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Hornibrook Highway Bridge

  • 601246
  • Hornibrook Highway, Brighton


State Heritage
Register status
Date entered
7 October 1994
Transport—road: Bridge—road
3.5 Developing secondary and tertiary industries: Struggling with remoteness, hardship and failure
5.5 Moving goods, people and information: Using motor vehicles
Hornibrook, Manuel
Hornibrook, MR
Construction period
1932–1935, Hornibrook Highway Bridge (1932 - 1935)
Historical period
1919–1930s Interwar period


  • Hornibrook Highway, Brighton
  • Hornibrook Esplanade, Clontarf
  • Hornibrook Highway, Griffin
Brisbane City Council
-27.27310378, 153.07115714


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Criterion AThe place is important in demonstrating the evolution or pattern of Queensland’s history.

The Hornibrook Highway Bridge, constructed 1932-35, was one of the first road toll facilities in Queensland to be authorised by special act of parliament. It is notable as a major public work constructed by private enterprise at a time of economic depression in Queensland. The bridge was the major impetus for the development of Redcliffe.

Criterion DThe place is important in demonstrating the principal characteristics of a particular class of cultural places.

(Criterion under review)

Criterion EThe place is important because of its aesthetic significance.

The finely detailed monumental portals at each end have aesthetic quality.

Criterion FThe place is important in demonstrating a high degree of creative or technical achievement at a particular period.

In its planning, construction and operation it represents a major innovation in construction activities in Queensland at a time of economic crisis. Its significance also lies in its relationship to the vision of its builder, Manuel Hornibrook, to develop the potential of the city of Redcliffe.

Criterion HThe place has a special association with the life or work of a particular person, group or organisation of importance in Queensland’s history.

(Criterion under review)


The Hornibrook Highway Bridge was constructed in the years 1932-35, by the firm of M.R. Hornibrook. Conceived as a response to high unemployment, and economic recession, it also represented an opportunity to end the isolation of the residents of the Redcliffe Peninsula.

Prior to the construction of the Hornibrook viaduct, the Redcliffe Peninsula was accessed via two main methods of transport: ferry and road. Road transportation in particular was of great concern to the residents of the Redcliffe area. During times of wet weather, the Redcliffe road running via Petrie regularly became impassable to vehicles.

Several schemes had been drafted to improve the accessibility of the Redcliffe area to vehicle owners and also to the growing day-tripper market, having seaside holidays at Redcliffe.

These schemes favoured the construction of a new road link across Hayes Inlet and the mouth of the South Pine River. In 1926, the Redcliffe Council had proposed such a project be considered by the Main Roads Board.

Such a road link would involve crossing 2.7 kilometres of water by viaduct at a cost of 120,000 pounds. This road would then connect with Sandgate-Brisbane main road, avoiding the long drive via Petrie.

M.R. Hornibrook had holidayed in this area and saw the development potential of the Redcliffe area being linked by road to Brisbane. The onset of the financial depression of 1929-33 gave Hornibrook the impetus to plan and construct a road viaduct across from Redcliffe to Sandgate.

Major contracts for construction diminished with the deepening depression, and the decline in public spending. Hornibrook believed a major project was needed to keep together the construction force built up by his company during twenty-five years of work.

In 1931, Hornibrook approached the State Government with a proposal to construct a toll bridge linking the southern part of Redcliffe with the Sandgate area. Initially, this proposal was rejected. After further consultation with the State Government, an act of Parliament was pushed through allowing for the involvement of private enterprise in the construction of toll facilities.

The terms of franchise set the toll, as well as stipulating the length of lease. Hornibrook negotiated successfully for a forty year franchise on the projected road bridge.

The full extent of the project involved a road viaduct 2.68 km in length plus associated roadworks. To finance such a major construction, a prospectus was issued to encourage local investment in Hornibrook Highway Ltd.

Work officially commenced on the project on June 8, 1932, but in its first eighteen months progress was limited, due to a lack of financing. The entry portals at either end of the bridge were completed in early 1933. Continuing financial difficulties forced Hornibrook to attempt to re-finance the company to finish the work as planned by 1935. The major flotation was assisted by a £100,000 loan from the AMP Society, guaranteed by the State Government. Work recommended at a faster pace from July of 1934.

