Turtle Bunbury

Writer and Historian

 
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THE DOCKLANDS - LONDON BRIDGE (1857 - PRESENT)

'Dublin Docklands - An Urban Voyageis a work in progress, commissioned by the Dublin Docklands Development Authority, and due to be completed in the autumn of 2008. The following tale represents research undertaken for the project which may or may not be used in the final book.

LONDON Bridge (RIVER DODDER)

Connection: Bath Avenue to Londonbridge Road.

Commissioner: UNKNOWN.

Engineer: UNKNOWN.

Contractor: UNKNOWN.

Completed: 1857.

The National Gallery of Ireland hold a fine coloured drawing of the original London Bridge, painted in 1841 by the Hugenot artist and geologist George Victor Du Noyer of the Irish Ordnance Survey. This shows a wooden bridge crossing the unruly River Dodder, built in the first years of the 19th century as a link between the Beggars Bush Barracks and St Matthew’s Church in Irishtown. The direct road came via Bath Avenue, possibly so named on account of it leading to the baths. Bath Avenue appears on the Ordnance Survey maps of 1838 but not on earlier maps of 1800. The road seems to follow the same course as a line on de Gomme’s map of 1673 which divides the medieval South Strand. At high tide, the waters of the surrounding river meadows and the Dodder would overflow across this strand. De Courcy suggests this was probably ‘a very early foot and horse path from Dublin (Lazars Hill) to Irishtown and Ringsend’. The present three-span masonry arched bridge was installed in 1857, as the sailors gathered steam for the Crimean War. The mud flats of the Dodder are exposed along the banks at low tide; gulls and the occasional oystercatcher can be seen foraging through the brown seaweed. The river wall between London Bridge and New Bridge was considerably strengthened in 2007 and 2008.

Just upstream from the bridge on Londonbridge Road, a few bubbles on the surface of the Dodder indicates the once one well-known Swan River, which drains Terenure, Rathmines and Ballsbridge. These days, the only remembrance of the Swan is in name of the local shopping centre in Rathmines. The Swan flows underground beneath Morehampton Road and Clyde Road before falling discreetly into the Dodder near Londonbridge Road. Another branch of it flowed into the Dodder near the bridge at Ballsbridge after passing through what is now Herbert Park. For generations of schoolchildren going up to Muckross convent school, it was known as the 'Swanee' .

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