Turtle Bunbury

Writer and Historian

 
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THE DOCKLANDS - BUTT BRIDGE (1879 - Present)

Dublin Docklands - An Urban Voyageis a work in progress, commissioned by the Dublin Docklands Development Authority, and due to be completed in the autumn of 2008. The following tale represents research I have undertaken for the project which may or may not be used in the final book.

BUTT Bridge

Connection: Beresford Place to Tara Street.

Commissioner: Port & Docks Board.

Designer: Bindon Blood Stoney; Jospeh Mallagh.

Contractor: William J Doherty; Gray’s Ferro-Concrete (Ireland) Ltd.

Completed: 1879; 1932.

Put no inscription over the grave, except the date of my birth and my death; and, wherever I am buried, let the funeral be perfectly private, with as few persons attending, and as little show and expense as possible’ – Sir Isaac Butt

The First Butt Bridge (1879 - 1929)

In the 18th and 19th century, Dublin Port kept moving eastwards as the ships got bigger and the berthage requirements deeper. Almost as soon as the Carlisle Bridge (now O’Connell Bridge) was opened in 1795, the city’s merchants were calling for a new and better bridge even further east. By 1852, their dissatisfaction was so extreme that a New Bridge Committee was formed with the Earl of Charlemont as its chairman. The Ballast Board resisted, concentrating on the equally important measure of widening Carlisle Bridge instead. In 1876, a parliamentary act simultaneously allowed for the altering, widening and upgrading of Carlisle Bridge and the construction and maintenance of a new opening bridge, operated by hydraulic machinery, to connect Beresford Place on the north to Tara Street on the south. The opening span would enable ships to continue to dock at Burgh Quay and Eden Quay. The new bridge, which opened in September 1879, was designed by the Board’s engineer Bindon Blood Stoney in cahoots with contractor William J. Doherty. These two men were also collaborating on the new O’Connell Bridge and the rebuilding of most of Rogerson’s Quay. Metalwork and machinery was supplied by the Skerne Ironworks of Darlington shortly before that company went bankrupt. At the request of the Municipal Council, the new bridge was named for the late Sir Isaac Butt (1813 – May 1879), the Donegal barrister who founded the Home Rule League in 1873. Butt was not a complete stranger to the Dockalnds. At the Crimean Banquet of 1856, he had addressed 'the Crimean heroes' gathered in Stack A and offered 'a thousand welcomes with all the cordiality of the Irish heart - to those who fought for us in far off lands'. It was popularly known as the Swivel Bridge on account of the rotating mechanism that allowed the bridge to open. A census taken in October 1879 showed that an average of 3,177 vehicles passed over the bridge daily, together with ‘6,308 pedestrians, 55 equestrians and 223 cattle’.

THE SECOND BUTT BRIDGE (1932 - PRESENT)

Neither Eden Quay or Burgh Quays were able to provide suitable berthage for the increasingly huge vessels coming upriver. Moreover, they had become busy thoroughfares for the public making the loading and unloading of cargo a logistical nightmare. On 13th December 1888, the bridge opened for the last time. After the Loopline Railway Viaduct was completed three years later, Stoney’s spans swivelled no more. The bridge came under increasing pressure from those who insisted its approach gradients were too steep and its carriageway too narrow. In 1925, the Dublin Port and Docks Board lodged a bill for the reconstruction of Butt Bridge. The bill was enacted four years later and a new bridge was designed by the Board’s Chief Engineer Joseph Mallagh. He acted in consultation with Pierce Purcell (Professor of Civil Engineering at University College Dublin) and, as visual advisor, Messrs O’Callaghan and Giron. The new 19 metre wide three-span Butt Bridge opened to traffic in 1932, just in time for the 31st International Eucharistic Congress. Butt Bridge was the first Liffey bridge in Dublin to be built with reinforced concrete, courtesy of Gray’s Ferro-Concrete (Ireland) Ltd. Reinforced concrete contains steel reinforcing that is designed and placed in structural members at specific positions to cater for all the stress conditions that the member is required to accommodate. It is also believed to be the earliest recorded use of the cantilevered method of construction in reinforced concrete in Britain or Ireland. The centre span, which is 33.6 metres long, was constructed as two separate cantilevered half spans of 16.8metres, enabling half of the river to be kept open for barge traffic.

It was proposed by Dublin Corporation to apply the name 'Congress Bridge' to the this 'new and handsome bridge'. By way of compromise, the Dublin Port and Docks Board placed a plaque on the bridge: 'Butt Bridge . . . re-built 1932 . . . the year of the 31st International Eucharistic Congress'.

The new bridge was rapidly overshadowed by the Loopline Railway Bridge.

See: Ireland, Ronald H. Cox, M.C. Gould (Technology & Engineering, 1998).

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