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

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