This is the third in a series of blogs on 'Spatial Justice in Dublin 8' (SJD8 #3), as a contribution to Maynooth University Social Justice Week 2022.
The Urban Palimpsest
By an urban palimpsest I mean the ways that past urban forms are retained, erased, or revised in later times. We may think of certain elements of the urban landscape as laid down at different periods. At any one time, then, we may look into the urban landscape and read the traces of earlier times. As part of an attempt to understand New Kilmainhaim in 1911 (for the location of this ward at the western side of the City of Dublin, see Figure 6 in SJD8 #2), this blog describes some of the layers of its urban palimpsest. This provides the background for the discussion of the Historical Geographies of Injustice in Dublin 8 that is treated in theoretical terms in SJD8 #2 and empirically in some of the student blogs – e.g. Thiesen on the iconography of graveyards (SJD8 #4), Whelan (SJD8 #5) and Gifford (SJD8 #8) on class conflict, Keogh on housing and employment on the Railway Estate (SJD8 #6), and Murray on the spatial segregation of social classes (SJD8 #7).
The earliest layers of the economy are seen in the fields of a farming economy but the modern urban development of this area is initiated by the development of suburban villas. These are large houses with dozens of rooms that rich people working in Dublin began to establish in Kilmainham and along the Camac and Liffey valleys. The substantial houses shown on the O.S. map of 1837 or in a Directory of 1837 are listed below (see Figure 1). In addition there were a number of cottages named on the O.S. map but not included in the directory.
a. Golden Bridge House (1716). Built for the Smith family. When the house and gardens were taken over by the Sisters of Mercy in 1856, the name was borrowed for another house.
b. Inchicore House (early eighteenth century). Ó Broin reports that in the early eighteenth-century the only two substantial houses in the area were Golden Bridge House and Inchicore House. This was given as Inchicore House, Islandbridge, in a directory of 1837. The resident at this time was Lieutenant Lowe of the Royal Artillery. Also shown and labelled on the O.S. map 1837.
c. Susan Vale 1814, built by Obadiah Willan when he built a mill adjacent. He also built housing for his workers nearby as well as a Congregational Church. A directory of 1837 gives ‘Thomas and William Willan, cloth factory,’ as being in New Kilmainham. Susan Vale, the mill, and the congregational Meeting House are shown on the 1837 O.S. map. Susan Vale was later renamed Silverdale.
d. Rose Vale 1830. The owners of this house took over the name of Goldenbridge House after the convent was established in the first Golden Bridge House, and this is what is shown on later maps. Later still the house was also known as Rose Vale (as it had been when first built), and this name now attaches to a set of apartments nearby.
e. Air Mount (before 1837). Shown on the 1837 O.S. map. In a directory for 1837 the resident is given as Lieutenant Prichard.
f. Bo Peep (before 1837). Shown on the 1837 O.S. map. A directory of 1837 gives the resident as Mrs Law and the Rev. Richard Henry.
g. Dulcis Domus (before 1837). Shown on the 1837 O.S. map although not labelled (it is labelled on the 1913 O.S. map) and in a directory of 1837 the resident was given as Patrick Newman, esquire.
h. Grovefield Villa (before 1837). This is shown and named on the O.S. map of 1837 but it is not referred to in the 1837 directory.
i. Harcourt Lodge (before 1837). In a directory of 1837 the resident is given as John Stokes, esq., engineer, Grand Canal. Also shown and labelled on the O.S. map 1837.
j. Mariamount (before 1837). Shown as Maria Mount on the O.S. map of 1837, and in a directory of that year, it is given as Mountmaria with Mrs Phelan in residence.
k. Mons Salutaris (before 1837). Shown on the 1837 O.S. map although not labelled (it is labelled on the 1913 O.S. map). In a directory of 1837 it is given as Aoons Salutaris (almost certainly a typographical error) and the resident was Charles Tarrant, esquire.
l. Port Mahon Lodge (before 1837). Shown but not labelled on 1837 O.S. map. Not detailed in 1837 directory. Shown and labelled on Griffiths Valuations map and listings for 1855.