The portals were designed by architect John Beebe. Orginally a Bendigo based architect, Beebe moved to Queensland in 1916, and worked at the Queensland Works Department until 1926. He then moved into private practice in Brisbane until 1936.

Over 2.5 million superfeet of timber was needed to provide girders and decking on the bridge. Two sawmills were bought specially to process timber from the Mt Mee and Conondale Ranges. 250 timbergetters were employed to cut the required amount of timber. Concrete was supplied from the QCL works at Darra - the two portals being the first significant structures in Queensland to use material from this source.

The last plank on the viaduct was spiked into place on September 7, 1935. The bitumen road surface was laid in under three weeks setting an Australian record. The construction of the bridge was similar to other bridges in Queensland, but when it was completed it was the longest road viaduct built over water in the southern hemisphere.

The viaduct was opened to road traffic on October 4, 1935, foreshortening the road journey by several hours. Also a special coordinated road/rail bus service was inaugurated by the company to convey commuters between Sandgate and Redcliffe.

The Hornibrook Highway played an important strategic role during the defence of Australia in World War Two. Military road convoys were able to use the highway to move war material efficiently to points in Queensland.

By the 1970s increasing road volumes necessitated the investigation of a replacement structure capable of carrying additional traffic.

The Hornibrook Highway franchise was surrendered to the Department of Main Roads in 1975 after forty years of operation by the company. From this time the Main Roads Department assumed responsibility for maintaining the structure.

A replacement viaduct was authorised by the Main Roads Department in 1977 to cope with increasing traffic flows to and from the Redcliffe Peninsula. The Houghton Highway as the new bridge was named opened to traffic in 1979.

The Hornibrook Highway was closed to vehicular traffic with the opening of the replacement structure in 1979. It has since been used as a pedestrian thoroughfare and bikeway.

The Hornibrook Highway was a major catalyst in accelerating the urban development of the Redcliffe Peninsula and it's surrounding area. In its planning, construction and operation it represents a major innovation in construction activities in Queensland at a time of economic crisis.


The Hornibrook Highway Bridge is a 2.685km long timber and concrete bridge that spans Hayes Inlet and Bramble Bay between Clontarf Point and Brighton, linking Sandgate to Redcliffe. It has identical rendered concrete portals at each end, and two rises along its length which permit small boats to pass underneath.

The bridge construction comprises a timber superstructure supported by reinforced concrete piers with three concrete piles of varying depths. The superstructure has substantial round ironbark girders on corbels, with girders supporting large section ironbark and tallowwood sawn decking. The decking is covered with coarse aggregate bitumen, and has concrete kerb edging. At each end, the first spans of the superstructure are constructed in ribbed reinforced concrete to protect the bridge from termites and fire.

The superstructure has a slight camber that permits periodic tightening of the deck via bolt fixings along the outer girders.

The bridge has steel balustrades comprising steel stanchions supporting two circular hollow section rails and ironbark lightpoles along its length.

The portals at each end are finely detailed monumental Art Deco structures comprising substantial pylons spanned by a deep spandrel facing landward, and more modestly detailed rectangular frames facing bayward. The pylons have banded rusticated bases on concrete pedestals, with central slot windows with decorative grilles on three sides, surmounted by stepped vertical elements. The spandrel is also banded, and has a rectangular central panel with the words Hornibrook Highway fashioned in raised brass lettering. The portals contain toll facilities, comprising a small office and strong room with night safe in the base of the pylons at each end. Externally these rooms are framed by Art Deco relief patterns. On the approach to the bridge the portals are preceded by smaller free-standing pylons either side of the road.

The bridge is now experiencing problems of decay including the cracking of the decking surface caused by rotting planks, the corrosion of steel in the concrete piers, and white ants in the girders.

Image gallery


Location of Hornibrook Highway Bridge within Queensland
Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)
Last reviewed
1 July 2022
Last updated
20 February 2022