Iveagh Market Buildings

Nearly one hundred and nine years ago, Colonel George W. Addison R. E. represented the Iveagh Trust at a ceremony to formally hand over the new Iveagh Markets to Dublin Corporation. Giving his thanks on receiving the deeds of conveyance and keys, the Lord Mayor expressed the hope that the city would continue to benefit from Viscount Iveagh’s munificence, and that he would be spared to continue his noble works.

Iveagh Markets (from the Dublin City Library image collection - click to go to source)

Iveagh Markets (from the Dublin City Library image collection – click to go to source)

This exchange is captured in an Irish Times article in June 1906 which thankfully recorded the ceremony and some detail about the markets; for there is surprisingly little source material elsewhere. The markets themselves came about after clearances around St Patrick’s Cathedral to remove some of the slums there as part of the Iveagh Trust building development. There was a need for a new space for market traders, a need apparently noticed by Iveagh himself:

The state of affairs did not pass unnoticed by Lord Iveagh… and frequently visiting the neighbourhood, was often an observer of the unfortunate conditions under which the street merchants carried on their business; he, therefore, conceived the idea of providing suitable covered accommodation…

OS 25" map showing Iveagh Market (OSi)

OS 25″ map showing Iveagh Markets (OSi)

The location of the markets is just off Francis St, and they are shown clearly on the Ordnance Survey 25″ map. A new road on the north-eastern side of the markets was built—linking John Dillon St to Lamb Alley (the diagonal running left-right across the map shown). Eagle-eyed among you will notice that this new street terminates just before it reaches High St at Cornmarket, and in his address to Addison, the Lord Mayor noted that it would be a great advantage to the scheme if this cul de sac at Lamb Alley could be opened to Cornmarket. As this is now the case, we can assume that Iveagh agreed. The markets were built on the site of Sweetman’s brewery; the site had previously been purchased by Guinness as part of their ever-growing domination of the brewery industry. Sweetman’s don’t appear to have had much luck in situating their brewery; they were previously moved by the Wide Street Commissioners to this location. As well as Sweetman’s, the construction involved the demolition of some houses on Francis St to open up Dean Swift Square.

Entrance to Iveagh Markets

Entrance to Iveagh Markets

Keystone representing Ireland (Hibernia) (from about.com)

Keystone representing Ireland (Hibernia) (from about.com)

The building housed two markets: a market for the sale of old clothes (100 by 150 ft), accessed from Francis St, and a market for the sale of fish, fruit, and vegetables (130 by 80 ft), accessed from John Dillon St. The markets were fitted up with stalls, and the fish stalls were of white glazed earthenware, the first of the kind to be adopted. The building itself was designed by Frederick Hicks, of 86 Merrion Square. It is constructed with Portmarnock red brick and Newry granite, with door and window dressings of Portland stone.A distinctive feature is the keystones, carved with heads representing nations of the world. The centre keystone represents Ireland, with others representing Eastern Turkey, Europe, Asia, Africa, Americas, and for some reason Spain and Israel get their own.

Washhouse on Lamb Alley (Photo: B)

Washhouse on Lamb Alley (Photo: B)

The Act of Parliament which moved the traders away from St Patrick’s Park also included a clause that all clothing for sale was to be disinfected.It is just possible to discern a Public Washhouse and Disinfecting Dept just north of the markets on the map shown above. The washhouse was fitted out with the latest laundry fittings and machinery, with accommodation for 40 washers. In addition, there were four centrifugal wringing machines and 40 hot air drying horses, an iron and mangling room, and if there was time to sit down while doing all this work, a waiting room. The disinfecting department was equipped with three high pressure steam disinfectors and two formaline chambers for clothing not able to take steam treatment.

The management of the entire facility was to be taken on by the Corporation. The Irish Times stated that:

though a further responsibility is thrown on the shoulders of the city fathers, still, everyone will admit it is a worthy one.

Indeed.

Notes

The full Irish Times article is: “The Iveagh Market Buildings” Irish Times, Thursday, July 26, 1906, page 11. The always excellent Dictionary of Irish Architects gives some references to Irish Builder articles on the markets which can be viewed in the National Library.

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The Main Street of Dublin

The street from Castle St to Thomas St first swirls one way as it wraps around Christchurch and along High St, and then swirls the other, as curves around Cornmarket and joins Thomas St at the junction of Francis St.

