The story of the Ipswich brain that built Brisbane's bridge

HISTORIC DAY: A photo of the Story Bridge taken in 1940.
HISTORIC DAY: A photo of the Story Bridge taken in 1940.

WITH more than 60,000 people expected to take a leisurely stroll across the Story Bridge as part of its 75th anniversary celebrations this weekend, it is as good a time as ever to acknowledge Ipswich's important link to the milestone.

The famous engineer who designed the picture-perfect Brisbane landmark - not to mention the Sydney Harbour Bridge - was John Jacob Crew Bradfield, who spent his vital schooling years in Ipswich.

Although he eventually moved to Sydney and completed many important public infrastructure projects there, Bradfield never lost his affection for our fair city.

In a letter to the school in 1935, Bradfield wrote of his upcoming visit that he looked forward to bringing his wife and youngest son, as well as two framed concept pictures of what would end up being the Story Bridge - then known simply as the Brisbane River Bridge.

"I will be pleased to attend the official opening of the new state school at North Ipswich..." he wrote.

"It may interest your committee to know that I learned my alphabet and to count at the Infants' School North Ipswich. I continued at the Boys' School until I won a State School Scholarship in 1880, and you may be sure from my point of view it will be a real pleasure to attend."

In the 1960s, Bradfield's grandson Peter continued the family's Ipswich ties by presenting the blueprints from the Story Bridge to North Ipswich State School, where his grandfather's long road to becoming a world-class engineer began.

After finishing primary school, Bradfield went on to become the dux at Ipswich Grammar, becoming part of that prestigious school's long line of famous graduates.

A letter written by John Bradfield to the Ipswich North State School accepting an invitation to the opening of the new school in 1935.
A letter written by John Bradfield to the Ipswich North State School accepting an invitation to the opening of the new school in 1935.

Ipswich Councillor Andrew Antoniolli, himself a former North Ipswich State School student, said the city should be proud of its links to the famous engineer, who was also responsible for the design of many of Brisbane region's rail bridges.

The Story Bridge was one of Bradfield's more ambitions projects, however.

At 777m long, 24m wide and 74m high, it seems amazing that in those days, such a bridge could be built for less than the 1.6million pounds budgeted at the time.

In the end, the winning tender was for just 1,150,000 pounds.

The State Government of 1933 appointed Bradfield as a consulting engineer for the design and construction.

A few months later, Bradfield's cantilever design was approved and construction began in 1935.

Work sometimes carried on 24 hours a day for the following five years, but it was eventually opened on July 6, 1940.

The work was sometimes extremely dangerous and four men died during the entire construction period.

John Bradfield.
John Bradfield.

 



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