‘Like French Revolution Furies’: Jacob’s, Fumbally Lane and the Other Women of 1916

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Blackpitts c.1900. The roof of the City of Dublin Maltings can be seen in the background (Image: NLI ROY 7891).

During the Rising some of the most significant mobilisations of working class women in the city, were not undertaken as part of the Rising, but rather as protests against the Volunteers. The witness statements collected by the Bureau of Military History are peppered with accounts of women, many of them soldiers’ wives, physically confronting Volunteers across the city. Their activities were concentrated in the southwest and northeast areas of the inner city, some of the most deprived areas of Dublin. This post considers the physical remains associated with the short-lived Jacob’s outpost in Fumbally lane and the role the women of the Liberties had in shaping the activities of the 2nd Battalion in the area.

Separation Women distro

Map showing places where Separation Women are mentioned as active in the BMH witness statements.

The garrison of the 2nd Battalion at Jacob’s biscuit factory saw little action during Easter Week. For much of the Rising, the c.170 women and men in the vast building busied themselves sniping at British soldiers, building internal barricades and waiting for an assault from the British Army that never came. Jacob’s was ostensibly selected on account of the broad vistas afforded by the factory’s towers, as well as providing a useful store of food (WS733, 32). The Volunteers’ initial plan was to take over Jacob’s, with outposts in Fumbally Lane and Camden Street, to link up with the Citizen Army at Portobello (WS263, 14). This plan was only partially successful. While the outposts in Camden Street endured until Thursday, the Fumbally Lane outpost lasted less than seven hours, before being forced to retreat by local people opposed to the Volunteers.

The 2nd Battalion of Volunteers mustered at the Harcourt Street side of Saint Stephen’s Green on Easter Monday (WS0397, 4). At about 12 o’clock the Volunteers, and half a dozen women from Cumann na mBan, arrived at Jacobs (WS0263, 16-7). Once inside, the group commenced barricading the windows with bags of flour, and breaking out the glass where necessary. Battalion commander Thomas MacDonagh made his HQ on the ‘main floor’ of the factory (WS0263, 17). Another section of about 50 men under the command of Tom Hunter marched down Kevin Street and New Street and  into Fumbally Lane. Half of the company occupied the City of Dublin Maltings (called Barmack’s in the Witness Statements), while the other half took over adjacent houses (WS0716).

The Maltings lay on the south side of Fumbally Lane, amid the maze of narrow streets and tenement houses of Dublin Liberties, one of the city’s most deprived areas. Its four-story malt house provided a good vantage point over Blackpitts, covering the approach of British soldiers from Wellington Barracks on the South Circular Road, and overlooking a large open space to its west. The Maltings survive almost entirely, and have been converted into offices. The east range of the complex dates to before 1864, but most of it was constructed between c.1864 and c.1907. A letterhead on the City of Dublin Malting’s PLIC claim depicts the Maltings c.1916.

City of Dublin Maltings compare

Above: Image of the City of Dublin Maltings from a letterhead in the PLIC files (PLIC/1/4044). Below: An image of the buildings today from Google Maps.

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An extract of the 1907 25-inch map with surviving buildings shaded red.

The Volunteers occupied the top floor of the west range of the Maltings, immediately putting the building into a state of defence. They smashed and barricaded the windows.  Francis J. Ussher of the City of Dublin Maltings outlined the damage done in his application to the Property Losses (Ireland) Committee (PLIC):

All the glass in malt house windows were broken out of top loft. Also some sashes for the purpose of giving clean vision at the enemy and the anticipated battle 25th or 25th in the open space opposite as stated to the writer by a Sinn Fein officer same evening while in occupation of premises (NAI PLIC/1/4044).


The junction of Fumbally Lane and Blackpitts today.

Outside the Maltings, barricades were erected at either end of Fumbally Lane and Malpas Street (on Blackpitts and in Clanbrassil Street). A coachbuilders’ yard in Blackpitts was forced open, and the lumber taken to form barricades, along with shutters from shops, and delivery carts from the surrounding dairy yards (WS0312, 5, WS0822, 4; WS0397, 4; WS0139, 4; WS0716, 6). Tenement houses in both Malpas Street and Fumbally Lane were occupied, knocked through, and loop-holed. In Fumbally Lane, a block of four houses covering the approach of British soldiers coming down Clanbrassil Street from Wellington Barracks was taken over (WS0716, 6), while at least two tenement houses in Malpas Street were occupied and loop-holed (WS0423; WS0267, 10; WS0716, 6).

Jacobs outposts copy

Map showing the outposts of Jacob’s Factory.

