Going to School (Street)

School St near Thomas St probably sees more tourists than you’d expect. It’s now a short stretch of nondescript buildings that many visitors to the city wander by on their way to the entrance to the Guinness brewery just beyond. But the street was home to a significant part of our education history. George Newenham Wright, a man Wicklow people know well, tells us in his Historical Guide to Ancient and Modern Dublin (1821) that on March 7th, 1808, a school was opened on this site. The school was funded by Guinness, La Touche and Bewley families, all of whom would soon establish the Kildare Place Society in 1811 (See post: An Education at Kildare Place)

There was substantial demand for the school. A Sunday School had opened in St Catherine’s Parish on Love Lane (Donore Avenue) in 1786, supposedly the first in Ireland. To attend the school, prospective pupils only needed a recommendation from a housekeeper (who these mysterious gate keepers were is unclear) and numbers quickly swelled. While Sunday Schools came with obvious religious overtones, they taught pupils how to read and write. Parents didn’t mind too much what the words were, more that their children were able to read them. If there is one thing most commentators agree on with regards to our early education history, it is that the Irish had a great anxiety for education. Such was the demand that the accommodation being used (the parish house for girls and the court house for boys) was unsuitable, and subscriptions were raised among the parish, and predominantly Quakers in the parish, for a school house. Once matching funding was obtained, it is likely that Guinness et al stepped in and the school house was built. Wright describes the building:

This building, which is of brick, is 156 feet in length and 37 in depth; the two upper floors are occupied by the schools, four in number, two for the boys and two for the girls; the children of each sex are quite distinct and the entrances for each are at different extremities of the building. In the centre of the building and between the male and female schools are the committee room and master’s apartments, the room of the supervisor of all the schools is so circumstanced that he can command a perfect view of all the four schools by standing up and sitting down successively.

School on School St Pimlico is to the bottom right and the Guinness Brewery entrance is to the left

School on School St (OSi) Pimlico is to the bottom right and the Guinness Brewery entrance is to the left.

The building was thus quite substantial, and as can be seen from the OSi map of the late nineteenth century, the school was about half the length of the street. In 1820 when Wright visited, 840 pupils were on the rolls. Girls usually completed some sewing work which was used as a source of income for the school.

Lancaster Monitorial System

Lancaster Monitorial System

Pupils were educated by the Lancaster system. This involved the master having a large class, which was sub-divided among a series of monitors. These were older children who had proved their merit, and who in turn taught groups of children in the class. The method meant that a large number of children could be educated with payment required just for the master and some allowances for monitors. Monitors usually became masters and mistresses.

At its peak, the school had 1000 pupils on the roll, and employed nine teachers. The masters were paid 2/6  per week, while the mistresses were paid 2/ per week. The school closed in the 1920s (Wilson Power, 1998) and was evidently demolished some time after that.

School Street (Google Streetview)

School Street (Google Streetview). The original school was on the right hand side of the road.


  • Irene Wilson Power (1998) To School in the City, Dublin Historical Record, 51(2), 141-158.
  • G.N. Wright (1820) An Historical Guide to Ancient and Modern Dublin. 

The Kevin St Medley: 3. The Moravian Meeting House

John Cennick (National Portrait Gallery, London)

John Cennick (National Portrait Gallery, London)

John Cennick took a bit of convincing to come to Dublin. A group of Dublin Baptists who heard him speak in London were so moved by his preaching that they begged of him to visit Dublin. Cennick was initially reluctant, recounting that he had “entertained a strong prejudice against the whole Irish nation and people,” but eventually acquiesced. In between these decisions, he changed his own allegiances from the Methodists to the Moravians, an evangelical Christian church that had its roots in 15th century Bohemia (the conversion was a result of two weeks on rough seas which he took to be a sign).

In Ireland, his first engagement was in an old meeting house on Skinner’s Alley (now Newmarket St). He began to attract large crowds, although Providence could not help him escape the Dublin wit: his reference to “the Babe in swaddling clothes” earned him the title “Swaddling John” (Boyle, 2010).

