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.

Notes

  • 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. 
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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.

Notes

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.