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The junction of Fumbally Lane and Blackpitts c.1900. The buildings on the left of the image have since been demolished. They were likely to have been occupied by Volunteers in 1916. Image: NLI L ROY 07886.

The substantial redevelopment of the streets around the City of Dublin Maltings, and the widening of New Street, has swept away most of the houses occupied by Volunteers on both Fumbally Lane and Malpas Street. A block of six contemporary houses survives at the southeast end of Fumbally Lane. Very few PLIC claims were filed in the area, and consequently we don’t know if any of the dwellings were occupied by Volunteers. A single claim was made for Malpas Street, for No. 10, a since-demolished tenement building. Its proprietor Mrs Dora Canavan with an address in Rathmines, filed for damages to the walls and window of the building by ‘disorderly men and boys on the day of the rebellion breakout’ (NAI PLIC/1/86).

Fumbally Lane

Looking west along Fumbally Lane today. The houses on the left of the picture are shown on the 1907 OS map. Some of them may have been occupied by Volunteers.

The outpost at Fumbally Lane did not last long. On Monday night the Volunteers retreated back to Jacob’s, largely due to the hostile reaction of local people in the Liberties. As Thomas Slater recalled in his witness statement, ‘they [the Volunteers] were in a dangerous position and no useful purpose was being served; they were attacked on all sides by civilians’ (WS0263, 18). From the outset the inhabitants of the area greeted the Volunteers with opposition, attempting to tear down the barricades, pelting them with stones, and shouting abuse of them. Chief among the protesters were women from the tenements whose husbands were fighting on the Continent with the British Army. The Separation Women, as they were known, were in receipt of an army separation allowance that was key to their survival in the precarious world of Dublin’s overcrowded tenements.

The Separation Women figure prominently in all the witness statements of Volunteers who were stationed at the Maltings outpost. Fianna member Seamus Pounch, who was in Malpas street, recalled, ‘some of the people were very antagonistic towards us, partly from the fact of being put out of their homes and mostly because they were of a pro-British type, soldiers’ wives and relatives’ (WS0267, 11). Volunteer Vincent Byrne remembered ‘when we came out on the street, a lot of soldiers’ wives and, I expect, imperialistic people – men and women – came around us. They jeered and shouted at us’ (WS0423, 2). Similarly, William Stapleton noted, ‘this was a very hostile area. We were boohed and frequently pelted with various articles throughout the day. We were openly insulted, particularly by the wives of British soldiers who were drawing separation allowance and who referred to their sons and husbands fighting for freedom in France’ (WS0822, 5). Thomas Pugh had particularly harsh words for the women describing them as ‘like French revolution furies’ (WS0397, 5).


The Liberties was home to some of Dublin’s worst tenements. Many women from these communities were soldiers’ wives reliant on the Separation Allowance for survival. Image on the left shows a tenement family c.1901 (Image: dublintenementexperience.wordpress.com). Image on the right shows the inside of a tenement in the Coombe c.1913 (Image: RSAI).

The stern resistance shown by the residents of the Liberties made the Volunteers’ position untenable. Physical confrontations broke out at the barricades when locals attempted to tear them down. Ugly scenes ensured as the Volunteers tried to stand their ground, firing shots to keep the crowd at bay (WS0397, 5). The standoff culminated in the killing of at least three civilians by the Volunteers, including 15 year old Eleanor Warbrook from Malpas Terrace, who was shot in the face, and later died in Mercer’s Hospital [1]. Eleanor’s death is not mentioned in the Witness Statements, but the death of a man, who physically tackled the Volunteers was. Vincent Byrne recalled the incident:

‘One man in the crowd was very aggressive. He tried to take the rifle off one of our party. Lieutenant Billy Byrne told him to keep off or he would be sorry. The man, however, made a grab at the rifle. I heard a shot ring out and saw him falling at the wall’ (WS0423, 2).

Volunteer Michael Walker remembered the man being ‘shot and bayonetted’ (WS0139, 4).

Another man, suspected to be an undercover policeman was shot at the eastern side of Fumbally Lane. The incident was recalled by William Stapleton:

In the evening at Crosskevin St. end a man, who appeared to be a plain-clothes policeman, was ordered to move on. He had been observing our positions and taking notes. He refused to do so, and instructions were given that he was to be fired on. It so happened that one of our best shots was at the barricade and he opened fire and shot the man dead (WS0822, 5).

Return to Jacobs


Jacob’s Biscuit Factory (Image: Dublin City Libraries).

