brief history of the historic and unusual construction of
ancient road existed before the 12th century linking Cashel,
Ardfinnan, Lismore and Ardmore, called the Rian Bo Phadraigh
or track of St. Patrick's cow. It crossed the Blackwater
at Lismore, probably by a ford.
Joyce states that St.Carthac, the founder who died in 638,
named it Liassmor or the great enclosure. It became a great
centre of learning. The first castle is attributed to Prince
John, the Norman Lord of Ireland in 1185, who became the
bridge building monarch in 1199. No reference
to an early bridge at Lismore was found; perhaps there are
mentions in the famous Book of Lismore compiled in the 15th
century, as it is said to contain much secular information
in addition to the lives of Irish saints.
The Down survey maps show a ford about five miles up river
and a bridge at Cappoquin in the 1650s. Molls map
shows bridges at Ballyduff and Cappoquinn, but no crossing
in the vicinity of Lismore. The importance of the town diminished
after it was burned in 1645. It revived when the fifth Duke
of Devonshire inherited the castle and large estates in
1753. Rylands History of Waterford (1824) states that
he spent large sums erecting a sessions house and a gaol,
an inn and offices and more importantly the bridge. Ryland
includes a sketch of the bridge by Brooks and states that
it was built at the sole expense of the late Duke
in 1775 and is 100ft in span of the arch. Various
secondary sources give a range of cost, up to 9,000stg and
state that the bridge was designed by Thomas Ivory, the
noted 18th century Irish architect.
McParlands 1973 booklet Thomas Ivory, Architect
gives the source as Council Minute Book, 1770-1801;
Waterford Town Hall; July 13, 1773. Austin Cooper noted
on June 11, 1781 (Nat Library of Ireland Ms 772) that according
to the Duke of Devonshires agent, the Lismore bridge
designed by Mr Ivory and executed by Messrs Darley
and Stokes had cost 7,200stg. This is an invaluable
mention and from it we can deduce that the six span bridge
shown in the sketch was the original designed by Thomas
Ivory and erected in the 1770s.
There is another sketch of the bridge, drawn by John Brennan
and printed in the Irish Penny Magazine in 1833. The sketch
shows five arches, the sixth small arch being obscured by
trees. The overall profiles, drawn from locations well back
from the right back looking up river, are quite similar.
The main arch and the first have a deceptive pointed appearance
at the crowns due to the oblique angle from which they were
viewed. The article in the magazine on Lismore has one sentence
about the bridge. Here is a fine bridge, over the
Blackwater, erected at very great expense by a former Duke
of Devonshire and particularly remarkable for the extent
of its principal arch, which spans ninety feet. One
important deduction that can be made from Ryland and the
latter article is that there must have been no plaque on
the bridge; otherwise one would expect specific information
from it to be quoted, including a mention of Thomas Ivory.
There seems to have been no public road here before the
erection of the bridge, otherwise the Waterford grand jury
would have received some mention. New roads were being built
all over the country at the time in accordance with the
provisions of the 1774 act, but it would be difficult to
envisage any grand jury spending over 7,000stg on a new
crossing on the estate of a wealthy, often absentee landlord.
The insertion of the note in the council minutes book tends
to confirm this opinion.
The 1842 OS six inch map shows the river to be about 220ft
wide between the banks at the bridge. A substantial pier
with cutwaters fore and aft is shown in the river, such
that the main south arch had a clear span of about 100ft,
the second scales about 70ft. The land arches are not distinguished,
indicated by a lack of cutwaters.
I had looked at this bridge briefly in 1986, before searching
out the foregoing information and noted down the inscription
of the present plaque: 1858/Lismore Bridge/Rebuilt/CH
Hunt and EP McGee Contractors/Charles Tarrant Engineer CS.
It gives the impression that the whole bridge had been rebuilt,
though the plaque is not located on the main span, but on
the third pier on the down river parapet. A close examination
of an old Lawrence postcard in which the main arch is depicted
clearly without foreground camouflage, showed that the main
arch spanning the river had not been rebuilt and was obviously
Thomas Ivorys original. A difference was noticeable,
particularly in the apparel on the arch ring extra-dos.
