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Rialto Bridge c.1939 after the filling in of the Grand Canal Main Line
Rialto Bridge c.1939 after the filling in of the Grand Canal Main Line

Harcourt Bridge (the true name of this bridge) was named after the Chairman of the Grand Canal Company, the First Earl of Harcourt. It was the shape of this 18th-century bridge (emanating Rialto Bridge in Venice) that gave it its nickname "Rialto" (dating from 1795) which eventually extended to the surrounding district.

Harcourt Bridge aka "Rialto Bridge"  is the only remaining bridge on the former Main Line of the Grand Canal which served Guinness Brewery on James' Street.

The former Main Line of the Grand Canal ran from Griffith Bridge to the old Guinness harbour at James' Street. It was filled in as a Linear Park (from Davitt Road to the Basin Lane end of St. James’s Hospital) and is now followed by the Red Line Luas from Tallaght or City West to Dublin City Centre.

In 1766, during the building the canal, a temporary timber bridge was constructed here. The main road to Kilmainham (now the South Circular Road) crossed the Grand Canal at this point and was a busy thoroughfare even then. The Canal Company then moved to replace this structure in stone.

In 1795, Mr Henry Roche obtained the contract to construct an ornamental bridge costing £1200, which, when it was finally completed, was considered similar in shape and style to a bridge in Venice, called Ponte Di Rialto.  

In 1939, the bridge was reconstructed and widened.

In 2003, much to the anguish of the local Environment Group, it was modified with an ugly concrete wall (to comply with tram safety requirements for the introduction of the Red Luas Line).

When the Luas was being constructed along the old canal at Rialto the works were monitored by archaeologists. Several pike heads were recovered from the base of the silts on the western side of the bridge which were probably dumped there during Robert Emmet's Irish Rebellion (23 July 1803) or immediately afterwards.

An elegant double flight of steps on the north-east side of Rialto Bridge.


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