The Kevin St. Medley: 5. The Choir School

Founded in 1432, St. Patrick’s Cathedral Choir School is the oldest existing school in Ireland. While the Cathedral’s grammar school is likely to be older, it is in its recent form dated to a mere 1547. The choir school was founded when Richard Talbot was Archbishop of Dublin (1418-1449), owing to the need for a steady supply of young choristers for the cathedral. Six minor canons and six choristers were part of the new “college” and the six boys would have been charged with singing the plainsong of the daily Lady mass. Minor canons received 10 marks and choristers 4 marks per annum for their efforts.

St Patrick's Close on the OSi 25" map - "Sch" marks the location of the School

St Patrick’s Close on the OSi 25″ map – “Sch.” marks the location of the School (under the C of Cathedral)

The original location of the school was probably to the west of the present Deanery. In 1546, it was described as having a hall, kitchen, and sixteen bed-chambers. During the Reformation, Edward VI closed the choral school and converted it to a grammar school. However by 1615, the choir school was restored. While writing about all of this in 1820, William Monck Mason says that the ruins of the ancient school were still visible at that time. Glory be to Monck Mason, who provides us with a contemporary map showing the arrangement in the early nineteenth century. The Vicar’s Choral Ground is visible bordering Kevin St.

Plan of the Cathedral from The History and Antiquities of the Collegiate and Cathedral Church of St Patrick. William Monck Mason, Dublin 1819 (From Dublin City Library Collection - click to go to source)

Plan of the Cathedral from The History and Antiquities of the Collegiate and Cathedral Church of St Patrick. William Monck Mason, Dublin 1819 (From Dublin City Library Collection – click to go to source)

West Front of St. Patrick's Cathedral, James Malton, 1793 (NLI - Click image to go to source)

West Front of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, James Malton, 1793 (NLI – Click image to go to source)

The choir school likely had a close connection with Christ Church Cathedral as well at various points in its history. It is noted that following the Restoration of the Monarchy in 1660 (the interregnum being the second of two times the school closed in its history) Richard Hosier held the position of “master of the song and tutor of the boys” at both institutions. Hosier’s successor Nicholas Sanderson got into trouble for his teaching methods. He was admonished for teaching the boys to “sing not by art but by rote” (Boydell).

Arrangements for those attending the “song school” were quite formal. Choristers were apprenticed to a master of song, who trained them and housed them with his family. In return he received allowance for laundry and haircuts! In more recent centuries, choristers also attended the Grammar School. The report on endowed schools in 1856—not one to hold back criticism— stated that “this is a good school”.

39 Kevin St., formerly the Cathrdral Choir School

39 Kevin St., formerly the Cathedral Choir School (Photo: B)

After the disestablishment of the Church of Ireland in 1869, the cathedral was no longer required to support the school. Support up to this point involved master’s salary, accommodation, etc. In the nineteenth century, it was more common to use schoolmasters who ran schools in the locality, as the accommodation had deteriorated so much that it would have been difficult to attract a resident master; the salary not being the most generous. While there was no onus to support a school, there was a need for choristers, and the Dean (Dean West)  built a new Choir School at 39 Kevin St in 1870. We can see from Monck Mason’s map above that this building was built on a plot marked as “Dean’s Ground”. Originally an alley ran along the west; noted as Mitre Alley on Monck Mason’s map (and indeed as Myter Alley on Rocque’s 1756 map), but later named Chapter Close by OSi. An alley of sorts still exists—it is now part of the school yard with the gateway to the left of the house shown terminating the south end.

For reasons unknown, the building remained as a school for just a decade, when it became a master’s private house. The Choir School moved into the Deanery school on St Patrick’s Close, likely that one marked on the map above. There was some additional accommodation for choir practice in a room on Patrick’s St. An assessment of the school in 1909 remarked:

“The singing of this choir is admirable in every respect, and is marked by refinement and finish”.

School Doorway (Photo: B)

School Doorway (Photo: B)

Unfortunately the report for the standards in other subjects were not as ebullient. The school buildings were in a poor state and decayed over the course of the twentieth century. The choir school became part of the National School system in 1974, and in 1981, a new building with musical facilities were completed. Later the Grammar School also acquired new buildings, opened by Charles Haughey in 1988. These brick buildings bookend a handsome, much older, building, with a fairy-tale blue door. Behind it, is nearly six centuries of history.

More posts on Kevin St are listed in the Table of Contents. You can receive email updates when a new post is published by subscribing below.