This is an area to the west of Dublin and through it passed the first turnpike road, running from St James’s Fountain to Kilcullen, county Kildare. Turnpike roads were roads where a private company financed improvements from tolls charged at gates thrown across the road. Along these roads you get coaching inns for people to stop at for refreshment or accommodation. Some of these inns were also the places where the coaches stopped to let down and take up passengers. Businesses that located close to these roads found it easier to bring in materials from the wider economy—in this case from rural Kildare. This road of 1729 was the first turnpike in Ireland. The first toll gate after the turnpike left the city of Dublin was on what was later called Tyrconnell Road (see Figure 2). A coaching inn, the Black Lion, developed here on the west side of the gate. This coaching inn later transferred further north, taking its name with it and opened as the Black Lion at the junction of what are now Emmet Road and Tyrconnell Road in 1734. In the 1850s, the former gatehouse was taken over by the Oblate Fathers and used as a school. A second turnpike crossed New Kilmainham, the Dublin-Mullingar road of 1786, with a coaching station at the Cow and Calf Inn. This establishment would remain until in 1844 it was bought up by the railway company that was developing its works and estate.
The Grand Canal (1779) was the southern route that linked the Liffey at Dublin to the Shannon as Sallins. The northern (Royal) Canal that also linked the Liffey to the Shannon was completed in 1817. This too was a private venture. Again businesses that located close to the canal find it easier or cheaper to bring in materials—in this case, from the Irish Midlands and across to the western parts of the country abutting the valley of the Shannon. When the Goldenbridge Paper Mills were established there was a short tramway constructed to bring supplies up from the canal to the works.
The Camac and the Liffey to the north of this area drew into the area a number of industries that needed water as raw material, processing, or power. Water was abstracted into mill races and mill ponds for these mills. At Goldenbridge paper mills and the Hibernian woollen mills the entrepreneurs built housing nearby in order to draw in the skilled workers they needed.
Figure 3. Mills in 1837
Along the Camac
- Kilmainham Mill, 16th century. Within the bounds of New Kilmainham is a mill race from the River Camac to serve Kilmainham Mill that was shown as a flour mill on the O.S. map of 1837, a paper mill in Thom’s Directory for 1862, but a cloth mill on the O.S. map of 1910.
- Goldenbridge Mill, 1784. Water was abstracted from the River Camac and passed as a mill race via an aqueduct under the Grand Canal to the mill. In 1878, it became a saw mill.
- Hibernian Mills, 1814. Powered by a mill race from the Camac. Established as a worsted mill by Obadiah Willan.
Along the Liffey
- Chapelizod Flax Mill, 18th century. Lewis’s Topographical Dictionary reports that there was a woollen and fulling mill here in the eighteenth century but that at some point not long before 1837 Messrs Crosthwaite converted this to a flax mill. In 1874 the mill was incorporated into the works of the newly established Dublin and Chapelizod distillery. The mill was powered by mill race leading off from the river Liffey.
- Calico Printing Works . The 1837 O.S. map shows a calico printing works powered by a mill race from the Liffey. A directory of 1837 lists as a calico printer William Henry of ‘Island bridge’. The St Jude’s parish map of 1864 labels the complex as Woollen Mills and on the 1910 O.S. map it is Bellvue Maltings.
- Flour Mill . The mill race that powered the calico printing works at Islandbridge also served a flour mill . This is given as ‘flour mills’ on the 1837 O.S. map and on the 1864 St Jude’s Parish map, but it is an ‘Ice Factory’ on the 1910 O.S. map. A directory of 1837 gives ‘Richd. Manders & Co.’ as the proprietors of the flour mill.
Along the Grand Canal
- Mount Shannon Mills . Powered by abstraction of waters from the canal to a mill pond and mill race. Named on the 1837 O.S. map and given as “corn and flour” on the St Jude’s parish map of 1864.
- Harcourt Mills . Powered by abstraction of waters from the canal to a mill race. Named on the 1837 O.S. map and given as “corn and flour” on the St Jude’s parish map of 1864.
