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Walking Tour of Rathmines

Portobello House and Harbour

Portobello harbour, though not now in its original state, was opened in 1801. The nearby La Touche Bridge was built in 1791, and Portobello House, originally, the Grand Canal Hotel in 1807. For many years, it was an important location on the canal, never more so than during the famine when many people were leaving the midlands to emigrate. The Hotel closed in 1835. Later the house was used as an asylum for the blind, and as a hospital; Jack Yeats spent his final years there.

Church of Mary Immaculate, Refuge of Sinners:

Rathmines parish church was completed in 1856 with the magnificent portico added in 1878. In January 1920, a fire in the electrical system engulfed the church and the dome collapsed. It was back in use in July of that year. The current dome, built in Glasgow, had been destined for an orthodox church in Russia. James Joyce’s parents married here in 1880. A notable feature of the church is the number 77 which was put into stonework of the external wall on the eastern side of the church by a bricklayer in 1923. It was in protest at the 77 executions authorised by the Government during the Civil War.

St Mary's College

A little further along, on the opposite side of the road, St Mary’s College was opened in 1890 by the Holy Ghost Fathers (Spiritans) on a property previously called ‘Larkhill’. The original house, still standing, dates from the first half of the 19th century. The college’s distinguished association with rugby, which dates from its earliest days, continues unabated.

Cathal Brugha Barracks

Originally named Portobello Barracks, it was opened in 1815. The Irish army took over in May 1922, marching in the main gate as the British troops marched out the canal gate. It became the National Army's Headquarters under General Michael Collins. In 2011, a visitor’s centre was opened beside the main entrance in what used to be the guard room. It is dedicated to the memory of Francis Sheehy Skeffington, Thomas Dickson and Patrick McIntyre, who were arrested by the British Forces and executed without trial in the adjoining exercise yard on April 26th 1916. Today, it is the home to the 2nd Eastern Brigade, the 2nd Infantry Battalion, the Defence Forces School of Music and the Military Archives.

Observatory Lane and Leinster Cricket Club

In the 1860’s the Grubb Telescope Company was built at Observatory Lane by Thomas Grubb. World famous, they produced, what was then the largest refracting telescope in the world for the Imperial and Royal Observatory in Vienna. Grubb telescopes are still in use around the world, including those also at Armagh and Dunsink Observatories. Leinster Cricket Club was founded in 1852. Originally located in Grosvenor Square, it moved to its present location in 1865. Among its most historic events are the visit of the famous W.G. Fields and G.F. Fields in 1874, the last time both brothers hit centuries in the same match, also the playing of the Irish rugby union’s first home game took place here in 1875. Today this is the home of Leinster Sports Complex, which includes Leinster Cricket Club.

Rathmines Library:

Having had its application for a Carnegie Grant accepted in 1903, Rathmines Library and the adjoining Technical Institute was opened 1913. An example of neo-Georgian Architecture, noteworthy features include the William Morris stained glass window and a fine teak double staircase. In its early days, it pioneered Open Access Lending and has had a dedicated children’s library since 1922.The Technical Institute later became a constituent college of the D.I.T.

Rathmines Town Hall

Designed by Irish architect Sir Thomas Drew, Rathmines Town Hall was completed in 1896/97. Its most striking feature, the clock, was made by a local firm, Chancellor and Sons. Prior to electrification, its four faces often disagreed with each other, giving it the nick-name, ‘the four-faced liar’. Apart from the town commissioners’ boardroom, concerts, dances and other events were held in the 2,000 capacity hall. Percy French performed many times, other notables gracing its stage included W.B. Yeats, Lennox Robinson, Liam O’Flaherty, Hanna Sheehy Skeffington and Marconi. Now Rathmines College of Further Education, it has served as an educational establishment since 1930.

Castlewood Ave and Belgrave Square

William Osborne, the great painter of animals, lived at No. 5, Castlewood Avenue for 30 years. He died in his home in April 1901. James Joyce’s family lived at No. 23. The development of handsome Belgrave Square dates largely from the 1860’s. The park was made public in the 1970’s.

Palmerston Road

Palmerston Road was named after Henry John Temple, 3rd Viscount Palmerston, a British Prime Minister who died in 1865. This elegant road was home to a number of famous residents, including dramatist and poet, Donagh McDonagh; the Lemass family; author of The Unfortunate Fursey, Mervyn Wall and former Taoiseach, Garret Fitzgerald. The Cuala Press was located in No. 46 for many years.

Palmerston Park

Site of the Battle of Rathmines, which was fought here on August 2nd 1649. Colonel Jones’ Parliamentarian forces defeated the Marquis of Ormand and Lord Inchiquin’s Royalist coalition army. Varying estimates of lives lost range up to 4,000 and 2,500 prisoners were taken. It was this important victory that allowed Cromwell's invasion force to land, unopposed, two weeks later in Dublin. The great Irish physicist, George Johnstone Stoney lived at No.3 and No. 9, Palmerston Park. He originated the concept of a unit of electricity, calculated its size and named it the electron.

Trinity Hall and Dartry Tram Depot

The first Trinity Hall opened its doors in 1617; it was located at College Green. The present Trinity Hall came into the college’s ownership in 1908. Previously a residence for females, it has housed males since the 1970’s.The botanic garden, which was relocated here in the 60’s, has a history almost as long. It is used for research projects and plant conservation. Continuing southward, one comes on the Dartry Tram depot. A tram route linking O’Connell St and Palmerston Park existed from 1879 to 1939.

Upper Rathmines Road and Tranquilla Park

Tranquilla Park was named after the convent founded by the Carmelite sisters in 1833; the sisters left in the 1970’s. The site of Wynne’s Castle, (Rathmines Castle), built in 1820, is opposite Maxwell Road. The grounds have been occupied by The Church of Ireland Teachers’ Training College since 1969. No’s 67 – 69, once a Church of Ireland national school, is home of The Rathmines and Rathgar Musical Society. Further along, the Rathmines District Post Office and Telephone Exchange, which was opened in 1935. It was designed by Howard Cooke and is noted for its striking Art Deco design.

The Chains and the Swan River

Rathmines village was a group of thatched houses beside the Swan River. It was fenced off by chains on bollards. One bollard on the path a short distance south of the Wynnfield /Rathmines Road Lower junction is all that remains of this. The cottages were flattened in 1888 and with them went, what is believed to have been, an Irish-speaking community living there. Here too, one would have seen the Swan river flowing parallel to today’s main street. Further on, it turned eastward to flow through today’s Mount Pleasant Square.

St Louis High School, Charleville Rd

St. Louis Convent School, founded by the Sisters of St. Louis, was opened in 1913 in "Charleville", originally the residence of Sir John Grey, Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. With the acquisition of properties on Grosvenor Rd, it grew over the years. A new school was built which was opened in 1982.

Leinster Road and Leinster Square

Originally gated at the Rathmines end, Leinster Road dates from about 1840. Countess Markievicz lived at No. 49b. Houston Collison who collaborated with Percy French at no. 6. Leinster Square, which was also gated, was built in the 1830’s. It was home to Lafcadio Hearne (No. 30), Thomas Grubb and Sir Howard Grubb (No’s. 21 and 23), James Stephens (No. 2) and Charles Gavin Duffy for a short time at No. 4.

  

history book We would like to acknowledge reliance on Deirdre Kelly’s book, ‘Four Roads to Dublin’, The history of Rathmines, Ranelagh and Leeson Street  in the compilation of these facts.

 

 

 

 

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