Dublin History Three

North of the Liffey

Yes, Dublin history goes on and on.  But keep going; this page lists some cool stuff.  My advice is to chose what interests you and bypass the rest or pick just one geographic area and get to know it well.

O'Connell Bridge -- Originally named Carlisle Bridge for 5th Earl of Carlisle. Originally humped and narrower.  In 1877 it was intended to widen Carlisle Bridge to bring it to the same width as the at the north end of the Bridge. It is now about 50 m wide. O'Connell Bridge is said to be unique in Europe as the only traffic bridge as wide as it is long.  In 1882 it was renamed for Daniel O'Connell when the statue in his honor was unveiled.

In recent years, the lamps that graced the central island have been restored to their five lantern glory. In 2004, a pair of pranksters installed a plaque on the bridge dedicated to Father Pat Noise, which remained unnoticed until May 2006, and may still be there as a monument to Irish humor.

O'Connell Street -- is Dublin's main thoroughfare. Originally known as 'Sackville Street' until 1924, it was renamed in honor of Daniel O'Connell, a nationalist leader of the early nineteenth century whose statue stands at the lower end of the street. 

The street's layout is simple but elegant.  The excessive number of sycamore trees in the central Spire from Henry St., Dublinreservation, which had overgrown and obscured views and monuments, were removed. This was controversial, as the trees had been growing for a century.  Statues were cleaned and in some cases relocated. Shop-owners were required to replace plastic signage and frontage with more attractive designs. Traffic was re-directed where possible away from the street and the number of traffic lanes was reduced to make it more appealing to pedestrians. The centerpiece of this regeneration is the Spire of Dublin, which was a replacement monument for Nelson's Pillar which was blown up in 1966.  Today the street is used as the main route of the annual St. Patrick's Day Parade, and as the setting for the 1916 Commemoration every Easter Sunday. It also serves as a major bus route artery through the city centre.

Abbey Street Theatre -- The Abbey first opened its doors to the public on 27 December 1904. Despite losing its original building to a fire in 1951, it has remained active to the present day.   The theater was founded by Lady Gregory, Edward Martyn and W.B. Yeats.  The Abbey was fortunate in having Synge as a key member, as he was then considered one of the foremost English-language dramatists.

In 1924, Yeats and Lady Gregory offered the Abbey to the government of the Free State as a gift to the Irish people.  On 17 July 1951, fire destroyed the Abbey Theatre. The Abbey reopened on 18 July 1966.  After discussions over many years, the Irish government announced in 2007 that a new theatre building would be procured for the Abbey in Dublin's "Docklands" area.  

Customs House -- opened for business in 1791.  As the port of Dublin moved further downriver, the building's original use for collecting custom duties became obsolete, and it was used as the headquarters of local government in Ireland. During the Irish War of Independence in 1921, the IA burned down the Custom House, in an attempt to disrupt British rule in Ireland.  A large quantity of irreplaceable historical records were also destroyed in the fire.

After the Anglo-Irish Treaty, it was restored by the Irish Free State government. The results of this reconstruction can still be seen on the building's exterior today – the dome was rebuilt using Irish limestone which is noticeably darker than the English Portland stone used in the original construction. This was done as an attempt to promote Irish resources.

GPO -- Opened in 1814.  In the tympanum of the pediment were the royal arms until removed following restoration in the 1920s.  Mercury is on the right, with his Caduceus and purse; Fidelity on the left, with her finger on her lip and a key in her hand; and Hibernia in the centre, resting on her spear and holding a harp. 

It was the headquarters of the men and women who took part in the Easter Rising of April 1916. While that rebellion ended in failure with most Irish people lamenting the death and destruction caused, it led to Irish independence and the creation of a new State. They chose the General Post Office, the communications heart of the country and the centre of Dublin city, as the building on which to hoist the flag of an Irish republic.  For nearly a week, the rebels held the GPO.  With the building on fire and crumbling, they tried to break through the surrounding army cordon and failed.

