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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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.