History

The proprietor of the busy apple stalls by the new Ormonde Bridge had, in 1684, to keep an eye on the comings and goings of boats on the River Liffey - for he had to ensure the opening of the drawbridge. When, from 1685, tall ships could no longer sail upstream past Essex Bridge, the drawbridge was replaced and Ormonde Bridge became uniformly masonry across all five spans.

Image of O’Donovan Rossa Bridge - History

Ormonde Bridge (1801)

© National Gallery of Ireland

That stone bridge was the second on this site - the first being a simple wooden affair, built by the developer Humphrey Jervis in 1682. Though high enough for Liffey boats to pass under, the parsimonious Jervis had built it without side railings which proved lethal for man and beast. The city sheriff, erected railings at a cost of £14 in return for the apple stall lease. Unfortunately for him, the railings were repeatedly stolen but he did get to keep the apple stalls!

All was changing in Dublin in the late 17th century with unprecedented development away from the old city, on the north river bank - to which the new stone bridge was vital. Once built, though, the city was loath to spend money on its upkeep - history bequeaths us many tales of its ruinous state from as early as 1687 when it was damaged by floods. Spectacularly, in 1760, about 5 o’clock one afternoon, part of the south arch and deck fell into the river taking with it Mrs Archer’s tavern, complete with customers. Ferries plucked the revellers from the water, the house sank before their eyes and many barrels of beer disappeared with the tide. Reported as in a ruinous condition in 1769, the great George Semple declared it ready to fall in 1776 and in 1786 a catastrophe was predicted.

In December of 1802 a great body of water, gorged by incessant torrential rain, swept downriver and washed away the bridge. While corporation and citizens dithered on the where and the how of a new bridge or even two, a ferry plied its trade where the Ormonde Bridge had stood for 118 years. Although James Savage’s design had been chosen following a competition in 1805, the foundation stone was not laid until 1813. A temporary, tolled timber bridge was erected during the building of the new bridge (to Savage’s somewhat altered design), and when opened in 1816 it was named for the Duke of Richmond. Having withstood the tests of time and war it was renamed the O’Donovan Rossa Bridge in 1922.