This week marks another chapter in the history of the illustrious St Patrick’s bridge as it re-opens after re-furbishment. It has had a rocky history. The thread below shares some of the interesting.
Demand: By the middle of the 18th Century demand for bridge access to the developing St Patrick’s Hill area was strongly called for. When first proposed opposition reigned in the city, especially the businessmen near the proposed site and the ferry boats that operated the River Lee. Their petition to the council was turned down and in 1786, the go-ahead for the raising of money for the project was given.
Tolls: Funding a new bridge was difficult so the Corporation of the city that loans would have to be taken out and would have to be paid back with interest. However the loan or the £1000 contribution from the council was not enough to pay back the financial institution plus interest that loaned the money. So it was decided to place tolls on the proposed bridge and to abolish them 21 years later.
New Bridge: Mr. Michael Shanahan was chosen to be the architect and chief contractor of the operation. From 1788, he set about planning the project and on 25 July of that year, the foundation stone was laid. It took a half a year to nearly complete the whole job. The people of the city were astounded at the progress of the new bridge.
Unfortunately on 17 January 1789, disaster occurred as a flood swept through the Lee Valley. A boat tied up at Carroll’s Quay (then Sands Quay) broke lose and crashed against the uncompleted centre arch i.e. the keystone and destroyed it. Devastated Michael Shanahan set off to London to find new prospects. He was encouraged to come back and the bridge was rebuilt & christened on 29 September 1789.
Depiction: For over two centuries, Cork’s Crawford Art Gallery has also minded & displayed landscape views of the city-the 2nd painting is by Mr T S Roberts who also shows how important the bridge’s location was & in the background the Navigation Wall now part of Cork’s Marina Walk.
Documentation: There are several old City maps, historical articles on the bridge’s history and two books on the bridges of Cork by local historian Antoin O’Callaghan – all available to consult in local studies in Cork City Library.
Flood of 1853: In November 1853, disaster happened again when St. Patrick’s Bridge was swept away by flood. This was due to a build up of pressure at North Gate Bridge which was the only structure to remain standing whilst the flood swept over the city centre claiming several lives and destroying everything in its path.
Benson’s Design: There was much controversary over the proposed new & ultimately present day bridge, mainly because of the type of bridge to be built i.e. either stone, iron and even timber. Architect John Benson was to be the architect and he chose Joshua Hargrave, the grandson of the Hargrave that worked on the first bridge and other contractors to build the structure. In November 1859, the new St Patrick’s Bridge its foundation stone ceremony.
Disaster struck again when the bridge had to be reconstructed due to a ship which struck it. It was reconstructed again and was opened on 12 December 1861 for public traffic. From here on the Bridge remained the same and it still spans over the rushing waters of the River Lee.