The original columns outside are still pocked with bullet-marks.  An original copy of the Proclamation of the Irish Republic is on display in the An Post museum at the GPO, where an exhibition can be found.  In commemoration of the Rising, a statue depicting the death of the mythical hero Cuchulainn is in the front of the building.

Moore Street  -- Moore Street is one of Ireland's main shopping streets. The famous Moore Street open air fruit and vegetable market is Dublin's oldest food market.  The market is considered to be a famous landmark of the city. The people who work the stalls have a witty and friendly reputation; they and their food stalls are Dublin institutions; and they speak in a strong Dublin accent.

Open from Monday to Saturday dozens of traders set up their stalls, many of them specializing in fruit, vegetables and flowers. Prices tend to be reasonable to low and the typical Dublin banter is free.  Get everything from bratwurst to sea cucumbers and poppadoms in one short street! Some days busier than others so can be disappointing.

St Mary's Pro-Cathedral or simply the Pro-Cathedral, is the Episcopal seat of the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Dublin and Primate of Ireland. 

The city of Dublin possesses two cathedrals, but unusually, both belong to one church, the minority Church of Ireland, which up until 1871 had been the religion of the establishment in Ireland. In contrast, the majority religion in Ireland, Roman Catholicism, has no cathedral in Ireland's capital city and has not had one since the Reformation when the bishops in Ireland followed Henry VIII's break from Rome.

Even though Christ Church has been the property of the Anglican church for nearly five hundred years, it is still viewed by the Roman Catholic Church and the Pope as the primary official Dublin cathedral, since it was so designated by the pope at the request of the then Archbishop of Dublin, St. Laurence O'Toole in the 12th century. Until the pope either formally revokes Christ Church's designation (which, given its historic status and significance for Dubliners, is unlikely), or grants cathedral status to another church (which is much more likely), the main Roman Catholic church in Dublin will continue to be the "pro-cathedral" (meaning in effect acting cathedral), a title officially given to St Mary's Church in 1886.

The Pro-Cathedral remains a focal point of religious and state ceremonial activity. Up until 1983, incoming presidents of Ireland traditionally attended, prior to their civil inauguration, a religious ceremony in either St. Patrick's Cathedral, if they were members of the Church of Ireland) or the Pro-Cathedral (if they were Roman Catholic). 

Internally, the Pro-Cathedral is dramatically different from the two main cathedrals of Dublin. Its mixture of Greek and Roman styles has proved controversial, being variously described as an artistic gem and an eyesore.  Music has always been a central ministry in Saint Mary's Pro Cathedral. The Palestrina Choir is the resident choir of Saint Mary's Pro-Cathedral. It had its origins in a boys' choir formed in the 1890s.

Parnell Square -- Formerly named Rutland Square, it was renamed after Charles Steward Parnell (1846–1891).  Surrounded on three sides by terraces of original intact Georgian houses, much of the southern part of the square and its centre is taken up by extensions of the Rotunda Hospital.

Gate Theatre -- was founded in 1928, originally founded in the former Grand Supper Room of the Rotunda's New Assembly Rooms. Orson Welles and James Mason cut their acting teeth on the stage of the Gate.

Rotunda Hospital -- The Rotunda Hospital is one of the three main maternity hospitals in Dublin, originally known as "The Dublin Lying-In Hospital", was founded in 1745 by Bartholomew Mosse (1712-1759), a surgeon and a man-midwife who was appalled at the conditions that pregnant mothers had to endure at the time. Initially located in George's Lane on the site of a recently closed theatre, the hospital was later moved to its present location in 1757 where it became known today as "The  Rotunda".  Because it was a charitable institution, the hospital had several public function rooms in which fundraising activities were held. One of these areas was a large rotunda, after which the hospital is now named, but which is now a part of the Gate Theatre.  Mosse spent a considerable amount of his personal fortune on this venture, falling into debt, and eventually being imprisoned for indebtedness, although he escaped through a window and went into hiding in Wales. He was also accused of misappropriation of funds, although no formal charges were ever brought, and Mosse was never convicted of any crime. 

