I'm Billy Dickson BEM and wish to personally say -

Welcome to the Boyne Bridge Site !


Link to petition - CLICK HERE:





We the undersigned, wish to record our opposition to the possible interference or removal of any part of the remains of the 1642 Great Bridge of Belfast, which became known by different names including Brick-kilm Bridge, Brickill Bridge, Brick-hill Bridge, Brickle Bridge, Salt Water Bridge and the present name of Boyne Bridge. The bridge is encased within the southern approach to the present 1936 Boyne Bridge and is the earliest surviving bridge in Belfast. We call upon the Department for Communities, Historic Environment Division to not only list the remains of the Great Bridge and possibly those of a 1611 bridge, but the historic site at which it is situated, as an ancient crossing place along with many associations with the many early developments in Belfast. The importance of the site is clearly outlined In George Ben's history of the town of Belfast, in which he went as far as saying that it represented what was then the town of Belfast. We also call for a significant feature to be constructed that would identify the location of the remains of the ancient bridge and the site.

Please sign our petition to let the Department for Communities, Historic Environment Division know that listing the historical remains and site are important to our heritage.



In 1625 Arthur Chichester died and was succeeded by his brother Edward, Viscount Chichester of Carrickfergus. He constructed a new bridge across the Blackstaff consisting of three arches and named it 'The Great Bridge of Belfast. The structure received its first major test when Colonel Venables, Commander of Oliver Cromwell’s army, marched north from Drogheda. He brought with him a baggage train complete with heavy guns, crossed over the river and seized the town. The bridge had to be repaired afterwards. With the building of the Bridge over the Lagan in 1685 consisting of 21 arches, the word 'Great was dropped from the Viscount's bridge and it became known as 'Brickhill Bridge after the nearby 'Brick Pitts' (Moore, 1951).

Another army some 45 years later crossed over the bridge with the same intention of capturing the town. This time it was an Irish army of King James, who succeeded in taking the town for a short period. He then retreated across the bridge as the army of Schomberg advanced from the north Down in hot pursuit. The strength of the arches was once again put to the test, as teams of horses dragged the heavy cannons across it. Its name appears to have been changed, some years later when it became known as the 'Saltwater bridge' in acknowledgement of the point where the tidal waters of the estuary went no farther. In 1717 the Grand Jury made an assessment for building buttresses "to support the saltwater Bridge and for other repairs above the bridge" (Young, 1896). 1he bridge lacked a footpath and used angular recesses or niches above the piers.

Apart from facilitating the movement of men, animals and cannon, the bridge was used to carry water pipes across to serve the needs of the town’s population. The remains of these wooden pipes were discovered when a new bridge, christened the 'Boyne Bridge', was built across the river in 1935.

The bridge across the Blackstaff witnessed the comings and goings of herdsmen and traders bringing their cattle, sheep and goods for sale at markets outside the walls of the settlement at the mouth of the Farset. It witnessed the approach of Kings and Generals, but surprisingly it was not the scene of any major battles despite its strategic location. However, it did become the scene of sectarian rioting between mobs from the Roman Catholic Pound Loney and Protestants from Sandy Row in 1864. In more recent times, the bridge retained something of its former strategic importance when protests were mounted at the foot of the bridge against outsiders coming in to buy property in Sandy Row.

Today the bridge from a historical perspective hides all that has happened at this crossing of ages past. All that remains are memories written down in journals and maps that bear scant testimony to the momentous events at this crossing where the tidal waters reached.

The above is from the book, RIVERS OF BELFAST by Des O'REILLY



Book by Mr. S. Shannon Millin, B.A. 1937


In the early seventies of the last century, Mr. Thomas Gaffikin delivered a lecture on “Belfast Fifty Years Ago”, in which he says:

“The old Long Bridge was composed of twenty-one arches; it was very narrow; and had no footways. The breakwater or pier between some of the arches was carried up to the retaining wall and formed little angular recesses, which people sometimes had to step into when two conveyances were passing. Two of such niches are still to be seen on the old Salt Water Bridge, Sandy Row.”

That statement of Mr. Giffikin is corroborative proof that the original bridge had three arches, as each angular recess or niche was above a pier separating the arches and there was no occasion for a recess at either end. One of these arches had evidently disappeared during the sixty years that had ended in 1935 when the reconstruction of the Boyne Bridge was begun.

Fortunately, through the thoughtful foresight of Mr. A. H. George, one of the staff of the Municipal Museum, the outline of the original bridge has been preserved for all time by a photographic reproduction which shows not only the graceful curvature of its two remaining arches, but the angular recess on the roadway, used by pedestrians to avoid the vehicular traffic.

The photograph was taken on 21st June, 1935, before the old wooden pipe was removed from its original position, where it had lain for two and a half centuries. The pipe is placed from north to south and the tapering spigot is at the north end. The wooden pipe itself measures 14 feet, having a bore of 4 ½ inches while the thickness of the body is 2 inches. The men are engaged in sinking for the foundations of the pier which supports the Boyne Bridge on the south side of the main railroad to Dublin. From the position of the pipe it would seem that the line of wooden piping ran beneath the Great Northern Railroad, but whether the wooden pipes were removed at the time of forming the railroad is not known.

During the rebuilding of the Boyne Bridge, the Great Bridge of Belfast, alias Brickill Bridge, alias Salt Water Bridge, was incorporated in the reconstruction. Two of the original arches, built of local blue whinstone and covering a stretch of 46 feet from north to south, were then, according to Mr. Henry Martin, Senior Director of H. & J. Martin, Ltd., still good and sound. But to-day one lookes in vain for that sole survival of the seventeenth century Belfast. Build in 1642, during the troublesome times of the Rebellion of that period, it had more historic associations than any other part of the city. Its arches had resounded to the endless tramp of armies, marching to and from town; the structure had endured the weight of the Duke of Schomberg’s heavy artillery on his march southward to the Boyne; it was the route of William 111 and his attendant officers on 19th June, 1690, after landing at Carrickfergus five days earlier from the Mary Yacht, under the Command of Captain Grenville Collins, and resting in Belfast Castle during the interval; it was the direct road to Lisburn and the South of Ireland, to and from which the old Coach and Six trundle along with the occasional blast of the Coachman’s Horn; and underneath its curved arches flowed an ample supply of water from The Squire’s Hill, after the Clowney Water had joined the overflow from Truch Mill Dam to form the “Ryver of Owynvarra” which, for a lengthened period of time, was the driving power of Joy’s Paper Mill of vanished past. With all such venerable and historic associations the Great Bridge of Belfast has been, so to speak, buried alive in a concrete coffin, without a nameplate to indicate its former existence, or even its place of interment.

Boyne Bridge wooden pipes in Ulster Museum Store.