In Nicholas’ Shadow

In the shadow of Saint Nicholas of Myra,

Where salt waits, oil in its cruse.

You will find your own way out of this maze.

Harry Clifton, A Son! A Son!

Parish School of the Parish of St Nicholas Without, on New St.

Parish School of the Parish of St Nicholas Without, on New St.

In the Protestant parish of St Nicholas Without, a small complex of schools existed on New St, a short street linking what is now Clanbrassil and Patrick Sts. The early Ordnance Survey map marks the school’s location and Sir John Gilbert lists details of schools in the city, most likely gathered from one of the many, many Irish Education Inquiries the Government established to try to decide what to do with education provision. He states that the school on New St had a yard and playground that was spacious. This was not common – compare, for example with St Nicholas Within, which had no yard, and a “dirt hole and necessary” on the ground floor. The school had dormitories which were airy and clean, but the school room itself was “small, dark, and inconvenient”. There were 20 boys boarding; the parish had a population of over 12,000 at the time.

1844 Petigrew and Olsen Street Directory

1842 Petigrew and Olsen Street Directory

We can trace the school pretty easily using street directories. By 1834, there were Male, Female, and Infant Schools on the site, with the children taught by James Farrell, Miss Moore, and Miss Macnamara. By 1842, the male and female schools were run by Jenkinson Hudson and his wife. Now I should say that Jenkinson is something of an old friend, as he cropped up in my study of Wicklow schoolhouses during the Georgian era. There we find him teaching in a school in Calary, aged 20 in 1823. Calary is as remote as you get in Wicklow, on upper plains between Kilmanacogue and Roundwood. It must have been quite a change for him and his wife to move to the city. Jenkinson was replaced at Calary by John Nelson Darby, so it is likely that he conformed with the evangelical ethos of that school, and perhaps this made him a suitable candidate for the school at New Street. This is further confirmed by the fact that while the school received support from the (secular) Kildare Place Society, it was not formally associated with it (see An Education at Kildare Place). Jenkinson had received training from the Society in 1823.

A little walk

Of course, following the relaxation of penal laws in 1785, most Catholic children were openly educated by Catholics, either in hedge and pay schools, or schools established on church lands. A short walk away from New St, the Roman Catholic schools for the parish were on Francis St. This walk is different today, with New St leading directly onto Patrick St. Then, a Wide Street Commissioners map informs us, New St fed into Kevin St, with a small alley named Three Stone Alley linking New St with Patrick St. The triangle now occupied by a large junction and abandoned subterranean toilets was once a compact cluster of houses.

Three Stone Alley, linking Patrick St to New St (from Dublin City Library collection – click to go to source)

On Francis St

St Nicholas of Myra Church and schools (OSi)

St Nicholas of Myra Church and schools (OSi)

St Nicholas of Myra Roman Catholic Church was built in the years following Emancipation in 1829. While there is a substantial amount of information on the church, very little appears to exist on the schools that were built on the church grounds. We know of the existence of these schools from the Ordnance Survey map which shows that by the end of the nineteenth century, at least two schools were present just north of the church.

The provision of education in early nineteenth century Ireland resembled a chaotic auction where various religious societies tried to outbid each other offering support to nascent schoolhouses. Support came with the obligations that a school would operate under the moral guidelines of a particular society, use their textbooks, and crucially, follow their interpretation of the Bible. Amid this chaos, the Kildare Place Society emerged, and became the major supporter of secular education in Ireland (see An Education at Kildare Place). The Society was formed in 1811, and from the 1820s, was the dominant Irish educational society, receiving £30,000 from Government to support schools.However, the Kildare Place Society was under attack from the Catholic bishops, and after a Parliamentary Inquiry in 1826 and Emancipation in 1829, the money previously directed to Kildare Place was used to establish the Board of National Education in 1831. Ireland had a National School system.