The Rotunda, as both a maternity hospital and also as a training centre (affiliated with Trinity College) is notable for having provided continuous service to mothers and babies since inception, making it the oldest continuously operating maternity hospital in the world.  The first caesarean section performed in Ireland was performed at the Rotunda.

Garden of Remembrance -is a memorial garden dedicated to the memory of "all those who gave their lives in the cause of Irish Freedom". It is located in the northern fifth of the former Rotunda Gardens.  The site of the Garden is where the Irish Volunteers were founded in 1913, and where several leaders of the 1916 Rising were held overnight before being taken to Kilmainham Gaol. The Garden was opened in 1966 by President de Valera on the fiftieth anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising, in which he had been a commander.

The Garden was designed in the form of a sunken cruciform water-feature. Its focal point is a statue of the Children of Lir, symbolizing rebirth and resurrection.   Queen Elizabeth ll laid a wreath in the Garden of Remembrance during her state visit in May 2011, a gesture that was much praised in the Irish media.

No. 29 – 30 Parnell Square -- Formerly Vaughan’s Hotel; a favorite hiding and meeting place for freedom fighter Michael Collins.

The Hugh Lane Gallery/Charlemount House -- Charlemont House was originally the town house of James Caulfeild, the 1st Earl of Charlemont, who was well known for his love of classical art and culture. Previously called the "Municipal Gallery of Modern Art", it has been renamed the "Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane" in 1908, and is the first known public gallery of modern art in the world. Since relocating to Parnell Square, the museum has a permanent collection and hosts exhibitions, mostly by contemporary Irish artists. Francis Bacon's studio was reconstructed in the gallery in 2001.

Dublin Writer's Museum -- No. 18 Parnell Square. The museum occupies an original 18th-century house,Dublin Writer's Museum which accommodates the museum rooms, library, gallery and administration area. The annex behind it has a coffee shop and bookshop on the ground floor and exhibition and lecture rooms on the floors above. The Irish Writers' Centre, next door in No 19, contains the meeting rooms and offices of the Irish Writers Union, the Society of Irish Playwrights, the Irish Children's Book Trust and the Irish Translators' & Interpreters' Association. The basement beneath both houses is occupied by the Chapter One restaurant.

Abbey Presbyterian/Findlater's Church -- Presbyterians were prominent in Dublin as early as 1594. The Abbey Church in Dublin City’s Parnell Square is often referred to as Findlater's Church in honor of its benefactor, Alexander Findlater. The wine merchant donated money to purchase the land and build the Gothic-style, Presbyterian church, which opened in 1864. James Joyce refers to Findlater’s Church in two of his works.

James Joyce Center -The Museum is situated in a restored 18th-century Georgian townhouse at 35 North Great George's Street.  This house was built in 1784 for Valentine Brown, the Earl of Kenmare, who used it as his townhouse.  The James Joyce Centre is a museum dedicated to promoting an understanding of the life and works of the author which includes an exhibition area with computer installations, videos, re-creations of period rooms, and items relating to the life and work of Joyce. Also on view are a copy of Joyce's death mask, furniture from Paul Leon's Paris apartment where Joyce worked on “Finnegans Wake”, and the front door from number 7 Eccles Street, Leopold Bloom's address in Joyce's “Ulysses”. Various walking tours of Joyce's Dublin are available.

Belvadere College  --  was Belvadere House. Completed 1786 for the 2nd Earl of Belvadere. Sold in 1841 to the Jesuits who have used it for a private secondary school for boys.  James Joyce went to this school from 1893-1898.  He wrote about it in his novel "Portrait of a Young Man".

Former St. George's church, Dublin

Former St. George's Church (Photo from Daft.ie)

St. Georges Church -- on Hardwicke Pl. and no longer a church - Situated beside Temple Street Children’s Hospital, in Hardwicke Place, is St George’s Church. It is one of the most beautiful buildings in Dublin and was built between 1802 and 1813. It was built for the Protestant community of the north inner city, who were wealthy at that time. Its architect was the man who also built the GPO on O’Connell Street.

