Updated: Jul 7, 2021
Straddling the Great Estuary at the mouth of the River Avoca is Arklow’s iconic Nineteen Arches bridge, built between 1754 and 1756 by Andrew Noble. This impressive stone arch bridge features nineteen segmental arches with hammered or rough-cut rubble stone voussoirs. It links the Main Street and southern end of town with the northern part, called Ferrybank. The Nineteen Arches Bridge is the longest handmade stone bridge in Ireland, and you’ll find an information board close to the Bridge Hotel with more details.
Folklore has it that after the bridge was completed Noble saw a flaw – he had forgotten to allow for recesses along the parapet where pedestrians could stand in out of the way of passing wagons and animal herds. The story goes that he could not live with the shame and committed suicide in 1959.
The story itself has one major flaw! Andrew Noble is buried in an ancient graveyard at Ennereilly, just north of Arklow and had he really committed suicide at this time, would not have been buried in consecrated ground.
Before the bridge was there at all the crossings were made by small boats, which were pulled across the river on a rope, with landing platforms on both banks. The south terminal was the ‘town bank’ while the north terminal was known as the ‘ferry bank’ – now Ferrybank. There is evidence that a wooden bridge replaced the ferry around the end of the 17th Century, and this bridge is shown on a copy of a 1726 Allen (later Glenart) estate map.
In more recent years, during the erection of dry quays, enormous heaps of bones were found in this area, which are presumed to be the ‘fallen’ from a battle at this site in 1798. Over the years the bridge has been remodeled and because of various works in the area, now only seventeen and a half arches are visible.