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British Industrial History

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Spencer Dock, Dublin

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The Royal Canal reached the River Liffey through a wide sequence of dock and locks at Spencer Dock, with a final sea lock to manage access to the river and sea.

1873 Spencer Dock was built on the site of the old Royal Canal Docks to accommodate the coal ships of the Midland and Great Western Railway Co.

Serving as both a railway and canal depot, the dock inevitably went into decline as the effectiveness of such Victorian transport options dwindled in the 20th century.

In 20**, the site was part of a sizeable area purchased for redevelopment by the Spencer Dock Development Company. Spencer Dock promises to be one of the most dynamic and exciting areas of the 21st century Docklands, with the Samuel Beckett Bridge and the Convention Centre at its riverside entrance, and incorporating such landmarks as the Spencer Dock Bridge and the Royal Canal Linear Park.[1]

From the “Irish Times” 16 April 1873 – report on the opening of the new Spencer Dock:-

“In Sheriff Street the old stone bridge which spanned the canal, and interposed serious obstacles to the ordinary road traffic of the locality, has been removed, and an ingeniously contrived swivel-bridge, designed by Mr. Price, the very efficient engineer of the company (Midland Great Western Railway Co) which owns the Royal Canal, has been substituted.

In all former structures of this kind the operation of opening or closing occupied on an average about 18 minutes. By Mr. Price’s plan this bridge can be opened or closed in under 3 minutes. The design is beautifully simple and perfect. Beneath the level of the new bridge is a wooden buoy, 10 feet deep, and 19 feet in diameter, with a floating power equal to 95 tons. This buoy operates as a balance to the bridge, and as the latter has a weight of about 100 tons, it will be perceived that the weight remaining on the central pivot is only 5 tons.

The bridge has two nine-feet archways for horses and cars and two footpaths of four-and-a-half feet for pedestrians. The opening of the bridge will be sufficient to admit any vessel that has once passed the entrance lock, and, as already stated, the Cross-Channel screw steamers can all do this.”

From the same day’s Editorial:-

“Few of those whom the steamers carried yesterday from the lower to the upper dock, and who saw the massive swivel-bridge between the two turn in half a minute under the hand of a single operator, were aware of the novelty of the principle involved in its construction, or of the economy of labour effected by Mr. Price’s genius.”

From a Paper read by Mr. J. A. Saner to the Institution of Civil Engineers in 1909:-

“The Northwich bridges were 3 times as heavy and had twice the span of the two floating swing bridges erected by Mr. Price at the Spencer Dock in Dublin. At these bridges the part of the weight not carried by the buoy was carried by a central pivot beneath the buoy, with guiding wheels bearing against the sides of the well in which the buoy floated. His novel idea of carrying the weight on floats was described by Mr. Price in a paper given to the Institution in 1879. The Dublin bridges carry 95% of their weight on the float.”

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