Belfast’s oldest bridge at risk in Hub plan

PACEMAKER, BELFAST, 1/11/2016: Boyne Bridge in Sandy Row is the oldest bridge in Belfast, dating back to 1642. PICTURE BY STEPHEN DAVISON
PACEMAKER, BELFAST, 1/11/2016: Boyne Bridge in Sandy Row is the oldest bridge in Belfast, dating back to 1642. PICTURE BY STEPHEN DAVISON

The oldest bridge in Belfast is being put at risk by plans for a new Transport Hub, according to the chairman of a local residents association.

Billy Dickson, Chairman of Blackstaff Residents Association, said that if the Boyne Bridge is removed to make way for the new Hub, Belfast will have lost something of great symbolic and historic significance.

Mr Dickson is calling for locals in Sandy Row opposed to the removal of the bridge - which dates back to 1642 and was even used by King William’s army on their way to the Boyne in 1690 - to form a pressure group.

The plans for the new Transport Hub, which Translink describe as “regeneration project consisting of a world-class transport interchange and surrounding masterplan development”, are out for public consultation.

Billy Dickson said he hoped a solution could be found that would allow the hub to be built without requiring the removal of the historic bridge.

He said: “Within the Sandy Row community there is a lot of unease about the possibility that the bridge will go because it’s filtered through that the bridge might be removed for this Transport Hub.

“If there was a proposal to take away the oldest bridge in London, or Portsmouth, what do you think the reaction would be? Why should it be any different in Belfast. If the people of the Sandy Row want to save that bridge, they need to form some sort of a pressure group.

“I will certainly support them but they need to do it fairly quickly.

“The character of that part of Sandy Row has already been damaged by some of the developments over the years and the removal of the bridge would only worsen that.

“I am not against plans for a Transport Hub. I hope that it can go ahead and it can help the Sandy Row area in the way they have been saying it will but without needing to get rid of the bridge.

“The thing is, that bridge has such historic significance.

“The original bridge, built in 1642, is incorporated in it - two of the three arches are there. That was the main road to Lisburn and to the south of Ireland. The horses and the coaches would go over that bridge. King William’s army went over it. The Duke of Schomberg’s heavy artillery crossed the bridge on the way to the Boyne without damaging it.

“It helped bring the first water supply to Belfast.

“They famously burned the effigy of Daniel O’Connell in 1864 on that bridge sparking serious rioting.

“In the 1800s, at least two people were killed at the bridge during riots. Ann Moore was shot on 12th July 1835 and on 16th August 1864, John McConnell was shot by police fom the bridge. It is very historic.”