Convict bridge discovery

Shane Burke
Shane Burke

Local archaeologist Shane Burke used the information gathered from the Belhus discovery to identify a second convict bridge parallel to the modern Yagan Bridge, in Upper Swan.

Built in the summer of 1850-51, it has been identified as only the second public bridge to cross the Swan River.

The first bridge to cross the Swan was the Causeway in 1842.

‘We used what we found at the Ellen Brook site and applied it here (at Yagan Bridge),’ Dr Burke said.

‘When the water of the Ellen Brook went down we could see it quite clearly.’

The bridges were among the first jobs assigned to convicts because the river crossing was vital to move grain from south of the river to Cruse’s Mill.

The pylons found next to the Yagan Bridge are testament to the significance of the Swan Valley area during Perth’s first settlement.

Cruse’s Mill area was a hive of activity, with many roads leading to the grain store that many settlers relied on for survival.

‘The fact that it’s the second public bridge to exist over the Swan River just highlights how important the Swan Valley was for the whole colony,’ Dr Burke said.

‘The bridge was built to allow people to move back and forth with their produce, so that they could all get to Cruse’s Mill, which was the major mill for grinding grain from both sides of the river.’

‘The Swan Valley is changing, the demography of the place is changing as well.

‘A lot of this information is being lost and when new people move in, sometimes we lose things because we aren’t aware of the age of things or their historical significance.’

There is much more archaeological work to go within the area, which is also an important Nyungar site and close to indigenous warrior Yagan’s final resting place.

As a senior lecturer at Notre Dame University, Dr Burke will lead a group of students to conduct an archaeological survey of part of Cruse Road, Belhus, where he suspects a convict camp existed.