This surge in activity of non-conformism in the early 17th century (Boyle mentions Arminians, Baptists, Bradilonians, Methodists, Muggletonians, Quakers, Socinians, Unitarians, but not, unfortunately, Movementarians) is captured on Rocque’s map of the city. Kenneth Ferguson, referred to here before, has done sterling detective work and identified no fewer than seventeen meeting houses on Rocque’s 1756 plan of the city. These include the house mentioned at Skinner’s Alley and that of interest here on Kevin St. Both of these, Ferguson notes with satisfaction, include the lettering ‘MH’ to indicate their status as Meeting Houses (Ferguson, 2005).

Rocque 1756 Great Boater Lane

Moravian Meeting House – the annotation MH is visible directly below the ‘R’ of Great Boater Lane

Undated sketch of Moravian Church from a booklet (reproduced in Ferguson, 2005)

Undated sketch and floor-plan of the Moravian House (reproduced in Ferguson, 2005)

The Moravian House on Kevin St was more correctly on what is now Bishop St, then called Great Boater Lane, accessed by a tiny alley just visible on the map. This house was built after the Moravians were ejected from Skinner’s Alley by the Methodists, and evidently they had enough of a demand to establish their own house. The original house is all but hidden from view; a recent new building on Bishop St means it is now only visible from a small pedestrian walkway between Bishop and Kevin Streets.

Moravian Meeting House, Kevin St

Moravian Meeting House, Kevin St

Clear for all to see though is the new frontage added onto Kevin Street in 1917. (2017 is going to be an important year on Kevin Street with the centenary of this building and the 50th anniversary of the College of Technology). A plain but pretty vestry is next door. Casey describes it as a two-storey block of offices and meeting room, the latter a barrel-vaulted the full width of the building (Casey, 2010). The façade is unusual, both for the building and the street (Casey describes it as oddly eclectic). The presence of the Moravians is marked by the symbol of the Lamb of God, and their crest Vicit Agnus Noster ~ Eum sequam which my Latin speaking friends tell me means “Our Lamb has conquered, let us follow Him.”

The building ceased to be used by the Moravians in 1959. It is now owned by a media company. Let us follow them.

The Lamb of God,

The Lamb of God, Bless the iPhone zoom.


  • Seán Boyle (2010) Swaddling John and the Great Awakening, History Ireland, 18(5), 18-21.
  • Christine Casey (2005) The Buildings of Dublin, Yale University Press.
  • 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.

Glib Market, Thomas St

Glib Market, Thomas St

Glib Market, Thomas St (Rocque, 1756)

On Rocque’s map, 1756, there is a substantial curb-side marking on Thomas St with the label “Glib Market.” It lay just east of the entrance to St Catherine’s Church in the direction of Meath St. The name “Glib” comes from an ancient watercourse; the Glib River (Brooke-Tyrell, 1983). While it was originally thought that this was laid out in 1670, it was later found to be much earlier. A Trinity College deed from 1349 makes reference to Pype Lane, at the back of Thomas St and a 1426 deed mentions a lane “through which the water of the pipe of Dublin runs.” Whatever the origins, in 1696, an order was made to provide costs to cover and pave over the Glib, and in 1709, a proposal was mooted to establish a Hide Market at “the back of the Glib Water in Thomas Street.” (Jackson, 1950, who covers the Glib watercourse in glorious detail).

Perhaps this Hide Market is the origin of our Glib Market, obviously well established by the time Rocque wandered by in the 1750s. Brooke-Tyrell reports some interesting anecdotes. A meeting of Herring Sellers from the market was held 1781 so that they could air their concerns about the crowds standing about, with no intention of buying herrings, but just to listen to ballad singers. The sellers felt that these cads should be made to walk on the opposite side of the road; enforced by the Lord Mayor’s men if necessary. Standing around listening to ballad singers was clearly part of the social scene of the time. Local schoolmaster Dr. William Gahan wrote in the rules for his new school in 1777:

The children are never to assemble together in the streets, either going to, or returning from school: never to join any riotous meetings, or to stand listening to ballad singers or swearers (from Brooke-Tyrell, 1983).