The church is broader than long which makes it very interesting. At the front of the church are four columns and, above them, a Greek inscription which reads ‘Glory to God in the Highest’. Its clock tower was modeled on the very famous London church, St Martin’s-in-the-Fields.  The church was originally surrounded by big Georgian houses that were all knocked down and replaced with flats in the 1950's.

Mountjoy Square -- Planned and developed in the late 18th century by the second Luke Gardiner, then Viscount Mountjoy, the square is surrounded on all sides by individual terraced, red-brick Georgian houses. Construction began in the early 1790s and the work was completed in 1818.  Over the centuries, the square has been home to many of Dublin's most prominent people: lawyers, churchmen, politicians, writers and visual artists. Writer, James Joyce lived around the square during some of his formative years, playwright Sean O'Casey (No. 35) wrote and set some of his most famous plays on the square while living there, W.B. Yeats stayed there with his friend John O'Leary (No. 53).

Mountjoy can boast being Dublin's only true Georgian square, each of its sides being exactly 140 metres in length.  Although some of the original buildings fell to ruin over the 20th century and were eventually demolished, the new infill buildings were fronted with reproduction façades, so each side of the square maintains its appearance as a consistent Georgian terrace.

Mountjoy Square has had many famous inhabitants throughout its history. The earliest was Arthur Guinness, who died there in January 1803. Subsequently his descendant Desmond Guinness and first wife Mariga, attempted to save and restore the gracious character of the square in 1966-75, buying No. 50 and several demolished lots with members of the Irish Georgian Society.

An infamous brothel, known as The Kasbah Health Studio, frequented by numerous senior Irish businessmen, politicians and churchmen was located in the basement of number 60 Mountjoy Square West from the late 1970's until its closure in the early 1990's.

Many of the houses on the square still have their original coal holes and ornate cast iron covers. These small holes in the street outside each house lead to a coal house underneath the street. These elegantly solved the problem of how to quickly and cleanly deliver coal to the house, allowing the coal men to simply pull the hole open and empty their sacks of coal down through it hole. The basement of the house then had a doorway into the coal house, under the street.

The street lamps on the square are of two different designs. Those on the outer sides, in front of the houses are the style called The Scotch Standard, dating from 1903-1920 when Dublin streets were being electrically lit.  On the inner (park) side of the street, a slightly more modest design is used, apparently consistent with a more recent 1940-1950 design.

In the late 18th century, mud streets were not uncommon and horses were also common on streets. To avoid this muck being tramped into the houses, Boot Scrapers were commonly placed outside their front doors. Many of these were highly elaborate and many remain to this day

St. Francis Xavier Church -- popularly known as Gardiner Street Church, is a Roman Catholic Church run by the Jesuits and was the first Catholic Church erected in Dublin following the passing of the Catholic Emancipation Act in 1829.  The building is known for its sculpted altar piece, and paintings, mostly Italian in origin and dating from the Victorian period.  St Francis Xavier Church reflects the depth of Father Esmonde's knowledge of the temples of Italy acquired during his long residency there in the 1800's.  The church features in James Joyce's short story "Grace" from Dubliners.

Dorset Street -- was originally part of the Slighe Midh-Luchra, Dublin's ancient road to the north that begins where the original bridging point at Church Street is today. Prior to the street being given its current name in the 18th century, the road was known as Drumcondra Lane.

Time for a coffee break or something stronger while you figure out how to bet back across town.  Or wait until you get to the Old Jameson Distillery.

Henrietta Street -- was laid out and developed by Luke Gardiner during the 1720's. A very wide street relative to streets in other 18th-century cities, it includes a number of very large red-brick city palaces of Georgian design. The street is generally held to be named after Henrietta, the wife of Charles FitzRoy, 2nd Duke of Grafton.

