Second oldest surviving bridge in South Africa
Due to the “appalling condition of the roads in the colony” a Central Road Board was formulated in 1843.
The Colonial Secretary, the Hon. John Montagu, who had fought as a subaltern at the battle of Waterloo, was the force behind this body. One of the Central Road Board’s first tasks was the construction of a hard road across the Cape Downs and the Lourens River was bridged in 1845.
The work was undertaken by Lt Col Charles Mitchell, Surveyor-General and Civil Engineer of the Cape Colony, who had built Sir Lowry’s Pass in 1830. In 1938, the same year in which the new bridge had just been completed, the double-span Lourens River bridge was proclaimed a national monument.
There is a plaque on a rock from the Lourens River, engraved with a short memorial to those connected with the building of this distinctive historical bridge, that is hidden, almost unnoticeable in the garden of the Old Bridge Pub Beer Garden.
The historical plaque reads:
"The Lourens River is named after Corporal Lourens Visser who arrived from Holland at the Cape in 1666.
Colonial Secretary Sir John Montagu started the road building programme in the Cape and was responsible for the construction of the road from Cape Town over the Hottentots-Holland Kloof.
The bridge over the Lourens River was completed in 1845 under the supervision of Architect WS Chauncey. Making it the second oldest surviving bridge in the country.
In 1952 an old-fashioned post cart drawn by six horses was driven across a strip of wet concrete on its way to the tercentenary celebration at Cape Town. Imprints of the Horses hooves and carriage wheels in the concrete remain as a record".
Horse hoof and wagon tracks can still be seen embedded in the uppermost layer of the Old Bridge.
There is a small park on the eastern side of the Lourens River where one can have a picnic or park one's car while photographing this ancient work of art. Be warned however that there are some homeless people settled there. Alternately one can park in the parking area of the Old Bridge Tavern on the western side of the bridge and also enjoy a meal and something to drink.
More historical information can be sourced from an excellent publication by Peggy Heap, The Story of Hottentos Holland: Social history of Somerset West, the Strand, Gordon’s Bay and Sir Lowry Pass over three Centuries, published by the Cape Town based A.A. Balkema publishers in 1970.
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