What was Frawleys, and (site of?) Glib Bank

What was Frawleys, and (site of?) Glib Bank (Google Maps)

Glib was also the source of a name of a bank on the street (Archiseek Forum). A will of 1747 left money to two clerks of the bank; Abraham Fuller and John Bell (£100 each – what loot!). The bank was located in what is now, or what was, Frawley’s Department Store.

Next time you stop to buy your toilet rolls and washing powder, you’re at a market that is 0ver 300 years old…


  • To keep up to date with Thomas St life, architecture and culture see the community group pages on Facebook and Twitter
  • Val. Jackson (1950) The Glib Water and Colman’s Brook, Dublin Historical Record, 11(1), 17-28.
  • Alma Brooke-Tyrrell (1983), Focus on Thomas Street, Dublin Historical Record, 36(3), 107-117.
  • Archiseek Forum on Glib bank at Thomas St.

Capel St Brotherhood

Brother Hubbard at No. 153 Capel St is the unofficial Wide and Convenient Streets pit-stop when exploring the north side. The street itself dates from 1697. The name comes from Arthur Capel, Earl of Essex who was Lord Lieutenant from 1672-1677.While forever immortalised with the street name, he was also previously remembered by Essex Bridge, which connects Capel St to Parliament St. The present bridge was built in 1874 and was since renamed Grattan Bridge. Capel was replaced as Lord Lieutenant by the Duke of Ormonde, remembered around the corner from Capel St, on the quays.

Essex Bridge

Essex Bridge

Arthur, 1st Earl of Essex.

Arthur Capel, 1st Earl of Essex.

Arthur had great hair, and an even greater wig. One assumes he would be happy then with the tenant at No. 153 listed in 1834: William Finucane was a wig-maker and hair dresser. By 1842, Finucane was listed along with Bernard Murphy, who was both a “builder and confectioner”; perhaps two trades the modern occupiers can relate to. They were joined by John Page, who was a “teetotal refreshment manufacturer”. That must be what they called elderflower cordial in those days. All changed in 1862: wigs and confection gave way to Henry Smith, brass founder, billiard ball maker, and gunpowder agent.

Confection was not to be dissuaded however. By 1901, Delia Dunbar was listed in No. 153 as a manageress of a bread shop which she ran on the ground floor. She was 21 and not married. Over the shop, Michael Hudson, a saddler, lived in the private dwelling with his wife and three young children.

All this talk has made me hungry for a scone and some amazing orange-blossom-buttery-goodness. Yum.

Grattan Bridge at low tide

Grattan Bridge at low tide taken from Ormonde Quay Upper.


Cork St Fever Hospital

Readers may be interested in keeping an eye on the Royal College of Physicians’ blog which plans to feature some posts on the Cork St Fever Hospital archive preservation and cataloguing over the next year. The first post in the series includes this engraving of the hospital, clearly a substantial building.

Cork St Fever Hospital (Click to go to RCPI blog)

Cork St Fever Hospital (Click to go to RCPI blog)

Eugene Dudley’s recent article in Dublin Historical Record is a good read on the hospital and the social conditions at the time of opening. Citing John Rutty’s Natural History of County Dublin, he writes that there were no sewers, the city had 19 graveyards with people buried in shallow graves, and the water supplies contained dead animals. No one was safe from the threat of fever. The hospital chaplain, Rev James Whitelaw,* himself died of fever in 1813. He had conducted a survey of the city, reporting that

the labouring poor and beggars [were] crowded together ‘to a degree distressing to humanity in truly wretched habitations with often 10 to 16 persons of all ages and sexes in a room not of fifteen feet square’. (Dudley, 2009)

Having opened the Sick Poor Institution on Meath St. in 1794, it was decided that while this dispensary was successful, there was a further need for a hospital in the area. In 1801, 15 Trustees were named at the Royal Exchange for the new hospital. These included Samuel Bewley, William and Thomas Disney, Arthur Guinness Jr, and John David La Touche. Money was raised with relative ease. Reporting to an inquiry in the middle of the nineteenth century, a La Touche descendant stated:

Dublin was at that time in a very different position from that in which it is at present. There were a great number of wealthy manufacturers who resided in the Liberties, and employed a great number of people; they were very charitably disposed. (Dudley, 2009)

Site of Cork St Fever Hospital from Rocque's map 1756.