Notes:

  • Barra Boydell (2004) A History of Music at Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, Boydell Press.
  • Rex Cathcart (1994) In the Shadow of St. Patrick’s, Dublin Historical Record, 47(1), 71-76.
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Iveagh Market Buildings

Nearly one hundred and nine years ago, Colonel George W. Addison R. E. represented the Iveagh Trust at a ceremony to formally hand over the new Iveagh Markets to Dublin Corporation. Giving his thanks on receiving the deeds of conveyance and keys, the Lord Mayor expressed the hope that the city would continue to benefit from Viscount Iveagh’s munificence, and that he would be spared to continue his noble works.

Iveagh Markets (from the Dublin City Library image collection - click to go to source)

Iveagh Markets (from the Dublin City Library image collection – click to go to source)

This exchange is captured in an Irish Times article in June 1906 which thankfully recorded the ceremony and some detail about the markets; for there is surprisingly little source material elsewhere. The markets themselves came about after clearances around St Patrick’s Cathedral to remove some of the slums there as part of the Iveagh Trust building development. There was a need for a new space for market traders, a need apparently noticed by Iveagh himself:

The state of affairs did not pass unnoticed by Lord Iveagh… and frequently visiting the neighbourhood, was often an observer of the unfortunate conditions under which the street merchants carried on their business; he, therefore, conceived the idea of providing suitable covered accommodation…

OS 25" map showing Iveagh Market (OSi)

OS 25″ map showing Iveagh Markets (OSi)

The location of the markets is just off Francis St, and they are shown clearly on the Ordnance Survey 25″ map. A new road on the north-eastern side of the markets was built—linking John Dillon St to Lamb Alley (the diagonal running left-right across the map shown). Eagle-eyed among you will notice that this new street terminates just before it reaches High St at Cornmarket, and in his address to Addison, the Lord Mayor noted that it would be a great advantage to the scheme if this cul de sac at Lamb Alley could be opened to Cornmarket. As this is now the case, we can assume that Iveagh agreed. The markets were built on the site of Sweetman’s brewery; the site had previously been purchased by Guinness as part of their ever-growing domination of the brewery industry. Sweetman’s don’t appear to have had much luck in situating their brewery; they were previously moved by the Wide Street Commissioners to this location. As well as Sweetman’s, the construction involved the demolition of some houses on Francis St to open up Dean Swift Square.

Entrance to Iveagh Markets

Entrance to Iveagh Markets

Keystone representing Ireland (Hibernia) (from about.com)

Keystone representing Ireland (Hibernia) (from about.com)

The building housed two markets: a market for the sale of old clothes (100 by 150 ft), accessed from Francis St, and a market for the sale of fish, fruit, and vegetables (130 by 80 ft), accessed from John Dillon St. The markets were fitted up with stalls, and the fish stalls were of white glazed earthenware, the first of the kind to be adopted. The building itself was designed by Frederick Hicks, of 86 Merrion Square. It is constructed with Portmarnock red brick and Newry granite, with door and window dressings of Portland stone.A distinctive feature is the keystones, carved with heads representing nations of the world. The centre keystone represents Ireland, with others representing Eastern Turkey, Europe, Asia, Africa, Americas, and for some reason Spain and Israel get their own.

Washhouse on Lamb Alley (Photo: B)

Washhouse on Lamb Alley (Photo: B)

The Act of Parliament which moved the traders away from St Patrick’s Park also included a clause that all clothing for sale was to be disinfected.It is just possible to discern a Public Washhouse and Disinfecting Dept just north of the markets on the map shown above. The washhouse was fitted out with the latest laundry fittings and machinery, with accommodation for 40 washers. In addition, there were four centrifugal wringing machines and 40 hot air drying horses, an iron and mangling room, and if there was time to sit down while doing all this work, a waiting room. The disinfecting department was equipped with three high pressure steam disinfectors and two formaline chambers for clothing not able to take steam treatment.

The management of the entire facility was to be taken on by the Corporation. The Irish Times stated that:

though a further responsibility is thrown on the shoulders of the city fathers, still, everyone will admit it is a worthy one.

Indeed.

Notes

The full Irish Times article is: “The Iveagh Market Buildings” Irish Times, Thursday, July 26, 1906, page 11. The always excellent Dictionary of Irish Architects gives some references to Irish Builder articles on the markets which can be viewed in the National Library.

The Main Street of Dublin

The street from Castle St to Thomas St first swirls one way as it wraps around Christchurch and along High St, and then swirls the other, as curves around Cornmarket and joins Thomas St at the junction of Francis St.

