The Ha'penny Bridge is Dublin's most well-known landmark. The bridge gets its name from the toll that the residents of the city had to pay to cross the bridge in the early 1800's: half an old penny. It is now free to cross the bridge; however the original half-penny fee it cost to cross the bridge was, at that time, half a day's wages for the average working man. It was therefore only the aristocracy who could afford to cross this bridge originally.

Until the year 2000, the Ha'penny Bridge was the only pedestrian bridge over the river Liffey, linking the north and south sides of the city centre. The bridge links Liffey Street and the main Henry Street shopping area on the northside of the river, with Merchant's Arch and the city's cultural quarter, Temple Bar, on the southside. The toll on the bridge was abandoned over a century ago, however its colloquial nickname still remains. An average of 30,000 people normally use the Ha'penny bridge each day.

The Bridge was built in the year 1816 as the Wellington Bridge, named after the Duke of Wellington, the "Iron Duke". It is a cast iron structure which was cast at Coalbrookdale in Shropshire, England. The bridge has three lamps supported by curved iron arches over the walkway to light the way across the bridge at nighttime.

Dublin's most famous bridge was temporarily closed for nine months in 2001, while major, multi-million pound restoration work was carried out on the 185 year-old bridge. As some of the bridge's beams had become very corroded in its near 200 year existence, the entire bridge had to be taken apart, piece-by-piece, inspected, repaired or replaced, and put back together again. Specialist modern techniques were used so that as much of the original material as possible could be retained and repaired, and only 10% of the old bridge was replaced. Belfast's famous Harland and Wolff (renowned shipbuilders of the Titanic) was among the companies involved in the restoration project.1 The railings of the bridge were re-painted in the original off-white colour in which it was painted when it first opened. The original deck was strengthened and a new slip-resistant covering was laid, thus the bridge no longer "bounces" underfoot as it used to when I was younger. Wider entrances were also created at either end of the bridge to allow for standing space for pedestrians waiting to cross the road. The bridge was also floodlit, and now looks as pretty and striking by night as it does by day.

The newly strengthened and refurbished bridge was officially reopened on December 21st, 2001. Dublin Lord Mayor Michael Mulcahy was the first person to cross the bridge on its reopening, some five months later than originally proposed.

The Ha'penny Bridge is a very popular site on any tourist's visit to Dublin, and a staple in any album of holiday photographs in the Capital. Everytime i leave my hometown of Dublin for any extended period of time, the Hapenny Bridge is the first place I visit on my return, only when I stand on the bridge do I feel truly home!


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