The local opposition to the Volunteers’ actions must only have been compounded by the civilian deaths. On Monday evening they were forced to return to Jacob’s followed by an angry crowd. William Stapleton recalled the events:

As dusk was falling, about 7 or 8 o’clock, we retreated from the barricades to our headquarters at Jacob’s factory … and while waiting to be admitted at one of the large gates we were submitted to all sorts of indignities by some of the local people. It was difficult to preserve control due to the treatment. We suffered from these people. We were actually struck, and those in uniforms had their uniform caps knocked off, yet nothing of and those in uniforms had their uniform caps knocked off, yet nothing of an untold nature took place by way of retaliation … We were eventually admitted into Jacob’s factory and dispersed throughout the building … No sooner had we barricaded the entrance when the mob tried to burst the gate in. They kicked and barged it with some heavy implements, but seeing that that was of little effect they tried to set fire to it with old sacking which had been soaked in paraffin and pushed under the door and ignited … MacDonagh ordered me to remove the shot from my shotgun cartridges and fire a couple of blanks through the iron grid at the top of the gates in the direction of the mob in the hope of frightening them off. I did this and they dispersed after a short time (WS0822, 6).

The protests from local residents at Jacob’s continued throughout the week. During one incident Volunteers were prevented from removing a wooden access ladder from the back of the building. The men started breaking the ladder with sledgehammers when, ‘some of the immediate residents, hearing the noise, came to their windows and started a. wordy battle, they being of different opinions as to our actions, so that the work had to be stopped, uncompleted’ (WS0734, 26-7).

The Separation Women have an uncomfortable place in the narrative of 1916. They represent the largest mobilisation of working class Dublin women during the Rising, and were a significant presence on the streets in the northeast and southwest areas of the inner city. The Volunteers oscillated between dismissing them in distinctively class-conscious language, and rationalising their actions as dupes of the British State, who did not understand the Republican cause. In a rare contemporary diary, Seosamh de Brún vented his frustration:

Are these the people we are trying to free? Are they worth fighting for? The dregs of the population. They don’t understand. Patience! They are the product of misrule. If fighting for them improves their condition that alone consoles. Maintenance money has changed them [2].

Recent work has taken a more nuanced approach to the Separation Women, attempting to understand their actions in the context of the precarious world of Dublins’s tenements. As Narianna Kretschmer has put it:

Ultimately, separation women’s reactions must be understood as the result of a complex, interwoven relationship between emotional, political, social and economic influences. No one facet alone can fully explain why separation women jeered at the defeated rebels and looted abandoned Dublin shops. However, when all factors are viewed together, a picture emerges of women who every day faced the threat of homeless and starvation, and who had absolutely no recourse through which to voice their complaints [3].

[1] Joe Duffy’s list of Children Killed in 1916 Rising [http://static.rasset.ie/documents/radio1/joe-duffys-list-of-children-killed-in-1916-rising.pdf].

[2]The diary of an Irish rebel fighting in the 1916 Rising [http://www.irishcentral.com/roots/history/The-diary-of-an-Irish-rebel-fighting-in-the-1916-Rising-PHOTOS.html]

[3] Narianna Kretschmer, ‘The Female Dregs of Dublin”: Political Repression, Socioeconomic Deprivation and the Separation Women of Easter 1916’, B. A. Thesis


Kelly’s Fort, Sackville Street

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View of O’Connell Street after the Rising. M. Kelly and Son fishing tackle and gunpowder store is shown on the left hand side of the quays. Image: NLI INDH 22b.

The archaeology 1916 is as much about repair and rebuilding as it is about damage and destruction. The material legacy of the Rising extends beyond bullet strikes and broken party walls to quietly restored facades and new buildings emerging from gutted ruins. Nowhere is this more evident that on O’Connell Street.

On Easter Wednesday morning, as the Helga glided up the Liffey, the first shells began to fall on the iconic street. Volunteer outposts were soon under sustained fire from British Army posts at Trinity and at Independent House, D’Olier Street. On Thursday, the Imperial Hotel was shelled, and fires broke out on the eastern side of the street; Hopkins, the Dublin Bread Company, and the rest of the block as far as Middle Abbey Street was set ablaze and the fire soon spread to Wynne’s Hotel and the Royal Hibernian Academy. Hoyte’s Drug Hall, near the Imperial Hotel on Lower O’Connell Street, ignited dramatically in a ball of flames; the highly flammable oils and chemical creating a deadly spectacle [5].

