bridges across Liffey in Co. Kildare
As the river Liffey traverses through this county for a
distance of almost one hundred miles it has not too surprising
to find that no less than sixteen bridges cross it in the
The earliest historical mention is in the statute rolls
of 1463: "Grants were made, and divers customs were
to be levied on various towns," including Naas, "for
the repair of the town walls, pavage and repairs to bridges,
by which said towns are greatly strengthened."
The six-arched Naas Bridge then mentioned was that at Carragh.
200 years later the Down Survey of 1656 records bridges
at Carragh, Kilcullen and St. Wolstan's, Celbridge.
Continuing improvement in road-making is evident from Arthur
Young's comments in his late 18th century A Tour in Ireland
in which he says: "Any person wishing to make or amend
a road has it measured by two persons, who swear to the
measurements before a justice of the peace. It is described
as leading from one market town to another, and that it
will be a public road, and that it will require such a sum."
About that time Austin Cooper described Athy as "a
small town situated on the river Barrow, over which is a
plain bridge, with a low square castle adjoining on the
east side." By then there were eight bridges over the
Liffey, at Kilcullen, Harristown, New Bridge, (Carragh),
Clane, Celbridge, Leixlip, St. Wolstans, and Ballymore Eustace
which was then in Co. Dublin.
The six-arched Carragh bridge, dating from 1656, is the
oldest surviving one. It has been described as "a rare
example of the transition from the pointed segmental to
segmental arc form in bridge construction."
Maurice Jakis, a canon of the Cathedral, Kildare, who built
Kilcullen bridge, was also responsible for Leighlin bridge
in 1320. It was an important crossing of the river from
earliest times, and it is understandable that a canon from
the cathedral, well versed in stone, would be selected to
plan and erect the bridge. There is mention of it in 1495,
but it was destroyed in the Cromwellian wars, and in 1644
when Ormonde quartered his troop at Ballymore and Sir William
Willoughbly's detachment crossed the Liffey they had to
go by the Athgarvan ford. That same year a French traveller
noted: "We dined at Kilcolin Bridge where ends the
English ground. We swam over the river with much trouble,
carrying our clothes upon our heads, the Irish having broken
the bridge during the religious wars."
The Dublin Penny Journal in 1840 noted the "Leighlin
Bridge was built to facilitate intercourse between the religious
houses of old and new Leighlin, and then also was built
the bridges at Kilcullen and St. Wolstan's, which still
exist." That Augustinian friary had been founded about
1205, and the four-arched bridge across the Liffey was financed
by the Mayor of Dublin in 1308. It was taken down in 1949
when the Leixlip hydro-electric scheme was being developed,
and a replacement bridge, similar in plan and width, was
However, comments the authors of Irish Stone Bridges, Archdeacon
Sherlock, in commenting on the Horse-pass bridge in Poulaphuca
said: "It would have been far better to have let it
rest beneath the waters like the Horsepass Bridge, had that
"Better by far than building castles or taking them
by storm." He said that the road way was nine feet
wide, and the undersides of the arches bear wattle marks,
and there was a large deserted mill nearby, and an ancient
ford somewhat below the bridge. In the 18th century some
barbarians proposed to take it down by this was strongly
opposed by Mr Richard Cane, who deserves the thanks of posterity
for his resistance, paticularly as he offered to build another
bridge lower down at his own expense."
The English traveller John Dunton in 1863 "jogged on
through Palmerstown, St. Catherines and Leixlip, all upon
the banks of the river, swans on the water, a number of
fishermen on the banks, good houses and pleasant seats.
Naas, a good, handsome town with several stone houses, and
two handsome taverns, several inns, a large church and a
session house. We rid on about a mile and came to a place
called Grigginstown, or Strafford's folly, it had a chimney
for everyday of the year; some miles further on is New Bridge,
standing on the Liffey, a river rising in the mountains
towards the county of Wicklow, it is well stored with excellent
trout, and has several agreeable seats on its banks."
By far the most spectacular bridge over the Liffey of the
Leinster Aquaduct which carries both the Grand Canal and
the road to Rathangan. The fine five-arched construction
of 1780 has an arched passage beneath giving access to the
other side of the river.
At Monasterevin the six-arched bridge over the Barrow was
constructed in 1832 by the Earl of Drogheda, carrying the
Mountmellick, and in 1827 work commenced on the aqueduct
over the Barrow, to carry the Mountmellick extension of
the Grand Canal, with a lifting bridge, now electrically
operated. These changes to the canal system left behind
the blind bridge now partly buried. The Pass Bridge, sometimes
called Essex Bridge, named from the passage of that gentleman
and his army on the 16th century, is one of the oldest bridges
in the county.
Courtesy of the Leinster Leader