The Commissioners of Education Office and Training School was at Malboro' Street (National Archives of Ireland)

The Commissioners of Education offices and Training School were at Malboro’ Street (National Archives of Ireland)

Having petitioned for its formation, the Roman Catholic church quickly began to associate schools it currently supported as well as new schools with the National Board. This involved applying to be connected with the Board, through support of teacher salary, request for desks, books, etc. These applications are now kept in the National Archives of Ireland, and they are a rich source of information on localities. The earliest record for St Nicholas Without is an application in 1842 for a Female School. In this, the correspondent Fr Matthew Flanagan reported that the school house, consisting of two rooms, each thirty by forty feet, had just been completed, having been built by private subscription. Later documents make it clear that this building was in fact a school for boys and girls, with a room for each. The application was approved, and the school became popular. An application for further assistant in 1868, from Fr E McCabe, requested a salary for Eliza Saunders, aged 18. Her qualifications included a “Certificate of Professors”. She would join Mary Ledwidge, principal teacher, Julia Shalvey, Margaret Dowling, Kate Macken and M. A. Shalvey (both junior monitors). There were at that time 190 boys and 190 girls on the rolls, with average attendance of 116 boys and 116 girls.

Application for St Nicholas Without Infant School Assistant Teacher Salary, 1862 (National Archives of Ireland)

Application for St Nicholas Without Infant School Assistant Teacher Salary, 1862 (National Archives of Ireland)

The complex grew, and as well as girls and boys, the parish applied for assistance with an infant schoolhouse in 1853. The application by Fr Flanagan requested money for payment of teacher’s salary and for supply of books. He stated that the schoolhouse was newly built, with brick and slate in the cottage style, 65 feet long and 18 feet wide, standing close to the church on Francis St. It was furnished with a gallery and capable of accommodating 170 children, who were taught by Elizabeth Murphy, aged 44. Daily hours were 10 to 3, with hours devoted to religious instruction 12 to 12.30. Books used were those of the National Board. A salary of £10 was granted to Elizabeth and books for 150 children provided.Again this school was successful.Several applications for further assistance followed; within a decade there were 234 boys and 131 girls on the roll, with an average daily attendance of 138 boys and 60 girls.

St nicholas Carmans Hall statueWhile the Roman Catholic schools of the parish embraced the National School system, there is no record of the schools at New Street joining the system.Initially schools with a Protestant ethos were reluctant to join the National School system, and they continued with the support of the Kildare Place Society, which later became the Church Education Society. However, by the 1850s, money began to run out, and schools tended to drift into the National system. It is likely therefore that in the absence of any application, the schools at New Street closed.

Roman Catholic schools clearly continued on with some success, and in the 1930s, a new schoolhouse was built at Carman’s Hall, a narrow lane linking Meath and Francis Streets, just in front of St Nicholas of Myra church. Casey describes it as a simple modernist building by Robinson and Keefe, with statues of the Virgin, St Nicholas, and original Irish signage. Like its predecessors, it is now closed. The footprint of the schools around the church at Francis St is now occupied by a modern building housing Francis St CBS.
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St Nicholas of Myra National School, Carman's Hall

St Nicholas of Myra National School, Carman’s Hall

 Francis St ChurchNotes

  • The records of the National Board of Education are available in the National Archives of Ireland. There is a card index. The files accessed for this article included: ED1-29-136, ED1-29-118, ED1-29-1. Those eager to follow up the schools’ histories are encouraged to examine the ED2 records.
  • A contemporary image of the intended elevation of St Nicholas of Myra Church is available in Dublin Penny Journal, reproduced at Dublin City Library. Meanwhile, I enjoyed this letter from Sgt. Brace in 1977 to The Irish Times
  • Christine Casey (2005) The Buildings of Dublin, Yale University Press.
  • Michael Seery, Education in Wicklow; From Parish Schools to National Schools, 2014.This book is free to read on Google Books.
St Nicholas of Myra School and Church, from Carman's Hall

St Nicholas of Myra School and Church, from Carman’s Hall

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An education at Kildare Place

Kildare PlaceOne of the advantages of relying on public transport is that you end up standing around in parts of the city where you might not otherwise loiter. It was a very pleasant surprise then for me to spot the sign on the side of the National Museum on Kildare St identifying the small square I was standing on as Kildare Place. I’m a little embarrassed about confessing this—I knew it was around Kildare St somewhere, but had never really thought about where.