In the early nineteenth-century, organising the national space for defence against Irish insurgents or against French invasion, the ten barracks dispersed throughout Dublin were consolidated into two, the cavalry at Portobello and the infantry in Goldenbridge at what was called Richmond Barracks, named after Charles Lennon who came to Ireland as Lord Lieutenant in 1807.
The barracks covered an area of 0.09 km2. Much of the stone for the new barracks was quarried locally. In the course of the excavation a spring was created and the waters from this became the basis of an economy based on people taking medicinal spa waters. On the O.S. map of 1837, this was shown, within the now abandoned quarry, as ‘Richmond Spa’ (see Figure 4). On the 1864 St Jude’s Parish map, this was labelled ‘Spa Well’. In a directory of 1837, one entry for Goldenbridge was ‘Edward Darcy, carpenter and keeper of original spa-house.’ The map of 1837 shows a Spa Cottage near the spa. The map of 1910 shows of legacy of this economy with a Spa Road at one end of the former quarry and a Spa View at the other. The barracks lent its name to several neighbouring places in addition to the spa. The 1864 map of St Jude’s parish gives Richmond Street and Richmond Place immediately to the west of the barracks we well as Richmond Hill about a quarter of a mile to the east. All three of these are also listed in a directory of 1837, as is Richmond, Goldenbridge as the name for the street abutting the barracks on its northern edge. The 1910 O.S. map gives Richmond Cottages to the north-west of the barracks. None of these street names, nor the barracks, survive, although the association football ground to the north of the former barracks is called Richmond Park.
The barracks were opened in 1814 and in some short time, the it held over 1,000 soldiers. A directory of 1859 reported that at that date there were accommodated at the barracks ‘76 officers, and 1,600 non-commissioned officers and men, with stabling for 25 horses, and an hospital for 100 patients.’ Few soldiers beyond the officers were able to have their family with them in the barracks. Some accommodation outside the barracks was originally developed for the wives of some soldiers. These two large tenements (Cambridge House and Eagle House) later became more general-purpose overcrowded with the poor of the district. Beyond these two tenements, other soldiers also had family in the vicinity, particularly in the area known as the Puck, that took up the grounds of Goldenbridge House with cottages and tenements. There was also a sex-work industry that colonised these spaces with so many single men nearby.
Successive directories show traces of the leisure industries that developed for the soldiers. A directory of 1837 gives for Goldenbridge ‘Pat O’Brien, billiard-room keep[er]’ as well as six vintners in Goldenbridge and four on Richmond. The same areas had nine listed in 1859. The 1864 map of St Jude’s parish showed nine public houses, all but one of them in the area covered by Figure 4 above.
The Railway Works
Ireland’s first railway was run in 1834 from Dublin to Kingstown (Dún Laoghaire). In 1839 Dublin was linked to Lisburn. The Dublin to Drogheda railway was opened in 1844. The fourth major line, the Great Southern and Western Railway Company, went from Dublin Kingsbridge (now Heuston) station towards Cork, initially reaching Carlow in 1846. There were two further sets of tracks through the New Kilmainham (see Figure 5). The North Dublin Street Tramways Company ran a route from Kingsland Row to Inchicore in 1878. The trams on this line were originally pulled by horses but in 1899 it was electrified. In 1881 this company was taken into the new Dublin United Tramways Company under the direction of William Murphy. The Dublin and Lucan Steam Tramway Company was laid down in 1880 and with a conversion of motive power from steam to electricity became the Dublin and Lucan Electric Railway in 1900.
At this time the company running the line to Carlow, the Great Southern and Western Railway company, developed a railway works in Inchicore, initially to keep its steam engines in repair and, from 1850, to build more, and also to supply carriages, uniforms, etc. At its peak the works employed 2,000 workers. The earliest skilled workers were recruited from the nascent English railway industry and they were housed on an estate, behind a wall (see Figure 5), built for them by the GSWR. In fact, the rent was taken directly from the workers’ wages, and ceasing employment meant ending the tenancy.
