The end of the line

This is the final post for the foreseeable future. Thank you to the many subscribers and visitors to the blog. I leave for now with a note on Heuston Station.

The King's Bridge by George Petrie (1832). Crawford Gallery, Cork (link to source)

The King’s Bridge, Dublin (West View) by George Petrie (1832). (Crawford Art Gallery, Cork. Click on image to go to source)

Although the establishment of a Commission for the development of a railway network in Ireland in 1836 was motivated by military needs, the subsequent lines built saw the end of canal passenger transport in 1852 and crushed the long distance coach business. With the establishment of The Great Southern and Western Railway Company in 1844, there was a need for a site to act as a terminus for all lines from the south and west parts of the country converging in Dublin. The site at Heuston, selected by Sir John MacNeill, was attractive given that it approached the centre of the city; a contemporary pamphlet advocating this site remarked that the Liffey “divides [the city] into two nearly parts. The terminus at King’s Bridge, will therefore be on the centre line of the city.” It was also convenient to the Royal (now Collins) Barracks, and thus allowed for easy deployment of troops by rail.

Heuston Station (thanks to B)

Heuston Station (thanks to B)

The first sod was cut in a field near King’s Bridge (named after George IV in 1828) in January 1845 in a ceremony attended by among others, the Duke of Leinster. According the the Irish Railway Gazette report that month: 

His Grace, amid the loud cheers of the assembled crowd, took off his coat and in his shirtsleeves, with the skill and goodwill of an able workman dug up six sods which he threw into a wheel-barrow, and rolled off to some distance. The bonhomie the Duke of Leinster displayed elicited the utmost enthusiasm, and a country fellow turning to one of his companions said with the utmost glee, that he would now die happy, as he had seen a duke work like any common man.

The ceremony was concluded with a very elegant dejuner.  

Kingsbridge Station, by Sancton Wood (1848)

Kingsbridge Station, by Sancton Wood (1848). Reproduced in Craig.

The station terminus itself was designed by Sancton Wood and built by Cockburn and Williams of 179 Great Brunswick St (now Pearse St) using native stone. Completed in 1848, it was Dublin’s third railway terminus, following Westland Row (1834) and Amiens Street (1844). It is a substantial building, 107 feet wide, with wings projecting 53 feet each. Two panels on the front, “VIII VIC” and “1844” indicate the Act of Parliament under which the railway company operated. Between these are the three coats of arms of the cities served by the railway: Dublin, Cork, and Limerick. Descriptions of the architectural significance of the building abound, but I like Craig’s best:

…a delightful building, a renaissance palazzo, gay and full-blooded, with fruity swags and little domed towers on the wings, a thoroughgoing formal composition, excellently articulated. It is the fashion nowadays to sniff slightly because it is not as good as Broadstone: but by these standards few buildings would escape whipping.

In what sounds like a familiar tale, after the terminus of the Dublin and Wicklow Railway was built at Harcourt St in 1859, there was a desire to link up the termini at Kingsbridge, Westland Row, and Harcourt St. In 1867, the City of Dublin Tramways Co. was empowered to develop such a link. The proposed track was to run from Kingsbridge along the South Quays to Westland Row, and on to Earlsfort Terrace. Although work began on Aston Quay, it was quickly abandoned after a row caused by track being used, which left a depression in the roadway between the rails.

Map of Dublin (1847) showing the (unfinished) station terminus at Kingsbridge.

Map of Dublin (1847) showing the (unfinished) station terminus at Kingsbridge. (From Cullen, 2015)

The first trip from the station was made in August 1846—they didn’t hang about in those days. A train left Dublin for Carlow at 9 am with carriages of all classes densely crowded with passengers. A trial run had been made the day before to the Curragh, with among others Sir John MacNeil, the man responsible for the enormous railway sheds at the rear of the building terminus, Peter La Touche, Mr Brooke (Governor of the Bank of Ireland), and the Chairmen of both the Paris and Rouen Railway and the Orleans Railway. A dejuner was again served at the Curragh; railway travel clearly being an activity that requires food. Although Independence brought a name change for King’s Bridge, to Sarsfield Bridge in 1923 and Seán Heuston Bridge in 1941, Heuston Station had to wait until 1966 to follow the name of the bridge. A tram now links the station to Amiens St (Connolly) and the missing link to Harcourt St is imminent. All change!   If you’d like to follow my street adventures in a new city, keep an eye out for my new blog later in the summer. In the mean time, enjoy this great song from Boy and Bear: End of the Line.  

Plaques for Sancton Wood and John MacNeill are at the entrance to Heuston Station

Plaques for Sancton Wood and John MacNeill are at the entrance to Heuston Station

Notes

  • Cullen (2015) also shows Petrie’s East View of King’s Bridge, which shows the Royal Barracks in the background.
  • Maurice Craig (1952, reprinted 2006) Dublin 1660-1860: The Shaping of a City, Liberties Press (Dublin).
  • Frank Cullen (2015) Dublin 1847: City of the Ordnance Survey, RIA (Dublin).
  • William J Jacob (1944) Kingsbridge Terminus, Dublin Historical Record, 6(3), 107-120.
  • Francis J Murphy (1979) Dublin Trams 1872-1959, Dublin Historical Record, 33(1), 2-9.
  • Michael J Tutty (1981) Bridges over the Liffey, Dublin Historical Record, 35(1), 23-33.
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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.