The distinctively coloured, single span, cast iron Rory O’More Bridge was declared open to the public in 1861 following its inaugural crossing by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. It was the Liffey’s third cast iron bridge and the capital’s first new bridge since the King’s Bridge of 1828, also named for a visiting royal. It crosses the river from from Ellis Street and the north quays to Watling Street on the south side.
Commissioned by the Port of Dublin designer George Halpin, it included the unusual feature of a cast iron deck. Robert Daglish Junior records the sterling work of his St. Helen’s Foundry in Lancashire, England on both upstream and downstream sides of the bridge. No doubt under the eye of many a watchful Dubliner the superstructure sailed up river where in good time it was fixed to the massive granite abutments readied by contractor John Killen. Though less than 150 years old the bridge has had a variety of names. First the Victoria and Albert Bridge (though often just the Victoria Bridge), then the Emancipation Bridge in 1929 when a commemorative plaque was placed on the east side to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Catholic Emancipation. Now it is Rory O’More Bridge, but very often, simply and unofficially, it is the Watling Street Bridge.
When first a bridge was built on this site, it was a wooden structure, much needed by a growing city only served by a single bridge and it often in a state of dilapidation. Much opposed and even attacked, Dubliners were wont to call this fought over wooden affair the Bloody Bridge. As the great barracks took shape on its northern flank, the name Barrack Bridge also became common. Wisely, the city powers next decided on a stone bridge which was built as the 17th century turned to the 18th.
Simple and unadorned as it was it served the city well, conceding its place in 1861 to the unassuming and timeless elegance of today’s Rory O’More Bridge.