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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A house on Cork Hill

It’s easy to miss Cork Hill, a short street connecting Lord Edward Street and Dame St at City Hall. I measure its length at 35 paces, and although I am tall, I reckon it must be one of the shortest streets in Dublin. Cartophiles will correctly argue that it is a little longer, as the hill officially includes the plaza to the right of City Hall, connecting Castle St. Whatever its length, this short dog-leg joining Lord Edward, Dame, Castle, and Parliament streets is packed full of history; no surprise given its location adjacent to the Castle. As Maurice Craig puts it, it was very much at the centre of things.

The street itself takes its name from the Earl of Cork, after he built Cork House there in the early 1600s on the site of the present City Hall. Cork House was itself located on the site of the church St Mary del Dam, from which we get the name of Dame St.  Also known as the Great Earl, Richard Boyle was a self-made man who took advantage of the plantation of Munster to make his fortune. Having secured the favour of Elizabeth I, he collected political titles, becoming Privy Councillor for Ireland in 1612, and Member of Parliament for Lismore in 1614. The Irish Parliament was held in Dublin Castle at the time.

The area around Cork Hill as captured by Rocque on his map of 1757.

The area around Cork Hill as captured by Rocque on his map of 1757.

Tempting as this short commute might have been, it doesn’t appear that Boyle lived in Cork House. The building was occupied by the Royal Exchange until 1683, when that operation moved to the Tholsel nearby (just visible on Rocque’s map, above). It subsequently became home to a variety of traders; most notably printers and coffee houses. Lucas’s Coffee House, one of the most fashionable places to loiter in the city, was one of the last occupiers.

Fashion could not save the house or the area from the Wide Street Commissioners. Cork House was demolished in 1768 in a grand plan to widen Parliament St. Parliament St—which doesn’t exist on Rocque’s map—was to be the new grand wide and convenient street linking City Hall to the planned construction of Essex Bridge. Walking from the right on Rocque’s map shown, we can see Cork Hill following on from Dame St, but neither Parliament nor Lord Edward St are extant; Castle St is the main thoroughfare. The entire area was a bit chaotic.  The narrow network of streets meant that maintaining law and order was difficult. At Cork Hill, a contemporary account recorded that:

pedestrians passing Cork Hill after dark were frequently insulted and maltreated by the numerous chairmen surrounding the entrances to Lucas’s Coffee House and the Eagle Tavern, the waiters of which establishments supported them in those engagements by pouring pails full of foul water upon their opponents.

Changes were needed. Trinity College Dublin led the charge at the other end of Dame St by demolishing the Jacobean frontage of college, itself less than 70 years old, and installing the present frontage. Copious plans of the area exist for around 1766 in the Wide Street Commissioners’ archives, lovingly cared for by Dublin City Archives. But before we look at those, an earlier glimpse is available. A pair of maps of the area dated 1751 (showing the alignment at the time) and 1753 (showing planned changes) are described by MacDowel Cosgrave (1918). A section of interest is shown. In this Survey of the present streets leading to His Majesty’s Royal Pallace or Castle of Dublin. Novr 9th, 1751, Cork Hill is clearly visible. 

Extract of a survey of the present streets leading to His Majesty's Royal Pallace or Castle of Dublin. Novr 9th, 1751

Extract of a survey of the present streets leading to His Majesty’s Royal Pallace or Castle of Dublin. Novr 9th, 1751

Gloriously, this map has the building locations annotated, and inspecting the legend, one finds that Cork House is located at position number 34, sandwiched between Mr Butler, printer (33), and Mr Mear’s mercers shop (35).

Proposal for new street linking Dame St to river. Point a marks proposed location of statue of George I

Proposal for new street (between the two ‘C’s) linking Dame St to river. Point a marks proposed location of statue of George I

More exciting is the proposal of 1753. In this we see that the new alignment of what would become Parliament St is proposed – 46 feet wide, running from the river south to Dame St. At the junction, a large square on the south side was planned. This was to be named Bedford Square after the Lord Lieutenant of the time, and there is even an annotation to include a statue in the centre. This was to be of George I, relocated from the old Essex Bridge. Losing out were buildings number 25 (Mr D’Olier, Goldsmith), 26 (Mr John Ross), and 27 (Mr Fords, Print Shop), and one presumes, the buildings around the new square, including Cork House.

Extract of the Wide Street Commissioners map of the area around Cork Hill (click to link to Dublin City Library source)

Extract of the Wide Street Commissioners map (No. 499) of the area around Cork Hill (click to link to Dublin City Library source). ‘A‘ marks the proposed location of the statue.

