The Bridges of Wexford

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  • Aspects of County Wexford

Prior to the year 1795 there was no bridge spanning the River Slaney from Enniscorthy to the county town, Wexford. Before then, ferryboat services were in operation at different points of the river.

The building of a bridge was decided upon as traders in Wexford needed a safer and more relaible mode of travel over the river.

The First Bridge

After a meeting on 2nd June 1784, the contract for the building of the bridge was given to an American called Mr. Lemuel Cox. He estimated that the bridge would cost 15,000 to build.

Work on the building of the wooden bridge at Wexford began in June 1794 and it was finished the following year.The length of the bridge was 1,554 feet and the breadth was 34 feet. At low tide there were 16 feet of water underneath it. In the month of October 1827, a portion of the centre fell suddenly and traffic was stopped for a length of time.

Tolls were charged for the use of the bridge. For example in 1841, it cost 2d. to bring a pig over the bridge and 1d. for 100 oysters. The public weren't happy with these charges and eventually the Grand Jury bought the bridge for 10,000 and stopped the tolls.

The Second Bridge

Once the tolls were dropped, the traffic on the bridge increased dramatically. It was decided to erect a new bridge as the old one had become unstable after 71 years.

The old bridge was taken down in 1866. Its place was taken by the old Carcur bridge, which was declared open to traffic in the same year. The new site at Carcur did not meet with general acceptance. This was due to the site not being as convenient for crossing as the previous bridge. The locals also had very fond memories of the first bridge.

With the advent of heavy motor traffic, the bridge became affected and in the early 1950s the County Council erected barricades to slow down traffic.

Wexford's second bridge at Carcur continued to provide a crossing service until 1959. In this year the bridge was closed with the erection of the present day bridge, near the 1794 site.

The Third Bridge

In 1940, Wexford County Council invited engineers to submit designs for a reinforced concrete bridge over the Slaney. By 1956, a Dutch firm were given the contract for building it at a contact price of 37, 5197. Constuction began shortly afterwards.

The length of the bridge is 1932 feet (1248 feet over the water and 684 feet in approaches). The carriage way width is 24 feet with a 5-foot footpath on each side.

The new slaney bridge was officially opened on Thursday, September 10th, 1959. The first person to cross the structure after the official opening ceremony was Most Rev. Dr. J. Staunton, Lord Bishop of Ferns.

Hundreds of people, including a large number of school children, turned out in brilliant sunshine to witness the ceremonies. At each entrance to the bridge two papal, two Irish and two Dutch flags were flown.