In the summer of 1814 the fashionable world crowded to Lucan. A seemingly endless parade of carriages crossed the elegant new bridge from the Lower Road into the quaint village. Having conquered the steep rise to the crest of the bridge, the horses clattered noisily onto Main Street. The visitors, their belongings safely deposited at one of the boarding houses, frequently walked back to admire the bridge and the wonderful views it afforded of the River Liffey.

The bridge was inspired by Sarah Bridge near Kilmainham and the ornamental cast iron balustrades - made by the Royal Phoenix Ironworks of Parkgate Street - are delightful embellishments and highly preferable to the cut stone, parapet wall first proposed. The walls are of squared limestone, with the slender, ashlar voussoirs drawing the curve of the arch, to which local stone gives a distinctive black hue. Today, there is still an air of that quiet sylvan retreat much favoured by amateur and some professional artists in the 19th century.

Image of Lucan Bridge

© Oliver Hickey

The new bridge, variously Lucan Bridge or The Liffey Bridge at Lucan, was much welcomed as so many previous structures - from as far back as the reign of King John in 1200 - had succumbed to floods and other disasters. Though, at a cost of more than £9,000, Mr George Knowles, architect and contractor, was not without his critics. At a width of 111 feet, the Englishman was suspected of especially elongating the bridge to allow the boast of it being the longest single span bridge in Ireland. The geology of the riverside could have allowed a shorter bridge.

The Freeman’s Journal reported in 1813 that the newly opened bridge was struck by a vehicle, but suffered no damage. Visitors to and residents of Lucan at that time would be much pleased to know that this bridge has withstood the test of time. It is today largely as early 19th century visitors saw it. The approach gradient is more level on this now busy road bridge. Most recently repairs were made in 2011 - replacing lost capping, repointing the stonework and giving the balustrades a fresh coat of paint. Mr Knowles would also be well pleased - it is still the largest single span, masonry arch bridge in Ireland.