No sooner had Queen Victoria and Prince Albert inaugurated Dublin’s new bridge in August 1861, than the contractor, John Killen, set up his stall and offered for sale his bridge building tools - a ten horse power steam engine, ladders, wooden pumps and pulley blocks. Killen’s business was done, though the planning and building of the new cast iron bridge had been fraught with difficulties and delays.
The stone bridge here, with the twin names of Bloody and Barrack Bridge, was in a most dangerous state in 1855 being then the oldest Liffey bridge, having replaced a wooden structure around 1700. Noting its yawning fissures, citizens worried it wouldn’t survive another winter. The decorative archway, designed by Frances Johnson, had already been relocated from its southern side to the Royal Hospital in Kilmainham. The unembellished stone bridge, once described by a visitor as ‘rude’ was looking ruder still. Householders of the growing western edges of the city demanded a new bridge and presented a petition to the city corporation in September 1855. The Rathmines and Kingstown Town Commissioners, a world away in their affluent eastern suburbs and fired into action by the threat of additional taxes, took the case to court - and lost. Meantime, the original estimate of 7,556 guineas had risen to 11,000 guineas.
Construction began around 1858, though it seems not on the exact site of the old stone bridge. It was still in use then as history records an affray upon it between soldiers of the 30th and 58th regiments who pelted each other with sticks, belts and stones. By the middle of 1860 work had come to a halt. The contractor blamed difficulties with the foundations. The corporation appointed Killen as the new contractor and the work was completed in time for the royal visit, but at a considerably higher cost. The stone bridge came down, and with it the names Barrack and Bloody. Given the spanking, new cast iron bridge, who now would remember that time in 1670 when opposition to the original wooden bridge on this site caused bloody mayhem on these same streets leading to the Rory O’More Bridge?