Presentation trowel created for the public ceremony marking the laying of the foundation stone for Princes Bridge in 1886. Presented to the wife of the Mayor of Melbourne, Mrs James Cooper Stewart on 7th September 1886, by the contractor for work David Munro.

The bridge itself, spanning the Yarra River between Swanston Street and St Kilda Road, is a significant piece of Melbourne's infrastructure, indeed a Melbourne icon. The trowel is considered a marvellous example of engraving and jewellery.

For over a centenary, Princes Bridge crossing the Yarra River between Swanston Street and St Kilda Road has been one of Melbourne's most recognisable and enduring landmarks and a key part of the city's transport infrastructure. Originally designed by architect and engineer, John Harry Grainger (1855-1917) - father of the composer George Percy Grainger - in 1879, as the winning entry for a design competition, Princes Bridge was built by David Munro & Co, for the Public Works Department in 1886-88. It replaced an earlier stone arch bridge completed in 1850, and is close to the site of the first timber bridge built across the Yarra River in 1844. By the 1880s a new bridge was required both to allow for the widening of the Yarra for flood mitigation and improved shipping access to the river wharves and to allow for the additional loading created by cable trams. The 400 feet (120 metres) long by 99 feet (30 metres) wide bridge is of a unique design for Victoria with three riveted iron girder arch spans on bluestone abutments and piers and has distinctive cast-iron spandrel panels and ornate lamp stands featuring the coat of arms of the State of Victoria and the Cities of Melbourne, South Melbourne, Prahran, St Kilda, Brighton, Caulfield and Moorabbin, who jointly funded the construction. Princes Bridge is of architectural significance for its substantial size and for the skilled stonemasonry demonstrated in the construction of the abutments and piers. This engraved trowel made for use in the public ceremony to mark the laying of the foundation stone for the bridge in 1886, provides a tangible reminder of the large public works projects undertaken to transform the City of Melbourne in the last two decades of the 19th century. As with all major infrastructure projects, bridge construction has typically been an area where is have typically been difficult to find artefacts that are able to tell a story within a museum context, and this object with its links to one of Melbourne's most famous bridges and key engineers provides a rare opportunity for the collections.

Physical Description

Decorative presentation metal trowel with wooden handle in custom leather case, lined with blue satin. Trowel blade is engraved with extensive text and includes a finely engraved image of the Prince's Bridge. Handle is embellished with gold and silver decorative bands and a golden shield.

More Information

  • Collecting Areas


  • Acquisition Information


  • Presented To

    Mrs Mary Stewart, Princes Bridge, St Kilda Road, Melbourne, Greater Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, 7 Sep 1886

  • Presented By

    David Munro, Princes Bridge, St Kilda Road, Melbourne, Greater Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, 7 Sep 1886

  • Inscriptions

    Engraved on blade of trowel: "Presented to the WIFE / of the Right Worshipped / THE MAYOR OF MELBOURNE / Mrs James Cooper Stewart / ON THE OCCASION OF HER LAYING / THE FOUNDATION STONE / OF THE / NEW PRINCE'S BRIDGE / 7th September 1886 Her Birthday /BY THE CONTRACTOR FOR WORK / David Munro" Engraved as a border around the blade of the trowel: "SHIRE OF MOORABBIN / SHIRE OF MALVERN / BOROUGH OF ST KILDA / CITY OF SOUTH MELBOURNE / CITY OF PRAHRAN / BOROUGH OF BRIGHTON / SHIRE OF CAUFIELD" Engraved beneath presentation text: "CITY OF MELBOURNE INCORPORATED AD 1842" and "VICTORIA DEI GRATIA / BRITTANIAR REG F.D. / COLONY OF VICTORIA". Engraved on silver plate on lid of case: "PRESENTED TO / The Mayoress Mrs J. C. Stewart / BY / David Munro".

  • Classification

    Civil engineering, Bridges, Openings & launches

  • Category

    History & Technology

  • Discipline


  • Type of item


  • Object Measurements

    385 mm (Length), 130 mm (Width), 30 mm (Height)

  • Box

    440 mm (Width), 175 mm (Depth), 56 mm (Height)

  • Keywords

    Bridges, Infrastructures, Tools