Ron Cox and Dermot O’Shea trace the history and restoration of the iron bridge at Oak Park near Carlow, which is celebrating its bicentenary this year.
Large country estates often include a natural or artificial water feature, such as a river flowing through the lands, or a shallow lake. In order to maintain communication between the portions of an estate located on either side of a water feature, one or more bridges were often required.
Some were simply functional, while others of architectural merit enhanced the landscape of the estate. An example of the latter is the iron bridge at Oak Park, an estate about three kilometres to the north of Carlow town, and now the main administrative centre for Teagasc.
The former principal avenue to the neoclassical Oak Park House crosses an outlet from a natural shallow lake over an iron bridge – a rare example of a cast-iron parkland bridge and one of only two in Ireland supplied by the famous Coalbrookdale Company, based in Shropshire. The bridge had been closed for a number of years due to safety concerns.