A model of Derry’s first-ever bridge has been located and remarkably it still survives some 200 years after it was constructed.
The Earl Hervey Bridge, a wooden structure and the first to span the River Foyle opened to the Derry public in 1790. However before work on it began, a scale model, some 20 foot in length, was fashioned in Switzerland and transported to Derry.
Though the Earl Hervey Bridge was demolished in 1865 after the Carlisle Bridge was built alongside it in 1863, the model survives.
Thought to be built in Switzerland in 1771, it was transported on horse and carriage to Derry to go on public display.
A campaign to bring this historic piece of Derry’s early infrastructure back to the North West has just got underway.
The Earl Hervey Bridge is credited with playing a major role in the economic development of the town. It was built with funds raised by the remarkable Bishop Hervey and the expertise of US bridge builder Lemuel Cox.
In fact the bridge across the Foyle proved very good business for the American Cox also, as it was the first of six he went on to construct in Ireland.
The Derry structure bridged the Foyle from Bridge Street to Walkers Place in the Waterside.
The Science Museum in London have confirmed to the Journal that the model bridge, measuring some 20 foot, is being stored in their large object collection.
The model was actually located by a French historian, Pierre Dupre,who was in contact with local historial, Annesley Malley.
Mr. Malley told the Journal he’s excited at the prospect of the bridge still being intact and returning to Derry. The history of Derry’s now four bridges is one of Mr. Malley’s many specialist subjects.
“I first found reference to the model bridge in 1991 when I was working on a schools’ project. Pupils were invited to construct models of any of the Derry bridge and most were interested in the Earl Hervey.
“The bridge cost a total of £16, 000 then, compared to £15million for the Peace Bridge.”
The modest Mr. Malley said it was the work of Professor Dupre which uncovered the model in London.
Mr. Malley has been in contact with the Science Museum who confirmed if Derry wanted the 20foot model then they would “be happy to oblige”.
A spokesperson for Derry City Council said: “We are aware of the Museum Model and its location and have held some discussions with local historian Annesley Malley, who located the item.
“The Council is working closely with Mr Malley with a view to making a request to the Museum to have the model loaned to Council for display sometime in the future.”
Niall McCaughan of The Playhouse who has an avid interest in Derry’s built heritage said: “Bringing this model back to Derry would be fantastic.
“It would be great to get this bridge back to the city, especially considering The Playhouse’s current commission of a play on the Earl Bishop by Ken Mc Cormack, which is set to have its premiere next year.”