Cork Corporation first proposed the construction of a bridge spanning the River Lee from Saint Patrick's Street to the north bank of the Lee in the 1780s, shortly after the completion of the building of Saint Patrick's Street itself. An act of parliament, authorising the raising of funds for the building of the bridge, was passed in 1786. Michael Shanahan was chosen as the architect, and the foundation stone of the bridge was laid on 25 July 1788. A flood swept away the partially completed bridge on 17 January 1789. Later that year, Shanahan returned from London with a colleague named Hargrave and the bridge was rebuilt. The first Saint Patrick's Bridge was opened on 29 September 1789. This first bridge incorporated a portcullis to regulate ship traffic underneath the bridge. The portculllis was removed in 1824.
Source: Illustrated London News
Former St Patrick's Bridge (1789-1853), with damage caused by flood of 2 November 1853
The first bridge was destroyed by another severe flood in November 1853. A temporary timber bridge, designed by the noted architect Sir John Benson, was put in place by December of the same year. The Cork Bridge and Waterworks Act was passed in 1856 to allow Cork Corporation to raise money for the replacement of both Saint Patrick's Bridge and the North Gate Bridge. Sir John Benson drew up a design for a new stone bridge and the contract for the construction work was awarded to Joshua Hargrave, grandson of the Hargrave who had helped to build the first bridge on the same site.
The Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, the Earl of Carlisle, laid the foundation stone for the new bridge on 10 November 1859. The Mayor of Cork, Sir John Arnott, opened the new Saint Patrick's Bridge on 12 December 1861. The bridge, 18.5 metres (60 feet six inches) wide, spans a waterway of 51 metres (168 feet). Its elegant design remains one of the best-known landmarks in Cork. Reconstruction work was carried out on the bridge in 1981.
Source: National Library of Ireland
St Patrick's Bridge, circa 1910 (built 1859)