Ordnance Survey of Ireland Map showing area that was once Main Street, Dublin

Ordnance Survey of Ireland Map showing area that was once Main Street, Dublin

In the medieval city (1200-1500), this street was known as the Main Street of Dublin. The eastern end at Christchurch was called Skinner’s Row. Of course Lord Edward St is a recent addition, so what now is a rather awkward arrangement makes more sense in that context; Skinner’s Row continued on from Castle St, and led along the side of Christchurch; the alignment of the Lord Edward public house giving a hint as to the original flow. The “Row” of Skinner’s Row indicates that there was only buildings lining one side—indeed as it is today, with the medieval buildings replaced by Jury’s Inn. While the Dublin historian Sir John Gilbert has proposed that the Row was “a narrow and sombre alley” at just seventeen feet wide, this has been disputed. Hughes has suggested with some confidence that Gilbert has his time periods mixed up, and considers it improbable that the one area of the walled city that was to handle sizeable gatherings of citizens would not have been larger. As well as the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity (Christchurch), there was a Pillory at the eastern end of Skinner’s Row at its junction with Castle St., and High Market Cross at the western end at the junction with High St. Here, it was customary to read out royal proclamations and other public announcements (Hughes, 1941).

The Pillory was a place for public punishment. Even seemingly trivial events could lead to punishment. Bakers who were caught for a third time with a load lighter than stated were subjected to a stint in the pillory, a punishment which along with severe discomfort, carried with it “a degree of odium and degradation”. The punishment was restricted to the crime of perjury during the reign of George III, and finally abolished in 1837 (Frazer, 1886).

Extract of Speed's Map of Dublin (1610)

Extract of Speed’s Map of Dublin (1610)

All of this detail is visible on Speed’s Map of Dublin (1610). Main St runs from the east at Castle St (38 on map) through Skinner’s Row (42), High St (48) to the city wall at the junction of Thomas St at Newgate (50). The High Market Cross is visible to the right of No. 47 (St. Nicholas’ Church), and the little symbol next to No. 42 probably marks the location of the Pillory (Andrews, 1983).

Fishamble St (24 on Speed’s Map) is on the eastern end of the Main St. The steep slope of this street, best appreciated by walking or cycling up it, linked the walled city to its port below at the river. In medieval times, it was uninhabited and it served as a location for  fish markets which were brought to shore at the river below. The western end of Main Street was marked by Newgate, which merits its own article.

Before we leave the medieval era, it’s worth noting that rentals of the time giving names and occupations of the tenants demonstrate the city had a high proportion of well-to-do people within it walls. Hughes argues that while there were of course poor people, a reputation of a filthy and neglected city with pigs running through the streets is unfair.

Detail from The Tholsel, Dublin (James Malton)

Detail from The Tholsel, Dublin (James Malton)

In another age, the area is beautifully captured in some of Malton’s Views of Dublin (ca. 1791). These are discussed in some detail in Edward McParland’s gorgeous essay on their use as a historical source (McParland, 1994). Especially relevant are two of the Views: St Catherine’s Church and The Tholsel. In the latter, the street sign for Skinner’s Row is clear, as is the shopfront of Robert Thomas, Tallow Chandler. McParland has done the detective work to show that Thomas was indeed a tallow chandler at 1 Skinner Row in both 1791 and 1792, but not 1793. Sadly it appears that this accuracy does not extend to all of Malton’s prints; Patrick O’Murphy’s name on a bar has nothing to correlate with in business records. Nevertheless, the prints give us a beautiful representation of how these streets, which derived from the original Main Street of Dublin, looked in the city’s golden age.

Extract of St. Catherine's Church (James Malton)

Extract of St. Catherine’s Church (James Malton)

Notes

  • J. H. Andrews (1983) The Oldest Map of Dublin, Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy. Section C: Archaeology, Celtic Studies, History, Linguistics, Literature
    83C, 205-237
  • William Frazer (1879) On the Dublin Stocks and Pillory, Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy. Polite Literature and Antiquities, 2, 456-460.
  • James L Hughes (1941) Main Street, Dublin, Dublin Historical Record, 3(3), 67-77.
  • Edward McParland (1994) Malton’s Views of Dublin: Too Good to be True?, in Ireland: Art into History, Raymond Gillespie and Brian P Kennedy (eds), 15-25.

A house on Cork Hill

It’s easy to miss Cork Hill, a short street connecting Lord Edward Street and Dame St at City Hall. I measure its length at 35 paces, and although I am tall, I reckon it must be one of the shortest streets in Dublin. Cartophiles will correctly argue that it is a little longer, as the hill officially includes the plaza to the right of City Hall, connecting Castle St. Whatever its length, this short dog-leg joining Lord Edward, Dame, Castle, and Parliament streets is packed full of history; no surprise given its location adjacent to the Castle. As Maurice Craig puts it, it was very much at the centre of things.