Henrietta Street is the earliest Georgian Street in Dublin; it is the model from which Dublin’s Georgian identity is derived. The street was popularly referred to as Primate's Hill, as one of the houses was owned by the Archbishop of Armagh, although this house, along with two others, was demolished to make way for the Law Library of King's Inns.

The street fell into disrepair during the 19th and 20th centuries, with the houses being used as tenements but has been the subject of restoration efforts in recent years.  There are currently 13 houses on the street. The street is a cul-de-sac, with the Law Library of King's Inns facing onto its western end.

King's Inns -- The Honorable Society of King's Inns is the institution which controls the entry of barristers into the justice system of Ireland.  The society was created in 1541, this being 51 years before Trinity College was founded, making it one of Ireland's oldest professional and educational institutions. The founders named their society in honor of King Henry Vlll of England. The foundation stone at the present building at the top of Henrietta Street was laid on 1 August 1800.

Jameson Distillery -- The Bow Street Distillery, which was established in 1780, is one of the oldest in Ireland. John Jameson was originally from Scotland.  Around 1777, he moved to Ireland, and a few years later bought into the Bow Street Distillery. He was initially the General Manager, before taking full ownership and enlarging the distillery in 1805. By 1810 it had been officially renamed to John Jameson & Son.

John Jameson’s Distillery had the reputation of being the best and most famous distillery in the entire British Empire.  Despite Jameson’s dominance of domestic and international markets, it suffered like all Irish distilleries from the introduction of Scottish blended whiskies, American prohibition and Ireland’s Trade War with Great Britain. The first imports of Jameson whiskey after American prohibition were welcomed across the Atlantic with celebratory zeal, but even Jameson’s great name could not counter balance the inroads which Scotch whisky made into international markets in the first half of the 20th century.

In 1966 the Jameson distillery joined forces with their rivals the Cork Distillers Company and John Powers to form the Irish Distillers Group. The Bow Street Distillery became one of the last distilleries in Ireland to close, the stills going cold in 1971, when the production of Jameson whiskey was transferred to Midleton. The millions of bottles of Jameson whiskey produced each year from Midleton still embrace the Bow Street, Dublin 7 address on their labels and Jameson has now once again become one of the world's best-selling whiskeys, available in over 120 markets and accounting for over 75% of all Irish whiskey sold worldwide.

What remained of the distillery after 1971 was sold on or dismantled, with the exception of one of the larger buildings, kept on by Irish Distillers as their head office. By the late 1990’s the main distillery complex had become a sorry sight, a fire having ravaged the buildings some years earlier. However, the new Millennium saw new life breathed into the old distillery as the site was rebuilt into a complex of apartments, shops and a hotel. More importantly however, Irish Distillers repurchased part of the old site and opened the Old Jameson Distillery, an excellent visitor’s centre recreating the history and distilling techniques of the Bow Street Distillery. Even though whiskey is no longer distilled in Bow Street, Irish Distillers have done a fine job of recreating the many aspects of the old distillery on a smaller scale.

St. Michan's Church -- is situated on Church Street behind Dublin’s Four Courts and near the old city fruit and vegetable markets, St. Michan’s church is the oldest parish church on the north side of the river Liffey. Originally founded in 1095, the present church dates from 1685 and was renovated in 1825. The interior of the church is little changed since Victorian times, retaining its original galleried interior and organ.

Underneath the church are five long burial vaults containing the mummified remains of many of Dublin’s most influential 17th, 18th and 19th century families, including the legendary Shears brothers and the highly decorated coffins of the Earl’s of Leitrim. The exact date of construction is unknown though in their present form they may well date from the rebuilding of the church in 1865. The constant dry atmosphere has caused the mummification of the bodies and the preservation of the coffins. Since Victorian times visitors have descended the vault steps to see the mummies and Bram Stoker, creator of the ‘Dracula’ stories is believed to have visited the vaults in the company of his family. In one vault can be seen the remains of the Crusader though in fact he is only 650 years dead. The early visitors to the vaults were responsible for many of the myths and legends surrounding the bodies, though modern scientific investigations have cast doubts on many of these stories. Nevertheless, to see the historic mummies is a remarkable experience.

