When residents of The Shire talk about going “across the bridge”, they don’t mean the Sydney Harbour Bridge. They’re talking about Tom Ugly’s between Blakehurst and Sylvania, or the Captain Cook Bridge between Sans Souci and Taren Point.
Tom Uglys is a 3-lane box girder bridge built in 1929. Traffic heads north on it. On the other side, there is a concrete bridge, built in 1987, to alleviate traffic congestion.
Tom Uglys Bridge took its name from the southernmost part of Blakehurst, known as Tom Uglys Point. There is debate about how the Point got that name. Theories include:
- An Aborigine by that name lived at Tom Ugly’s Point in a cave;
- It was named after an old fisherman by the name of Tom Illigley;
- It was named after Tom Huxley, a caretaker on a large estate. The Aborigines who visited him could not pronounce his name so it became Tom Hoogli which in turn became Tom Ugly’s;
- It was named after an Aborigine called Tommy who had only one leg, and who in the Aboriginal terminology was called “Waggerly” Tom (waggerly being the Aboriginal word for lame animal). Later on he was called Tom Waggerly which was finally changed to Tom Ugly.
The name was officially adopted to distinguish between the various bridges of the Georges River, after the opening of the Captain Cook Bridge in 1965 and the Alfords Point Bridge in 1973.
Before the bridge, tenders were called to construct a punt (cable ferry) for Tom Ugly’s point in 1864. A hand operated punt service from Tom Uglys Point to Horse Rock Point commenced.
The punt underwent many changes over the years.
The bill for the building of a bridge across the Georges River was introduced into State Parliament in 1923, and the foundation stone for the bridge was laid on 7 June 1924. The bridge construction was funded by Sutherland Shire Council, with borrowed money to be repaid by a toll on the bridge once it was opened.
The crossing was first opened for traffic on 26 April 1929, and officially opened by the Governor of New South Wales on 11 May 1929. It was then known as the “George’s River Bridge”.
The bridge was designed by Percy Allan, who designed many bridges in New South Wales, including the Pyrmont Bridge. When the bridge was opened, it was the longest bridge in Australia.
The toll was collected on the Sylvania side of the bridge by toll collectors who stood on the road. The tolls were removed in 1952 when the bridge was repaid. The road was one lane in each direction in the 1940s & 1950s, and was converted to become three lanes tidal flow with two lanes in the direction of the peak flow until the opening of the second bridge.
Source: Sydney Daily Photo website