The street itself takes its name from the Earl of Cork, after he built Cork House there in the early 1600s on the site of the present City Hall. Cork House was itself located on the site of the church St Mary del Dam, from which we get the name of Dame St.  Also known as the Great Earl, Richard Boyle was a self-made man who took advantage of the plantation of Munster to make his fortune. Having secured the favour of Elizabeth I, he collected political titles, becoming Privy Councillor for Ireland in 1612, and Member of Parliament for Lismore in 1614. The Irish Parliament was held in Dublin Castle at the time.

The area around Cork Hill as captured by Rocque on his map of 1757.

The area around Cork Hill as captured by Rocque on his map of 1757.

Tempting as this short commute might have been, it doesn’t appear that Boyle lived in Cork House. The building was occupied by the Royal Exchange until 1683, when that operation moved to the Tholsel nearby (just visible on Rocque’s map, above). It subsequently became home to a variety of traders; most notably printers and coffee houses. Lucas’s Coffee House, one of the most fashionable places to loiter in the city, was one of the last occupiers.

Fashion could not save the house or the area from the Wide Street Commissioners. Cork House was demolished in 1768 in a grand plan to widen Parliament St. Parliament St—which doesn’t exist on Rocque’s map—was to be the new grand wide and convenient street linking City Hall to the planned construction of Essex Bridge. Walking from the right on Rocque’s map shown, we can see Cork Hill following on from Dame St, but neither Parliament nor Lord Edward St are extant; Castle St is the main thoroughfare. The entire area was a bit chaotic.  The narrow network of streets meant that maintaining law and order was difficult. At Cork Hill, a contemporary account recorded that:

pedestrians passing Cork Hill after dark were frequently insulted and maltreated by the numerous chairmen surrounding the entrances to Lucas’s Coffee House and the Eagle Tavern, the waiters of which establishments supported them in those engagements by pouring pails full of foul water upon their opponents.

Changes were needed. Trinity College Dublin led the charge at the other end of Dame St by demolishing the Jacobean frontage of college, itself less than 70 years old, and installing the present frontage. Copious plans of the area exist for around 1766 in the Wide Street Commissioners’ archives, lovingly cared for by Dublin City Archives. But before we look at those, an earlier glimpse is available. A pair of maps of the area dated 1751 (showing the alignment at the time) and 1753 (showing planned changes) are described by MacDowel Cosgrave (1918). A section of interest is shown. In this Survey of the present streets leading to His Majesty’s Royal Pallace or Castle of Dublin. Novr 9th, 1751, Cork Hill is clearly visible. 

Extract of a survey of the present streets leading to His Majesty's Royal Pallace or Castle of Dublin. Novr 9th, 1751

Extract of a survey of the present streets leading to His Majesty’s Royal Pallace or Castle of Dublin. Novr 9th, 1751

Gloriously, this map has the building locations annotated, and inspecting the legend, one finds that Cork House is located at position number 34, sandwiched between Mr Butler, printer (33), and Mr Mear’s mercers shop (35).

Proposal for new street linking Dame St to river. Point a marks proposed location of statue of George I

Proposal for new street (between the two ‘C’s) linking Dame St to river. Point a marks proposed location of statue of George I

More exciting is the proposal of 1753. In this we see that the new alignment of what would become Parliament St is proposed – 46 feet wide, running from the river south to Dame St. At the junction, a large square on the south side was planned. This was to be named Bedford Square after the Lord Lieutenant of the time, and there is even an annotation to include a statue in the centre. This was to be of George I, relocated from the old Essex Bridge. Losing out were buildings number 25 (Mr D’Olier, Goldsmith), 26 (Mr John Ross), and 27 (Mr Fords, Print Shop), and one presumes, the buildings around the new square, including Cork House.

Extract of the Wide Street Commissioners map of the area around Cork Hill (click to link to Dublin City Library source)

Extract of the Wide Street Commissioners map (No. 499) of the area around Cork Hill (click to link to Dublin City Library source). ‘A‘ marks the proposed location of the statue.

There is a significant number of maps available in the Dublin City Library image collection documenting the Wide Street Commissoners plans for the area, but perhaps the one to select to continue our story here is Map No. 499, shown. This shows Dame Street, Castle Lane (now Palace Street), Swan Alley (now Exchange Court), Parliament Street, Cork Hill, Castle Street, Castle Yard and vicinity. The site of Cork House is now annotated as “Lot from Swan Alley to Cork Hill”, and it is evident that plans for a square and statue of George I were still being considered by the Commissioners.

