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The Ha’penny Bridge

The Ha’penny Bridge

The Ha’penny Bridge is the best known of Dublin’s bridges. It was built in 1816 and was the first iron bridge in Ireland. It is a single span structure with cast iron railings and decorative lamps. It was originally named the Liffey Bridge but is now called the Ha’penny because until 1919 to cross it there was a half-penny charge.

Accepted as the symbol of Dublin, the Ha’penny Bridge (officially Wellington Bridge after the ‘Iron Duke’) was opened in 1816. Cast at Coalbrookdale in Shropshire in England, the bridge acquired its unofficial moniker from the toll paid to cross the river – one old half penny. The bridge was the only pedestrian bridge on the Liffey until the Millennium bridge further up was opened in 2000.

The bridge has three lamps supported by curved ironwork over the walkway. In a bad state of repair, the bridge was closed in 2001 for major repair. It was reopened, with its original paint color restored and changed made at the ends to allow standing room for pedestrians before crossing the road. The original line of the decking was restored.

Before the Ha’penny Bridge was built there were seven ferries, operated by a William Walsh, across the Liffey. The ferries were in a bad condition and Walsh was informed that he had to either fix them or build a bridge. Walsh chose the latter option and was granted the right to extract a ha’penny toll from anyone crossing it for 100 years. Initially the toll charge was based, not on the cost of construction, but to match the charges levied by the ferries it replaced. 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 (one and a half pence), but was eventually dropped in 1919. While the toll was in operation, there were turnstiles at either end the bridge.

In 2001 the number of pedestrians using the bridge on a daily basis was 27,000 and, given these traffic levels, a structural survey indicated that renovation was required.

The bridge was closed for repair and renovations during 2001 and was reopened in December 2001 sporting its original white colour.

The structure was rebuilt to retain many of its old components, although controversially some features were removed. The repair work was carried out by Harland and Wolff.

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