Restoration of Cork city’s landmark bridge to its former glory

Cork City Council has advertised for contractors to “rehabilitate” the bridge’s four cast-iron lamp standards and lanterns, and four others which are in storage.

Restoration of Cork city’s landmark bridge to its former glory

Under the advertised tender, the contractor will consult with an extensive archive of historic photographs to repair and restore the columns and iron-work in line with specific requirements. They have also been asked to make six replicas.

Once the work is done, the 14 standards will be placed in temporary storage before 12 are reinstalled on the bridge and its approaches as part of a separate bridge repair and remediation contract — the largest since 1981 — which will see the stone-work undergoing extensive repairs and cleaning.

Both contracts are being funded by Transport Infrastructure Ireland. It is hoped the lamps will be installed as part of the bridge upgrade next year.

The foundation stone for the first St Patrick’s Bridge, spanning the north channel of the river Lee, was laid in July 1788 but the partially-built structure was washed away by a flood during construction. It was rebuilt and opened on September 29, 1789.

That bridge was badly damaged in another flood on November 2, 1853, and a temporary timber bridge was installed while a new triple-arch bridge was designed.

Its foundation stone was laid by the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, the Earl of Carlisle, on November 10, 1859.

Over 100 skilled stone-cutters and masons were employed during its construction and it was officially opened on December 12, 1861.

The 51m span bridge is 18.5m wide and is one of the city’s best-known landmarks.

According to the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage, the bridge is a “significant contributor to the architectural heritage of the city” retaining many interesting features, such as the carved keystones and cast-iron lamp standards.

Independent Cllr Kieran McCarthy, a historian who leads regular walking tours of the city, welcomed the investment.

“Now that we can see some buoyancy in council income, we are beginning to see investment in the fabric of the city. It’s the first time in several years that we’ve had the funding to do so,” he said.

“This isn’t just about the bridge as a structure. Sure, it connects the city north and south, it leads in one direction to the Victorian Quarter and St Patrick’s Hill, and in the other direction to the city’s main retail street.

“But it’s the stories that attach to it. Everyone has a fondness for it. It’s not just about the physical structure. The bridge has a different meaning for different people. It’s part of the story of the city, it’s part of the nostalgia.”

He also called for urgent investment in other bridges, particularly Daly’s Bridge in Fitzgerald’s Park, known to generations as the Shakey Bridge, which is 90 years old this year. An inspection report over five years ago highlighted corrosion to its steel latticework.

Funded by butter merchant John Daly, who was asked to provide money to help build a bridge to facilitate increased pedestrian traffic coming from the Sunday’s Well area of the city to attend rugby matches at the Mardyke, it was built in 1927 by a London-based suspension bridge company.

A spokesman for City Hall said they are aware of the need to repair the bridge and that they are actively pursuing funding avenues to carry out the work.

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