Mellows Bridge is the ‘old man of the river’, the longest surviving structure of all the Liffey bridges within the city. Resting squarely, Mellows strikes an elder statesman pose - a certain raised eyebrow of an arch to Anna Liffey’s lively, ever youthful grace.
In its first guise, the Arran Bridge of 1688, it was built at a heady time for the city of Dublin which had long stagnated. A flurry of boom time land speculation and development saw four new bridges being built over the Liffey where only one had served from Viking through Medieval times. Arran Bridge was the last of these. A canny man, William Ellis, was granted land on the shoreline of the north side of the river and struck a deal with the city authorities: he would build quaysides, a bridge and look after its maintenance, they would contribute £700; he raised the rest from the bankers, La Touche.
The tides of time, a ferocious flood and a questionable quality of building brought Arran Bridge down in 1763. In the intervening years Dublin had blossomed as a capital city with new, elegant squares and wide avenues in the continental style. The population had grown from around a meagre 50,000 to over 120,000. The north side of the river was now a lively commercial and residential hub and it was essential that the Arran Bridge should be replaced with all speed.
Dublin Port quickly commissioned a new bridge to a design by military engineer, Charles Vallancey. It was constructed between 1764 and 1768 and was named for Queen Charlotte, wife of George III. Through all the times of war and strife, through the birth pangs of a new nation and the municipal enthusiasm for restamping the city to reflect its new national identity, the bridge itself remained unchanged. Whether called Queen’s, Queen Maeve’s or Mellows’, it is the same three elliptical arch, stone bridge which elegantly stretches the mere 43 metres to connect Queen Street in the north city to Bridgefoot Street on the south, that we see today.