If there is another street in Dublin that doffs its cap to as much history in five hundred paces as Kevin St does, I’d like to walk it. I can’t quite say why, but I think it is a peculiar street. Perhaps it is the awkward meeting of its Upper and Lower sections; once linked by the street Cross Kevin St., but now joined together by a serpentine junction. Or perhaps it is the lack of much street-level function; there is but a few number of shops on the street. Instead it is punctuated with large buildings which make it a street to go to, rather than to be on. But Kevin St is one of Dublin’s oldest streets, and deserves our attention. It is recorded on Speed’s 1610 map and its name—derived from the ancient church of the eponymous saint now accessed off Camden Row—hasn’t changed over those four centuries. That’s quite a feat.
Even if the name hasn’t changed, Gabriel Beranger’s gorgeous drawing of St Sepulchre’s Palace from around 1770, now the site of Kevin St Garda station shows how much the street has changed over the last two centuries. The palace is also marked on Speed’s map, although it was much older than 1610. It dates from the twelfth century, after the Synod of Kells increased the number of Archbishops in Ireland from two to four: Tuam and Dublin getting the loot. Bishop Gregory of Dublin subsequently became Archbishop Gregory, and the palace was built sometime over the next century. The church’s 74,000 acres of lands in county Dublin included the Manor of St Sepulchre, which consisted of the parishes now known as Crumlin, Donnybrook, SS Catherine. Nicholas and Peter, and Taney. The poor archbishop was bounced in and out of the palace over the centuries. Edward VI, Henry VIII’s son, dissolved St Patrick’s Cathedral and moved the Lord Lieutenant (“the Deputy of our Realm”) into the palace, with the Archbishop moving to the Deanery.
Edward’s sister Mary moved the bishop back in, but then the Earl of Sussex (Elizabeth’s Lord Deputy) moved him back out again, but this, again, appears to be short lived, for in Archbishop Adam Loftus’ time there at the end of the sixteenth century, it was described as “a semi-regal abode well pleasantlie sited as gorgeously builded“. St Sepulchre’s Library, originally part of the complex, obviously still exists— it is now known as Marsh’s Library.
After 41 Archbishops, an Act of Parliament was passed in 1806 transferring ownership to the Crown, and the palace became a barracks for the Mounted Police. The Archbishop moved to St Stephen’s Green (No. 16), probably as these quarters were more salubrious than what Kevin St had become. John Carr, writing in 1806 stated that:
“The palace of the Archbishop of Dublin is converted into Barracks and is situated in a close neighbourhood with a collection of more mud, rags and wretchedness than London can exhibit in its most miserable quarters”
While the palace technically still exists, there isn’t much in Kevin St to relate back to the original structure, some interior detail aside. The unusually large gate-posts into the Barracks have been dated to about 1720.
The entire site is now a bit of a mess. During the boom, plans were well advanced for a new Garda station at the intersection of Kevin St Upper and Lower. Those plans came to a halt very abruptly, and all that remains of that is a large hole in the ground. Even the sign proclaiming the building that was meant to be has disappeared.
The OSi 25″ map from the late nineteenth century shows both the size of the original complex, and I think, how much more lively the street was at that time—the number of houses both on Kevin St Upper and Bride St (now site of Large Hole) is substantial – a glimpse of those houses on Bride St is available at the photo on this Come Here to Me! article.
The lane running between the barracks and the Deanery to the west was originally called Patrick’s Close, although the connection between the two ends looks like it would only fit a pedestrian in the earlier OSi map from ca. 1840. It has regained the name Patrick’s Close, but it is clear on the map shown that it was for some time known as Guinness Street. This is likely due to the substantial amount of money provided by Edward Cecil Guinness for the restoration of St Patrick’s in the nineteenth century. It’s hard to avoid his name when reviewing the Cathedral’s excellent history timeline on their website.
Just opposite the entrance to Guinness Street, we can get a glimpse of what the house on the corner looked like from Flora H Mitchell’s pretty watercolour “Marsh’s Library from Cathedral Lane.” It shows a three storey building with a shop on the ground floor. This is number 15, which in 1911 was home to Michael Doyle, a “coal factor”, and his family. Back on the mid-nineteenth century, it was home to George Close and Sons, Saddlers and Harness Makers; perhaps more fitting given that the Mounted Police were in the Barracks across the road.
