The construction of a bridge spanning the River Lee from Saint Patrick’s Street to the north bank of the Lee was first proposed by the Cork Corporation in 1780s. This proposal came 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 in1786. Michael Shanahan was chosen as the architect, and the foundation stone of the bridge was laid on 25th July 1788. On the 17th January 1789 a flood swept away the partially completed bridge. Later that year, Shanahan returned from London with a colleague named Hargrave and the bridge was rebuilt. The first bridge incorporated a portcullis to regulate ship traffic underneath the bridge. The portcullis was removed in1824.
In November 1853 the first bridge was destroyed by another severe flood. A temporary timber bridge, designed by the noted architect Sir John Benson, was put in place by December of the same year. In 1856 the Corkbridge & Waterworks Act was passed to allow the Corporation to raise money for the replacement of both Saint Patrick’s Bridge and the Northgate Bridge. Sir John Benson drew a design for a new stone bridge and the contract for the construction 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 Earl of Carlisle, Lord Lieutenant of Ireland laid the foundation stone for the new bridge on 10th November 1859. Sir John Arnott, Lord Mayor of Cork, opened the new Saint Patrick’s Bridge on 12th December 1861. The bridge is 18.5 metres (60ft.6ins) wide, spans a waterway of 51 metres (168ft.). Its elegant design remains one of the best-known landmarks in Cork. Reconstruction work was carried out on the bridge in 1981.