In July 2021 it was reported that a 17th century bridge had been discovered by archaeologists in Belfast, encased within its 20th century reconstructed successor.
According to local folklore, the Saltwater Bridge – which crossed Belfast’s Blackstaff River close to where it enters the arterial River Lagan – was on the route taken by King William III and his forces on their journey to the Battle of the Boyne in 1690. You’ll have heard in the previous episode about Sandy Row Orange Hall of King William’s connection to the Sandy Row area. Indeed, there is a connection to King James II too as he is also thought to have retreated across the bridge in the wake of his defeat at the Boyne.
As part of an archaeological survey, a series of cores were taken from the modern bridge. These confirmed that remains of the older bridge had been fully encapsulated by the later structure.
The Boyne Bridge was initially intended to be a transport solution for Belfast, but ironically it’s a future is in doubt as a result of a new transport solution for Belfast. In 2017, Belfast City Council voted in favour of a new £208m Translink ‘transport hub’ which will lead to the bridge’s demolition. A spokeswoman for the Department of Infrastructure (who approved the project in 2019) said earlier this year: “The department can confirm that the Boyne Bridge is due to be removed during the development of the Belfast Transport Hub”. As part of the stringent planning conditions for the Belfast Transport Hub (BTH), the older remains of the bridge will be preserved in situ within the final development, but the 1936 structure will be lost.
However, some local residents are opposed to the plan and have called for the bridge to be retained, refurbished and incorporated into the plans.
Billy Dickson is one of them. He has been leading a campaign to save the historic Boyne Bridge and I’ve been speaking to him about it.Support the show