Site of Cork St Fever Hospital from Rocque’s map 1756.

The site for the hospital was selected to be “Widow Donnelly’s Orchard”. It is unnamed, but clear on Rocque’s map that an orchard existed on the site of the hospital. The site is bound by Love Lane (now Donore Avenue) to the west and Brickfield Lane to the east. Construction began in 1802 and was complete by 1808. The hospital opened after the ward ranges were complete in May 1804. It clearly had immediate success: in 1805, 1028 patients were admitted from the hospital’s catchment area of south of the Liffey to the South Circular Road. 874 of these were “discharged and cured”, 97 died, and 57 were still in care at the end of the year.

Fever Hospital Site ca 1840 (Ordnance Survey of Ireland)

Fever Hospital Site ca 1840 (Ordnance Survey of Ireland)

The fever hospital is visible from the early OSi map (ca 1840); and its foot print remains relatively unchanged today, save for an additional building in the south west of the complex. It is easy to see the relationship of the buildings in this map to the etching shown at the top of the article.


E. Dudley (2009) A Silent Witness – Cork Street Fever Hospital, Dublin Historical Record, 62(1), 103-126.

*An interesting article on Rev James Whitelaw and his Survey of the City is available on the Come Here to Me blog.


Friends on Strand St

strand streetAt 66-67 Strand St, the former Quaker Meeting House is looking well. The house opened in 1869, 10 years after the better known Meeting House on Eustace St. The latter has a much longer history; since 1662 there was a house on Sycamore Alley with the back entrance was towards Eustace St, but a swap with Joshua Bewley led to the new building opening in 1859.

Strand St was used as a Meeting House until 1924. The building included a Reading Room for men and “Edith M. Wigham and some interested ladies” ran a Drilling Association for women, which included activities like gymnastic classes. Charitable works included “looking after” unfortunate women and girls in the vicinity of Dame St, as well as providing a base for people coming off ships with nowhere to go.

A small plaque on the building commemorates the Friends’ presence.

strand street plaque


Katherine Butler (1991) Friends in Dublin, Dublin Historical Record, 44(1), 34-46.

Coburg Gardens now Iveagh Gardens

Clonmell House, Harcourt St

Clonmell House, Harcourt St

Harcourt Street’s grandest house is Clonmell House, built in 1778 by John Hatch for John Scott. Scott was a man on the rise. Although he was from a modest background (his brother was a tallow-chandler for heaven’s sake) he became Attorney General in 1777. In 1784, along with being created Chief Justice, he was elevated to Baron Earlsfort of Lisson Earl, Co Tipperary. He was given the title Viscount Clonmell in 1791 and Earl of Clonmell in 1793. In his signature, he added an extra “l” to the spelling of his name, so that the wags would say: “Give Scott an inch and he’ll take an L.” Clonmell House originally had a frontage of 120 ft, with two wings, now gone, contributing half of the total. The wings are visible in the 1797 map, below.

Across the road from Clonmell House is Clonmel St, which today leads into the Iveagh Gardens. This plot is visible on the 1797 map of Dublin, marked as the Earl of Clonmell’s Lawn, a large pleasure grounds running the length of Stephen’s Green. A subterranean passage brought the Earl from his house to the gardens without him having to walk over the street.

Earl of Clonmell's Lawn (1797)

Earl of Clonmell’s Lawn (1797). Clonmell House just visible to the left. Stephen’s Green is to the top (N) of the map.

Clonmell Street was mapped by the Wide Street Commissioners in 1837, and these beautiful maps exist in the Dublin City Archives. We can see the original plan for Clonmell Street was to run parallel to the south side of Stephen’s Green through what we now know as the Iveagh Gardens, with the intention of linking up to the newly laid out Earlsfort Terrace. This name now makes more sense when we see the connection. It’s worth noting that this track is really just a continuation of Long Lane, mentioned previously.

