The first bridge

In 1877 Queen's College Cork had purchased additional ground that finished out its shape along a line that is now Donovan’s Road. In the late 1870s, William K. Sullivan, President of Queen’s College, Cork, wrote:

It would be difficult to exaggerate the importance of this purchase. In the first place it will take away the unsightly appearance on the north-east of the College, protect the College grounds from trespass, and those who live in the College from very unpleasant sights, give a better site than the present one, and adequate space for the Botanic Garden, and above all afford an opportunity for making an entrance to the College upon one of the chief highways to the city of Cork, and thereby bring the College nearer to town. [1]

Once the land was purchased, further funds were needed to further these aims. A local benefactor W. H. Crawford contributed £2,750 towards the erection of plant houses in the Botanic Garden and the Western Road entrance.[2] Francis M. Jennings offered a piece of land on the north bank of the river and Cork Corporation, which was leasing part of the bank from Mr Jennings, also gave another part. In addition, the Corporation also allowed part of Gill Abbey Lane to be enclosed within the College boundary.[3] 

The gatehouse was designed by Enoch T. Owen, Assistant Architect of the Board of Works in the Gothic style of the original quadrangle buildings. The contractor was E. Fitzgerald. Metal gates fabricated by John Perrott (Hive Iron Works), Cork, were installed within this structure (these gates were re-located to the Gaol Walk entrance in 1929 where they can be seen still today).[4]

In 1879 the President reported that the new entrance, bridge and road had been completed; it was opened to the public at the time of the visit of the British Medical Association to Cork.[5]

The original bridge in this location was built of Oregon pine in 1879 during the presidency of  William K. Sullivan. Owing to its material, it required regular maintenance and painting. In about 1910 it was found to be beyond repair and it was decided by the Governing Body to replace it.[6] Read about the second bridge on this site.


The Ordnance Survey map of 1893, Sheet LXXIV.54, shows the location of bridge.[7] This shows the gatehouse on the Western Road, through which one went over the bridge and up the Main Avenue. It was only in 1902 that Donovan’s Road was created and a bridge linking the Western Road to it.

A few photographs of this bridge survive, at least one of which was taken in 1902 or not long after as can be seen by the clear ground around the nearby Donovan's Bridge which was opened in that year. It is worth looking at this clear view of this bridge (zooming in is possible).[8] The exit via the gatehouse can be seen clearly in this photograph.

The photograph of Donovan’s Bridge taken by Fergus O’Connor in about 1902 or shortly after shows the shop that was on the site where the main gates are now.[9] This image shows Donovan’s Bridge in the foreground, probably when new in 1902, with the frist UCC bridge in the background. Notice that the gatehouse is located on the Western Road riverbank; this was demolished later and a gate lodge built on the opposite side of the river.[10]

Donovan's Bridge 

Donovan’s Bridge was opened by the Duke of Connaught on May 7 1902.[11] This bridge was the idea of Mr Thomas Donovan, the occupier of Fernhurst (College Road), and on whose property Fernhurst Avenue (Donovan’s Road) led down from College Road. Cork Corporation contributed £750 to the cost of the bridge and Mr Donovan paid the rest. Donovan donated the road and bridge to the city; it was ‘taken in charge’ by Cork Corporation in 1904.[12] It was designed by W. H. Hill & Son and the contractor was Patrick Murphy, John Street, Cork. Difficulties encountered in the course of construction required coffer dams, excavation to a great depth in the bed of the river and steam-driven centrifugal pumps were kept going continuously. Piling was also done on the northern side. Flooding frequently interrupted the work. The abutments and voussoirs of the arch are made from concrete. The sheeting over the arching between the voussoirs is composed of red sandstone flags, many weighing over half a ton, from the Lower Glanmire Road quarry. The road running along Gillabbey Rock was named Connaught Avenue that day in honour of the Duke. The inscription on the bridge reads: “1902 Donovan’s Bridge. Presented to the citizens of Cork by Thomas Donovan, Fernhurst. Right Hon. Edward Fitzgerald, Lord Mayor; Augustine Roche, High Sheriff; W. H. Hill and Son, Engineers; Patrick Murphy, contractor.”

Another inscription was placed on the western wall according to the newspaper report: “This bridge was opened by General HRH the Duke of Connaught, KG, commanding the Forces in Ireland, on May 7th, 1902.”

Today, there is a plaque on the eastern side of the bridge that is a translation in Irish of the one on the western side: “1902 Droichead Donnabháin.” 



[1] The report of the President of Queen’s College, Cork, for the academic session 1876-7 (Dublin, 1877), p.17.

[2] The report of the President of Queen’s College, Cork, for the academic session 1877-8 (Dublin, 1878), p.18.

[3] The report of the President of Queen’s College, Cork, for the academic session 1877-8 (Dublin, 1878), pp18-20.

[4] F. O'Dwyer, The architecture of Deane and Woodward (Cork, 1997), p.559 n32; Irish Builder 21 (1 May 1879), p.130; 60 (2 Mar 1918), p.119; Architect 23 (31 Jan 1880), p.79.

[5] The report of the President of Queen’s College, Cork, for the academic session 1878-9 (Dublin, 1879), p.8.

[6] J. H. de Warenne Waller, ‘A reinforced concrete bridge’, Transactions of the Institution of Civil Engineers of Ireland, 37 (1911), 82.

[7] (accessed 9/11/2020).

[8] ‘Queen's College, Entrance, Cork City, Co. Cork’. Glass plate negative, 22 x 17 cm. Lawrence Photograph Collection, National Library of Ireland, L_ROY_05744. See also a similar view: ‘[Bridge, leading into University College Cork]’. Annotations on plate read 'College Bridge near Donovan Bridge'. Glass plate negative; 17 x 22 cm. Fergus O’Connor Collection, National Library of Ireland, OCO 376 (accessed 9/11/2020).

[9] (accessed 9/11/2020).

[10] ‘[Entrance to University College, Cork]’. View of the River Lee and bridges, close to the entrance to UCC. Glass plate negative ; 12 x 17 cm. Fergus O’Connor Collection, National Library of Ireland, OCO 91 (accessed 9/11/2020). See also OCO 134: (accessed 9/11/2020).

[11] ‘Duke of Connaught in Cork’, Cork Examiner, 8 May 1902, p.5.

[12] ‘Cork Corporation’, Cork Examiner, 17 February 1900; Cork Examiner, 21 April 1904.


© University College Cork 2020

Heritage Services

Buildings & Estates, College Road,