One of Cork city’s most famous bridges, St. Patrick’s Bridge, has been unveiled after a major rehabilitation project to secure its future. 

The €1.2 million scheme, funded by Transport Infrastructure Ireland, has successfully restored the iconic bridge’s limestone fabric and iron features to their former glory for the first time in over a century. 

Background

Built in 1861, the 90m long, three-span, masonry arch bridge links the main street to St. Patrick’s Hill.  An outstanding example of late 19th century engineering, it is a key landmark in Cork city.

Rehabilitation – not just repair

Cork City Council appointed Roughan & O’Donovan (ROD) to act as consultants for the rehabilitation of the bridge structure in May 2017.  ROD’s subconsultants on the project were Meitheal Design Partners, JCA Architects and Kevin Cleary. 

For ROD’s project engineer on the scheme, Matthew Ryan, it was important that the rehabilitation project was sympathetic to the bridge’s broader cultural bonds as well as to its engineering values: 

‘The project team saw the bridge not just as an important technical landmark, but as a significant contributor to the architectural heritage of the city.’

A two-phase project

The project, which took almost two years to complete from preliminary design to handover, was advanced in two phases. 

Phase one

Phase one began onsite in November 2017, with SSE Airtricity Utility Solutions Ltd as contractor. 

It involved the removal of four cast iron lighting columns on the bridge parapets.  The columns, together with four more in storage, were transported for repair and restoration by the renowned Italian lighting restoration specialists, Neri.

Four additional columns were replicated in Italy, bringing the total number to twelve. 

Phase two

Phase two began onsite in June 2018, with Cumnor Construction Ltd. as contractor.

It involved the cleaning and repair of the original bridge stonework, the re-pointing of missing or defective masonry joints and the installation of the restored lighting columns. 

Ancillary works included footpath repaving, carriageway resurfacing, new road markings and the upgrading of existing traffic lights, elevation and high-level architectural lighting and new directional signage.

An opening ceremony steeped in history

A formal bridge opening ceremony to mark the completion of the project took place on 16 March, with Cork County Council inviting anyone named Paddy or Patricia – in any language - to come along for a special photograph to mark the occasion. 

The Provincial Grand Master of the Munster Freemasons, Leslie Deane, brought along the spirit level used by the Earl of Carlisle, Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, when laying the original foundation stone on 10 November 1859. 

The trowel used to lay the bridge's original foundation - on loan from Cork Public Museum - was used by Lord Mayor of Cork, Councillor Mick Finn, to lay the last piece of stonework.