It is thought that the original Thomond Bridge may have been constructed about 1185. This is the main access point from King John’s Castle to the County Clare side of the river Shannon. The bridge we see today was completed in 1840 and was designed by the Pain Brothers. At high tide, the water reaches to almost the top of these arches.
Crossing Thomond Bridge to what is known as the Clare side, we come to Limerick’s famous monument – The Treaty Stone. Mounted on a plinth, this stone is reputed to be one on which the Treaty of Limerick was signed on October 3, 1691, marking the end of hostilities between the Williamites and forces loyal to King James the Second. The irregular shaped stone was previously used to aid people mounting their horses and stood outside a pub in Thomondgate. Originally twice this size, it was constantly under attack by souvenir hunters. It was mounted on a high plinth in 1865 to preserve what remained. It was relocated by a few metres in the 1980s.
There is a new boardwalk along the edge of the river on this side, open except when very high tides are expected. From here we can look across at the very modern Civic Offices with the tower of St Mary’s Cathedral behind. To the right, the white building is the Courthouse. This beautiful listed building dates from 1810 and was refurbished in recent times. The white water on the river marks the Curragower Falls. Beloved by kayakers at various stages of the tides, here they enjoy white water kayaking! Surely, relatively unique in a city centre?
Continuing along Clancy’s Strand, towards Sarsfield Bridge, we arrive at Strand Barracks. This building has had an interesting history – originally built as a House of Industry in 1774..’to support the aged and feeble poor, to save helpless infants from perishing, to take care of lunatics…and to make the sturdy vagrant useful to society by his labour….’ Noble causes indeed!
Damage to houses adjacent to Strand Barracks in 1922.
A solid stone building with a carriage arch leading to a courtyard, during the 19th Century it became an army barracks and was handed over in 1922 under the terms of the Anglo- Irish Treaty. In July 1922 it was ferociously bombarded for six days by the Free State troops. Despite coming under fire from armoured cars, snipers, machine guns and mortars the barracks was stoutly defended. Finally an 18 pound artillery gun was deployed – the first time such a weapon had been used in the city since the earlier siege in 1691. Firing from Arthurs Quay across the Shannon, the barracks walls were eventually breached and the Republicans surrendered.
Strand Barracks from Arthurs Quay and red brick houses to the right .
We then cross back over the Shannon at Sarsfield Bridge where the river effectively enters the Shannon Estuary. This bridge was built in 1835 and once opened to allow ships to pass under to Arthur’s Quay. Although it no longer opens, the mechanisms can still be seen under the bridge. On the bridge is a monument commemorating the 1916 Rebellion as well as the Shannon Rowing Club. At high tide, crews can be seen out on the water – one of the loveliest sights on the Shannon on a summer evening!
Back at Arthurs Quay - Full circle...
Down the steps by the lock to Arthur’s Quay – named for a wealthy merchant shipping family in the city. In the 19th century they laid out streets that they named after members of the family Francis Street, Patrick Street and Ellen Street. Arthurs Quay Park is a beautiful riverside amenity – providing lunch time seating for workers on hot summer days, ice skating at Christmas, beautiful views of the river Shannon, and spectacular perches for seagulls!
The House of Industry, Paddy Lysaght
Limerick City Museum