Dublin City is full of hidden free, open green spaces, just because they are out of sight doesn’t diminish the experience of visiting these open, free green spaces. Here we present Dublin’s Historic Parks and some background information on these charming public spaces. Dublin’s turbulent history has left a long legacy, most of these small urban spaces commemorate historical events and or notable people. They are worth the effort of exploring if you are looking for something to do. Here is a selection of places to go, to see, enjoy the peace and quiet in this busy restless city. Feel free to contact me should you need some suggestions or guidance. You can also check the Dublin City Council’s Park’s Website.
Off we go then……
St Michan’s Park
St Michan’s Park, 5 Little Britain St, North side, Dublin. Entrance to park is via Green Street or Halston Street.
Saint Michan’s Park is one of Dublin’s Historic Parks and one of its smallest. Named after the nearby Catholic church of Saint Michan. The park lies on the remains of Newgate Prison which was closed in 1838. Newgate was a cesspit, at high tide the lower cells filled up with raw sewage.
Numerous breakouts and mass riots afflicted Newgate as well. The worst riot occurred in 1790 when 200 prisoners destroyed the prison. The park incorporates the Prison foundations and the corner bastions of Newgate Prison. Dublin Corporation created a public park in 1863, retaining about 3ft of the prisons original walls. The wall is topped with iron railings, gates and a handball alley. The centre piece of the park is the beautiful statue of Erin (erected 1903).
St Michan’s Park History
St Michan’s Park commemorates some famous prisoners associated with Newgate Prison. Most where leaders of the United Irishmen who carried out a failed rebellion in 1798. There was much carnage and destruction inflicted on the Irish peasantry. Most of the leaders where executed, killed, exiled or imprisoned. Here is a list of the United Irishmen prisoners in Newgate prison. Lord Edward Fitzgerald, who died of wounds inflicted on his capture. Henry Joy McCracken executed, Napper Tandy exiled, Wolf Tone died of self-inflicted woulds and the Sheares Brothers were executed side by side. Robert Emmet was hanged and beheaded at a later date.
Chapter House, Meeting House Lane
Chapter House, Meeting House Lane, off Chapel Street and Mary’s Abbey. Access/booking through OPW website (www.heritageireland.ie).
The best kept secret in all Dublin is the survival of the original Chapter House of the ancient St Mary’s Abbey. Clues to the abbey’s whereabouts are nearby in the local street names. Names like Abbey Street, Mary’s Abbey, Mary Street, Capel Street and Meeting House Lane. Remarkably all that remains is this amazing Chapter House. The beautiful vaulted interior is original and the stunning stain glass is worth the visit alone.
St Mary’s Abbey was founded in 1139 by the Benedictine order who became the Cistercians. The Abbey was one of the richest in Ireland. It had rich farmland nearby, a thriving education centre, and a hospital. These all made it of great importance to the city south of the river. Playing a huge part in the administration of English rule both in Dublin and the rest of Ireland. The city proper had no public buildings to host parliament or council meetings. The Chapter House in St Mary’s was used for this purpose.
Chapter House Historical Notes
Thomas Fitzgerald (Silken Thomas) rose in revolt in 1534. In this very chapter house at a meeting of the assembled Lords and State Council. Fitzgerald lifted up the Mace of Office and hurled it onto the floor declaring he was “no longer the King’s friend but his foe“. A rumour had circulated that his father the Earl of Kildare had been executed by Henry VIII. In fact his father was very much alive which made it an pointless and stupid enterprise. After much bloodshed and the burning of Dublin City, he and his uncles were all beheaded in Tyburn. The Reformation in 1539 dissolved the monastries. St Mary’s was one of the first.
The Cabbage Garden
The Cabbage Garden (or Cabbage Patch to locals), the entrance is from Cathedral Ln, Portobello, Dublin.
