PHOTOGRAPHED BY WILLIAM MURPHY

DUBLIN PORT’S DIVING BELL
Have you ever passed by the odd looking, bell-shaped, red metal structure standing tall on Sir John Rogerson’s Quay and wondered what it is?  You could be forgiven for thinking it is a modern art sculpture or misplaced mound of metal.  It is in fact an ingenious feat of Irish engineering that was essential in building Dublin’s quay walls for 87 years.  This is Dublin Port’s “Diving Bell”.

The Diving Bell was designed by the port engineer Bindon Blood Stoney (1828 to 1907) and built by Grendon and Co., Drogheda.  It was delivered to the Port in 1866, entered service in 1871 and was used in the building of the Port’s quay walls until 1958.  Stoney was a prodigious engineer and among his achievements were the building of the Boyne Viaduct in Drogheda, the construction of O’Connell Bridge and the building of many of the Port’s quay walls  including Sir John Rogerson’s Quay and North Wall Quay Extension.
The Diving Bell was used in the building of the Port’s quay walls from the Victorian era right up until almost the 1960s.  It was a ground-breaking piece of engineering innovation in its day.
Its lower section was hollow and bottomless, providing just enough room for six men to work at a time.  Once lowered into position on the riverbed, the crew entered through an access funnel from the surface and compressed air was fed in from an adjacent barge.  The men inside the bell worked on the river bed exposed at their feet, excavating the site where a massive concrete block would later go; all the excavated soil was stashed in trays hanging inside the bell, and brought up when the bell was lifted.


DIVING BELL