St. Paul's Church -- on Arran Quay.  St Paul’s was the first (since the Reformation) Catholic church in Dublin to make a strong visual impact. Situated on the north side of the Liffey quays, it is the first prominent building visible from the western approach to the city. It assumes a place with two important eighteenth-century buildings further east along the quays, also on the north side and both expressing government authority: the Four Courts and the Custom House.  The foundation stone was laid on St Patrick’s Day 1835.

St Paul’s has a clock in the tower, with four faces. It is not clear whether the intention was to assert equality with the Protestant churches, which usually housed clocks, or to imply a public status for the building. Before the Reformation it was usual for churches to use bells to mark time. After the Reformation, a newly invented mechanism, the clock, began to be incorporated into bell-towers alongside the bells. Byrne may have unconsciously included the clock because it was part of this tradition, but it was more likely a deliberate decision to enhance the building’s status by assuming a responsibility to the public, which a clock implies.

St Paul’s was to make more than a visual impression. It was not enough to have one bell; St Paul’s had a peal of six bells that were first rung on the Feast of All Saints in 1843. These joy-bells, as they were called, were popular with the citizens of Dublin, who came in their thousands to hear them rung for the first time. According to the Catholic Directory 1846, the bells were rung every Sunday and on special days by select and judicious persons chosen and adapted for that important purpose.

Father Mathew Bridge - The site of the bridge is understood to be close to the ancient "Ford of the Hurdles", which was the original crossing point on the Liffey and gives its name (in Irish) to the city of Dublin. (Baile Átha Cliath, meaning "Town of the Hurdled Ford"). 

First built 1014 - Dubhghall's Bridge
Rebuilt 1385, 1394, 1428 - Known as The Bridge, Old Bridge, Dublin Bridge
Rebuilt 1816 - Whitworth Bridge
Renamed 1923 - Dublin Bridge
Renamed 1938 - Father Mathew Bridge

Father Theobald Mathew (1790-1856) was an Irish teetotalist reformer.  (The Brazen Head Pub is just across it.)

Four Courts -- on Inns Quay. The Four Courts are the location of the Supreme Court, the High Court and the Dublin Circuit Court.  It was built between 1786 and 1796, while the finishing touches to the arcades and wings were completed in 1802. The lands were previously used by the King's Inns. The building originally housed the four courts of Chancery, King's Bench, Exchequer and Common Pleas, hence the name of the building.  This courts system remained until 1924, when the new Irish Free State introduced a new courts structure.

Grattan Bridge --

First Built 1676 - Essex Bridge
Rebuilt 1753 - Essex Bridge
Rebuilt 1872 - Grattan Bridge

Previous bridges damaged by floods.  The last bridge was (and is still) lit by ornate lamp standards also in cast iron.

Winding Stair Bookshop and Cafe' -- The Winding Stair Bookshop & Café became a famous Dublin landmark in the 1970's and 1980's. Named after the Yeats poem, and in honor of its winding staircase, it is perfectly located, overlooking the river Liffey, with an iconic view of the Ha’penny Bridge. As a popular meeting place for writers, musicians and artists, it was a well known hub for debate and creativity with many poems written, novels penned and movies shot within its walls. 

The bookshop has a unique atmosphere; a relaxed haven in the centre of the bustling city. The front part of the shop holds new books, while the smaller section at the back of the shop holds second-hand books.

After all this walking perhaps you can find a place to sit down.  We did.  By the way we are also back where we started at Ha'penny Bridge.  I hope you enjoyed this walk through history then and now.

Back to Page Two of Dublin History Highlights

Back to Page One of Dublin History Highlights


<script data-ad-client="ca-pub-2515309446870516" async src="https://pagead2.googlesyndication.com/pagead/js/adsbygoogle.js"></script>