Bridges of Dublin City, Part 1
Welcome to our new series: Bridges of Dublin city. There are 21 bridges spanning the River Liffey, each with their own story to be told.. In a three-part blog series we will introduce you to each one of these bridges and give you a little history about them.. Below are the first seven in the spotlight.
Anna Livia Bridge
Originally Named Chapelizod Bridge, it was re-named in 1982 to mark the centenary of James Joyce’s birth. A four span stone arch bridge, it was built in the 1660’s to link the Chapelizod and Lucan Roads.
What, I hear you ask, is Chapelizod’s connection with James Joyce? Well, the answer is twofold, firstly Anna Livia is the name Joyce gave to The River Liffey, which the bridge spans, when he personified it in Finnegans Wake, and secondly, the main character in one of Joyce’s short stories, “A Painful Case", James Duffy lived in Chapelizod. So now you know.
The current bridge was completed in 1792 and is probably the fourth bridge to be built at this location the others having been severely damaged or washed away by flood waters.
Originally named Sarah Bridge for The Countess of Westmoreland it was re-named Island Bridge by the fledgling Free State Government in 1922 reverting to it’s original name. When completed it was the longest single span bridge in Ireland and quickly became a very popular subject for both amateur and professional artists. Although damaged by floods in the early 1800’s it has truly stood the test of time.
Designed by Sir John Benjamin McNeill, the bridge opened in 1877. McNeill was a prominent Irish railway engineer who also was engineer for the Dublin to Cork railway line which terminated at Heuston Station. Built of wrought iron with the triangular lattice work on the balustrades, it was typical of bridge design during the Industrial Revolution.
The bridge was built, together with the Phoenix Park tunnel, to link Dublin’s main rail termini both north and south of The Liffey. The bridge is not open to either road or pedestrian traffic but is exclusively used by rail traffic, which in the past was almost exclusively freight but more recently passenger services have been added.
Sean Heuston Bridge
A very detailed and decorative bridge linking the north and south quays close to Heuston Railway Station. Built to commemorate the visit of George IV in 1821, the bridge was completed and opened to the public in 1829. Originally called Kingsbridge, it was re-named for Patrick Sarsfield in 1922, and finally in 1941 it acquired its current name to honour Sean Heuston, who was executed for his role in the 1916 uprising. It is a single span cast iron structure built by the nearby Phoenix Iron Works. The company was given the Royal seal of approval by the Crown for its work on the bridge and so could now rename itself The Royal Phoenix Iron Works, which I suspect gave it the edge on its competitors at the time.
The bridge served the City well for well over a 150 years but with the ever increasing weight and volumes of traffic Dublin Corporation imposed a two ton weight limit in 1980. This necessitated the building of a new bridge to accommodate traffic in and out of the city, more on this project in our next post ("really Dermot, I can’t wait" I hear you say).
A major refurbishment of the bridge was completed in 2002 to enable it to carry The Luas light rail system which linked The City Centre and Tallaght.
Frank Sherwin Bridge
As promised in my last post, we will now move some 60 metres east to the next Liffey bridge, Frank Sherwin Bridge. Completed in 1982 this was a modern bridge built with a simple focus, to ease the traffic flows both into and out of the city, as the restrictions imposed on Sean Heuston Bridge had added to the congestion. Another major impact it had was reversing the one way system on the Quays, to what we are familiar with today, South Quays for all westbound traffic and the North Quays for eastbound traffic.
Unlike the bridges we have featured to date, all of which have a long history and are extremely attractive to the eye, this is a no frills three span reinforced concrete bridge that has fulfilled its purpose with aplomb and has settled into the surrounding city scape with ease.
Frank Sherwin, for whom the bridge is named, was born in Dublin in 1905. He grew up in the tenements of Dorset Street and witnessed many of the tumultuous events of the period: The Lockout, 1916 Uprising and The Civil War, to mention but a few. These events went on to have a big influence on his life. He was never affiliated to any political party and served as a councillor in Dublin Corporation for most of his life and as an independent TD in Dail Eireann for the last seven years of his life. Throughout his career he championed the poor and the downtrodden and although Ireland was transformed during his lifetime he always felt it wasn’t happening fast enough. He sadly passed away in 1981 but we can all remember him each time we cross his bridge.
Rory O'More Bridge
The original bridge which spanned the river was a wooden structure which became known as The Bloody Bridge because of the violence between the ferry operators; who feared for their livelihoods, and the authorities. This was replaced by a stone bridge in 1704 which became known as Barrack Bridge because of its proximity to The Royal Barracks (now Collins Barracks ) which dates from 1701. Construction of the current bridge, which we are familiar with today, began in 1859 and was officially opened in 1861 by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert at the end of a Royal visit.
It was officially named the Victoria and Albert Bridge. Manufactured in Lancashire the cast iron superstructure was transported up the Liffey and assembled onto the two stone abutments. The engineer responsible for its design has his name proudly cast on the side of the single span bridge “ Robert Daglish Jnr. St. Helens Foundry, Lancashire, 1858”.
As with the changes to the structure its name has also evolved with time. In 1929 it was re-named Emancipation Bridge, to mark the Centenary of Catholic Emancipation, and in 1939 it acquired its current title, Rory O’More Bridge who was one of the leaders of the 1641 rebellion but to most Dubliners it is simply known as Watling Street Bridge.
James Joyce Bridge
James Joyce Bridge is one of the modern bridges over the Liffey linking Usher’s Island on the south side to Ellis Quay and Blackhall Place on the north side, opened on 16th June 2003 which is of course Bloomsday. This is one of two Dublin bridges designed by Spanish engineer, Santiago Calatrava, who ironically was also a Joycean scholar.
It is a single span bridge suspended from two tied steel arches by high tensile steel cables. The vision behind the design of the bridge was that it would give the impression of an open book, and I think that when you look at the photograph below you will agree.
Why, all these literary and Joycean references I hear you ask, well again if you look at the photograph, look at the Georgian house with the black hall door, now sadly somewhat rundown, is where James Joyce’s two maiden Aunts lived and it is the setting of one of Joyce’s short stories "The Dead". I wonder what Leopold Bloom, Joyce’s fictional character in Ulysses, would have thought of it had it existed on the day of his now famous meandering through Dublin? I suspect as he rested on one of its stone benches musing the ever changing river he would have said yes!!