On Saturday 16th March last, the Lord Mayor of Cork, Cllr Mick Finn, put the last piece of masonry in place to mark the completion of the restoration of Saint Patrick’s Bridge in Cork City. The two Bishops of Cork, Dr John Buckley and Dr Paul Colton, said prayers and gave a blessing, after which the Lord Mayor officially re-opened the bridge and unveiled a plaque.
Today’s bridge is not the first bridge built at that point over the River Lee. When the ancient city of Cork, centred on North Main and South Main Streets, expanded in the 18th century, including the development of St Patrick’s Street, the first St Patrick’s Bridge was built. A foundation stone was laid on 25th July 1788, but six months later on 17th January 1789 a flood washed away the partially completed bridge. It was rebuilt, and was opened on 29th September 1789. That bridge was destroyed, again by a severe weather event in 1853 and was replaced by a temporary timber bridge.
It, in turn, was replaced by today’s bridge. The Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, the Earl of Carlisle, laid the foundation stone for the new bridge on 10 November 1859 using a level provided by the Freemasons of Cork. The Mayor of Cork, Sir John Arnott, opened the new Saint Patrick’s Bridge on 12 December 1861. The bridge, 18.5 metres wide, spans a waterway of 51 metres. Both the level and trowel used in 1859 were brought to the re-opening on 16th March 2019.
The bridge’s elegant design remains one of the best-known landmarks in Cork.