The Anna Livia Bridge crosses the Liffey at Chapelizod, outside the Dublin city limits, but in the centre of a busy suburban hub. It connects the Chapelizod Road to the Lucan Road amid the clutter of shops, pubs, offices and other businesses which serve the village. In ancient times travellers spied the ford at Chapelizod from the gentle hills which sloped down to the serpentine river below. Later records of the mid 14th century refer to a bridge here, but whether of stone or timber we know not.
Such was the beauty of this valley that it caught the eye of royalty, and having acquired a Chapelizod property and requisitioned land to enclose as the Phoenix Park, the powers of the English crown in Ireland, set about building a bridge. William Dodson, an English engineer, architect and surveyor, was chosen as designer and contractor and whereas no exact date is recorded for its completion, the bridge was open to commoners and royalty alike no later than 1668. The cost was 195 guineas, 1 shilling and 7 pence.
Dodson’s Bridge is, in style and internal structures, substantially the same stone bridge we see today, crossing the main body of Liffey water in a sweep of four arches - two large central arches are flanked on either side by a smaller arch. The bridge required repairs and even substantial rebuilding in the course of the centuries - Liffey floods were notorious for the damage they caused and in any case, being part of a strategic westerly route from the city, with the King’s House and later a barracks nearby too, the bridge was in everyday use.
In common with other bridges, the steep sides were at some stage levelled to accommodate faster moving traffic and heavier loads and further repair works were carried out by Dublin Corporation in the 1980s.
In very recent times, faced with the dilemma of providing a safe crossing for pedestrians on an ever busier bridge, Dublin City Council decided on a pleasant fusion of the old and the new - walkways, opened in 2011, now overhang the river on the outside of the bridge parapets.
The name Dodson’s Bridge fell from favour, just as Dodson himself did, and for centuries it was, simply and very beautifully, Chapelizod Bridge. In 1982, in celebration of Chapelizod’s Joycean connections and on the one hundredth anniversary of the birth of the writer, the bridge became Anna Livia Bridge.