AS reported in recent weeks, the resurfacing of Upper Main Street at the western end of the village is completed, with inbound and outbound cycle lanes being a new feature. Works on the next phase of road improvements at East End from Bantry Cross are now under way.
However before the road is resurfaced, the visually important work of repairing and restoring the walls on the Three Arch Bridge is being carried out by Tim Murnane and his team of stone masons.
This almost 200-year-old bridge and its walls would surely have many tales to tell if they could talk as they have long been an intrinsic part of the village’s history and happenings. On the building of the Skibbereen (New Court) to Crookhaven (Rock Island) Road by the famous engineer Sir Richard Griffith 1784-1878, the bridge replaced an older structure over the confluence of the Rivers Bawnakeane and Rathravane and was one of fourteen bridges constructed along the route.
By far the three most expensive bridges were Ballydehob, £512, Kilcoe (by Kilcoe Church), £463 and the Crooked Bridge, £164, with Ballydehob being the only one of those that has not been replaced or reconstructed and still functioning fully today. Considering the change in traffic pattern and volume throughout all those years, it is a wonderful tribute to Richard Griffith’s design and the workmanship of the builders.
With up to 3,000 labourers employed on the 23-mile project, work began in July 1822. When completed a few years later, the total cost of the roadway and bridges came to a total of £9,439.
Not unlike today this sum was considerably over-budget, but now looking back 198 years later, having stood the test of time, it was unquestionably money well spent.
The building of Ballydehob’s more famous bridge, the 12-Arch, didn’t commence until over 60 years later, in 1885.