WSC-467-1 (Links to Dublin City Archive)

WSC-467-1 (Links to Dublin City Archive). Stephen’s Green is at the bottom (N) of the map.

As well as this outline sketch, a much more detailed map of the proposed Clonmel St (now with just one l) was produced by the Wide Street Commissioners, and as can be seen, it was going to have a substantial number of houses. Of course none of this came to fruition, and the name Clonmel St was appointed to the small piece of open ground opposite the house, as it is today.

What then of the Earl of Clonmell’s Lawn? The 1st Earl died on the day the 1798 Rebellion began, and his heir Thomas, 2nd Earl inherited his estate, aged 14. A large city house was redundant after the Act of Union, and the second Earl sold up in 1810. The gardens were reopened for public use about 1817; and renamed Coburg Gardens—something continental sounds fancy, don’t you think?—and they became a popular spot for the Georgians to loiter around, what with firework displays and bands to entertain them. The name is just about discernible on the early OSi map. The entrance was from the south side of St Stephen’s Green, through the “Royal Horse Bazaar”.

dublin exhibition palaceThe gardens fell into disrepair again. “Sheep grazed there, between the piles of rubbish dumped by uncivic citizens” in the words of one commentator. The site was selected by Sir Benjamin Lee Guinness (incidentally born in the same year Clonmell died) as the location for the Dublin Exhibition Palace and Winter Garden which were opened in 1865 by the Prince of Wales.

Interior of Dublin Exhibition Building (Links to National Library of Ireland)

Interior of Dublin Exhibition Building (Links to National Library of Ireland)

Although the original exhibition had nearly 1,000,000 visitors, it just about turned a profit, if at all. Later exhibitions had much smaller numbers. The exhibition building at Earlsfort Terrace eventually became part of the Royal University complex, along with the Winter Gardens, which had been laid out in 1862. They included walks, fountains, a maze and a 20 ft high waterfall capable of a flow of 1,400 gallons per minute. In recognition of this gift, and the fact that they lay behind the Earl’s Iveagh House on Stephen’s Green, they were renamed the Iveagh Gardens.

And they are a treat.

Rocque’s Plan of the City 1756 and 1757 now online

From "Survey of the city and suburbs of Dublin" (1757)

From “Survey of the city and suburbs of Dublin” (1757)

After arriving in Dublin about 1754, John Rocque began his famous surveys of the city. In total, Rocque published six maps of the city; all the more impressive given the short time he spent here. The first was his “Exact Survey of the City and Suburbs of Dublin“. This was published in 1756, and  provides glorious detail of every corner of the city and its suburbs. You can have your very own reduced size copy from the Royal Irish Academy,* or view it online at the Bibliothèque nationale de France at this link. This was later updated by Bernard Scalé, and you can see how useful the comparison is in my previous article on Hume St and Ely Place. This was followed in quick succession by a Survey of the City and Suburbs of Dublin, now also online, and a Survey of the City, Harbour, Bay and Environs of Dublin, online here. Rocque wrote in an accompanying guide to the latter:

But we see in this Map, that Dublin is one of the finest and largest Cities of Europe, as well on Account of its Quays, which reach with Order and Regularity from one End of the Town to the other, as on Account of a great many grand Buildings in different parts on either Side; for instance Kildare house, the Barracks, Hospitals, Parliament-house, the College, and the Castle, which is the residence of the Lord Lieutenent, &c. and also on account of several spacious and magnificent Streets, the Gardens, Walks, &c

In this guide, Rocque also offers his opinion of the locals. They are “frank, polite, affable, make it their pleasure to live much with each other and their Honour to treat Strangers with Politeness and Civility“.

In 1760, he published An Actual Survey of the County of Dublin, which is magnificent—it reaches as far south as Lord Powerscourt’s recently revitalised estate outside Enniskerry in County Wicklow (Rocque knew who paid the bills). That one is visible in the Map Library of TCD. Other maps included an undated precursor to his 1756 map and a 1762 map of the baronies of Dublin, probably published by his wife after his death.

Click and enjoy these beautiful maps!


