ZAR Road Bridge over Hennops River, 'S(Z)esmylspruit' - Wierda Bridge
Sytze Wopkes WIERDA: Design Architect
John Johnston KIRKNESS: Contractor
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The bridge along the main Pretoria-Johannesburg Road was erected at the wagon drift at the then Zesmyspruit (now Hennops River), so named because of its distance from the Pretoria. The intitial design was for a 12m span. The first sub-structure was completed in October of 1890 but damaged by flooding in May of 1891. Immediately a second contract for the re-build was awarded. This design was for a 21m span but provided for the re-use of the materials of the already constructed buttresses. The coursed rough-hewn ashlar buttresses and pier originally carried a steel beam structure of German manufacture but this has been replaced by one from Skinningrove, England (date uncertain). The construction was fraught with problems of flooding and damage to the buttress surrounds. When completed the bridge was ceremonially opened in October 1891 by General NJ Smit, then Vice President of the ZAR, who gave regognition to the service and achievements of Wierda by naming the bridge in his honour.
In 1955 the main road to Johannesburg was widened in places. This gave cause for concern to conservation groups that the historical bridge was threatened. Instead the road was widened by constructing a second parallel concrete bridge for the south-bound Johannesburg trafic, and dedicated use of the extant bridge for north-bound Pretoria traffic, an arrangement which persists to this day, hence keeping the historic fabric preserved. It was declared an historical monument (now Provincial Heritage Resource) in 1965, although the bronze badge and plaque have long since been sent to the scrap metal merchants!
All truncated references not fully cited below are those of Joanna Walker's original text and cited in full in the 'Bibliography' entry of the Lexicon.
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