The Sydney Harbour Bridge

Our History and the Christian Connection

John Job Crew Bradfield

Australia’s iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge is recognised around the world. On May 28th 2000 a milestone was reached as 250,000 people turned up for the Walk of Reconciliation across the iconic bridge.


A special series of four stamps were issued to commemorate the opening of the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

The Five Shilling stamp featured here would be roughly about 50 cents in today’s money.

The first recorded mention of a bridge to cross the harbour was put forward by Francis Greenway in 1815. However, it was not till 1912 that it was more seriously considered.

But who was it that had the vision and the tenacity to build a bridge that today accommodates eight vehicle lanes, two train lines, a footway and a cycle way? A bridge that became a symbol, known the world over as typifying Australia and Sydney

The vision of what and how to do it fell to Dr John Bradfield who was dubbed the “father” of the bridge. It was his vision and his ability to share his vision in such a way that the politicians and the business people of the day were captured by this magnificent project.

He became the Chief Engineer of Sydney Harbour Bridge and Metropolitan Railway Construction from 1912.The tender to build the bridge was given in 1924 and the official opening took place on March 19 1932.

The official opening was not without incidence when a disgruntled Captain Francis De Groot of the New Guard para military group, rode up and prematurely slashed the ribbon with his sword, which the Premier Mr Lang was about to officially cut. This delayed the official opening for a few moments.

No doubt his most famous achievement was the Sydney Harbour Bridge, opened at the height of the Great Depression and now a priceless relic.

During his thirty years of service as a Public Servant he also oversaw the design and construction of Sydney’s city railway system.  This vital loop links North Sydney, Milsons Point, Wynyard Town Hall, St James Museum and Circular Quay, completed after his death.

Bradfield ranks as one of Australia’s finest-ever engineers. He was also a visionary nation-builder and a devout follower of the teachings of Jesus.

At his memorial service the Anglican Archbishop of Sydney, the Most Reverend Howard Mowll acknowledged Bradfield’s impressive worldly accomplishments. But he said Bradfield was a ‘man of simple faith’ who ‘never missed the opportunity of presenting gracefully that simple faith.’

He was associated with the building of the Burrinjuck Dam which was responsible for the irrigation of the Riverina area, enabling it to become a major food supplier.

Bradfield’s list of other major projects that he was involved in included Brisbane’s Story Bridge, the Hornibrook Highway near Brisbane as well as the St Lucia site for the University of Queensland.

His vision for creating a similar irrigation project to that of the Riverina area to enable outback Queensland to become a major food supplier was never achieved.

Bradfield was a visionary and a master engineer who could understand how the Scriptures and modern science were compatible.

Writer:  Graham McDonald

With thanks to author Roy Williams, who supplied some of the information used in this article. Roy is currently writing a book about John Bradfield. His book on Arthur Stace called Mr Eternity(2017)  is now available. His earlier books In God They Trust? (2013) and Post-God Nation? (2015) explore many aspects of Australia’s Christian history.