A beautiful structure with years of history lies just outside our Citylink office in Aston Quay: The Ha’penny Bridge. The Ha’penny Bridge which is the best known and most beloved of Dublin’s bridges, was the first iron pedestrian bridge in Ireland. The bridge was built in 1816 across the River Liffey in Dublin. The Ha’penny Bridge remained the city’s only pedestrian bridge over the Liffey for over 180 years until it was joined by the Millennium Bridge in 1999. The official name of the Ha’penny Bridge is the Liffey Bridge, however the nickname of the Ha’penny Bridge stuck because of the history. Keep reading to find out more.
The History of the Ha’penny Bridge
Originally called the Wellington Bridge (after the Dublin-born Duke of Wellington), the name of the bridge changed to Liffey Bridge in 1922 when Ireland gained independence. The Liffey Bridge remains the bridge’s official name to this day, although it is most commonly referred to as the Ha’penny Bridge.
Before the Ha’penny Bridge was built there were seven ferries, operated by William Walsh, across the Liffey. The ferries were in bad condition and Walsh was informed that he had to either fix them or build a bridge. The bridge was the idea of the Dublin Corporations’ s John C. Beresford. Despite the £3,000 cost, Walsh chose to construct a bridge.
Initially the toll charge was based not on the cost of construction, but to match the charges levied by the ferries it replaced. Each pedestrian who crossed paid a ha’penny, which is where the bridge got its famous nickname. A further condition of construction was that, if the citizens of Dublin found the bridge and toll to be “objectionable” within its first year of operation, it was to be removed at no cost to the city.
The toll was increased for a time to a penny-ha’penny (1½ pence), but was eventually dropped in 1919. While the toll was in operation, there were turnstiles at either end of the bridge. When the bridge opened in 1816 it was reported that an average of between 400-500 paying pedestrians crossed every day. Fast forward to now, approximately 30,000 pedestrians are crossing the bridge daily.
The Ha’penny Bridge celebrated its 200th birthday in 2016. However, it nearly did not reach 100 because in 1913, Dublin Corporation adopted plans to demolish the beloved Ha’penny Bridge and replace it with an art gallery over the river. The proposed gallery would showcase the work of Hugh Lane. The plans to build the gallery bridge were later scrapped, leaving the Ha’penny Bridge in place.
Construction & Renovation
The Ha’penny Bridge is a single elliptical iron arch rising over three metres above high water at its peak. The bridge is 43 metres long and 3.66 metres wide. The ribs of the bridge were individually cast in 18 separate pieces by the Coalbrookdale Company and then shipped to Dublin. Once in Dublin, John Windsor – one of the company’s head foremen – oversaw construction.
The superstructure is reported to have remained remarkably sound since then, but when a survey revealed that work was needed on the railings and deck due to wear and tear, it was closed for a few months of renovation in 2001. 85% percent of the original cast iron was re-used in the renovation project.
Romance on the Ha’penny Bridge
The Ha’penny saw a spell of having its famous white railings decorated with ‘love locks’, or padlocks with lovers’ names on them. After an initial attempt to discourage couples from the practise in 2012 proved unsuccessful, 300 kilograms of locks were removed from the bridge in 2013 over concerns about damage to this protected Dublin structure.
To conclude, there is a significant amount of history revolving around the Ha’penny Bridge. The bridge was build in 1816, over 200 years ago and was the only pedestrian bridge in Dublin for over 180 years until the Millennium Bridge was built in 1999. The original name was the Wellington Bridge, which was changed to the Liffey Bridge in 1922 when Ireland gained independence. This is still the official name, however, it is more commonly known as the Ha’penny Bridge due to the ha’penny toll charge for pedestrians crossing until 1919. The bridge was renovated in 2001 and the current bridge is 85% original cast iron. Don’t forget to like this blog if you enjoyed reading. You can also share this blog on Facebook or Twitter.
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