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Bolo-Kei Road Bridge over the River Kei
Great Kei Drift, Butterworth district, Eastern Cape



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32°16'59.05" S 27°39'10.15" E Alt: 455m

A slab type, reinforced concrete bridge, with 10 free-standing piers and two abutments supporting eleven individual bridge spans. Each bridge span measures approximately 6 680 mm (11’ 0”). The road deck has a width of 4 280 mm (14' 0”) and is edged with a set of regular rectangular concrete upstands on each side. The total length, including the approaches, was about 75 m. The clearwater way is approximately 63,8 m.

The road deck was cast in four separate panels. The two middle panels each combined three individual spans. The road deck panel adjoining the abutment on the west bank (South African side) combined three spans plus the approach. The road deck adjoining the abutment on the east bank (Transkei side) combined two spans plus the approach. The large panels were cast in a series of separate pours and the junction between the separate pours was stepped to form a key on the centre line of the pier below. The junction between the large panels was treated as a normal construction joint.

Each reinforced concrete pier was cast on a rectangular concrete footing on the bedrock of the riverbed. Each pier has sloping side aces and a sloping semi-circular profile to the upstream and the downstream faces. The top of each pier had an angled upper surface at each end, which angle matched the tapered edges of the road deck.

The bridge originally had a commemorative plaque mounted on a stepped concrete plinth at the Transkei approach. The plinth is now lying partially overturned at the side of the road and the plaque has apparently been removed.

A set of thirteen black and white photographs - which recorded the construction of the bridge over time - has fortunately survived. The photographs were taken by Miss Francis Acton (of nearby Stonefell Farm) as an interested 23 year old. She used a small box camera and the sequence commences with the site at the Great Kei Drift, records the substantial aggregate stockpile, documents the construction of the piers and the road deck and culminates in the opening ceremony attended by a large crowd. The photographs were not clearly dated and the construction period has not been established but it appears that the bridge was probably complete by 1933. (The photographs form part of the family photograph collection held by Victor Biggs - her son).

To mark the opening ceremony a series of thin timber laths were installed at intervals along both edges of the bridge. A small WELCOME sign was strung between the first two laths on the South African side and various other flags and buntings were fixed to the other laths.

The bridge has remained substantially intact and is a good example of this type of robust concrete bridge constructed in the Transkei at that time.

William Martinson
Osmond Lange Architects
July 2021

These notes were last edited on 2021 07 20