Timbertoes Bridge (1794) Waterford

Timbertoes was a local name for a timber bridge which spanned the River Suir in Waterford between 1794 and 1910. The River Suir is deep and five times wider than the Liffey at O’Connell Bridge. Bridging it was considered a huge task and until 1794 ferries were the only way to make the crossing.

A proposal for a stone bridge by architect Thomas Covey in the 1770s did not receive support but a decade later a body known as “The Commissioners for building a bridge over the River Suir in Waterford” was authorised to gather funds to construct a bridge and to buy out the ancient ferry rights.

Image of Timbertoes Bridge (1794)

Timbertoes Bridge, Waterford

© National Library of Ireland

American bridge builder, Lemuel Cox, who had recently completed a bridge over the River Foyle accepted an invitation to build the bridge. He designed a timber bridge using American oak and construction began in 1793 with the levelling of the riverbed and foundation work on stone supports and 40 sets of oak piers. When it opened a year later the bridge was 254m (832 ft) long and had a 12m (40 ft) deck comprising an 8m (26 ft) wide carriageway flanked by two 4.25m (7 ft) wide footpaths. Later extensions to the quays reduced the bridge length to 224m (734 ft).

The clearance at lowest tide was just 11.25m (37 ft) and surprisingly no opening was provided for tall river traffic. A narrow drawbridge (8.5m (28 ft) wide) was added by 1800 and this was later widened to 12m (40 ft).

The Timber Bridge cost £14,000 to build, mostly from private funding. It operated under controversial toll until 1907 when Waterford Corporation bought it for £63,000 and abolished the toll.

By then a stronger modern bridge was required and work began in 1910 on a ferro-concrete replacement on the same site. The John Redmond Bridge opened in 1913 and Timbertoes was no more. Ironically, due to structural deterioration the new bridge was itself replaced just 21 years after it opened, a significantly shorter lifespan than that of its wooden predecessor.

Links: Waterford City Bridges | Waterford Bridges (Muster Express)