southern river bank of the Mitchell River, extending upstream for some distance. ‘Punt Reserve’ was also the location of Bairnsdale’s first Cemetery. However, the flood waters of 1870 inundated many of the graves, washing numerous caskets downstream !!! The cemetery was quickly relocated to its current location following this disastrous event. ‘Punt Reserve” was then transformed into the ‘Mitchell Gardens’ flaunting Avenues of magnificent trees – many of which survive until this very day. A caravan park currently occupies this site.
Bairnsdale’s location on the Mitchell River provided direct access via steamer to the Gippsland lakes system, onward to Bass Strait, and beyond.
The Bairnsdale wharf became an important, and a busy, supply port for:
The East Gippsland goldfields; where goods were shipped from Melbourne through the Gippsland lake system, into Lake King, up the Mitchell River to Bairnsdale, then hauled overland to the goldfields – usually by bullock teams;
The return trip saw the steamers loaded with cattle products and wool headed for Melbourne;
Hops cultivated throughout the Mitchell Valley between 1868 to 1916, being transported to the Hop Kilns in Bairnsdale.
” . . . Stores and heavy freight were carried from the Port on two-wheeled bullock drays, the heavier wagons being too clumsy for the tracks. It was painfully slow, and some of the remoter runs were only visited once, or at most, twice a year, while in the winter time the drays were bogged down for weeks on end. It was costly transport. The stores landed from the Lake boats at Bairnsdale, were dragged by the bullock teams along the tops of spurs on what is now known as the old New Line to Ensay station at a cost of £8 a ton, back leading to the wharf being £5 a ton. In 1865 a boiler weighing three tons was taken into the Crooked River to the Good Hope mine by bullocks, and these slow but patient beasts dragged all this, of this has been left there, as it did not pay to take it out again. In hauling in the Good Hope boiler a day’s journey averaged about ten miles, and it was a task that called for constant skill and resourcefulness. Trees were felled and used as brakes to steady the load down the mountain sides in spite of which three bullocks were killed. Will there ever be a monument raised to the working bullock and the pack horse, which made the beginnings of Gippsland possible ! “
– Source: Excerpt – Gippsland Times “The Beginnings of Gippsland” by John Wilson, published 5th June 1947
A bridge spanning the Mitchell River officially opened for traffic on the 4th December 1875. The contract was signed in the December of 1869 at a cost of some £13,000, including an allowance of £4,500 for the draw bridge component. The works were completed in late November 1875, however, the draw bridge originally envisaged, enabling steamers to continue upstream on the Mitchell River, did not come to fruition:
” . . . Thirteen thousand pounds seems a large sum to expend on a wooden bridge, but some £4,500 of that amount would have been saved by the erection of a permanent bridge. At the time the project was first mooted there was very strong opposition to the determination of the Council that tenders would be called for a draw bridge. Over and over again it was shown in the columns of the Gippsland Times that there was not the slightest necessity for a draw bridge but notwithstanding, the plans were adopted and the work carried out accordingly. The result is that the portion intended to move persistently refuses to stir, and the Council have wisely determined to incur no more expense in the matter, but patiently wait until there is a necessity to open the bridge for the accommodation of vessels to pass higher up the river. This is likely to occur A.D. 1975. Mr Kempson, the present Shire Engineer, is not responsible for any mistakes in the specifications, as they were made out by a Government officer, and previous to Mr Kempson being in the service of the Bairnsdale Shire Council.”
– Source: Gippsland Times “The Bridge over the Mitchell” – published 9th December 1875
Sadly, the much celebrated wooden bridge no longer exists, having been replaced with another on 13th August 1958, and later, a 1.13 km section of dual carriageway through Bairnsdale, completed during 1975/’76.
The same is to be said about the once busy and vital, Bairnsdale Wharf, which continued its faithful service until the 1930’s. The structural component was destroyed in 1990. All that remains is an artificial riverbank detained by a timber retaining wall, some 19 m long, consisting of a row of timber piles bolted to a framework of horizontal beams. Some exposed pipework in the edge of the bank indicates the presence of buried beams below the current turf.
The wharf was where the paddle steamer, the PS ‘Tanjil’ was lost, and, where many a challenge was met . . .
“THE BAIRNSDALE WHARF AND PUNT FLAT.
Early yesterday afternoon the residents of Punt Flat commenced to remove from their houses. The furniture vans were called into requisition and were kept busy up till late in the evening shifting the families and the belongings of these people. Mr Jackson, who had a large quantity of wattle bark stacked in his yard, made a great effort to get it into the upper storey of his tannery, but the quantity was too large to remove much of it before darkness set in. The Priestman dredge was taken into the slip opposite the wharf for safety, and the punts were also removed. A few spectators visited the wharf to witness the departure of the steamer J.C.D. to the Entrance. The mails were late in coming on board, and it was after half-past four o’clock before Captain Larsen gave the order to cast off. As the J.C.D. went out into the midstream, and came broadside on to the current, she listed heavily, swung round rapidly, and in an instant shot down stream and was out of view in a moment. Mr Andrews, manager for Permewan, Wright and Co., took time by the four o’clock, and had all the goods in the store piled high and dry several feet above flood level. Mr McIntyre, of the Imperial Hotel, also made preparations against loss as far as was possible.”
– Source: Bairnsdale Advertiser, published 30th December 1893
– Close proximity to Town Centre – obtain Directions here
– Car Parking available on a service road – some 150 m south of the Princes Highway Bridge
– off the Bairnsdale-Paynesville Road
– Other Historical POI’s in Bairnsdale
– Facilities available at Bairnsdale
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- Parking & Transfers:
- Off Street Parking
- Sealed Road