  • *Lennon and Montagues’ book on Rocque’s plan of the city is a must read for cartophiles: Colm Lennon and John Montague, 2010, John Rocque’s Dublin: A Guide to the Georgian City, Royal Irish Academy, Dublin.
  • F O’K (1974) John Rocque on Dublin and Dubliners 1756, Dublin Historical Record, 27(4), 146-147.
  • B. P. Bowen (1948) John Rocque’s Maps of Dublin, Dublin Historical Record, 9(4), 117-127.


Experimental Justice on Grangegorman Lane

There is something vaguely Gothamesque about the name Richmond Penitentiary. It was first mooted when some land was purchased at the time of the development of Richmond Asylum nearby. Both were named after Charles Lennox, 4th Duke of Richmond, who was Lord Lieutenant of Ireland from 1807 – 1816. In one of those nice symmetries Irish history throws up, Richmond went on to become Governor General of British North America, a role later assumed (in the form of Governor General of Canada) by Charles 4th Viscount Monck. Monck’s uncle (and father-in-law, don’t ask) was Henry, 2nd Viscount Monck, later Earl of Rathdown, who originally sold the land for Richmond Penitentiary in the first place.

Richmond Penitentiary

Richmond Penitentiary

South of the site of Richmond Penitentiary, Rocque 1757.

South of the site of Richmond Penitentiary, Rocque 1757. Stanley St is shown in the south-west corner.

The land for the penitentiary had been occupied by Andrew Quinn, who kept an orchard or some form of market garden. It is clear from Rocque’s plan of the city that the entire area was farmed in some way. Grangegorman Lane, on which the penitentiary was built, is just about discernible on the 1757 map. Channel Row—visible at the bottom of the extract shown—was soon to become Brunswick St, so we can use this as a guide to follow the lane north until it peters out, entering into what must have been Quinn’s plot of 3½ acres. 40 years later, the site was a little more developed, with Grangegorman Lane marked (see map). It’s worth noting here some street names in the area: Stanley Street (visible on Rocque) and Monk (sic) Place (visible on 1798 map). These are obviously connected to the Monck family. Stanley is especially important: Sir Thomas Stanley was a Cromwellian soldier who had the lands at Grangegorman. His daughter and heiress Sarah Stanley married Charles Monck, an ancestor of those we discuss here. Stanley St was once a tree-lined avenue to the Manor of Grangegorman, now it is a lane to a Corporation depot, or a “Scavenging Depot and Destructor”, according to one OSi map.

OSi Map showing Richmond Penitentiary, ca 1838

OSi Map showing Richmond Penitentiary, ca 1838

After the sale, Mr Quinn sold his last batch of apples in July 1812, and the wood from the orchard was sold that December. Monck banked £1,100 and a peppercorn (nominal) rent for the land. Francis Johnston was taken on to design the building, having already been employed as the asylum architect. The early nineteenth century was a time when there was a zeal to reform, and rather than send prisoners to far-flung corners of the globe, those with any hope (or potential for Protestantism) were marked for possible redemption and sentenced instead to a local penitentiary, thus the desire for a building in the first place. However, from the time the site was chosen in 1810, it took another decade for the prison to open. The weather vane on the cupola had a date of 1816, and in 1818 the building was used briefly as a fever hospital during a cholera epidemic. The building cost at least £40,000, but was repeatedly criticised for its design (prisons were not part of his repertoire). Johnston’s characteristic “fan” shaped design is visible on the OSi map from the 1830s. Prisoners began their sentence in solitary confinement on the outer confines, and gradually moved towards the centre as their sentence progressed, until they arrived at the workshops at the centre. Each of the cells were 12′ 4 square and 11′ high.

From the outset, the prison was embroiled in the religious debates of the 1820s, similar to those occurring in education, and culminating in Emancipation in 1829. Several boys were transferred from Smithfield in 1821, and the orphans among them were assumed to be Protestant. This was successfully contested by the Roman Catholic chaplain. The tone of the decade in the prison was set. In 1826, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Dublin, Rev Dr Murray, submitted a memorial on behalf of ten prisoners. The nine men and one woman complained that they had been ill-treated because of their religion, and that proselytism in the form of cruelties, punishments, deprivations and tortures was rife. A 39-day inquiry ensued, which found that while there was mass conversion, torture was not used. Instead, it was ascribed to the “entrance week” that new inmates spent in solitary confinement. After this time, prisoners were asked to state their religion, and it was felt that they may have declared to be Protestant in the hope of an easier time.

