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"Limerick's Historic Wellesley Bridge: Swivel Section's Opening Discontinued Since 1927" | Limerick Gazette Archives

“Limerick’s Historic Wellesley Bridge: Swivel Section’s Opening Discontinued Since 1927”

The Limerick Harbour (Bridge) Act of 1963 (Private) provides a historical account of the swivelling section of the Wellesley Bridge, now known as the Sarsfield Bridge, in Limerick.

In 1823, the Limerick Bridge Commissioners were established through a local and personal Act titled “An Act for the erection of a bridge across the River Shannon and of a floating dock to accommodate sharp vessels frequenting the port of Limerick.” The purpose of their incorporation was to construct the bridge and floating dock. The Act specified the need for a swivel bridge to ensure unimpeded navigation of the River Shannon. It mandated that the bridge be designed and built to allow ships and vessels to pass through or near the bridge on the south side. Consequently, one or more swivel bridges or drawbridges were to be installed on the bridge or the adjacent bank at its south end. These measures facilitated the movement of vessels between the sections of the river above and below the bridge.

In compliance with the 1823 Act, the Wellesley Bridge, later known as the Sarsfield Bridge, and a swivel bridge were constructed around 1825. However, in 1883, the control of the swivel bridge and its associated water approaches was transferred to the Limerick Harbour Commissioners. This transfer occurred through an order issued by the Commissioners of Public Works, in accordance with the provisions of the Wellesley Bridge (Limerick) Act of 1882. The Commissioners were entrusted with the responsibility of maintaining and operating the swivel bridge to ensure proper accommodation for shipping and bridge users.

In 1913, the Limerick Harbour (Bridge) Act authorized the Limerick Harbour Commissioners to construct and maintain a new swivel bridge and approaches for vehicular and pedestrian traffic across the River Shannon. This new swivel bridge, erected around 1923, replaced the previous one. The Act ensured that all powers, rights, duties, and liabilities pertaining to the old swivel bridge and its approaches, as well as any bylaws in effect, would apply to the new structure.

However, since February 1927, the new swivel bridge has not been opened for the passage of ships or vessels. Over time, the Sarsfield Bridge and the new swivel bridge have become vital for vehicular traffic, serving as a crucial route to and from Shannon Airport and the western regions of Ireland. As road traffic over the new swivel bridge has significantly increased, opening the bridge for water passage would cause considerable disruption to both road and pedestrian traffic. Therefore, in the interest of road travellers, it has become necessary to relieve the Limerick Harbour Commissioners of their obligation to open the new swivel bridge for ship and vessel passage.

The Limerick Harbour (Bridge) Act of 1963, enacted by the Oireachtas, ensures that the Commissioners are no longer liable to open the new swivel bridge or maintain it in a manner that allows for its opening. The Act also provides provisions for compensation to individuals whose legal rights, including navigation rights, are curtailed or terminated by the Act. Any costs and expenses related to the preparation, application, and passage of this Act are to be borne by the Commissioners.

In summary, the Limerick Harbour (Bridge) Act of 1963 relieves the Limerick Harbour Commissioners of their duty to open the new swivel bridge and outlines compensation measures. It is referred to collectively with previous Acts as the Limerick Harbour (Bridge) Acts, encompassing the period from 1823 to 1963.


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