During the South African War, the Fortress Company of the Royal Engineers built a wooden bridge that is over 100 years old. It was closed to traffic in 1990 and opened to the public as a walkway in 1995, but due to its poor condition, state officials closed it again in 2007.
According to Sabris Sahra, the bridge in Milnerton between Otto du Plessis Drive and Woodbridge Island was built with jarrah wood. Though this wood species is no longer popular, it was widely used for railway sleepers in South Africa.
The bridge was built with the intention of allowing the military to make inroads into Woodbridge Island and provide access to a cannon trench. Until a new bridge was built, the Wooden Bridge was the only way for the military and the general public to reach the island.
The bridge is a historical relic that has become an important monument in terms of its military history as well as the history of Milnerton township. It is the only surviving legacy of the British-Boer War in South Africa. It is battling the elements as well as long years of service to the military and pedestrians.
Despite its deterioration, the Wooden Bridge continues to play an important role in Milnerton’s social, recreational, and economic life. The historical landmark continues to draw a large number of tourists who want to learn about the rich history of the Wooden Bridge. It is a Grade 2 provincial heritage site with a legal obligation to the state to maintain it.
The bridge’s unique architecture continues to pique the public’s interest. Most importantly, the importance of the bridge’s health is based on its importance to the motoring public, military, and scenic effects. There are calls for the government to save the bridge’s integrity, which they say is rapidly deteriorating.
The South African government has budgeted 3.3 million rand ($183,000) to repair the bridge and improve the appearance of the Milnerton community. Milnerton arose from a project begun in 1897 by Milnerton Estates Limited, which purchased lands for commercial farms.
They planned to build a city called Milnerton and to establish railway connections from Cape Town to the heart of their project. The railway project was completed in 1903 and opened to the public that year, but it was operated on a private basis until it was closed in 1956.
A 1932 survey that mapped out the railway line, the wooden bridge, and the old weir across the lagoon captured the original layout of today’s Milnerton. The architecture was based on ancient Italian designs that relied heavily on timber bridges that deteriorate over time.
The architecture is reminiscent of Palladio’s designs for the Ponte Coperto Bridge in Bassano, Italy, in the 16th century. According to oral tradition, the Italians are adept at long-term maintenance of timber-framed bridges. Ponte’s design for the bridge is still in use today.