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History of Bridge Road

As one of the first roads to be laid in Richmond back in 1837, it’s not at all surprising that Bridge Road has a storied history.

The road was originally envisioned as a simple civic centre of the Richmond district, with a Town Hall, courthouse and post office at its heart. It wouldn’t be long, though, before the construction of the Hawthorn Bridge across the Yarra River (a bridge considered one of the oldest metal bridges in Australia) transformed Bridge Road into an essential thoroughfare between Melbourne and the eastern suburbs in the mid-1850s and marked the beginning of its evolution into the bonafide precinct it is today.

Bridge Road tramway construction, 1925
Electric tramway construction in Bridge Road looking east from near Lennox Street, Richmond. Credit: Sutcliffe Pty Ltd. 1925 photographer, State Library Victoria slv.vic.gov.au
Horse-drawn carts before the tramway construction
Napier Hotel Bridge Road, Richmond. Credit: 1897/1903, State Library Victoria slv.vic.gov.au

The Passage of Time

As traders of all kinds flocked to the blossoming Bridge Road precinct – cobblers and tailors, grocers, butchers and fruiterers, and a few hotels – so, too, did shoppers; first via the horse-drawn omnibus (the nineteenth-century version of a modern bus), then by cable tram from 1885, and finally by electrified tram was installed in 1916. 

The 1870s and 1880s were particularly prosperous and, as the influx of traders and shoppers only grew, Bridge Road’s original buildings, more simple in structure, were replaced with Victorian-style (and later Edwardian-style) buildings: one- and two-storey shops, with residences on the first floor or at the rear, and built in wall-on-wall rows. 

Despite the 1890s Depression and Melbourne’s ever-growing outer suburbs, the latter of which saw the advent of suburban shopping centres and new public transport networks (an incredible feat considering much of it took place during the intense conflict of World War I and II), Bridge Road continued to grow and evolve.

The Present

Today, Bridge Road stretches an incredible 2.3 kilometres – spanning the full width of Richmond – from Punt Road to the Burwood Road-Church Street Junction.

And if aspects of its history sound familiar, it’s because much of it remains intact to this very day.

Ornate Victorian and Edwardian architecture that dates back as far as the 1870s continues to prevail; historical plaques detailing the former occupants and their businesses and premises along Bridge Road; and while the precinct has continued to evolve over the almost 200 years since its birth, the original vision of it as a civic centre – a beating heart of a vibrant community – perseveres at its core.

A rich and storied history
Mountain View Hotel, 70 Bridge Road, Richmond. Credit: 1890/1900, State Library Victoria slv.vic.gov.au

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