Ordnance Survey of Ireland Map showing area that was once Main Street, Dublin

Ordnance Survey of Ireland Map showing area that was once Main Street, Dublin

In the medieval city (1200-1500), this street was known as the Main Street of Dublin. The eastern end at Christchurch was called Skinner’s Row. Of course Lord Edward St is a recent addition, so what now is a rather awkward arrangement makes more sense in that context; Skinner’s Row continued on from Castle St, and led along the side of Christchurch; the alignment of the Lord Edward public house giving a hint as to the original flow. The “Row” of Skinner’s Row indicates that there was only buildings lining one side—indeed as it is today, with the medieval buildings replaced by Jury’s Inn. While the Dublin historian Sir John Gilbert has proposed that the Row was “a narrow and sombre alley” at just seventeen feet wide, this has been disputed. Hughes has suggested with some confidence that Gilbert has his time periods mixed up, and considers it improbable that the one area of the walled city that was to handle sizeable gatherings of citizens would not have been larger. As well as the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity (Christchurch), there was a Pillory at the eastern end of Skinner’s Row at its junction with Castle St., and High Market Cross at the western end at the junction with High St. Here, it was customary to read out royal proclamations and other public announcements (Hughes, 1941).

The Pillory was a place for public punishment. Even seemingly trivial events could lead to punishment. Bakers who were caught for a third time with a load lighter than stated were subjected to a stint in the pillory, a punishment which along with severe discomfort, carried with it “a degree of odium and degradation”. The punishment was restricted to the crime of perjury during the reign of George III, and finally abolished in 1837 (Frazer, 1886).

Extract of Speed's Map of Dublin (1610)

Extract of Speed’s Map of Dublin (1610)

All of this detail is visible on Speed’s Map of Dublin (1610). Main St runs from the east at Castle St (38 on map) through Skinner’s Row (42), High St (48) to the city wall at the junction of Thomas St at Newgate (50). The High Market Cross is visible to the right of No. 47 (St. Nicholas’ Church), and the little symbol next to No. 42 probably marks the location of the Pillory (Andrews, 1983).

Fishamble St (24 on Speed’s Map) is on the eastern end of the Main St. The steep slope of this street, best appreciated by walking or cycling up it, linked the walled city to its port below at the river. In medieval times, it was uninhabited and it served as a location for  fish markets which were brought to shore at the river below. The western end of Main Street was marked by Newgate, which merits its own article.

Before we leave the medieval era, it’s worth noting that rentals of the time giving names and occupations of the tenants demonstrate the city had a high proportion of well-to-do people within it walls. Hughes argues that while there were of course poor people, a reputation of a filthy and neglected city with pigs running through the streets is unfair.

Detail from The Tholsel, Dublin (James Malton)

Detail from The Tholsel, Dublin (James Malton)

In another age, the area is beautifully captured in some of Malton’s Views of Dublin (ca. 1791). These are discussed in some detail in Edward McParland’s gorgeous essay on their use as a historical source (McParland, 1994). Especially relevant are two of the Views: St Catherine’s Church and The Tholsel. In the latter, the street sign for Skinner’s Row is clear, as is the shopfront of Robert Thomas, Tallow Chandler. McParland has done the detective work to show that Thomas was indeed a tallow chandler at 1 Skinner Row in both 1791 and 1792, but not 1793. Sadly it appears that this accuracy does not extend to all of Malton’s prints; Patrick O’Murphy’s name on a bar has nothing to correlate with in business records. Nevertheless, the prints give us a beautiful representation of how these streets, which derived from the original Main Street of Dublin, looked in the city’s golden age.

Extract of St. Catherine's Church (James Malton)

Extract of St. Catherine’s Church (James Malton)

Notes

  • J. H. Andrews (1983) The Oldest Map of Dublin, Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy. Section C: Archaeology, Celtic Studies, History, Linguistics, Literature
    83C, 205-237
  • William Frazer (1879) On the Dublin Stocks and Pillory, Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy. Polite Literature and Antiquities, 2, 456-460.
  • James L Hughes (1941) Main Street, Dublin, Dublin Historical Record, 3(3), 67-77.
  • Edward McParland (1994) Malton’s Views of Dublin: Too Good to be True?, in Ireland: Art into History, Raymond Gillespie and Brian P Kennedy (eds), 15-25.