More to come on Kevin St!
Victor Jackson (1975) The Palace of St. Sepulchre, Dublin Historical Record, 28(3), 82-92.
11 thoughts on “The Kevin Street Medley: 1. St Sepulchre’s Palace”
Michael hi More excellent work Best Kieran
Many thanks, you’re v. kind. I’m enjoying writing them (and learning lots), so that’s a bonus!
All the best for now,
Hi Michael, Olive here, I came upon this site purely by accident and I am so glad that I did, your information is brilliant and I really enjoyed reading it, I was actually looking for old map around 1911 of an area in the Coombe called Susan Place, which I believe has been wiped away as so many others have too, My great grandparents moved here around 1905 to work in Powers whiskey brewery, he moved from Wexford as apparently, the owner of Powers was a Wexford man and only employed those from that county, unfortunately, I cannot locate any more info on this. keep up the good writing,thanks Olive
Hi Olive, Many thanks for your kind comment – glad you are enjoying reading the articles.
I was intrigued about Susan Place; and you are right – it doesn’t show up anywhere. I wonder (maybe you have considered this already) is it mistakenly called this instead of Susan Terrace? Both are in Merchant’s Quay Ward in the 1911 Census, and Susan Terrace appears on late nineteenth century map. While Susan Terrace and Susan Place appear in 1911, only Susan Terrace appears in 1901, so I wonder was “Place” entered instead?
I’m not sure I’m completely convinced this is the case, because you would expect the house numbers to reflect the gap – ie the house numbers of those in “Terrace” would complement those in “Place” in the Census. I’ve only looked quickly, but I don’t think they do.
Another hypothesis is that “Place” was built after the OSi map online (when “Terrace” was a Cul de Sac) but obtained a subsequent name when it was extended into the connecting streets that exist today (e.g. what is now Sandford Gardens).
The OSi map is here: http://maps.osi.ie/publicviewer/#V1,714449,733058,7,9
Not much help I’m afraid – interested to hear if you find out any more.
Thanks Michael, great to hear from you, the story I was told by my mother (who has sinced passed away) was that there was a terrace of houses called Susan Place almost beside the old Coombe hospital, the brewery built no 8a and 9a to house my great grandfather and his family, as far as I know, Susan Terrace is just off Donore Ave, while this is nearby it is not on the main thoroughfare that is the Coombe, my search all started as one of their children called Nicholas who was 18 at 1911 census joined the army in 1914 aged 22 but was killed on a ship taking the troops to France, I was interested to find out some more before my mother died but unfortunately this did not happen, thanks for your interest, Olive
Thanks for the additional detail – that’s very interesting. It must be great to have such detail relevant to your family. With a Terrace and a Place, I wonder who Susan was?!
Thanks for email, I know, I was thinking the same myself with regard to Susan, am planning a day in Dublin soon and hope to check out Thoms street directory which may throw up some answers, will let you know how it goes.
I have just been online to OSI maps of Coombe area of Dublin,, then on right hand side click ‘historic 25’ then look to the left of Newmarket St between Coombe Cottages is Susan Place!, looking at todays map it appears to have been replaced by new buildings which is a shame, actually, looking at new map is quite sad as most of the old Coombe area seems to be decimated, such a shame, am sure most of the old houses solidly built and maybe just upgraded might have solved the bad conditions, hope to go there and have a look around. (still not sure why it was called Susan tho)
Good eyesight! That’s really hidden (link here for posterity: http://maps.osi.ie/publicviewer/#V1,714767,733493,7,9)
I also found it listed in Thom’s 1850 street directory – 10 lots – you can see inhabitants here. https://wideandconvenientstreets.files.wordpress.com/2014/04/susan-place.jpg
The mystery of the name continues. I don’t see any Susan in contemporary Brabazon names
Thanks for all the info, I love the last one at no 10 ‘Car Owner’ in 1850!!!! wonder was it coupe ha ha.
Apparently, the house my folks were in was 9a an add on for the extra staff in Powers Distillery at the time, such a shame they have all been demolished as really not all that old if built in early 20th century, will let you know if I can unearth any other info. thanks again