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Paterson River history

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Vacy Bridge (Clarke's Crossing)

The spot where Vacy Bridge now stands was known as "Clarke's Crossing" in the 1800s, prior to establishment of Vacy village. It is named after Richard Clarke, an ex-convict who was leasing part of John Cory's Vacy estate by 1830.

At Clarke's Crossing a track led down to the Paterson River from both sides so people and livestock could simply wade through the river. Part of Clark'e Crossing can be seen at left in the photo of the current bridge at the bottom of the screen. It is also shown in the plan for the second bridge.

In 1851 tenders were called for construction of a bridge at Clarke's Crossing but there were no takers.[1] Tenders were called again in April 1859.[2] Finally, after many delays and great anger by residents at the slow progress, the bridge was built and in use by early 1861 (newspaper reference to opening needed).[3]

The bridge was badly damaged in a huge flood in May 1861. Much of the river bank was washed away and two piers were lost. The bridge platform sank in the middle and the bridge was closed.[4] A year later, in May 1862, it was slowly being repaired.

This first bridge was built in "pig-run style", probably so-called because the sides of the bridge looked like the panels of a rural fence or pig sty. In December 1896 the old pig-run Vacy Bridge was destroyed by fire, leaving the original Clarke's Crossing as the only way to cross the river.[5]

No photo of the first Vacy Bridge was thought to exist, but one was found recently.

Vacy bridge and creamery c1894

Above: the first Vacy Bridge. The photo was taken upstream on the southern side of Paterson River about 1894. The roof and boiler chimney of Vacy Creamery can just be seen through the railing at left. (photo courtesy of Wayne Patfield and Colin Horn).

In 1897 plans were drawn up for a replacement bridge. The second Vacy Bridge, an Allan timber truss design that still stands today, was completed in May 1898.[6]

site plan of Vacy creamery

Above: the 1897 plan for the current Vacy bridge (courtesy of Roads and Maritime Services archives). The track shown below the bridge is Clarke's crossing, where people crossed before the first Vacy bridge was built.

Vacy bridge in the early 1900s

Above: the second Vacy Bridge in the early 1900s. It is still used today. (photo: Paterson Historical Society)

References

1. Maitland Mercury, 8 September 1851.

2. Maitland Mercury, 30 April 1859, 3.

3. Pauline Clements, Vacy ... 180 Years of History, Paterson Historical Society, 2003, 19-25.

4. Maitland Mercury, 7 May 1861, 3.

5. Maitland Daily Mercury, 23 December 1896, 3.

6. Maitland Daily Mercury, 10 May 1898, 2.