Overlooked by the Iveagh Trust Buildings and accessed via a small lane just off Kevin’s Street Upper. While The Cabbage Garden is probably the smallest of Dublin’s Historic Parks it certainly is one of the most interesting. St Kevin’s park is small, neat compact yet there is something mysterious about this park in the heart of Dublin. The park is a beautiful oasis of peace and quiet despite the busy urban setting. Locals refer to as the “The Cabbage Patch”. Officially known as the Cabbage Gardens. In besieged 1649 Dublin, the Cromwellian garrison rented land from land owner Phillip Fenley. The crop planted was Cabbages, a plant unheard off in Ireland before this. Hence the name The Cabbage Garden.
The Cabbage Garden Historical Notes
This plot of land appears as “The Cabbage Garden” in John Rocques 1756 map of Dublin. The name has alsways stuck, from 1681 to 1858 the Garden was used as a Huguenot graveyard. It lay idle for years up until 1938 when the Dublin Corporation recorded the grave stones. They then turned it into the The Cabbage Garden Park it is today. David La Touche who helped form the famous bank La Touche is buried here.
St Kevin’s Park
St Kevin’s Park, Camden row, off Wexford Street (back of Whelan’s).
Probably one of the prettiest parks and best kept secrets in Dublin. In St Kevin’s park, lies a ruined church, a great Catholic Martyr and some prominent grave stones. This walled parkland is teeming with wildlife and atmosphere. Take a cup of coffee, find a good seat. For that is all you will need to enjoy this good piece of earth.
The ruined church of St Kevin’s was built in 1780 and was ruined in early 20th century. In St Kevin’s you can view the gravestones, enjoy the wild life and the beautiful shrubbery. Yet you can still learn a piece of Dublin history in less time it takes to drink your coffee.
St Kevin’s Park Historical Note
A church has been present on this site since pre-Norman times. Arthur Wellesley, alias Duke of Wellington, Prime Minister, Military General was baptised here. Sir Thomas Moore’s family are buried in the park. Also buried here are John Keogh (1740–1817), friend of Theobald Wolfe Tone. Hugh Leeson, the great brewer, whose family gave its name to Leeson Street. The Lesson’s became Earls of Milltown and owners of Russborough House, County Wicklow. John D’Arcy owner of the Anchor breweries is buried here. D’Arcy’s funeral led to a huge ecumenical dispute between Daniel O’Connell and the Guinness Brewers. It directly led to the creation of Glasnevin Cemetery and the ruin of St Kevins. This was at the height of the great Catholic Emancipation movement. Catholic Emancipation had the support of the Lord Lieutenant Marquess Richard Wellesley brother of Prime Minister, Duke of Wellington. However, St Kevin’s Park will forever be remembered as the secret grave of
Tudor Martyr Archbishop Dermot O’Hurley. Executed by the Elizabethan Govt in Dublin, for refusing to take the Oath of alligence. O’Hurley was cruelly tortured in boiling pitch, raked, and beaten with iron bars for days. Despite the opposition of even English Lords and supporteers. On the approach of the army of Queens first cousin Thomas Butler (Black Tom) Earl of Ormond to secure O’Hurley’s release caused panic. He was dragged through the streets, hastily executed on Hoggen Green (College Green) and buried in St Kevin’s. He was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1992.
Croppies Park (Croppies Acre)
Croppies Park (Croppies Acre), Benburb Street, frontage Wolfe Tone Quay.
This is one acre the building developers will never get their hands on, though it is not for the want of trying. Croppies Park is a much maligned space. Dublin City Council do a stirling job in maintaining this important open green space. The Croppies Park is so named after the 1798 Croppies (United Irishmen Rebels). They cut their hair to set themselves apart from the aristocracy they despised. Unfortunately for them it made it easy to identify them. This park has a spacious open and beautiful aspect. Collins Barracks Museum lies to the North and the river and Guinness Brewery lies to the South. Nearby is also the more famous Park – The Phoenix Park.
Croppies Park Historical Note
In 1798 the Great Rebellion of the United Irishmen exploded across the Northern and Eastern parts of Ireland. Wexford and Antrim were the epicentre, as both Catholic and Presbyterian peasants rose in rebellion. There was carnage and atrocity on a grand scale. The Croppie Acre was originally a tidal marsh land. It was here the captured, hanged, beheaded Croppies were dumped on this site. Most were washed away on the tide, their bodies floating down the Liffey through the city. In 1983 the Irish army with the City Council created this park and memorial to the fallen of the 1798 rebellion.
