Cattai Creek Bridge Showground Road

Cattai Creek Bridge is a tributary of the Hawkesbury River flowing through the lush mainly blue gum and ironbark forests which were used by the Dharug Aboriginals for all of their necessities.

In 1791 Governor Phillip led an expedition from Parramatta to the Hawkesbury following the Dharug route along the ridgeline. In 1801 a Castle Hill Government Farm of 3,580 acres stretching from Castle Hill to Glenorie was set aside and 700 acres of forest was cleared for farming.

Suitable farming land at Castle Hill was not freely given as grants to settlers until 1823. A 165 acre village reserve was created in 1861 from part of the Government Farm and in 1881 part of the village reserve was re-dedicated as Castle Hill Cemetery (now Gilbert Road Cemetery).

In 1890 another section of the village reserve was re-dedicated as Castle Hill Showground and in 1895 the rest of the village reserve was dedicated as a public recreation reserve (now Fred Caterson and Elizabeth Chaffey Reserves, plus Castle Hill Pony Club).

Showground Road developed as a dirt track in the late 1800s connecting the Castle Hill Village in Old Northern Road with Castle Hill Showground and the Windsor Road and was more formerly defined through the subdivision in 1889 of adjacent land to the south.

The road was first surfaced with bitumen in 1930 when an early wooden bridge over the steep Cattai Creek Gully was replaced. During the 1930s depression swagmen camped on the Showground and Reserve. Orcharding in Castle Hill declined sharply after 1930 due to competition from the Murrumbidgee and Gosford areas but the residential population increased rapidly.

A new Cattai Creek Bridge was constructed in either 1932 or 1939 (RTA records differ) of reinforced concrete in the single beam-type that was wider to meet the requirements of motor cars and trucks with higher load capacities. Showground Road was sealed in 1951.

Plans to again widen the bridge were afoot in 1979 after a series of accidents in conjunction with the widening of Showground Road to service increased residential development. One resident went so far as to name it a “suicidal bridge”, being narrow, in a steep gully, with poor road alignment from both directions. Local Council members expressed concerns over the height and safety of the bridge.

The widening of the bridge was completed in 1982-83 and renamed McDonald Bridge, in memory of Reverend Father Hugh Michael McDonald who lost his life in a car accident on the bridge seven years earlier. A memorial stands outside the guard rail on the north-eastern abutment. Later in 1981 the steep gradient on Showground Road from Gilbert Road on the Showground side was again reduced for safety reasons.

Pam Wilson March 2016.

Sources: RTA Heritage Inventory, member Heather Watson’s notes and minutes of Baulkham Hills Shire Council.

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Cattai Creek Bridge

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