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South Quay


South Quay Corner St. Mary's Bridge Drogheda Louth

How the port of Drogheda grew

There were a number of physical impediments associated with the River Boyne at Drogheda that impacted on the operation of the port. This was pointed out by Gerard Boate in 1652: the port is ‘very troublesome to be got into … a bar lying across its mouth, over which vessels cannot pass but at high water, but also very narrow in the mouth.’

The quays, though, were impressive. Sir William Brereton in 1635 wrote; ‘This river is built on both sides, and there is on either side a convenient quay and stone wall built all along the river, so as a ship may be close unto this quay, and many unload upon her.’

In the seventeenth century Drogheda sustained a good trade exporting wool, linen, hides and provisions to British ports as well as to Cadiz, Rotterdam, Nantes and the Canaries.

Improvements to the river channel, the quays and the management of the port were slowly realized in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. With the widening and extending of the quays, the building of the custom house (c.1749; demolished in the 1960s) and mayoralty house (built by 1759; still to be seen) on The Mall, the dredging of the river, and the reclamation of slob lands to the east of The Mall for new development sites, Drogheda expanded commercially.

Arthur Young found Drogheda busy in 1776; ‘July 20th, to Drogheda, a well-built town, active in trade, the Boyne bringing ships to it. It was market day, and I found the quantity of corn, etc., and the number of people assembled very great; few country markets in England more thronged.’

By the 1840s the quays presented a spacious place where people could congregate; Daniel O’Connell addressed a large crowd there in 1841; 43 years later people crowded the quays to hear Charles Stewart Parnell.

Large rubble stone stores and mills were built in the area to the north of the quays, many of which survive today.

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