When punts ruled Sydney Harbour
Located at the picturesque Bedlam Point in Gladesville on the Parramatta River you’ll find a small, unassuming stone wall that has a much more significant past.
This small wharf structure was part of the Great North Road. It was the first established road connecting Sydney to the Hunter Valley. It was built by over 600 convicts, some of which were chained together at night to stop their escape.
The road started its 264km journey in Five Dock and followed the route along what is still named “The Great North Road” to the Parramatta River at Abbotsford. It was here that the river was at its narrowest (so a punt would carry passengers across Parramatta River). The punt would cross the river pulled by hand and was only big enough to carry one horse and cart plus a couple of passengers.
After a number of years, the service closed after which two local families ran competing private river crossing services at a cost of tuppence (2 cents) per trip. When it became dark, passengers would signal the ferryman by lighting a lamp and swinging it slowly back and forth. The first family to react would usually win the fare.
The services eventually ended in 1884 when the first Gladesville Bridge opened at the “Five Docks” point. That story is for later.
IMAGE CREDIT. History Services Blog