St Audeon’s Park
Find St Audeons Park, which is on High Street/Cook Street, the park is free. The Church of St Audeon’s lies in the park it is operated by the OPW, so check times for opening. The Walls, Park and Gate are also free to view. St. Audoen’s Park, although tiny in size is hugely significant in historical terms. St Audeon’s is one of the most important of all Dublin’s Historic Parks. Located adjacent to St. Audoen’s Church (1300 A.D.). It also incorporates the remaining original stone city wall dating from about 1240 A.D. St. Audoen’s Arch/Gate, which is the last surviving Gate to the old medieval city. Also retains the historic Fagan’s Gate and its Forty Nine steps. St Audeon’s is probably the very heart of all that remains of medieval Dublin. All of these medieval features add to the beautiful public space called St Audeons Park.
St Audeon’s Historical Note
St Audeon’s is also the entrance to Hell! The Forty Ninesteps took you down into a warren of Brothels, Inns, Taverns and Cut throats lying in the shadows. The district became known as Hell and indeed it was, even had its own King and Queen. This accolade falls on its most notorious couple Darkey Kelly, Serial killer and Madame, burnt at the stake, before a baying mob of her supporters. This Queen operated and lived in the Maiden Tower. Her lover was the vile City Sheriff Simon Luttrell, 1st Earl of Carhampton. Luttrell stitched her up when she claimed he was the father of her child. Apparently Darkey hasn’t gone away either, she still wanders the area especially up those Forty Nine steps.
St Audeon’s Church itself has a magnificent organ. Also a Lucky stone, an ancient Christian medieval wishing stone. The beautiful tomb to Baron Portlester and stunning original architecture. Plus the remains of an ancient laneway. Outside lie the ruins of Portlester Church built by the Baron Portlester FitzEustace. There also is a Cenotaph and tombs. In St Audeon’s itself the church is a collection of tombs, crypts, crannies, plaques and plates. Within is the Guild Section known as St Anne’s Chapel. Here are many displays of the Guilds of Old Dublin. Particularly gruesome is the “Yron”, a cauterising instrument from the Guild of Barber surgeons. A plaque indicates it brought “sorrow, dread, of its burning and the smart“.
In St Anne’s section is an original 12th century excavated cobbled laneway. So there really is a lot to see and learn in this wonderful section of medieval Dublin.
Bully’s Acre (Hospital Fields), Military road, Royal Hospital Kilmainham. Gates should be open between 9 and 5pm. You gain access to Bully’s Acre through the gates of Royal Hospital. At night this is a very creepy area. Yet by day it is a great open space for you to explore. Now if you come here try and identify some of the many remaining tombstones and never forget this was once a graveyard. Bully’s Acre was a graveyard for a very very long time. Dublin citizen’s used Bully’s Acre, for social gatherings, bull baiting, executions, and later faction fighting. However it still remains a fairly spooky spot ever since.
Bully’s Acre Historical Note
In the 12th Century the priory of the Knights of St John of Jerusalem was located here. The Knights acted as the city Bailiffs, administering Justice including public executions. A lot of combatants killed in the battle of Clontarf 1014 are also believed to be buried here. Ultimately Bully’s Acre became known as a paupers graveyard. Most Catholics are buried in Bully’s Acre for after the reformation Dublin city had no graveyard for Catholics. The area became particularly notorious on Pattern Sunday’s (Feast of St John 24th June). On Pattern Sunday’s the citizens of Dublin would gather for prayers. This in turn led to serious faction fighting and all round rowdy violent behaviour.
In 1760 General Dilkes attempted to close the area and pitched battles ensued. This caused more harm than good and the area remained as it always had. In the 19th century the area was plagued by body snatchers as it was open common ground. Bully’s Acre had no walls or enclosures and it was largely patrolled by ineffectual night watchmen. Later still the devastation caused by the Great Cholera epidemic of 1832 led to huge numbers of mass burials. The burials led to serious condemnation of the city’s water supplies. As a result of the contamination, Bully’s Acre was closed. The opening of the larger Glasnevin Cemetary made this area redundant as a cemetary.