The accommodation had long allotment gardens and there was a formal square at the heart of the estate (see Figure 5). The company also provided a workmen’s club, a library, and employed a librarian. This factory village incorporated a lake and a wooded bank to the west of the club and library. The 1864 map of St Jude’s also shows a bandstand, which by the map of 1910 had been replaced by a ball-alley. When the Griffiths valuation was published for the county of Dublin in 1853, only part of the estate had been built and of that only a part was occupied. The 1864 map showed further building, with a further terrace and a lodge. By the time of the 1911 census, on the railway estate another three terraces had been added as well as four semi-detached villas. The Great Southern and Western Railway also built housing outside the railway estate. Two semi-detached villas were built as Floraville (shown already on the map of 1864), and more substantial detached villas were later added as Mount Vernon and Sevenoaks. In addition, the company built a terrace of smaller houses (St John’s Gardens) north of Islandbridge and close to the railway line.
The demand that was created within the local economy for goods and services was very significant. A very early example was the Great Western and South Railway House, a pub built just down the road from the works. The earliest licensees were those who had been dispossessed of the Cow and Calf when the company bought the farmland on which it stood. Indicative of the moral formation intended by the company, this public house was replaced with a model school. Perhaps as an act of revenge the public house which was built just outside the railway estate was called the Railway House and had the name of the railway company emblazoned on its pediment.
Two other examples of the effect on the local economy are the housing built for railway workers. First, to the north in an area between Inchicore and Ballyfermot, known as the Ranch. This was a private development with St Mary’s Terrace the first in 1880, and among the others Phoenix Street in 1889. A footpath was made from the Ranch to the Works and this came to be known as the Khyber Pass. There is a fascinating account of this walkway together with some photographs in a book of local memories. The importance of the British army to many of these workers is evident in this naming.
The second example of housing accommodating railway workers was that built by the corporation on land sold to the city by the Oblate Fathers, an area known as the Bungalow. The first part of this development was built between 1902 and 1907 and comprised Ring Street (named after the Oblate Father William Ring, 1834-1919 who spent most of life in this area), Nash Street (named after Reverend G D Nash who in 1900 took over the Church of Ireland parish church of St Jude’s, that had been established in 1864 on Inchicore Road, in the north east of New Kilmainham. Nash left in 1906), and O’Donoghue Street (named after Stephen O’Donoghue, a Fenian, who was killed by police when they broke up a gathering of about 150 Fenians at Tallaght which was part of a general Fenian mobilisation and the start of an uprising in many parts of Ireland).
The Catholic Archipelago
In 1829 a Catholic cemetery was established in Goldenbridge (see Figure 6). Following the penal laws, catholic burials within the city could only be in Church of Ireland grounds and even after this cemetery was opened, on land that was then beyond the city limits, the Church of Ireland cemetery of St James in the city still received payments for burials at Goldenbridge. The cemetery has a chapel, that was open to all denominations, as well as a lodge for the keeper of the grounds.
In 1856 two Catholic religious communities came to Inchicore. In each case, this was a reaction to one or more of the two major developments in the area: the arrival of the barracks and the establishment of the railway works. One of the earliest responses of organised religion to the creation of the barracks saw, in 1828, Methodists setting up a chapel on St Vincent Street to the west of the barracks; shown as ‘Meeting Ho.’ on the 1833 O.S. map and as ‘Military Bethel’ on the 1864 St Jude’s parish map. In 1884 this was sold and in 1885 the Christian Brothers took it over as a school. In turn, the Methodists erected a new chapel on Tyrconnell Road, 1886. The parish of St James had a chapel-of-ease for this most westerly part of the parish and in 1827 this chapel was passed to the military for use as ‘General Male and Female Day and Evening Schools’. In 1853, with the opening of the Model School on the grounds of the Railway Estate, this school was no longer required and in 1857 it entered use as a Church of Ireland chapel. In turn, the building of the church of St Jude’s on Inchicore Road in 1864 made this church redundant and the Catholic diocese bought it back and it once again became, from 1865, as Our Lady of Mercy, a chapel-of-ease for the Catholic parish of St James
To some extent, this military community was part of the background to the arrival of the first Catholic religious community in this area since it associated the area with the disorderliness of a sex work district. In 1856, the Sisters of Mercy came to Goldenbridge House to establish a House of Refuge where female prisoners could be taken out of jail for the last years of their sentence and adjust to life after release by being trained with employable skills, such as sewing and laundry. The laundry was in use until the 1950s. From 1858 to 1865, the nuns operated a reformatory for younger female offenders, St Vincent’s Reformatory. In 1881, part of the refuge was re-purposed as an industrial school. This was an institution that included younger women considered likely to fall into crime. In 1883, this industrial school expanded and displaced the reformatory. They added a further industrial school for older girls as St Joseph’s in 1910. Given, the associations with sex work of the area known as the Puck, these developments had a particular local resonance.