This was confirmed by the county engineer, John OFlynn,
who also drew attention to a distinct change in the masonry
in the parapet walls.
Information on what had happened to Thomas Ivorys
land arches emerged fortuitously in a search for information
on Carrigadrohid Bridge. Among the reports in the Cork Examiner
of November 11, 1853 on the damage caused to bridges in
Co Cork by the big flood of November 3 was a mention of
Lismore. It stated that some dry arches had been destroyed
and that a ferry had been established just below the bridge
and that the County Surveyor was making arrangements for
the erection of a temporary wooden bridge which would not
interfere with the rebuilding of the arches which were destroyed.
The report also mentioned that the wooden bridge at Ballyduff,
four miles up river from Lismore, was completely carried
away by the flood.
There is an entry in the records of the Co Waterford spring
assizes, 1854 providing To the County Surveyor, amount
of magistrates warrant for repairs of a sudden damage
to the bridge of Lismore 20stg and another in the summer
assizes 1854 To Albert Williams, of Dublin for repairing
the bridge of Lismore, on the road from Waterford to Cork,
pursuant to the plan and specification of the county surveyor
and that the treasurer do, out of any funds in his hands
available for the purpose, make advances to the contractor
during the progress of the work, on the certificate of the
county surveyor, in sums not less than 250stg and in the
whole not exceeding 1,000stg (provision) 2,000stg.
These items obviously relate to the temporary wooden bridge
at the fallen land arches because the plaque states that
Hunt and McGee were contractors for the §858 rebuilding.
Robert Manning, in his presidential address to the ICEI
in 1879, stated that Lismore Bridge is a stone bridge
with a (centre) arch of 103ft span and a rise of 23ft. It
is the largest span in Ireland except that over the Liffey
at Islandbridge, which has a span of 104ft and a rise of
30ft. Manning had carried out a survey of Lismore, north
of the river Blackwater in 1870. The Waterford Co Council
Report on Bridge 1918 records that Lismore bridge
was 24ft 4in wide overall, had seven arches with spans and
piers as follows: 101/33-6/47-3/97/44-3/6-9/44-3/6-9/44-3/6-8/439/6-8/40-9.
On its general condition, it stated it was good apart from
partial undercutting of some floors under the land arches
in high floods which was repaired for 65stg.
The main span of Lismore, that is, the surviving arch of
Thomas Ivorys bridge was measured and examined by
Pat Corbett, Assistant Engineer, Waterford Co Council in
1990 using electronic distance measurement. He found the
span to be 100ft from abutment to the face of pier 1 at
the springing points. He also measured and plotted the intrados
curve and found that the springing on pier 1 was 7ft 9in
below the level of the abutment springing. This remarkable
characteristic is not visible to the eye or old or new photographs
due to obstruction by trees and shrubs. This was how Ivory
avoided minimising the visual effect of the change of grade
in the parapet coping over pier 1, slightly evident in the
Brooke sketch. The rise of the arch is 29ft, giving a rise
to span ratio of 0.29. The riverbed is 10.5ft below the
span line and almost parallel to it.
The abutment is founded on rock and most probably pier 1.
The intrados curve has not been fully investigated, but
from the measurements it would appear to be a segment of
a circle of 57ft 9in radius with an internal angle of 120
degrees. The ring is composed of voussoirs approximately
46in deep at the crown and 30in by 18in wide on the soffit.
There is a significant difference in the stone masonry in
the main 1775 arch and the 1858 land arches, clearly evident
in the parapet and spandrel walls. There is no significant
difference in the masonry in pier 1, which is 34ft wide
and obviously designed by Ivory as an abutment pier; this,
together with the lowering of the main arch springing plane,
saved the 100ft arch from sequential collapse in the 1853
flood. It is a landmark arch in the history of Irish masonry
bridges and a monument to a courageous architect, a master
of stonework who was born in Cork in the 1730s. His interest
in long spans was probably stimulated by the 60ft span of
Clarkes Bridge erected across the Lee by Hobbs in
courtesy of The Avondhu