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…

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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.

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A Long Lane

Long Lane was longer

Long Lane was longer

While it doesn’t make (as) much sense now, Long Lane was a very appropriate name for the street that ran from New Street/Clanbrassil St to Wexford St. Its length was originally 500 metres, but this was bisected by Bride St/Heytsbury St when that street was laid out in 1846.

Long Lane exists on Rocque’s map of 1760 and the plan of the city in 1797. This area was the Earl of Meath’s Liberty, and the most significant building on the street was the Meath Hospital. This was built on the south side of Long Lane in 1821, moving from its earlier location in The Coombe (the portico of the original building still stands in The Coombe). The hospital was built on what Rocque’s map calls “Naboth’s Vineyards”, which had been bought by Dean Swift in 1722 (it was also called Dean’s Vineyards). Writing in 2008, Walsh states that the wall between the hospital and Long Lane includes sections built by Dean Swift.

meath hospital

The site was purchased from him after a donation of £6000 from Thomas Pleasants, whose money went to build the new hospital. He did not live to see the hospital opened. Money had been sought from the Duke of Leinster and Lord Powerscourt, but in the end Pleasants was the main benefactor. He was rewarded with a street in his own name nearby.

The northern side of Long Lane had on the early maps a Cabbage Garden marked on an area of about two acres. This included the site of the current DIT building on Kevin St., and my own office. Strangely, the recording of brassicas at this site continued onto the early Ordnance Survey map, which seems rather quaint. After its bisection by Bride St., the eastern end of Long Lane initially retained its original name. Buildings here included St Sepulchre’s Marshalsea, now the site of a modern apartment complex, and of course St Kevin’s Church, now a ruin. However, by the end of the century, the eastern end of the lane had been renamed Camden Row. The cabbage gardens were also gone by this stage; replaced by saw mills. The Earl of Meath’s legacy is still visible in a row of houses on the remaining section of Long Lane known as Meathville Terrace.

Notes:

  • Peter Gatenby (2005) The Meath Hospital, Dublin, Dublin Historical Record, 58(2), 122-128.
  • David Mitchell (1989) A Medical Corner of Dublin (1711 to 1889), Dublin Historical Record, 42(8), 86-93.
  • Dave Walsh, The Ghosts of Archbishop Marsh, Swift and Stella, Dublin Historical Record, 61(2), 194-196.