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Cherished Dublin bridge to celebrate 200th birthday

Published 18/05/2016

One of Dublin's most cherished landmarks is celebrating its 200th birthday.

The beloved Ha'penny Bridge has spanned the Liffey since 1816, surviving rebellion and civil war and retaining its unique position as the only pedestrian walkway over the river until 1999.

Named after the toll charged for more than 100 years for the pleasure of abandoning leaky ferries for a drier crossing, it bears the weight of 30,000 people every day.

In its early years, a mere 450 people a day paid the fee to cross.

Lord Mayor of Dublin Criona Ni Dhalaigh will mark the anniversary on Thursday in a symbolic crossing with descendants of the men who commissioned it and designed it - Lord Mayor John Claudius Beresford and John Windsor.

David Windsor, speaking on behalf of his family, said: "It's a great privilege to have been invited here to represent my great grandfather.

"At the time, it was at the forefront of technology and would have been a statement that Dublin was a forward looking city.

"I'm grateful that the people of, and visitors to, Dublin have taken it to their hearts and that the city of Dublin has cared for it for future generations to use and admire."

Mr Windsor was a foreman in the Coalbrookdale Ironworks Foundry and reportedly oversaw the bridge's design as it was being cast.

It is a single elliptical, iron arch structure with a 43-metre span, three metres wide and is said to rise elegantly three metres above the Liffey.

The superstructure is composed of three arch ribs, each formed in six segments and it is said to have been the first cast iron metal bridge in Ireland.

It was officially named the Liffey Bridge in 1922, after Ireland secured independence, and is o ne of 23 across the river in the city.

Nowadays, it provides a link from Merchant's Arch on the edge of a bustling Temple Bar to Liffey Street on the north side.

In its past lives, it had various names including the Wellington - after the British politician and general the 1st Duke of Wellington - and also the Metal, Triangle and Iron Bridge.

Before it opened, ferry owner and alderman of the city William Walsh charged the ha'penny toll for carrying people on his leaky boats.

His service ran from a mooring near where the bridge sits now - the Bagnio Slip, which it is claimed was named after a local brothel.

He was compensated with £3,000 and the bridge lease for 100 years.

In the last two years, engineers have made pleas to loved-up couples not to copy the tying of padlocks to t he Ha'penny Bridge as is tradition on the Pont des Arcs in Paris.

There are fears the Ha'penny will suffer the same fate as the bridge over the Seine when a section cracked under the weight of love - and lock pickers in Dublin now routinely remove them as quick as they appear.

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