Things got worse in the prison after the inquiry. The Roman Catholic chaplain had acted on behalf of the prisoners, so understandably he and the governor were not going to be best of friends afterwards. Conditions in the prison deteriorated and prisoners began to take advantage of low staff morale, and resulting lack of discipline, by committing further “outrages”. At some point it was decided to end the experiment, and just 8 years after it opened, Richmond began to prepare to close. The process took about two years, and the prison closed in 1831. It returned to its former temporary use as a Fever Hospital in time for the Cholera Epidemic of 1832.

The "Clock Tower Building" from the Grangegorman Development Agency

The “Clock Tower Building” from the Grangegorman Development Agency website.


  • H. Heaney (1974) Ireland’s Penitentiary 1820-1831: An Experiment That Failed, Studia Hibernica, 14, 28-39.
  • T. K. Moylan (1945) The District of Grangegorman: Part II, Dublin Historical Record, 7(2), 55-68.

The Coombe Hospital Portico

The Portico of the Coombe Hospital, built 1877

The Portico of the Coombe Hospital, built 1877

The Coombe Hospital, now on the upper reaches of Cork St began life in The Coombe itself. After the Meath Hospital moved from the site to Naboth’s vineyard on Long Lane in 1822, the hospital was bought by John Kirby, President of the Royal College of Surgeons, who ran it as a general hospital. According to a contemporary report, the location was apt:

This charitable institution stands in that part of the city where poverty and disease prevail in their most calamitous degree of aggravation; and where accidents, in their severest forms, constantly occur, and hourly demand admission into some asylum where suffering may be alleviated and life preserved. [Wright, 1825]

A plaque on the portico tells us what happened next:

Towards the end of the year 1825, two women whilst making a vain attempt to reach the Rotunda Hospital perished together with their new born babies in the snow. When this became known a number of benevolent and well-disposed persons founded “The Coombe Lying-in Hospital” in the year 1826 for the relief of poor lying-in women.  Leading the Charitable Committee was a Mrs Margaret Boyle of Upper Baggot St, Dublin.

Coombe map

Coombe Hospital, OSi

Kirby was replaced as Master in 1836 by Hugh Carmichael, and the name of the hospital changed to the ‘Coombe Lying-in Hospital and Dublin Ophthalmic Dispensary’ — Carmichael had an interest in ophthalmology. In 1838, it was reported that the hospital had 42 beds and “daily affords advice and medicine to about one hundred and fifty extern patients.” The original building deteriorated and in in 1867, the patients were transferred to another hospital on Peter St run by Kirby. Benjamin Guinness and others provided funds for a new hospital which opened in 1877. A dispensary is visible along Brabazon St on the later nineteenth century map of the area, labelled “Guinness Dispy”.

A century after the original building closed, this new hospital also closed, and the new Coombe Hospital opened on Cork St. The portico is all that remains.

The plaque continues:

The portico surrounding this plaque formed the entrance until the year 1967 when the hospital moved to a new location in Dolphin’s Barn. It has been retained and restored by Dublin Corporation as a memorial to the many thousands of mothers who gave birth to future citizens of Ireland in the Coombe Lying-in hospital and also to the generosity of the staff and friends of the hospital.

The housing scheme which was subsequently erected on the site by Dublin Corporation was officially opened by the Right Honourable the Lord Mayor, Alderman Fergus O’Brien T. D. , on 20th November 1980.


  • David Mitchell (1989) A Medical Corner of Dublin (1711 to 1889), Dublin Historical Record, 42(8), 86-93.
  • L. B. Somerville-Large (1964) Dublin’s Eye Hospitals in the 19th Century, Dublin Historical Record, 20(1), 19-28.
  • You can see a photograph of the original building at Archiseek.