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Road Bridge over the Lourens River
Somerset West, Western Cape

Charles Cornwallis (alias Collier) MICHELL: Architect



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34°05'14.32" S 18°51'20.79" E Alt: 43m

The bridge was previously also popularly known as the Military Bridge (see name on early postcard image).

This bridge is a milestone in the history of south African communications. Because the roads of the Cape Colony were in a deplorable state, the Government in 1843 established a Central Roads Board of six nominated members (three of whom were officials). John Montagu, the Colonial Secretary, was the force behind this body. One of its first tasks was the construction (1843-45) of a hard road from Cape Town to Eerste River across the Cape Flats, which up to that time were almost impassable.

This work was rounded off in 1845 by the construction of a bridge across the Eerste River and another across the Lourens River at Somerset West.

These works together with the construction of the road over Hottentots Holland Kloof (Sir Lowry's Pass), for the first time ensured satisfactory communication between Cape Town and the interior.

The bridge was used until the new one next to it was completed in 1938. It is situated on the outskirts of Somerset West on the main road to Sir Lowry’s Pass and the Strand, and was proclaimed in 1938.

(Van Riet Lowe; Malan 1949: pp 72-3)

In April 1952, the old bridge featured in the tercentenary celebration of the landing of Jan van Riebeeck. A 6 ft (1,8m) wide strip of wet concrete was laid across the middle of the bridge and an old-fashioned post cart drawn by six horses rode across the bridge to the Eastern Cape. The imprints of the horses’ hooves and the cart wheels can still be seen. From a Heritage Report by Timothy Hart, August 2000.

Proclaimed a National Monument in 1938 and is now a Provincial Heritage Site.

Submitted by Lila Komnick

Writings about this entry

Heap, Peggy. 1970. The Story of Hottentots Holland : Social history of Somerset West, The Strand Gordon's Bay and Sir Lowry Pass over three centuries . Cape Town: Balkema. pg 91, illus. no. 12
Richings, Gordon. 2006. The life and work of Charles Michell. Simon's Town: Fernwood Press. pg 164-165
Van Riet Lowe, Clarence, Malan, BD & Commission for the Preservation of Natural and Historical Monuments, Relics and Antiques. 1949. The monuments of South Africa : Second, Revised and Enlarged Edition. Pretoria: Government Printer. pg 72-73