Rocque's map of 1756 showing the proposed Bedford Square

Rocque’s map of 1756 showing the proposed Bedford Square

The letter A on the map marks “a pedestal for the Statue of his Majesty George I which faces Parliament St and Castle St.” Parliament St is now shown, with “New Buildings” lining either side. The intention to complete the square obviously convinced Rocque, who in his 1756 map showed the square, to the south of Cork Hill, complete with statue. The square itself looks like Rocque rubbed out previous engravings of existing buildings. His 1757 map shown at the top of the article corrected the prediction.

As we now know, the square was never built, but Cork House was demolished in 1768, and City Hall construction began the following year. The infamous approach of the Wide Street Commissioners on Parliament St is well documented, when “public consultation” was replaced by unroofing houses in the middle of the night to get people to leave. While it would be some time (and a national rebellion) before Lord Edward St would appear, the area was beginning to take the form we recognise today.

Was Plunket St now John Dillon St

The pretty network of little streets between Francis St and Patrick St arose out of significant chaos. The most substantial of these is John Dillon St, which runs along the east of St Nicholas’ to the Iveagh Markets. A description of the area in the late 18th century by Rev. James Whitelaw, vicar of St. Catherine’s on Thomas Street, reported that on approaching the Liberties from the east of the city, a “general declension in both streets and houses was perceptible”. Houses were crowded together, and while some were the residences of shop-keepers, most were “occupied by working manufacturers, by petty shop keepers, the labouring poor, and beggars, crowded together, to a degree distressing to humanity”.

From a map of Dublin 1798, showing area Thomas St to St Patricks Cathedral

From a map of Dublin 1798, showing area Thomas St to St Patrick’s Cathedral. Plunket St is located in the centre of the extract.

The extent of this over-crowding was recorded on Plunket St in 1798. Plunket St consisted of what is now John Dillon St, Dillon Place, and probably Thomas Davis St South, or some parallel street. The 1798 survey reported that the 32 houses there contained 917 inhabitants, an average of nearly 29 people per house (the typical occupation across the Liberty was 12 – 16). Some of the shops on the street in the mid-eighteenth century have been recorded in the account books of “a Dublin Lady” (Mrs Katherine Bayly). These included The Churn, where she bought bacon, The Parrot, which supplied coffee and cocoa, and Adam and Eve, where the nature of business is not identified – perhaps an inn or tavern of some sort.

Plunket St, running from Francis St on the left (west) to Patrick St on the right. The Meeting House is marked P. M. H.

Plunket St, running from Francis St on the left (west) to Patrick St on the right. The Meeting House is marked P. M. H.

Plunket St had a Meeting House, clearly marked on Rocque’s map of 1756. Kenneth Ferguson—really I owe the man royalties at this stage—reprints an extract from a contemporary account that says the church was

for several years in a very low state, that the sentiments and preachings of the ministers who officiated were extremely unpopular and but ill adapted to preserve the church from a languishing condition.

Grappling with such problems, the church closed soon after, and the building was acquired by Lady Huntingdon, who financed the repair and reopened the church in 1773. In 1797, William Cooper came to Dublin and became connected with the church. It subsequently became known as Cooper’s Tabernacle and enjoyed the patronage of the La Touches and Town Major Henry Charles Sirr, who presented Cooper with a silver cup for use at the Tabernacle.

John Dillon St (Photo: Monosnaps on Flickr)

John Dillon St (Photo: Monosnaps on Flickr) https://www.flickr.com/photos/dubpics/

By the 1880s, this part of Dublin joined others in being redeveloped by the Dublin Artisan’s Dwelling Company (see article on Reginald St). The Meeting House had closed in 1882, and by 1885, the area was cleared and redeveloped, giving us the pretty cottages that are there today.

The area was further developed in 1906 with the construction of the Iveagh Markets. This covered market was built by the Iveagh Trust to replace a market area removed on the construction of the park beside St. Patrick’s Cathedral. The building includes the use of the distinctive Portmarnock red brick.

Sketch from Illustrated London News, 1881, of Home Rule Party, showing Dillon, Parnell and others (click to go to source: Dublin City Library and Archive)

Sketch from Illustrated London News, 1881, of Home Rule Party, showing Dillon, Parnell and others (click to go to source: Dublin City Library and Archive)

These clearances meant that the name of the street also changed, and it is surprising (to me) that the new name took that of John Dillon MP (see correction below*). We are of course used to the large number of changes to street names that followed independence (see article on Hogan Place), but Dillon, an Irish nationalist and advocate of Home Rule appears to have been a much earlier example. Perhaps this, and his long life meant that he may have missed out on getting his name on one of the grander streets of Dublin, which his role in Irish history surely justifies. Nevertheless, this is a pretty little street, and more unusual in that it includes the full name of the man it is dedicated to.