There is a significant number of maps available in the Dublin City Library image collection documenting the Wide Street Commissoners plans for the area, but perhaps the one to select to continue our story here is Map No. 499, shown. This shows Dame Street, Castle Lane (now Palace Street), Swan Alley (now Exchange Court), Parliament Street, Cork Hill, Castle Street, Castle Yard and vicinity. The site of Cork House is now annotated as “Lot from Swan Alley to Cork Hill”, and it is evident that plans for a square and statue of George I were still being considered by the Commissioners.

Rocque's map of 1756 showing the proposed Bedford Square

Rocque’s map of 1756 showing the proposed Bedford Square

The letter A on the map marks “a pedestal for the Statue of his Majesty George I which faces Parliament St and Castle St.” Parliament St is now shown, with “New Buildings” lining either side. The intention to complete the square obviously convinced Rocque, who in his 1756 map showed the square, to the south of Cork Hill, complete with statue. The square itself looks like Rocque rubbed out previous engravings of existing buildings. His 1757 map shown at the top of the article corrected the prediction.

As we now know, the square was never built, but Cork House was demolished in 1768, and City Hall construction began the following year. The infamous approach of the Wide Street Commissioners on Parliament St is well documented, when “public consultation” was replaced by unroofing houses in the middle of the night to get people to leave. While it would be some time (and a national rebellion) before Lord Edward St would appear, the area was beginning to take the form we recognise today.

Hume Row and Smith’s Buildings now Ely Place

Stephen's Green East on Rocque's map, shows an unoccupied plot that would later become Hume St

Stephen’s Green East on Rocque’s map, shows an unoccupied plot that would later become Hume St (from cover of Lennon and Montague) 

Ely Place seems to have formed almost by accident in 1768. Rocque’s 1756 plan of the city shows that the east side of St Stephen’s Green had some vacant plots, including one plot that aligns with what is now Hume St. Perhaps spotting an opportunity to increase the earning potential of the land area, Gustavus Hume (the man who brought Richard Cassels to Ireland) constructed Hume St. With Ely House the first house to be built in 1771 at the end of Hume St, the connection from Merrion St turning the corner to Hume St—thus forming Ely Place—was a natural result of the new arrangement. The name Ely comes from the marriage of Gustavus’ daughter to the Earl of Ely. Maurice Craig notes—with some satisfaction I feel—that not only were these city streets adjacent, but the ancestral homes Ely Lodge and Castle Hume are also side by side in Enniskillen (Craig, 1952).

Updated version of Rocque's map by Scalé, 1773

Updated version of Rocque’s map by Scalé, 1773

Hume’s work was captured on Scalé’s update of Rocque’s map in 1773, although Ely Place was called Hume Row, until Ely House was built (Irish Builder, 1893). By the time Dublin was mapped again in 1789, it is recorded as Ely Place. Since then, Ely Place has enjoyed a significant status. Even as the shift away from Dublin hit St Stephen’s Green in the 1820s and 1830s, Ely was quoted as being “more select” (McCabe, 2011).

Ely House, by Fiona H Mitchell (National Library of Ireland)

Ely House, by Flora H Mitchell (links to National Library of Ireland catalogue)

Ely House, now Nos. 7 – 8 is the largest house on the street. It was the first to be built, and is clear to see on Scalé’s map, facing Hume St. No. 7 was home to the physicist and Trinity Fellow George Francis Fitzgerald, and there is a plaque in his honour, the first of three plaques at this junction.

Much more interesting for me though is next door, No. 6, which was bought from the Earl of Clare by the 4th Viscount Powerscourt, prior to selling up his very grand townhouse on South William St. Poor Lord Clare, the Lord Chancellor, was attacked by a mob in College Green during riots of 1795, according to a story retold by his sister in 1807:

My late brother the Earl of Clare was always an active, faithful servant to his king and country and ever supported the Protestant interest both in Ireland and England… on the day Lord Fitzwilliam was re-called [prompting the riots], when my brother, was returning from the Castle, after having assisted in swearing in the newly-arrived Lord Lieutenant, a ferocious mob of no less than 5,000 men and several hundred women, assembled together in College green, and all along the avenues to my brother’s house. The male part of the insurgents were armed with … every other weapon necessary to break open my brother’s house: and the women were all of them armed with aprons full of paving stones. They wounded my brother, in the temples in College green; and if he hand not sheltered himself by holding his great square Official Purse before him, he would have been stoned to death. [Irish Builder, 1893]

No. 6, Ely Place Lord Powerscourt had to retrieve his paintings in a van while his step-grandmother was away. No. 6 is the first house past the white railings (from McCullough, 1989)

No. 6, Ely Place. Lord Powerscourt had to retrieve his paintings while his step-grandmother was away. (from McCullough, 1989)

