You may have passed this lump of rust-red metal if you’ve ever strolled down Sir John Robertson’s Quay on Dublin’s south bank – but did you know what it was?
It looks undoubtedly nautical but unless you had heard of the brilliantly-named engineer Bindon Blood Stoney or had knowledge of how hard it was to build Dublin’s docks in the mid-19th century, you would have no idea what it was actually used for.
A Dock-Building Diving Bell
The 90 ton diving bell was used in the construction of Dublin Port’s docks. Designed in 1860 it was used to clear the river bed flat so that massive cut stones could be lowered into the river bed to create the walls for the North Wall. The bell was lowered to the riverbed and compressed air pumped down inside it to push the water out while workers would climb down inside and hack away at the river bed for 30 minutes at a time, before they overheated or their eardrums burst from the pressure.
This was recently covered in an RTE documentary that was well worth the watch. More information here at Ingenious Ireland.
You couldn’t even imagine the conditions these workers were under but this revolutionary bit of industrial history was crucial to the Dublin we see today. Wonderfully the diving bell will no longer be forgotten as it is to be restored and turned into a visitor’s centre.
Refurbishment and Experience Centre
Weslin Construction have today announce they have been granted the job of repairing the diving bell and building a new visitors attraction. The bell will be moved off-site to be cleaned up while a 2 metre high plinth is constructed for it to sit on. The structure will allow visitors to walk under the bell and experience a sensory water feature to understand what it must have been like to work under this contraption.
A wonderful improvement to the docklands which will drive more interest and understanding to this important area in Dublin’s history. It looks great at night too, opposite the illuminated Conference Centre.