Waterford County Museum, Dungarvan, Co. Waterford, Ireland. Charity Reg: 17397
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Our Heritage in Stone - Dungarvan Bridge


Drawing of Dungarvan Bridge by William Fraher
Drawing of Dungarvan Bridge by William Fraher

In our new series museum curator Willie Fraher looks at the variety of stonework which can be seen in buildings and walls around Dungarvan.  Much of it is from local quarries and predominantly limestone, but there is also granite and sandstone and imported stone from England.  In Dungarvan Castle there are still some traces of Dundry Stone imported from Bristol and Dungarvan Bridge is composed of stone from Runcorn in Cheshire.  The major reconstruction of the town centre in the early 19th century required large quantities of stone so two limestone quarries were dug, one in Dungarvan (on either side of the upper part of Mary Street) and the other in Abbeyside.     

It is worth looking at the detail in how the stone is finished, sometimes rubble stone, in other cases as in the façade of the Old Provincial Bank it is finely dressed.   There were a number of quarries outside Dungarvan and one which was owned by the Villiers-Stuart family of Dromana supplied the stone for the tower of the Augustinian Church.  Carriglea House is constructed of a pinkish sandstone from a nearby quarry.

We do know the names of some of the local stonemasons, but they are not always documented.  Patrick McGrath (1812-1895) had a stone yard at South Terrace in the 1830s.  As a young apprentice he worked on the stonework at Strancally Castle in the late 1820s.  He emigrated with his family to Quincy, Massachusetts in 1847 where he established a stonework business.

The most common stone to be found in the Dungarvan area is limestone with which most of the principle buildings are constructed.  The courthouse in T.F. Meagher Street and St Mary’s Church of Ireland are good examples and the decorative stone tracery of the windows in St Mary’s Parish Church.


‘On the Bridge I will linger, at sweet evening tide’

(Dungarvan My Hometown, Mai O’Higgins)

Dungarvan Bridge

This bridge was an important development for the people of Dungarvan in the early 1800s.  Before its construction a person had to travel up to Ballyneety to cross the River Colligan or pay to get the ferry from Abbeyside to Roderick’s Quay in front of the castle.  There was a competition between the Duke of Devonshire and the Marquis of Waterford as to who would get the bridge built first.  The marquis wanted the bridge to be funded by the Grand Jury and the duke was willing to pay for it himself.  Most people were happy for the duke to fund the project which he did.  The architect William Atkinson prepared a set of drawings which show a bridge of five arches and a balustrade.  Atkinson was told by the Devonshire agent that the bridge should be built of Runcorn stone which was cheaper than other available stone.  The cost of the bridge was estimated at about £8,000.  In 1813 Samuel Ware was sent to Dungarvan to inspect the initial foundations:

‘I found on the quay an immense quantity of freestone brought from England at an expense I was informed of about 2 shillings per foot cube.  I saw part of an expensive block cornice and architrave partly worked, and it appears by one of the drawings that the bridge was intended to be finished suitably to a nobleman’s park or a great city’.  He was not happy with what he saw and recommended a smaller structure of three arches.  The final design consisted of only one arch with the others replaced by a long causeway.  The engineer in charge of the project was Yorkshire native Jesse Hartley (and builder of Liverpool Docks) who married local lady Ellen Penny while based in Dungarvan to oversee the works between 1809 and 1818.   The bridge was completed after much difficulty and opened to the public in 1816.  It is a testament to the skills of the engineer and the stonemasons and others who built it that it has survived the weather and heavy traffic of the 20th and 21st centuries.

Further reading:

The Reconstruction of Dungarvan – 1807-c.1830 – A Political Ploy by William Fraher, Decies journal, January 1984.

Jesse Hartley: Dock Engineer to the Port of Liverpool 1824-60 by Nancy Richie- Noakes, 1980.

Irish Stone Bridges- History and Heritage by Peter O’Keefe and Tom Simington, 1991.

Drawing of Dungarvan Bridge by William Fraher

Dungarvan Bridge in colour

Country Gates contd.

Here are more drawings of country gates in the series by William Fraher, curator.


Gallowshill Online Zoom Lecture - a great success!

The Gallowshill zoom lecture last week was a great success.  We heard some of the fascinating stories of this intriguing monument.

Well done to Chrissy, Dave Pollock and Dr. Linda Lynch.


William Fraher interview on WLR fm on Heritage Week project

Waterford County Museum has recently published online and in the local press a series of articles about vintage ironwork in Dungarvan. This project has been expanded for Heritage Week to include the entire county.

Last week the curator William Fraher spoke to Geoff Harris on WLR about this Heritage Week project.  He is encouraging people to send in images of ironwork along with information on the piece to info@waterfordmuseum.ie.

He is asking people to become ironwork detectives.  Their mission is to seek out examples of ironwork in their locality and photograph or draw them. The images with any information should be emailed to info@waterfordmuseum.ie

Suggested examples include house and field gates, window guards, drain covers, lamps, seats, railings, pillars, graveyard memorials and grave surrounds, post boxes, pumps, etc.

All the images and information will be combined with the material collected to date and be made available as an online resource for the community.

Dungarvan Ironwork Articles available to view and download

We are delighted to announce that the complete series of articles about vintage ironwork in Dungarvan by William Fraher which appeared in the local newspapers and on our website over the last number of weeks is now available to view and download here: 

Download: Historic Ironwork in Dungarvan (.pdf file)

Free Online Zoom Lecture - Results of the Gallowshill 2019 Archaeological Dig


Thursday 20th August 2020 at 14.00.

The results of the 2019 Gallowshill Archaeological Dig by Waterford County Museum’s archaeological group are being presented online.  Participation in this Heritage Week event is free but must be booked at eventbrite.ie/e/gallows-hill 

Country gates contd.