The moral formation of children was a particular anxiety of organised religions. The established Church of Ireland had early set up an infant school on St Vincent Street and this was shown on the 1833 O.S. map. The 1864 parish map of St Jude’s shows a church within the barracks. Part of this church was used for some time as a space for classes and lectures. The infant school had since been taken over by Catholic church and was now a national school run by the nuns of the convent. Education was a field of competition between organised religions.
The railway company had established a multi-denominational Model School on its estate in 1853. In Ireland, several of the organised religions objected to the attempt to found education on a broadly Christian basis. Instead, the major Christian religions wanted to control their own schools. On this basis, the nuns set up their own (primary Catholic) National Schools one for girls in 1858, and a little later one for boys. On St Vincent Street, the Christian Brothers set up a school for older boys in 1880s. By the convent, a chapel for the community is also shown, as early as the St Jude’s parish map of 1864. At the southern end of St Vincent Street was the presbytery for the priest attached to this chapel.
The second Catholic community to be established in the area, came in June 1856, when the Oblate Fathers were gifted a house on Tyrconnell Road with an attached thirty-one acre farm. The Catholic parish of St James included this area but the church was a mile-and-a-half away to the east. Workers were thought unlikely to make the journey and, therefore, the focus of the Oblates’ ministry was the railway workers in Inchicore. Within days of the first meeting in the parlour of their new house, some of the workers had built on the grounds a wooden chapel to accommodate seven to eight-hundred. With time this was rebuilt in stone, but in 1876 work began on a much larger Church of Mary Immaculate which was opened in stages thereafter. From 1885, the older chapel housed a crib of life-sized wax figures that had first been crafted for the Basilica of the Sacred heart at Montmartre. In 1857 they opened a school in the former coach house which had stood at the turnpike gate on Tyrconnell Road, and they replaced it with a new Chapel School in 1864. In 1861 they opened a house of retreat.
In addition to the Methodist community that moved from St Vincent Street to Tyrconnell Road in the 1880s, there were two other sets of institutions for organised religion in this district; the Congregationalists and the Church of Ireland. When an entrepreneur from Yorkshire, Obadiah Willan, set up his mill in the early nineteenth century he not only built housing for his workers but also established in 1814 a Congregational meeting house for himself and other Congregationalists. In some sources this given as the Salem Chapel. In 1864 the Church of Ireland built a parish church for St Jude’s on Inchicore Road. By 1910 the O.S. map shows that there was also a rectory and a parochial hall alongside the church.
Together the Oblate Fathers and the Sisters of Mercy established a concerted Catholic mission in Inchicore addressing the challenges to Catholic morality presented by the social and political effects of the arrival of the two main bases of urbanisation in the area: the barracks and the railway works. This mission is expressed in an archipelago of institutions that stretched across Goldenbridge, from St Vincent Street to Tyrconnell Road.
A tram line was opened between Westland Row and Inchicore in 1878. A depot was established for cars at this end of the line. In 1882 William Martin Murphy opened a works that could build and repair cars and coaches. Shortly thereafter, as Tramway Cottages on Thomas Davis Street, he built a row of houses for some of his workers. The vicinity of the works also has some of the important institutions of organised labour in this district. The Workman’s Club on Emmet Road was independent of employers and in this place met, socialised and organised, workers from both the Tramway works and the Railway works. The socialist wing of the labour movement was established at Emmet Hall. This stretch of tramway from Emmet Hall to the Tramway Depot became central in the events of the 1913 Lockout.