Kildare Place, 2014 (Google Maps)

The bus stops at Kildare Place, 2014 (Google Streetview)

Having spent a lot of the last two years thinking about the Society that was located in Kildare Place (that’s a cheap link to my new book), now that I was there, a lot fell into place.

kildare-place-imprint

The Society published school books and sold them through their depository at Kildare Place (Links to TCD Library Blog)

The Kildare Place Society, more correctly the Society for the Promotion of the Education of the Poor in Ireland, was established by a group of businessmen (Bewley, Guinness, La Touche, etc) in 1811 with the aim of developing a primary education system in Ireland. Over the following twenty years, the Society moved to a position where it established teacher training schools, published over a million schoolbooks, and promoted a secular model of education which ultimately became the basis of the National School system, established in 1831. Although the Society’s demise began after its funds were transferred to the National Board in 1831, it continued on as a Protestant education society (Church Education Society), and ultimately the Church of Ireland Training College. A picture from 1911 shows the training school built on the site in 1884. That building is now the site of the Department of Agriculture, and the only memorial to the first substantial national effort for education provision in Ireland is a street named School House Lane East, across the road.

CB_Kildare_Place_1884

Kildare Place, 1911

Kildare Place: Top – sketch of the original Society buildings and bottom, from 1911, showing the CoI Training School (1884) and buildings in Kildare Place

Kildare Place is also famous, or infamous, for the destruction of two houses on its eastern edge, visible to the left of the 1911 photograph. These houses were built by Richard Castle for Lord Massereene and Sir Skeffington Smyth sometime prior to 1750. (By coincidence, Castle also designed Tyrone House, which became the home of the National Board of Education). After the earlier destruction of No. 1 for the National Museum and No. 4 for the Training School, No. 2 and No. 3 were the only two left on the square. In 1957, it was decided to tear them down.

Lord Wicklow (whose ancestor, in another coincidence, was President of the Kildare Place Society) wrote to the Irish Times in 1957:

The Commissioners of Public Works have announced their intention of demolishing nos. 2 and 3, Kildare Place, Dublin. No. 2… is the finest brick house of the mid-18th century owned by the commissioners; it is probably only second in importance to no. 20 Dominic street, which is recognised as one of the finest 18th-century houses in Ireland…

Vandalism of this kind should not be tolerated. We look to the Commissioners of Public Works to preserve our heritage, not to set a lead in destroying it.

Sadly, this and other letters fell on deaf ears. Kevin Boland ordered the Commissioners of Public Works to destroy the buildings, and they were demolished in 1957. A large brick wall and gate replaced them, giving Kildare Place the appearance of a service entrance to Government Buildings. The subsequent outcry resulted in calls for a society to preserve what was left of Dublin’s Georgian architecture, and soon after in 1957, Desmond Guinness wrote to the Irish Times:

Sir, As the Georgian Society seems to have lapsed, has anyone any objection to my restarting it? Our aims are to bring the photographic records up to date, publish further volumes of the Georgian Society’s books, and fight for the preservation of what is left of Georgian architecture in Ireland.

The Irish Georgian Society was set up the following year. The only survivor at Kildare Place is the statue of Archbishop William Conyngham, 4th Baron Plunket, erected in 1901. He still stands, looking over at 20 Kildare Street. which contains a very similar first floor window as that on Castle’s building on Kildare Place. This building is sadly in an advanced state of deterioration, as described more fully in this article on The Irish Aesthete website.

Kildare Place, prior to its destruction in 1957

Kildare Place, prior to its destruction in 1957 (Hanna, 2013). Archbishop Conyngham is just visible at the bottom of the photograph.

Notes

  • Erika Hanna (2013) Modern Dublin: Urban Change and the Irish Past, 1957-1973, Oxford.
  • The Irish Georgian Society: About the Society