Begin der Lijn Bridge, District Ermelo, Mpumalanga
This higly significant bridge was designed by promonent architect, Sytze W Wierda odf the Departement of Public Works of the South African Republic (ZAR). It is the largest of the stione bridges constructed under the instructions of this department. It is significant due ot its architectural, age, cultural-historical adn associated importance. This historic bridge was built in the nineteenth century, before the Second Boer War (Anglo-Boer War, 1899-1902). It was constructed after Wierda argued vehemently for building bridges with stone. It therefore was one of the few stone bridges that existed at that time. This construction was favourable as it eliminated the need to import pre-fabricated steel bridges from overseas. The design utilised naturally occurring materials; it made use of the existing rock as the foundation for the pillars. The Begin der Lijn Bridge is also the longest arched stone bridge in the province. IT has been in continual use since its opening. It is significant to its local and the wider heritage communities in South Africa.
It is imporataint shared Dutch-South Africa heritgae as it was designed by Sytze Wierda, an architect of Dutch birth and training.
 Current known heritage status
1955 - The Begin der Lijn Bridge was proclaimed a National Monument under the now, withdrawn, National Heritage Act of the Republic of South Africa.
1999 - The South African Heritage Resources Agency declared the Begin der Lijn Bridge in the Mpumalanga Province a Provincial Heritage Resource under the National Heritage Resources Act (Act 25 of 1999)
 Possible interested parties
- Department of Public Works of the South African Republic
- The citizens of South Africa (as it is considered as a Provincial Heritage Site (now resource) (as classified according to the South African Heritage Resources Agency)
- The Department of Architecture, University of Pretoria
- The South African Council for the Architectural Profession
- The Mpumalange Institute for Architects
The ancient Romans were masters of the techniques used for the construction of arches. However, much of their knowledge was lost over the subsequent centuries. It is only in the eighteenth century, when there was expansion on many fronts in developing countries - from mathematical sciences to modern physics - that a deeper understanding of arch behaviour could be explored (Sinopoli, 1998). It is therefore significant that these developments influenced the built environment in South Africa in that the technologies and knowledge from abroad was applied. One example from the nineteenth century is this stone arched bridge: The Begin der Lijn Bridge over the Vaal River near Ermelo.
The construction of the bridge began in 1896 after a resolution was passed by the Executive Council of the Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek on the fifth of June that year. The Begin der Lijn Bridge or Bridge over the Vaal River marked the old border between the Transvaal and Swaziland, and is therefore significant with regard to the history of South Africa. The bridge was opened for public access a year before the start of the Second Boer War (1899 - 1902), i.e. war was waged in the vicinity where the bridge is located. It is therefore significant that the bridge was not destroyed and is currently still extant (as a remaining piece of history). The bridge was designed by Sytze Wierda and was built by Johannes Van Waart (contractor). It was officially opened to traffic on the 12th of April 1898 by Commandant-General Piet Joubert and Mrs. Tobias Smuts. It was declared a National Monument in 1955 and a Provincial Heritage Resource in 1998.
 Description of site and/or structures and/or interior spaces
The bridge is built of sandstone from the Vaal River. It is a multi-span bridge which consists of ten arches. Each arch is 9.14 metres wide and rests on a solid sandstone base. The apex of each arch reaches a height of 10.66 metres above the foundations. There is an allowance of 3 metres between the apex of each arch and the high-water mark. The bridge is 6.7 metres wide and measures 124 metres in length. It cost R35 426 to build.
Typology of stone arch bridges according to Bien and Kaminski:
The Begin der Lijn Bridge is classified according to the following:
- Material: natural stone
- Arch geometry: circular
- Arch thickness: constant
- Number of spans: multi-span bridge
- Superstructure: closed spandrel walls
(Dirk Proske, 2009)
1. Dirk Proske, P.V. 2009. Safety of Historical Stone Arch Bridges (Illustrated ed.). Berlin: Springer.
2. Sinopoli, A. 1998. "Arch Bridges: History, Analysis, Assessmnet, Maintenance & Repair." In
' Proceedings of the Second International Arch Bridge Conference, Venice, Italy, 6-9 Oct 1998. Edited by A. Sinopoli.
(Illustrated ed.). Venice: Taylor & Francis.