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.
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Reginald Street, The Coombe

The very pretty Reginald Street and Gray Street and their associated squares were built in 1880-1882 by the Dublin Artisan’s Dwelling Co. The company was established in 1876 and was chaired by one of the great Victorian philanthropists, Sir Edward Cecil Guinness. It went on to build over 3,600 dwellings around Dublin, which were intended to house the working class of Dublin. Initially, rental costs meant that they were only feasible for skilled labourers, although a (cursory) analysis of the 1911 Census shows that the majority employer of the residents was the brewing industry, so Guinness’ plan to house his workers appears to have worked out well.

Reginald Street

Reginald Street

The small squares off the Reginald Street/Gray Street result in the whole forming a cruciform pattern. Houses in these squares are single storey and likely followed the typical three room plan; front door into the living room with a contained scullery leading out into the rear yard, and two bedrooms off to the side. Despite being a couple of minutes from a very busy Meath Street, the whole area exudes calm.

The Sacred Heart Statue at Reginald and Gray St was a fountain

The Sacred Heart Statue at Reginald and Gray St was a fountain. The plaque reads: “Erected by the Parishioners of St Catherine’s to honour the glory of God and in commemoration of the centenary of the Emancipation 1929

The street names give plenty of notice that this was the Earl of Meath’s Liberty. Reginald Brabazon was the 12th Earl of Meath when the complex was built. No matter how much the romantic in me wishes that Reginald married a Gray, the street he intersects, this is not the case, and Gray Street is more likely to be named after Sir John Gray, the man responsible for bringing clean water supply to Dublin from the Vartry reservoir in the Wicklow mountains. Rather appropriately, the intersection of Reginald and Gray featured a fountain. This was replaced with a statue of the Sacred Heart in 1929, ostensibly to commemorate the centenary of Emancipation, although it can’t just be a coincidence that this is also the year of the death of Reginald, an arch-Unionist and Imperialist. Divine intervention couldn’t save the statue from collision with a lorry, and the current version was that restored to mark the visit of Pope John Paul II in 1975. More on the statue and the pope’s visit, including some attractive photos, are on the Built Dublin Site.

Reginald has the last laugh though. The eponymous street ends in Meath Terrace, and he is also remembered in three of the four squares in the complex: Brabazon Square, Reginald Square and Meath Square. For good measure, the eastern edge is flanked by Meath Street, and Earl Street is nearby. Vota vita mea

Brabazon Square

Notes

Christine Casey has more details on the Artisan’s Dwelling Co, including some sketches of typical houses and a floor plan of a bungalow, described above. Casey, C (2005) The Buildings of Dublin, Yale University Press