O’Donovan Rossa, Mellows and Father Mathew Bridges - they say that good things come in threes and so they do. Sharing stone cut, graceful arches and balustraded parapets, Dublin’s great trio of look alike Liffey bridges are at the heart of the old city.
O’Donovan Rossa Bridge, being the second oldest, has much to tell us of Dublin. The first bridge on this site bore witness to that time when the old walled town, cradled on the south bank, burgeoned into a city straddling both north and south sides of the Liffey. It was 1682 and land speculators were king. One such speculator and Lord Mayor built that original timber bridge in 1682. Within two years, the city corporation recognising the needs of the growing city, replaced it with a five arch stone bridge which stood, in various states of repair, for over a century. They both bore the name of the Lord Lieutenant of the time - Ormonde - in those days it served bridge builders to flatter those in power.
The foundation stone for today’s bridge, a three arch structure built of Golden Hill, West Wicklow granite, crossing between Winetavern Street and Chancery Place, was placed by Charlotte, the Duchess of Richmond (accompanied by two bands of music and guards of horse and foot). The bridge, located around 50 metres from the original site, involved a trio of great names in the history of Dublin bridge building - James Savage, designer, George Knowles, contractor and George Halpin, overseer. Ireland, then still more than one hundred years from independence, was still flattering her colonial masters and so it was named for yet another Lord Lieutenant, the Duke of Richmond - Richmond Bridge.
On completion in 1816, commentators were pleased to note that the width - almost 15 metres - was greater than any bridge in London and the use of cast iron enhanced the look of the balustrades and the eight lamp standards upon the bridge. Sculpted heads adorn the keystones: Plenty, Anna Liffey and Industry gaze eastwards to the bay, and Commerce, Hibernia and Peace watch over the city to the west. The bridge has a total span of 44 metres and cost the equivalent of over €25,000. Not having undergone any major alterations, the bridge, (since 1922 named for the nationalist hero, Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa) has grown more charming with familiarity and age.