Hornibrook Bridge

Hornibrook Bridge

Possibly one of the most important pieces of infrastructure on the peninsula, The Hornibrook Bridge changed Redcliffe from being difficult to access into a bustling seaside town and popular holiday destination. 

Prior to construction there were two ways to get to the peninsula, ferry or (what we would now call the long way) through Petrie, The Hornibrook Bridge halved the trip and even though in wild weather waves would crash up to and even over the sides, it was still far more reliable than the road through Petrie, which was often made impassable with bad weather. 

Named after Sir Manuel Hornibrook, most list him as the “chief engineer” or  “designer” of the project, but I think he’s a little more than that.  Sir Manuel Hornibrook would become known as a pioneer of the Australian building industry, but remember at this time it’s the middle of the depression, money is tight everywhere and the bridge project was originally rejected by the Queensland Government, they just didn’t have the funds to pay for it.  Only after further consultation, and assumably a lot of “encouragement” from Horninbrook, was an Act introduced for private companies to be involved in building and funding the construction of toll facilities, like roads and bridges. This was the first time this kind of build was allowed in Queensland and paved the way for many more similar builds to happen. 



Hornibrook started construction in 1932, but work was minimal as were the funds, people were going bankrupt left, right and centre, long standing companies were closing their doors. It was hard to drum up investors, many didn’t believe in the project. You really had to be brave, ballsy and all in - remember, this bridge was an absolute whopper, 2.6km in length the longest bridge in the Southern Hemisphere and the second longest in the world at the time! It wasn’t just constructing something average, this was a major undertaking!

Construction was slow for many reasons, the initial lack of funding and the huge amount of resources needed. By 1934 Hornibrook listed the company Hornibrook Highway Pty Ltd on the stock market, and funds were quickly raised.

The amount of timber used in the construction was astronomical, I keep seeing “25 million super feet” everywhere and I have to wonder if those writing know what a “super foot” is…and if they do, I assume they expect their readers to? I had no idea, I had to look it up…I assume you dont either? Lets just say its a lot, like a huge lot. I’ll put it this way… 250 timber cutters were employed to cut it and two sawmills were used to mill the bridge timber, one bought in Mapleton and the other built in Conondale. So yeah, it’s a lot

It took three years to be built, but eventually on the 4th October 1935 she was opened.  On opening day Sir Manuel Hornibrook made a speech, “Everyman on this job stuck by me in the most difficult times” and he “felt proud of every man who worked on this job”.  Redcliffe declared a public holiday for the day of the opening and many were out to celebrate.  Tolls started at 6pm and rumour has it that Hornibrook was the first to pay the shilling to cross, with the price staying the same for decades.

 You can’t deny she’s a beauty, the Art Deco arches (designed by John Beebe) at either side are incredibly beautiful and have a real air of grandeur about them.

 It’s something that has become more than a bridge, as have any of the three bridges that span the mouth of the river, they mean so much more than a shorter trip to Brisbane. I learnt to ride a push bike on the Hornibrook Bridge, we walked it regularly, we fished off it, I remember thinking how it wouldn’t be the same when they pulled the bridge down and just left the arches at either end. Despite missing the middle, it’s still magic.  I love seeing families and friends fishing off the edge and enjoying the beautiful view.

I first drove across the Houghton Highway, and remember how scary it was with the changing lanes that followed peak hour, two going out or in and the other coming the opposite way, plus it was 80k good gosh! Now with the addition of the Ted Smout bridge, more and more people easily travel to and from the Peninsula and it’s busier than ever. For our family the Ted Smout marks the start of adventures, and the bump bump of the Houghton means we are home again. 

I’m sure the bridges would always be built, even if it wasn’t the Hornibrook, but imagine how different life in Redcliffe would of been without Sir Manuel Hornibrook’s fierce tenacity to get that baby built when he did! Hat’s off to you Sir.

Everyone has a bridge story, and I want to hear yours. 

If you have an interesting story about one of the three bridges, shoot me an email at hello@locallyredcliffe.com.au

You can read more about Sir Manuel Hornibrook here in an essay written by his Grandaughter Julie Hornibrook, that’s where on found most of my info and his lovely quotes.  

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