The first record of a bridge here is in 1200, in the reign of King John, on the lands of Alex Fitzwilliam who had charge of the gallows, the hunting of stags and the interests of the king. The location being strategic, and given King John’s many Irish enemies, it was most likely a sturdy stone bridge as the Normans favoured.
Later, Henry VI, mindful of his Irish enemies advancing on Dublin from the west, had two watch towers with gates erected on the bridge around 1456. The records then tell of the ‘good stone bridge’ at Lucan in 1663 and in 1714, of the ‘great road west’ over the Lucan Bridge.
Mother Nature wreaked much havoc upon the bridge in its various guises and locations throughout the 18th century. It appears as a stone bridge in Mrs Delany’s 1749 painting and in that of Thomas Roberts in 1770. Roberts’ painting depicts workmen cutting stone, apparently in the course of repairing the bridge, notwithstanding that, a new bridge was talked about in 1773, following floods in ‘71. A ‘pretty wooden bridge’ was swept away in November 1787. Christmas flooding in 1802 brought down yet another structure!
In 1805, a ‘permanent’ wooden bridge was erected and deemed not beyond repair following floods in September 1807.
Then disaster struck in March 1811. A turf laden cart, belonging to Mssrs. Guinness, crashed through the parapets of the wooden bridge and plunged into the Liffey. Horrified onlookers watched as the horses flailed about and finally perished. Aggrieved bridge users clamoured for a new bridge. After all, not only had they to pay a heavy tax but now their very lives and property were in danger!
Construction of the present bridge began in April 1813 and was finished by August. The keystones were laid by Mrs Vesey in November 1813 when the bridge opened to traffic and was reported as being unscathed despite being struck by a vehicle. Controversy reigned over the parapets, at first planned to be of stone, but eventually fabricated in the Phoenix Iron Works and dated 1814, perhaps the date when the final touches were made. Over time the gradient proved too steep for horse drawn and vehicular traffic and was altered. A contemporary commentator remarked that the raising of the roadway at either end had injured the appearance of the bridge a little, yet it was still remarkably pretty.
Lucan Bridge is much lauded for the same reasons it was beloved in times past - its elegance, setting and usefulness.