The Geelong Ovoid Aqueduct
One of the more fascinating and relatively unknown nationally significant historical landmarks in our region is unloved and deteriorating Geelong Ovoid Aqueduct that links Breakwater to Marshall across the Barwon River.
The Aqueduct bridge is 738 metres long and was constructed between 1913 and 1915 to carry sewer pipes from the city to the coastal outfall at Black Rock near Breamlea, close to where Geelong’s main sewerage plant now stands.
The design is very unique and was believed to be inspired by a steel railway bridge in Scotland. The concrete bridge has fourteen pylons with some very clever cantilevers and was renowned as an engineering masterpiece when it opened in 1931. And still today many people in the architectural world still rate it as an important piece of architecture. Dr Miles Lewis an associated professor of architecture at Melbourne University once stated “the aqueduct is internationally significant and was one of the most extraordinary engineering structures in Australia”.
The structure was at the time had the longest span of any reinforced concrete structure. This was the centrepiece of Geelong’s extensive sewerage network which was one of the first regional cities in Australia to have a system. For this reason the aqueduct is on the Victorian National Estate Register. Similar technologies were used in the Bow Truss Building, a Dennys Lascelles Austin Wool store constructed in 1909 which one stood where the Transport Accident Commission or TAC now stands in Brougham Street. Like the Geelong Aqueduct it was designed by Tasmanian engineer Edward Giles Stone and his partner Ernest J. Siddeley.
Sadly the structure is no longer regarded as safe and there is no public access to this once marvel. The water authority stopped using the aqueduct in 1993 moving to more modern methods of distribution and since then the structure has slowly deteriorated and is in poor repair. Several decades ago there was talk of what to do with the aqueduct, some wanted it removed due to cost of its upkeep, while others wanted it preserved and there were grand many ideas and half-baked plans but interest was soon lost and the structure was left to slowly fall apart and return to the earth.
With major development plans for the Marshall side of the river as part of the huge Armstrong Creek project hopefully the Aqueduct will inspire some visionary again and a plan put in place to resurrect this national treasure before it finally collapses and disappears for ever.