*Correction: Having since read Seamus Conboy’s article (“Changing Dublin Street Names, 1880’s to 1940’s” in Dublin Historical Record, 2011, Vol. 64(2), 205-225) it appears that John Dillon St was named after Dillon’s father, John Blake Dillon, a Young Irelander in 1886. The point about surprise at being named after a nationalist at this time still stands!

Notes

  • The current status of the Iveagh Markets was covered in a recent Irish Times Buildings at Risk article.
  • H. F. Berry (1898) Notes from the Diary of a Dublin Lady in the Reign of George II. The Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland, 8(2), 141-154.
  • Kenneth Ferguson (2005) Rocque’s Map and the History of Nonconformity in Dublin: A search for meeting houses, Dublin Historical Record, 58(2), 129-165.
  • Donal T. Flood (1974) The Decay of Georgian Dublin, Dublin Historical Record, 27(3), 78-100.
  • Joseph W. Hammond (1941) Town Major Henry Charles Sirr, Dublin Historical Record, 4(2), 58-75.

A new building on Sackville St, 1886

18 Lower Sackville St, at the junction of Sackville Place. (Irish Builder, Dec 1886)

18 Lower Sackville St, at the junction of Sackville Place. (Irish Builder, Dec 1886)

The Irish Builder included the plans for the building at 18 Lr Sackville St in its Dec 1886 issue. The building, which had been recently completed by J. and W. Beckett, was designed by George P. Beater, an architect and illustrator of the sketch shown.

The materials included red brick and terra cotta from North Wales and limestone from the quarries of Walter Doolin, Ballinasloe. The ceiling of the shop was finished in pitch pine and American walnut.

The shop was for George Mitchell, Esq, but perhaps Mitchell leased it out, for in 1901, the Lambe family lived at No. 18. John Joseph Lambe was a draper. The Irish Builder article mentions that as well as the Imperial Hotel on one side, the premises of “the old-established drug and window-glass warehouses of Messrs. Hoyte and sons.” By 1901, a new chemist was resident in No. 17: James Campbell from Co. Down.

Tucker's Row and Drogheda St, Rocque 1756

Tucker’s Row and Drogheda St, Rocque 1756

The article mentions that Sackville Place was formerly known as Tucker’s Row, and indeed on Rocque’s 1756 map, Tucker’s Row is marked. Of course at that stage, there was no bridge over the Liffey between what became O’Connell St and Westmoreland St., and the stretch from Tucker’s Row to the river was called Drogheda St.

Temperance on Townsend St

Terence Dooley mentions in passing in his wonderful new book that an announcement was placed in The Freeman’s Journal in May 1877 advertising an excursion from The Coffee Palace on Townsend St to the home of the Dukes of Leinster at Carton, Co. Kildare (Dooley, 2014).

The Coffee Palace was run by the Dublin Total Abstinence Society. The Society’s Honorary Secretary was Thomas William Fair, who returned to Dublin in 1869, having spent time in Australia (where Coffee Palaces would also become popular). According to records of the Temperance Movement, Fair devoted his spare time to abstinence, or at least the promotion of abstinence, and was the founder of several ‘coffee booths’ throughout the city. After raising money through public subscription, the Coffee Palace was built on Townsend St. This building was large, and included a “temperance hall with room for 500 people.”

Townsend St was not the first such building.The Irish Times reported meetings of people interested in “Improvement of the Working Class” as early as 1862, listing those who had provided money towards Coffee Palaces. By 1864, a “Coffee Palace and Temperance Refreshment Rooms” were being advertised at 2 Marlborough St. Benjamin Benson, the proprietor, opened from 7 am to 10 pm, and hot joints were served from 12 – 5 pm.

By 1875, moves were well underway to establish the Townsend St premises, perhaps prompted by the return of Fair to Dublin. A tender was placed in The Irish Builder to complete the building, designed by Frederick Morley. One of many fundraising Bazaars was held by the Lady Mayoress in May that year to “further the completion of the Temperance Coffee Palace at 6 Townsend St.” Innocent amusement and intellectual recreation were promised. By September, The Irish Times carried an advertisement signed by our man Thomas William Fair to declare that the Coffee Palace was open on and after Saturday 18th September 1875. Hundreds of events at the Palace were listed, and it was evidently very active in the late nineteenth century. The twentieth century was not so kind, and by November 1915, The Irish Times reported from the Court of Chancery that the Coffee Palace was to be wound up. The Society was unable to pay its debts, “owing to a change in times.”

The building was later demolished along with the destruction of Theatre Royal on Hawkins St, and the New Metropole Cinema, now the Screen Cinema, eventually took its place.

