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Bridge maintenance to conclude soon

The project consists of the replacement of some structural members, bridge bearing supports, wrapping of supporting cables and painting of corroded areas on the CH Mitchell Bridge.

The routine road maintenance of the CH Mitchell Bridge facilitated by the South African National Roads Agency SOC Ltd (Sanral), which started earlier this month, is well under way.

The work is set to continue on Thursday, February 22 and Monday, February 26 between 12:00 and 14:00. Both north and southbound traffic will be unable to cross the bridge during these periods.

A photo of the so-called ‘pin-up girl’ of the bridge.

“The project consists of the replacement of some structural members, bridge bearing supports, wrapping of supporting cables and painting of corroded areas. The bridge joints will also be upgraded and it will be re-surfaced to provide a smooth crossing of the Mtamvuna River,” said Siphesihle Mthembu, Sanral’s Eastern Region junior project engineer.

The process will be aided by the Road Traffic Inspectorate, and relevant information boards will be available on both sides.

“Motorists are advised to take note of the construction activities and to be observant of the advance warning signs and restrictions, when anticipating travelling across the bridge,” added Mthembu.

The anticipated completion date of maintenance is estimated at the end of February.
The CH Mitchell Bridge on the R61, also known as the Mtamvuna Bridge, serves as the definitive connection between KZN and the Eastern Cape.

The CH Mitchell Bridge connects KwaZulu-Natal to the Eastern Cape.

The bridge was named after Charles Henry Mitchell, an English architect and first-generation South Coast farmer. Born to Englishman Samuel Carlisle Mitchell on February 15, 1867, Charles Mitchell was a pivotal figure on the lower South Coast during the early 20th century, serving as Umzimkulu’s provincial councillor, in what is described as the ‘cradle years of Natal’.

Charles Mitchell rallied for a bridge across the Mtamvuna River throughout the late 1800s and early 1900s, but was ultimately unsuccessful in pressing the government and provincial departments.
In 1935, a premature ferry system was introduced and operated by the storekeeper of Banner’s Rest. Eight years later, in 1943, an upgraded vehicular ferry service was introduced about 1.6km above the river mouth, which then moved to the current site of the Old Pont. These various ferry systems were all operated by manual labour and logistical efficiency was therefore limited.

More widely recognised is Charles’ son Douglas Mitchell who served as a local politician of the United Party and the administrator of Natal, after whom the landmark sports ground and restaurant in Uvongo are named.
In the 1960s, Douglas, now with more power, would materialise his father’s vision for a more efficient Natal.

An undated photograph of Charles Henry Mitchell, which is now in the home of Jenny Mitchell, the wife of Charles’ late grandson Terry Mitchell.

He helped facilitate the development of the CH Mitchell Bridge in an attempt to completely replace the ferry transport system across the Mtamvuna River. This was supported by JN Malan, administrator of the Cape, who declared that, ‘any country without an adequate network of roads can forget commerce, agriculture and industry’.

The bridge was opened to the public on Saturday, February 4,1967, less than two weeks shy of Charles Mitchell’s 100th birthday anniversary.

He died on November 26, 1914, aged 47, before his father Samuel and is commemorated on the bridge’s plaque.
The ribbon cutting was performed by WA Maree, the wife of the Minister of Public Works. This was done in front of a crowd of about 300 spectators, including Transkeian millionaire herbalist, Khotso Sethuntsa.
The bridge was the first of its kind, in that it was built of corten weathering steel, a ‘high-strength, low-alloy steel noted for its resistance to atmospheric corrosion’, which supported the bridge’s high strength-to-weight ratio. The design itself was inspired by and imitates the Glomma River Bridge of Fredrikstad, Norway.

It spans 206m in length with the highest point at 35m. It was the longest single-spanning bridge in South Africa at the time of its development and opening.

The Mitchell family, known locally as the ‘Mitchell clan, primarily remains on the South Coast, where Bushy Vales Farm, located alongside Southbroom, is now a fifth generation operation that has since expanded its production range from its humble beginnings.

The front page of the Herald (February 10,1967) announcing the bridge’s official opening to the public.

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