Turtle Bunbury

Writer and Historian

 
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THE DOCKLANDS - RINGSEND BRIDGE (1812 - 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 I have undertaken for the project which may or may not be used in the final book.

RINGSEND Bridge (RIVER DODDER)

Connection: Ringsend Road to Bridge Street.

Commissioner: Dublin Corporation

Contractor: Unknown.

Completed: 1812.

Up until 1812, Ringsend was home to a small and rather remote fishing community, living alongside the River Dodder which came tumbling down from the granite slopes of Kippure mountain. Their principal connection to Dublin City was a soggy stroll across the marshy delta of the River Dodder, a route closed twice daily at high tide. Indeed, the tide regularly submerged the entire west bank of the Dodder from Ringsend to Lazar’s Hill. The Dodder remains a surprisingly dangerous river, prone to flash-flooding such as that experienced during Hurricane Charlie in 1986 and again in February 2002. The alternative routes involved a wade across the marshlands about where Bath Avenue runs today or a hearty trek north to Ballsbridge where there has been a bridge of some description connecting the Dalkey to Dublin highway since early times.

In 1623, Richard Morgan petitioned for ‘an allowance towards the creation of a bridge goeing to Rings End’. The Dublin Corporation declined and suggested Mr Morgan seek ‘voluntary contributions’ from the local landowners. De Courcy strongly doubts the existence of any bridge in this part of Ringsend before the creation of Sir John Rogerson’s Quay. By 1760, Rocque’s map depicted both a bridge at Ringsend and a ‘foot road’ leading across it to the new ground at Lazar’s Hill. This is the bridge referred to in the Pembroke Estate Papers as being rebuilt in the wake of violent floods in 1739. [1] This bridge collapsed in about 1782, during an event which J. Ferrer esq, later described in 1787. Ringsend, he wrote, 'resembled a town which had experienced all the calamities of war, and that had been sacked by an enemy. The unfortunate inhabitants were in a manner excluded from all intercourse with Dublin. They were attacked by the overbearing floods which issued from the mountains in irresistible torrents and completely demolished the bridge'. A very basic and rather unstable timber gangway was installed (see Barralet’s painting of 1787). A few years later, in December 1802, the rebuilt bridge succumbed to floods again when more than 3 inches of rain fell in the Dublin area in 24 hours. On this occasion, Ringsend bridge was not the only one to suffer; Ormonde bridge was washed away also.

Work commenced on the present bridge in 1803 as a single elliptical masonry arch dressed in Wicklow granite by a master mason. Completed in 1812, it spans 78 feet between abutments and is 27 feet wide between the solid parapets. It has an unusual strengthening feature whereby this ellipse curves unbroken down through the abutments and under the channel of the river itself to form a complete elliptical ring. As Ron Cox noted, this ensures good hydraulic flow conditions under the bridge in times of flooding.

In 1812, the Ballast Board gave serious considerations to a proposal to build a wooden bridge across the Dodder estuary from Rogerson’s Quay to the end of the South Wall at Ringsend Point. The bridge was to include ‘a portcullis for the admission of vessels into the Dodder’. The contract was awarded to Thomas Colborne but subsequently abandoned due to serious objections by John Stokes, the acting engineer for the Grand Canal Company. Stokes quite rightly said any such bridge would prove a major headache for vessels seeking to use the new quays and berthing options of the Grand Canal Docks. In 1819, the Board stated that the mouth of the Dodder was not within their jurisdiction and passed the buck to either Lord Pembroke (the majority landowner) or the Grand Canal Company.

[1] Pembroke Estate Papers 97/46 /1 – 2/4/14 – 16. Concerns mostly the administration of the estate, financial matters, leases and tenants. These collections are readily available to the public by personal visit to the public Reading Room of the National Archives in Bishop Street, Dublin 8.

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