Notes
Terence Dooley (2014) The Decline and Fall of the Dukes of Leinster 1872-1948, Dublin.

Ghost Light – Old Dublin Signs

The website for Dublin Ghost Signs is well worth a visit. It is cataloguing signs that still exist on Dublin buildings for businesses long gone. Many of the signs are fading slowly, and in time will disappear.

A century earlier, another cataloguing project was prompted by Henry Berry. He compiled a list of House and Shop Signs from the seventeenth and eighteenth century recorded in a variety of sources. Signs, in the sense meant here, were not merely the text above a shopfront, but usually an actual sign or representation. Berry opens his article with a quote from Swift, about the ubiquity of Punch Bowls in signs for Dublin Taverns in 1732:

I have not observed the wit and fancy of this town so much employed in any one article as the variety of signs to hang over houses where punch is to be sold. The bowl is represented full of punch, the ladle stand erect in the middle, supported by one, and sometimes by two animals, whose feet rest upon the edge of the bowl. The animals are sometimes one black lion, sometimes a couple; sometimes a single eagle, and sometimes a spread one, and we often meet a crow, a swan, a bear, or a cock, in the same posture…

20140706-223333.jpg

The Sign of the Ship, 35 Back Lane, location of Richard Campsie, a linen draper.

Berry lists an impressively large catalogue of signs, arranged by street. The oldest shop sign was the Blue Bell, in Cook St, dating from 1600. Winetavern St had The Three Cups since 1613 and Castle St had a Bear and Ragged Staff since 1668. The latter was the premises of Richard Edwards, Tailor, in 1668 and William North, girdler, 1669.

The variety of animals Swift describes are well represented, but some unusual signs are also present. These include a Golden Stocking, for Anderson’s Stocking Shop on Castle St (1750 – 1760), a Merry Shepherd on Clarendon Market for a shop selling firewood (also 1750 – 1760), and Corelli’s Head for Neal & Mainwaring, music publishers on College Green (1737). Bibles or heads were popular for publishers or book-sellers, like the bible on Patrick Campbell’s, a bookseller, on Skinner’s Row (1696).

Private houses also had signs. The townhouse of the Earl of Kildare, also on Skinner’s Row had the name on it: Carbrie House (Carberry House) – this being the oldest recorded sign in the city. More unusual signs included a Wandering Jew on Castle St, belonging to Cassandra Fyan, widow, in 1669.

For all of his excellent recording, Berry doesn’t show us any signs. He mentions (writing in 1910) that residents of the 60s and 70s would remember a sign outside the Bleeding Horse on Camden St, which was erected on a post on the roadway between Camden St and the now disappeared Charlotte St (more on that story here). But for a glimpse of what these signs might look like, we have to turn to a much shorter article by the antiquarian Francis Joseph Bigger. His sketches are used in this article, and one can only praise the work behind the Dublin Ghost Signs website, which is continuing this work of illustrating old signs of the city before they disappear forever.

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Left: The Old Turkey Cock, sign for John Palmer, Haberdasher at 12 Cut-Purse Row; Right: The Cock, sign for Laurence Johnston, a curtain lace, fringe and tassel maker at 5, Nicholas St.

Notes

Francis Joseph Bigger (1909) Old Dublin Signs, Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland, 39(4), 400-401.
Henry F. Berry (1910) House and Shop Signs in Dublin in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries, The Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland, 40(2), 81-98.

The Kevin St Medley: 4. Church Lane

While it is now a grim cul de sac with nothing more than a plaque to offer, Church Lane must be one among the oldest streets in the city as it connects Kevin St to St Kevin’s Church. The church and graveyard, now cut off from the eponymous street, are currently only accessed by Camden Row. This is a pity.

Occupants of Church Lane South 1842

Occupants of Church Lane South 1842

Some caution is required when hunting down Church Lane in the archives. The city had a few Church Lanes, unsurprisingly. Take for example Cathedral Lane, which we met on a previous article in this Kevin St series; it was previously Church Lane. It seems the name Church Lane South was applied to our lane, and on that street in 1842, the occupants included John Burrowes and Patrick Murphy, bricklayers and John Magee, a shoemaker. Elizabeth Delap, a vintner who had been in No 3 in 1840, had disappeared in the two years since.

No through way at Church Lane

No through way at Church Lane

An Ordnance Survey map from about 1838 show that there were just buildings on one side of the street. The other side, now DIT Kevin St, was the site of a Fringe Factory. The street ends with St Kevin’s Church, of course, but also mentioned is “St. Sepulchre’s market and public weigh house.” The weigh-master was one of the officers of St Sepulchre’s, responsible for ensuring fair weights for goods (which in turn may have had taxes levied). In general, this term was a modern incarnation of the Office of the Keeper of the Great Beam and Great Balance… That’s a disappointing amendment to the business card.

