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Wednesday 29 November 2023 Dublin: 2°C

5 Dublin bridges with interesting stories behind them (aside from the obvious)

You’ve probably gone over Bloody Bridge.

WHILE MOST PEOPLE who have visited Dublin will be familiar with structures such as Ha’penny Bridge, O’Connell Bridge and Millennium Bridge and their back stories, the city’s lesser-known bridges are also steeped in history. 

With 24 bridges crossing the River Liffey in Dublin – and the oldest dating back to 1753 – we’ve rounded up five of the capital’s bridges (aside from the obvious) and the interesting stories behind them, with information from Dublin City Council’s

1. Mellows Bridge

Crossing from Queen Street to Bridgefoot Street, Mellows Bridge was built in 1768 and is the longest surviving structure that crosses the Liffey in the city. The bridge was constructed following the demise of the original Arran Bridge of 1688, which was brought down in 1763 following “a ferocious flood and questionable quality of building.”

In the years that followed, Dublin city’s population grew from 50,000 to over 120,000 and a new bridge was commissioned in 1764. Upon its completion in 1768, it was named after Queen Charlotte, wife of George III. Spanning 43 metres and with three arches, today the bridge remains unchanged except for its name. 

2. Father Mathew Bridge

46564381371_1609d5808b_k Flickr Flickr

The origins of Father Mathew Bridge date all the way back to some 1,000 years ago when a simple structure served Viking Dublin, known then as Dyflinn. It reached from the riverside settlement of wattle and daub huts to the “sparsely inhabited, verdant north side” and existed as a wooden bridge until it was replaced by a stone structure – the King John Bridge – in 1214.

In 1317, the bridge was torn apart and its material used to fortify the town walls when Scotland’s Edward Bruce “breathed terror upon the town.” After being washed away by floods in 1385, the bridge was not completely rebuilt for forty years. This version of the bridge remained unchanged for almost 400 years, until 1814 when it resembled a “crazy, wretched pile of antiquity.” Crossing from Church Street to Bridge Street Lower, it opened as the Whitworth Bridge in 1818, before being titled Dublin Bridge in 1922 and finally, in 1938, the Father Mathew Bridge.

3.  Sean Heuston Bridge

8989921899_c24004a974_k William Murphy / Flickr William Murphy / Flickr / Flickr

Following King George IV’s visit to Dublin in 1821, political leader Daniel O’Connell set about creating a public memorial to mark the occasion. It was decided a bridge would be created and in December 1827, the foundation was laid by another political leader of the time, Marquis Wellesley, who is said to have “brandished a ruby and emerald studded trowel, engraved with a depiction of the soon to be built bridge.” It opened in 1829 and crosses from Parkgate Street to Wolfe Tone Quay.

Following Daniel O’Connell’s death in 1847, he made his final crossing over the King’s Bridge as part of his funeral cortege. In the aftermath of Ireland’s newfound independence, the bridge became the Patrick Sarsfield Bridge in 1922, before being named after prominent Easter Rising figure Sean Heuston

4. Rory O’More Bridge

7517398206_872bdfa259_k (1) William Murphy / Flickr William Murphy / Flickr / Flickr

Where the Rory O’More Bridge stands today, a wooden structure was built in 1670. The structure was attacked shortly after its creation and later became known as Bloody Bridge due to its gruesome back story: “The moment the first timber pile of Dublin’s new bridge was driven into the bed of the Liffey, men of great influence and wealth conspired to bring it down,” reads an account on “They did not want the bridge, they had not given their permission for it and they would have it torn down!”

In July 1671, a group of apprentices planned to attack the bridge, but were interrupted by the arrival of the military. A battle between both parties ensued and resulted in 20 young men being taken to prison. However, on their journey there, the men passed the new bridge where their comrades waited. A battle began, during which prisoners escaped and four were killed. “The people of Dublin never forgot the very brutal christening of the Bloody Bridge,” states the website. 

By the turn of the 18th century, a new stone bridge was built following the ill fate of the wooden bridge, but by 1855 the bridge was “in a most dangerous state” and citizens demanded a new structure be built.

Construction of the new bridge, which crosses from Ellis Street to Watling Street, began in 1858 and opened in 1861 following Queen Victoria and Prince Albert’s inaugural trip across the structure, titled Victoria Bridge. In 1929, it was given the name Emancipation Bridge to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Catholic Emancipation. A short time later, in 1939, it was given the title of the Rory O’More Bridge after the rebel leader of the same name.

5. Grattan Bridge

7139467987_19535ab892_k William Murphy / Flickr William Murphy / Flickr / Flickr

First built in 1676 and known as Essex Bridge, the original structure of what’s today known as Grattan Bridge featured seven arches and was built with stones from the nearby ruins of 12th century building St Mary’s Abbey. The old bridge suffered many collapses and repairs before it was deemed no longer repairable in 1752.

A short time later, acclaimed architect and engineer George Semple was called on to build the new bridge, with Semple putting much of the blame for the bridge’s demise on King George I, for it was the pier adjoining the bridge on which his grand statue stood that caused much damage by altering the flow of the Liffey.

Semple and his team began work on the new bridge in 1753, with the new Essex Bridge opening in 1755. Nearly 100 years later, in 1865, Semple’s bridge was deemed too steep and too narrow and construction on a new bridge began in 1873.  This bridge, named after parliamentarian Henry Grattan, remains the same today and still includes a little of St Mary’s Abbey.  

More: A guide to 11 of the lesser-known clocks around Dublin city

More: 5 of Dublin’s most iconic old-school shops – and where to find them

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