Dungarvan Bridge

Until 1816, Dungarvan was a difficult place to transport goods through or gain easy access and departure from. The opening of the bridge in 1816 alleviated some of these problems. Financed by William, Duke of Devonshire in 1808 at the cost of £5,000, the bridge played a significant role in the economic and social development of the town and its environs.

Before the bridge, people crossed the Colligan river by ferry. However, the 'poorer classes' together with horses and carriages crossed by a ford on the site of the present causeway, which was accessible at low tide. The first reference to building a bridge is contained in a letter by Sir John Newport to the Duke of Devonshire in October 1808 and outlines a compelling political rationale for the Duke to finance the project, "particularly to alleviate the difficulties they [the inhabitants] experience from the ferry by erecting a bridge near the river". The Duke was compelled, however, to make a decision in response to a petition brought by Mr. J.C. Beresford before the Grand Jury for a bridge to be financed by public money. The Duke announced a willingness to build a bridge at his own expense, a politically expedient decision, whereupon the Beresford proposal was defeated. At the Grand Jury meeting at which the Beresford plan was defeated "the majority saw that they would not be justified in giving away the money of the county" and this led to the bridge, as financed by the Duke of Devonshire, being endorsed and the design stage to be commenced.

William Atkinson was responsible for the design of Dungarvan square and the bridge. Two important figures, Samuel Ware and Jesse Hartley, were involved in the construction of the bridge. Ware, who designed buildings for the Dukes of Devonshire in England, came to Dungarvan in 1813 to survey the work on the bridge and was evidently employed to mitigate the overall cost of the project, and felt that Atkinson's design was too 'grand' for Dungarvan. Work on the bridge was supervised from beginning to end by Jesse Hartley, a Yorkshireman and son of a stonemason bridgemaster. The bridge is single arched and constructed of rusticated sandstone which was imported from Runcorn in Cheshire, and has massive voussoirs and scroll keystone. The stone piers have rectangular panels with cornice, over which is laid a small limestone panel and the whole form distinguished by curving sweeps on each side.

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