Lacey and latticed, Seán Heuston Bridge rests with old fashioned elegance on the River Liffey, linking the north and south quays near the Italianate Heuston Railway Station. Possibly Ireland’s oldest cast iron road bridge, it is almost 30 metres long, is a little over 9 metre wide and is supported by tapering granite abutments on each side.
The bridge - built to commemorate the visit of King George IV to Dublin in 1821 - opened to foot and horse drawn traffic in June 1829 and this date is recorded on the central upright of the balustrade. Designed by English architect, George Papworth, many of the bridge’s features boast of its royal associations. The single arch is decoratively edged with a repeated design of Prince of Wales feathers, while the spandrels on either side are regally embellished with wreath enclosed crowns and majestic, golden swirls. The date tablet was originally topped with yet more crowns.
The contractor, who was paid around £13,000, was Mr. Robinson of the nearby Phoenix Iron Works, which then acquired the illustrious prefix of ‘Royal’, in thanks for its efforts on the bridge. The foundation stone was laid by the Marquis Wellesley, who brandished a ruby and emerald studded trowel, engraved with a depiction of the soon to be built bridge. Sporting a gold trimmed, white satin apron, the Marquis called out to all the many and cheerful watching Dubliners, that he named this ‘the bridge of George the Fourth’.
The bridge served the city well through a century and more of ever increasing and ever heavier traffic.
In 1980, following a survey by Dublin Corporation, a weight restriction of no more than 2 tonnes was placed on the bridge and plans were set in train for the adjacent Frank Sherwin Bridge, which opened in 1982.
A €4 million euro refurbishment of the bridge took place between 2001 and 2002, which included a replacement deck to carry the Luas light rail system from the western suburb of Tallaght to The Point on the city’s eastern flank. Seán Heuston Bridge is also open to pedestrians.
When British rule in Ireland was toppled, along with the crowns on the King’s Bridge, the bridge was renamed for Patrick Sarsfield, a rebellious Irish aristocrat of the 17th century. Then, through the efforts of the National Graves Commission, it was renamed in 1941 for the executed young Dublin hero of 1916, Seán Heuston.