In the long ago, when Moreton Bay Settlement was only free to those Government officials who had charge of the hundreds of convicts, a bridge over Breakfast Creek, which runs into the Brisbane River, was a pressing need.
The requirements of frequent supplies, official communications and supervision of the female convicts at their Eagle Farm quarters were the chief reasons for having uninterrupted road connection therewith. However, although much convict labour was available to build a bridge, the only means of crossing Breakfast Creek was by a roughly constructed punt. Some work had been done on Eagle Farm road to excavate a cutting on the river bank.
In the 1840's a small narrow footbridge with a handrail had been erected and was later replaced by a traffic bridge. The land which now comprises Newstead Park was once the property of Patrick Leslie who sold it to Captain J. C. Wickham in August 1847. The traffic bridge was subsequently built in August 1848, but one of the piles which had been insecurely driven, collapsed in May 1849. The tidal waters finally washed away the remains by December of that year.
Several settlers petitioned Capt. Wickham the Government Resident of those days, to find ways of providing a new bridge. They were Dr. David K. Ballow, Dr. Wm. Hobbs, W. A. Duncan, J. Richardson, Ambrose Aldridge, James Gibbon, James Swan, J. Powers, G. F. Poole, Dr. J. Kearsey Cannan, Richard Coley and George Edmonstone.
The meeting was held in the old Court House in Queen Street, Brisbane, which then stood about thirty yards from the corner of Albert Street. A proposal was put forward that a dam be built with a roadway thereon but the bridge plan was adopted. The successful tenderer was a contractor named Atkinson and the bridge was erected under the supervision of David F. Longland who was Chief Foreman in the Roads and Bridges Department.
The Breakfast Creek bridge, built of ironbark, was of three arches 176 feet long, 15 feet wide, and was opened on the 21st August 1858. Some damage occurred due to subsidence but the bridge was considered safe and suitable for traffic until the early part of 1887.
The respectively adjacent controlling authorities of those days, the Divisional Boards of Toombul and Booroodabin considered that a new bridge was necessary. The Breakfast Creek Bridge Board was constituted and comprised the following members W. M. Galloway (Mayor of Brisbane), President, Wm. Widdop (Chairman of Toombul Divisional Board), Robert Dath (Chairman of Booroodabin
Divisional Board), A. L. Petrie and John Watson M.L.A. Thos. J. Ballinger was the Secretary, and Geo. S. Simkin, C.E., Engineer in charge of construction. Plans and specifications were prepared by J. H. Daniells, Engineer for Bridges in the Government Department of Works and the builders were A. Overend and Co.
Work commenced in February 1888, but it was subsequently realised during the progress of construction that the bridge, if the materials according to the specified plans were followed, would be 15 feet too short on the southern end where the present stone embankment now stands. The work of construction was held up for ten weeks pending lengthy arbitration
on the question of the additional cost which, of course, arose from this insufficient length. It was shown that the Breakfast Creek Bridge Board, for reasons best known to itself, had placed the bridge at an oblique angle across Breakfast Creek instead of at right angles, knowing at the time that the cost would be increased thereby. The Government was called on to pay as compensation for extra work the sum of £1234.
The engineer, J. H. Daniells only prepared the plans and specifications and he had nothing to do with the actual erection of the bridge. The structure was designed to be built on the same site as the previous bridge as it was economical so to do.
From the information regarding the “made" ground on Breakfast Creek where the Eastern abutment is now placed, evidence of the old bridge alignment may still be seen at low water mark on the northern right hand side opposite the Breakfast Creek Hotel.
Had the bridge been built on the site of the original bridge alignment a great deal of expense would have been spared (a saving of 20% on construction costs) and there would have been no necessity to build the substantial retaining wall on the southern end to artificially lengthen by 15 feet the short‑constructed bridge, nor to resume additional land.
The construction of the bridge seemed to have had the malignant fate of being a source of trouble from start to finish. Even at the near completion of the bridge, trouble developed with the work of decking. The specifications provided for wood paving blocks to be set in tar and pitch.
Difficulty was experienced by the fact that the blocks became loose in the hot weather during the laying of same and it was not considered advisable to continue this method. Streams of tar ran down the abutment and piles. The blocks were then set in concrete but heavy rain loosened the side blocks and they crept up. However the bridge was eventually opened on 24th May 1889. The tender price was £8341.
The effective life of the 1889 Breakfast Creek Bridge ended after nearly three quarters of a century of early Brisbane life and activities. Over it has passed the bullock wagon, the teamster with his horses, farmers' wagons with produce from the prosperous Boggy Creek (Pinkenba) and Nudgee farms, the pony sulkies, carriages, phaetons, buggies, waggonettes, hansom cabs, horse drawn omnibuses, horse drawn trams, the electric tram, motor car and the motor truck.
It has carried the conveyances of all kinds and manner of men, some who have become Kings and Queens of England, the Soldiers of the Boer War, the Soldiers of World War I and II, and the American Soldiers, and possibly millions of those in the trafficking of every day life. Like so many things in life, the Breakfast creek bridge has had its day and will be dismantled, removed, and will be no more.
The initials of W. M. Galloway (“WMG" which appear on the facade of the Breakfast Creek Hotel) and who was the president of the Bridge Board, will continue to look down as a reminder while the stone tablet inscribed with the names of the Board will continue to remain attached to the verandah wall of Newstead House, Brisbane.