Design and Engineering
Father Mathew Bridge, built between 1816 and 1818, was designed by George Knowles based on James Savage‘s design for O’Donovan Rossa Bridge. Originally named Whitworth Bridge, it lies 220m west of O’Donovan Rossa Bridge, both bridges being constructed within a year of each other. It is a masonry arch bridge with three elliptical granite arches and a total span of 45m. The centre arch is slightly smaller than the outer arches. It was built to replace the Old Bridge, which had collapsed at the northern end and was only open to foot passengers. It seems a bridge of one arch was proposed but it was rejected because it ‘would be inconvenient to the Public Intercourse’ and ‘the beauty of the structure would be entirely lost’ at that site.
The contract was to be at the same price as O’Donovan Rossa; £25,800. There are no records as to the type of foundations though we may speculate that they were built similar to Mellows Bridge. Knowles stating that the contract price included ‘clearing for foundations which are to be laid on solid rock’. Timber centering would have been used in the erection of the arches, to facilitate this stone corbels were used.
Haunching is probably of a rubble material while fill is a soft clay. There is some settlement in the region of 150mm of the south pier. The masonry is evenly coursed granite ashlar, some of which is smoothly rusticated, particularly on the piers, archrings and arch soffits. The arch rings comprise a series of wedge shaped, smoothly rusticated voussoirs. The keystone, which in each case is slightly off-centre. The parapet is composed of a series of coping stones, curvilinear in section, above cast-iron balusters which themselves rest on a moulded plinth. Slightly off-centre of the rise of the bridge on its east and west sides there are larger dadoes. Both bear brass commemorative plaques.
The final cost of the bridge was IR£26,0000