The Ha’penny Bridge, as it's colloquially referred to, has become one of the most iconic structures along the River Liffey and is often the first image to come to mind when thinking about the River.
Its official name is “the Liffey Bridge” (originally called the “Wellington Bridge” after the Duke of Wellington, a native of Dublin), however it is know as the Ha’penny Bridge due to the fact that those crossing the bridge would be charged a penny-ha’penny (1.5 pence) for usage when it was first built in 1816. This practice of charging a fee for crossing the bridge lasted for over a 100 year.
Now over 200 years old, the Ha’penny was the first cast iron bridge on the Island of Ireland.
The contract for the the construction of the bridge (a privately funded effort) was signed only two months before the Battle of Waterloo. Given its privately funded status, cast iron was chosen as its construction material due to it being far less expensive than stone.
For the first ten days after it originally opened, people were allowed to cross for free. This was clever marketing, as it encouraged people to use the new mode of transit, and thus got them in the habit of doings so. Thereafter, the toll styles were put in place.
Today, there exist only two toll bridges that cross over the River Liffey, the Ha’penny not being one of them. These are the Eastlink Bridge, the east-most on the River, and the M50 Motorway bridge, which sits on the western outskirts of the city.
When admiring the Ha’Penny, one may notice that the bridge raises high above the river. This was to allow marine traffic to pass beneath it, as the river was still an active commercial transport area during the 1800s.
Guinness, for example, would transfer its beer from their factory at the James Gate, down the river, over to the ship docks. A trip which would involve passing underneath the Ha’penny (note: there was no charge, at any point, to go under the bridge).
Over time, the bridge began to deteriorate greatly. Lack of maintenance and upkeep caused the bridge to become quite an eye sore. Eventually, the toll styles were removed, and the decision was made to completely renovate it in order to restore its original beauty and emplace modern construction standards.
The reconstruction was completed in 2001. To this day, the bridge remains one of the most important pedestrian routes in the city, with approximately 30,000 people crossing each day.