St Kevin's Church (from O'Maitiú, 2010)

St Kevin’s Church 1969 (from Ó Maitiú, 2010)

The Dublin historian Séamus Ó Maitiú has reported in detail the history of St Kevin’s Church, the destination of Church Lane. The earliest mention is in 1179. Kevin is in good company with two other native saints nearby; St Patrick’s, which obviously became the cathedral, and St Bridget’s, remembered now by Bride St. The church’s history thus spanned over 700 years, until 2nd April 1889 when the last vestry was held (Ó Maitiú, 2010). After the church closed, it was replaced by St Kevin’s Church on South Circular Road (Bloomfield Avenue).

Sketch by WF Wakeman, 1887 (From Ó Maitiú, 2010)

Sketch by WF Wakeman, 1887 (From Ó Maitiú, 2010)

Among the many events over its long history is the baptism of the Arthur, future Duke of Wellington, son of the Earl and Countess of Mornington (See post: Music and Mornington House). In his recent talk at the Irish Georgian Society, Aidan O’Boyle described the Leeson residences at Stephen’s Green and mentioned the church on Camden Row as the family graveyard. There, according to Ó Maitiú, the family tomb has the inscription:

This tomb was erected by Mr Hugh Leeson of the city of Dublin Brewer for himself his posterity the 29th day of January 1685 and now beautified by his Son Joseph Leeson the 14th day of May 1741. Beneath are interred the following members of the family . . .

Included in this list is Elizabeth, Countess of Milltown, who was the third wife of Joseph Leeson of Russborough, Co. Wicklow, the first Earl of Milltown. She outlived her husband by an astonishing 55 years!

There’s an interpretative sign at the Camden Row entrance to the church and graveyard detailing other significant burials there. However I do think the grounds would benefit from having its original entrance reopened, at least during the daytime. It would rebalance the site in terms of connecting it to its original street and the opportunity to use the park as a thoroughfare might help deter the bands of daytime drinkers that make half the park unapproachable for most of the day. Parks with one entrance tend not to do well in Dublin.

A moste pleasante parke

A moste pleasante parke, but for the drinkers.

Notes

Séamas Ó Maitiú (2010) St. Kevin’s Church, Camden Row, Dublin Historical Record, 63(1), 39-53.

Keep to the left

One of my favourite source authors is J. L. J. Hughes, who wrote a paper in 1956 entitled “Dublin Street Names” which was on the topic of the book of the same name, published by Hodges Figgis & Co in 1892. What more could you want? It’s a wonderful ramble, and towards the end he addresses some questions that you were not likely to ask yourself, but now that I’m telling you, you’ll wonder why you never knew before. You will thank me at your next Table Quiz.

JLJ Hughes

When did numbering of housing begin?

House numbering began in 1774 after an Act of George III that year required householders to fix a number on their house. The number was decided by the Commissioners of Paving (oh, those Georgians), and there was an additional requirement put “at each end or corner of each square, street or lane the name it is usually or properly called or known.” This must have been the origin then of street signs.  The penalty for non-compliance was a whopping fifty shillings. A street directory published following the Act showed that compliance was prompt; merchant and trader addresses included a street number.

Why do we drive on the left?

In 1793, an Act of George III required:

that from and after the passing of this act, all and every person and persons riding any beast, or driving any carriage, car, or cart on any road within the said County of the said city of Dublin, shall ride such beast, and drive such carriage, car, or cart, on the left hand side of such road.

It is a guess, but I’m hoping a good one that by this time, traffic of man, beast, carts and cars had become quite substantial, and George, through his Dublin Parliament, were acting out of need to sort out the chaotic motion.

Why (oh why!) are odd street numbers on one side and even on the other?

This seems erratic, and perhaps visitors might say whether they can identify any exceptions. The origins to this are less than clear. Streets in the Pembroke Township (essentially Dublin 4) were listed in 1866 with odd numbers on one side and even numbers on the other. Our friend Hughes proposes that this idea may have arrived here from Paris. While the Parisians established street numbering much later than Dublin (Napoleon sorted it in 1804), the numbering was required to have even numbers on the right hand side (relative to the Seine). I’m not sure Dublin has a system of any sort, but it would be interesting to examine if there was a predominance of this arrangement in the old Pembroke township.

Notes

J. L. J. Hughes (1956) Dublin Street Names, Dublin Historical Record,14(2), 50-56.