The Earl escaped further injury by dressing up as a kitchen maid once he arrived at the back door of his house. Having escaped this drama, he died in 1802 and the house was sold to 4th Viscount Powerscourt. This Lord Powerscourt, one of only five Irish Lords to oppose the Act of Union (that is my tenuous link to the previous post about Pitt St) died in 1809 and the house became the dower-house of his second wife, Isabella, the Dowager Viscountess Powerscourt. A formidable woman, she lived there until 1848, out-living not only her step-son but her step-grandson, who was just eight when his father died. When he came of age, one of his duties was to retrieve paintings and furniture from the house at 6 Ely Place taken from the house at Enniskerry by Isabella. In his memoirs, Mervyn, 7th Viscount describes the operation (Wingfield, 1903):

All the family pictures now at Powerscourt… had been removed by Dowager Lady Powerscourt sometime in my father’s minority and before his marriage. He was determined to recover the pictures, and on occasion when Isabella, Lady Powerscourt, was absent he went to the house with a van and carried off all the pictures and brought them back to Powerscourt.

Hume House,birthplace of Richard Griffith taken in 2012.

Doorway of Hume House,birthplace of Richard Griffith taken in 2012.

Powerscourt did however install a new staircase in the 1830s. Soon after the Dowager’s death in 1848, No. 6, along with its pair No. 5 (Glentworth House) had a very different use—they were given over in 1859 to the Offices of the General Valuation and Boundary Survey of Ireland under Sir Richard Griffith, becoming the nerve centre of his enormous land valuation survey. Griffith’s birthplace was just opposite, at the junction of Ely and Hume. Marked with an old plaque, it is now neglected—a sad testimony to the man involved in every major undertaking in 19th century Irish administration: Bog Surveys, Ordnance Survey, Griffith Valuation, Census. For good measure, he is also father of Irish geology, having been Professor of Geology and Mining at the Royal Dublin Society. The Valuation Office moved out in 1998 to the Irish Life Mall.

Quoin at No. 1 Smith's Buildings, Ely Place

Quoin at No. 1 Smith’s Buildings, Ely Place

The extension of Ely Place towards the Royal Hibernian Academy was originally called Smith’s Buildings, with Thomas Dodd Smith, builder living at No. 1. Not sounding grand enough, its residents opted instead for the name Ely Place Upper. A stone quoin with the engraving “Smith’s Buildings” is visible at No. 1, of the 5-block terrace at the end of Ely Place Upper.

The third plaque is dedicated to George Moore, who lived at No. 4 Ely Place Upper, and apparently made use of the garden at No 15, opposite, now the site of the Royal Hibernian Academy (Moore, 1966). The Tinker, by Douglas Hyde, first President of Ireland, was played in the garden in 1906, as Gaelige (Daly, 1945). It seems everywhere you look on this street, there is something to commemorate with a plaque!

Three plaques in this area, George Francis Fitzgerald, Sir Richard Griffith, and George Moore

Three plaques in this area, George Francis Fitzgerald, Sir Richard Griffith, and George Moore

Further reading and notes:

Pettigrew & Oulton’s Dublin Directory 1842Dublin Street Directory

Pettigrew & Oulton’s Dublin Directory 1842
Dublin Street Directory for Ely Place. The Dowager is at No. 6.

  • If plasterwork is your thing, Christine Casey (2005) has a lot to say about that, along with Ros Kavanagh, both of which feature a picture the staircase at Ely House. (Christine Casey,2005, The Buildings of Dublin, Yale University Press, Ros Kavanagh, 2007, Irish Arts Review, 24(3), 80 – 83).
  • Niall McCullough’s gorgeous book also has a lot about the architecture of Ely Place, including a picture of the kitchens at Ely House, architectural plans for No. 5 and No 6, and pictured here, the impressive entrance hall and staircase at No. 6. (Niall McCullough, 1989, Dublin: an urban history, Anne Street Press).
  • Old Dublin Mansion Houses, The Irish Builder, 1893, XXXV, May 1, 100 – 102.
  • Maurice Craig, 1952, (2006 repr), Dublin 1660 – 1860: The shaping of a city, Liberties Press.
  • M. H. Daly, 1945, La Touche Bridge to Hoggen Green, Dublin Historical Record, 7(4), 121 – 133.
  • Colm Lennon and John Montague, 2010, John Rocque’s Dublin: A Guide to the Georgian City, Royal Irish Academy, Dublin.
  • Desmond McCabe, 2011, St Stephen’s Green, Dublin, 1660–1875, Government Publications, Dublin.
  • Desmond F Moore, 1966, The Royal Hibernian Academy, Dublin Historical Record, 21(1), 28 – 37.
  • Mervyn Wingfield, 1903, A Description and History of Powerscourt.

Edited 29 March to insert photograph of quoin at Smith’s Buildings and amend text that said I couldn’t find it… 🙂