Figure 8. The Tramway Works
— Gerry Kearns, 18 March 2022
Gerry Kearns is Professor of Geography at Maynooth University. This blog comes from work done for 'GY607. Field School,' a course for the MA in Spatial Justice and for the Postgraduate Diploma in Geography.
Thank you to Liam O’Meara for the introduction to the history of Inchicore and for so generously sharing his local knowledge, and to Dr Sarah Gearty of the Irish Historic Towns Atlas at the Royal Irish Academy for help with the historic maps. Thanks to Professor Karen Till, to activist John Bissett, to artists Joe Lee and Kate O’Shea, and to students on the MA Spatial Justice, MA Geography and Postgraduate Diploma in Geography for their thoughtful and productive company on many walks around Inchicore.
 Liam O’Meara, When Paddy Worked on the Railway (Dublin: Riposte Books, 2021) 52.
 Seosamh Ó Broin, Inchicore, Kilmainham and District (Dublin: Cois Camóige Publications, 1999) 52.
 Dublin Almanac and General Register of Ireland for the Year 1837 (Dublin: Pettigrew and Oulton, 1837). Online copy available at Haithi Trust.
 O’Meara, When Paddy Worked, 52.
 Seosamh Ó Broin, Inchicore, Kilmainham and District (Dublin: Cois Camóige Publications, 1999), chs 11 and 12.
 Ó Broin, Inchicore, 94.
 Liam O’Meara, From Richmond Barracks to Keogh Square (Dublin: Riposte Books, 2014) 65.
 Samuel Lewis, Topographical Dictionary of Ireland (London: Samuel Lewis, 1937)
 Richard Woodward, ‘James Joyce’s Whiskey Connections,’ scotchwhisky.com Magazine (13 June 2019) https://scotchwhisky.com/magazine/culture/25971/james-joyce-s-whiskey-connections/
 O’Meara, From Richmond Barracks, 15.
 Thom’s Irish Almanac and Official Directory of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland for the Year 1859 (Dublin: Alexander Thom and sons, 1859) 1200.
 ‘Dublin and Lucan Electric Railway’ (29 June 2021), Grace’s Guide To British Industrial History, https://gracesguide.co.uk/Dublin_and_Lucan_Electric_Railway
 Ken Larkin, Ballyfermot Building a Community 1948 to 2006. There is an extract here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/ballyfermot/2221168203/in/photolist-gFBZZB-4ohGT8-4om8gd-4oh9wx-4oh77P-5sKmSs-4omK6u-4omXFm-4oh94z-4omqWd-4ommcJ-4om9Cm-4omGos-4om8Du-4omECS-36jZkN-4om8sW-31eoZk-2YEXej-2XSFnv-2YJDq5-314kBc-2YAZTk-31ZFaz-2YCer6-2YD486-4omDbU-4ohEBZ-4oh4Vv-5QAfV7-4ohSpV-4omu5b-4on47C-4ohcQr-bFn1fX-4ohkfZ-4om9qA-4oh5Z4-4oh5Pk-4oh5Ca-4oh58M-36jZZQ-31j7TL-36k2WQ-36jXcQ-36k3hA-32LVjm-31ekLB-4yaQnt-32GfQP.
 Liam O’Meara, Goldenbridge Cemetery (Dublin: Riposte Books, 2018).
 ‘1886—Methodist Chapel, Inchicore Dublin,’ Archiseek (9 March 2021); https://www.archiseek.com/2014/1886-methodist-chapel-inchicore-dublin/.
 O’Meara, Richmond, 168.
 O’Meara, Richmond, 124.
 Ó Broin, Inchicore, 110.
 Peter Costello, Dublin Churches (Dublin: Gill and Macmillan, 1985) 156.
 ‘1864—St Jude’s Church, Inchicore, Dublin,’ Archiseek (9 March 2021), https://www.archiseek.com/2013/st-judes-church-inchicore-dublin/.
 Liam O’Meara, Emmet Hall (Dublin: Riposte Books, 2013).