The Kevin St Medley: 4. Church Lane

While it is now a grim cul de sac with nothing more than a plaque to offer, Church Lane must be one among the oldest streets in the city as it connects Kevin St to St Kevin’s Church. The church and graveyard, now cut off from the eponymous street, are currently only accessed by Camden Row. This is a pity.

Occupants of Church Lane South 1842

Occupants of Church Lane South 1842

Some caution is required when hunting down Church Lane in the archives. The city had a few Church Lanes, unsurprisingly. Take for example Cathedral Lane, which we met on a previous article in this Kevin St series; it was previously Church Lane. It seems the name Church Lane South was applied to our lane, and on that street in 1842, the occupants included John Burrowes and Patrick Murphy, bricklayers and John Magee, a shoemaker. Elizabeth Delap, a vintner who had been in No 3 in 1840, had disappeared in the two years since.

No through way at Church Lane

No through way at Church Lane

An Ordnance Survey map from about 1838 show that there were just buildings on one side of the street. The other side, now DIT Kevin St, was the site of a Fringe Factory. The street ends with St Kevin’s Church, of course, but also mentioned is “St. Sepulchre’s market and public weigh house.” The weigh-master was one of the officers of St Sepulchre’s, responsible for ensuring fair weights for goods (which in turn may have had taxes levied). In general, this term was a modern incarnation of the Office of the Keeper of the Great Beam and Great Balance… That’s a disappointing amendment to the business card.

St Kevin's Church (from O'Maitiú, 2010)

St Kevin’s Church 1969 (from Ó Maitiú, 2010)

The Dublin historian Séamus Ó Maitiú has reported in detail the history of St Kevin’s Church, the destination of Church Lane. The earliest mention is in 1179. Kevin is in good company with two other native saints nearby; St Patrick’s, which obviously became the cathedral, and St Bridget’s, remembered now by Bride St. The church’s history thus spanned over 700 years, until 2nd April 1889 when the last vestry was held (Ó Maitiú, 2010). After the church closed, it was replaced by St Kevin’s Church on South Circular Road (Bloomfield Avenue).

Sketch by WF Wakeman, 1887 (From Ó Maitiú, 2010)

Sketch by WF Wakeman, 1887 (From Ó Maitiú, 2010)

Among the many events over its long history is the baptism of the Arthur, future Duke of Wellington, son of the Earl and Countess of Mornington (See post: Music and Mornington House). In his recent talk at the Irish Georgian Society, Aidan O’Boyle described the Leeson residences at Stephen’s Green and mentioned the church on Camden Row as the family graveyard. There, according to Ó Maitiú, the family tomb has the inscription:

This tomb was erected by Mr Hugh Leeson of the city of Dublin Brewer for himself his posterity the 29th day of January 1685 and now beautified by his Son Joseph Leeson the 14th day of May 1741. Beneath are interred the following members of the family . . .

Included in this list is Elizabeth, Countess of Milltown, who was the third wife of Joseph Leeson of Russborough, Co. Wicklow, the first Earl of Milltown. She outlived her husband by an astonishing 55 years!

There’s an interpretative sign at the Camden Row entrance to the church and graveyard detailing other significant burials there. However I do think the grounds would benefit from having its original entrance reopened, at least during the daytime. It would rebalance the site in terms of connecting it to its original street and the opportunity to use the park as a thoroughfare might help deter the bands of daytime drinkers that make half the park unapproachable for most of the day. Parks with one entrance tend not to do well in Dublin.

A moste pleasante parke

A moste pleasante parke, but for the drinkers.

Notes

Séamas Ó Maitiú (2010) St. Kevin’s Church, Camden Row, Dublin Historical Record, 63(1), 39-53.

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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