Continuing our series about country gates in the countryside around Dungarvan. 

Here are more drawings by William Fraher of some ornate gates.

Digital Atlas of Ireland to be launched as part of Heritage Week

 The Irish Historic Towns Atlas (IHTA) announces the launch of the Digital Atlas of Dungarvan as part of Heritage Week (15–23 August 2020), where the theme this year is ‘Learning from our heritage’.


The Digital Atlas of Dungarvan will be launched on 18 August 2020 ahead of the publication of the printed atlas — IHTA, no. 30, Dungarvan/Dún Garbhán — which is due for publication in October 2020. 

The new digital atlas is an interactive map that allows users to explore the urban heritage of the town of Dungarvan in their own way.  Freely available and accessible online, it provides layers of historical maps that show how the town plan has changed over time.  A specially digitised base map shows the town in 1841, where detailed historical information on over 700 individual sites has been incorporated and is available in pop-up boxes (see above).  In this way, features of the past townscape, such as the long disappeared medieval defensive walls, are revealed and may be examined alongside more familiar streets and buildings.  The Heritage Council has asked communities to explore ‘Heritage on their doorstep’ for this year’s Heritage Week — Dungarvan residents, students and visitors are invited to do just that via the Digital Atlas of Dungarvan. 

The Digital Atlas of Dungarvan will be available from 18 August 2020 on https://www.ria.ie/digital-atlas-dungarvan


Waterford County Museum is delighted to be part of this project.

Become an Ironwork Detective

Download: Historic Ironwork in Dungarvan (.pdf file)

Waterford County Museum has recently published online and in the local press a series of articles about vintage ironwork in Dungarvan. We would like to expand this project for Heritage Week to include the entire county.

Would you like to become an ironwork detective? Your mission should you choose to accept it is to seek out examples of ironwork in your locality and photograph or draw them. The images with any information should be emailed to info@waterfordmuseum.ie

Suggested examples include house and field gates, window guards, drain covers, lamps, seats, railings, pillars, graveyard memorials and grave surrounds, post boxes, pumps, etc.

All the images and information will be combined with the material collected to date and be made available as an online resource for the community.

Country Gates

Throughout our countryside the remains of rusty old gates can be seen but more and more they are being removed and replaced by modern gates.  Many of these gates date to the 19th century and are a tribute to the skills of the blacksmiths who made them.  Those same blacksmiths also made more elaborate gates for the entrances to farmhouses, large and small.

Field gate near Kilgobnet. Drawing by W. Fraher 1980.

Gerald Tyler’s article on these gates is a great introduction to the topic. He notes that:
‘Many of the gates are stamped with the smith’s trade-mark and it is not unusual to find ordinary gates bearing a date nearly 200 years old.  That they have survived many years of opening, climbing over, and being pushed against is a tribute to the maker’s skill and sense of practical design’.
While the gates were first of all functional, they also allowed the blacksmith to introduce decorative elements.  The smiths were inventive and the gates which can be seen in our countryside all vary in their finished design.  Blacksmiths also had their own distinctive mark or sometimes their name or initials are stamped on the gate.

Field gate, Ballyduff. Drawing by W. Fraher 1980.

Field gate, Ballyduff. Drawing by W. Fraher 1980

A standard arrangement of the elements was essential for the gate to function properly. Many gates have one horizontal brace to ensure the gate is square.  In later gates these are replaced by a hoop and as Tyler states: ‘The hooped brace required much sledgehammering in its shaping and a hooped gate might take twice as long to make as one with a straight brace…many gates are made in whole, or in part, from old wheel bands which have been re-worked’.

To ensure that small animals could not squeeze through, the space between the horizontal bars was reduced the nearer they were to the ground.

Iron field gates are unique to Ireland as most field gates in England were constructed of wood.  Therefore, we should treasure those which remain and make a visual record of them.  If you would like to help please take part in our Heritage Week project – ‘Become an Ironwork Detective’ Photograph or draw gates near you and send the images and information to info@waterfordmuseum.ie

Gerald Tyler, The Iron Gate – Relic of a Forgotten Craft, Old Kilkenny Review, 1977. pp.278-283.

The Vernacular Forged Wrought Iron Field Gate, Kilkenny Co Council 2014.

www.irishbacksmiths.com Guide to Best Practices for the Restoration of Irish Historic Ironwork, 2013.

Field gate near Dungarvan. Drawing by W. Fraher 1980

Gate drawings - Details of field gate ornamentation, West Waterford.
Drawings by W. Fraher 1980

Dungarvan's Ironwork Heritage Part 16 - Lost Ironwork

In recent times decorative ironwork pieces have been destroyed or removed from commercial and private houses in Dungarvan and Abbeyside. These include window guards, foot scrapers, railings, and an impressive weathervane from the Old Market House in Lower Main Street. Fortunately, the weathervane, which was made by MacFarlane’s foundry has been restored and preserved by the council. The other items were not so fortunate and survive only in photographs. A selection of lost ironwork is reproduced here.

Weathervane by MacFarlane’s which once decorated the roof of the Old Market House

Cast-iron letters by MacFarlane’s which once decorated the facade of the Old Market House, Main Street. The lettering ‘Robert A. Merry, Wine Merchants’ was removed in the early 1980s when the building was converted for a Library/Museum.

Entrance gate St Augustine’s Abbeyside c.1900. Removed in mid- 20th century Image: N.L.I.

Cornice and brackets, the bandstand, Dungarvan Park, destroyed through vandalism in the 1980s.

Gate and railings, Convent of Mercy, Church Street stamped: Perrot - Cork.
Removed during demolition of the convent and construction of new dwelling houses.

Porch with cast-iron work by MacFarlane’s, Mountain View House, Dungarvan
Demolished early 2000s

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