The Bridges of Kilkenny

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  • Moments in Kilkenny History

The Importance of Bridges

From the Middle Ages right up to the present day, two of Kilkenny's main bridges have been called Green's Bridge and John's Bridge. Each bridge has been rebuilt throughout history. The river Nore flows through the Kilkenny city and has always brought vital trade and development to the area.

Bridges during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries were essential to trade in towns and cities near rivers.

Tolls were used to gather money towards the upkeep of the bridges. Like today, there were different tolls for different vessels, but in those days forms of transport included carts drawn by horses and other animals.

According to toll prices in 1802, it was more expensive to ferry a dead pig than a live one. Toll money also went towards the building of the canals in Kilkenny. These canals were essential in transporting coal from the collieries up and down the river Nore.

Green's bridge

Green's Bridge is known as the 'great bridge of Kilkenny'. It was originally built some time before the twelfth century. Due to constant floods over the years, the bridge was destroyed and rebuilt several times. A famous architect called George Smith designed the new bridge after a terrible flood in 1763 swept the old one away. Smith also designed a new John's Bridge, after it too was swept away in the flood.

John's Bridge and a Great Flood

John's Bridge, which connects John Street to Kilkenny city, was first built after 1200. Like Green's Bridge, it was rebuilt many times. During the terrible flood of 1763, over 100 people gathered on John's Bridge after Green's Bridge collapsed. They wanted to see all the wreckage flowing down the river, and when an entire cabin floated by, almost everyone hurried to the bank to see it. Around sixteen people remained on the bridge. Within minutes, the whole structure had collapsed and all sixteen died.

The present-day John's Bridge was completed in 1910, and was the longest single-span, reinforced bridge in Ireland and England at the time it was completed.