The western side of the street suffered less. The block between Middle Abbey Street and the Quays (Nos 45-56) remains largely intact, although a number of the buildings have been subsequently redeveloped. At the end of this row, overlooking the Liffey, is the site of Kelly’s Fort, No. 56 O’Connell Street Lower. Kelly’s was one of a pair of Volunteers outposts commanding O’Connell Bridge and the quays, the other being (the now destroyed) Hopkins and Hopkins Jewellers on the southeast corner of the street. The outposts faced College Green and TCD, the likely direction of a British offensive on the GPO garrison [1].

1905 O'Connell Street 1905 Library of Congress Detroit Photo Company

O’Connell [Sackville] Street c.1900. The site of Kelly’s Fort is shown on the left hand side of the photograph at the corner of O’Connell Street and Bachelor’s Walk. Image: Library of Congress.


The site of Kelly’s Fort marked on the 25-inch 1907 OS map.

Kelly’s Fort got its name from M. Kelly and Son fishing tackle and gunpowder office, the business based in the building in 1916. The building itself dates to between the 1790s-1810s, when much of Sackville Street lower was constructed [2]. During the Rising, Kelly’s Fort was occupied by Volunteers under the command of Captain Peadar Bracken from Kimmage.  At 12 noon on Easter Monday, Bracken and five men from the Kimmage Garrison occupied Kelly’s. Bracken recalled their actions in his BMH statement:

After I inspected the position, we barricaded the ground floor and occupied the first storey. From there I got each house linked up by boring through the walls (with crowbars got on the south side of the Bridge from a Corporation man), zigzagging in each room to save us from an enfilade tire if any house was occupied by the enemy (BMH WS361, 8).

Arthur Agnew, also in Kelly’s, recounted the same events:

We proceeded to barricade Kelly’s with furniture, sewing machines, etc. – in fact, anything we could lay our hands on. We bored into the next house, Chancellor’s the Photographers – and from there we kept boring until we finally arrived at Elvery’s (BMH WS152, 4).

Monday was quiet. The men busied themselves intercepting looters from the windows of Kelly’s and filling up vessels with water in case the water was cut off (WS361, 8). On Tuesday the outpost was reinforced by five men from the Fingal Battalion, and welcome supplies of grenades and ammunition came from the GPO (WS361, 8). Agnew remembered that ‘We got some sandwiches from the G.P.O. that day and in the evening some girls from the G.P.O. brought us more sandwiches and cakes’ (WS152, 4).Gunfire was exchanged with sniper at Trinity College, and the men continued the work of boring through the party walls of the houses, reaching Middle Abbey Street (WS361, 8).

Action intensified on Wednesday with the arrival of the British naval vessel, the Helga. Taking advantage of their clear view, Bracken and his men took shots at the Helga’s crew:

I opened fire on members of the crew who were exposing themselves on her decks, which had the effect of making them take cover. Later on, the Helga pulled in at the Custom House and some men dashed out of her for the building. They also came under my fire which scattered them (WS361, 9).

The Volunteers in Kelly’s noticed that the Independent House, in D’Olier Street, had been occupied by the military, and they began sniping at the soldiers. As Bracken recounted:

One [solider] exposed himself a little at a side door whom I pointed out to my comrades. I told them not to move a trigger until he came outside and to leave him to me. He came out on the path and I dropped him. Another showed up and I allowed him to pull in the casualty. In a few seconds he reached out with his rifle to fish in the one on the path. While doing so, he exposed his arm and side, and I let him have one which caused his cap to bound out to the street (BMH WS361, 9).

Kelly’s came under constant machine-gun fire from Independent house, and in the afternoon, a ‘big gun’ at TCD began to shell the position. The third storey of Kelly’s was hit by a shell, which as Bracken recalled ‘cleared our cook from the third storey and enveloped him in dust, but he was nothing the worse otherwise. Shells were bursting all round us’ (BMH WS361, 10).

Bracken sent a dispatch to the GPO to report the shelling of the building. The men were ordered to evacuate to the GPO, where they were able to rest and have something to eat. Later they were redeployed to the block of buildings between Middle Abbey Street and Princes Street. Bracken wanted to reoccupy Kelly’s, but was unable to because of the constant machine gun fire on Middle Abbey Street (BMH WS361, 9-10).

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Kelly’s Fort after the Rising showing the extensive damage done to the building (Image: Dublin after the Six Days’ Insurrection, 1916).


Advert from 1916 announcing the opening of Kapp and Peterson at Kelly’s Fort. Source: comeheretome.com

Photographs taken after the Rising show the extensive damage done to Kelly’s. All the windows were broken and the southern façade was punctured by shells and gunfire. Kelly’s made a substantial claim to the Property Losses (Ireland) Committee. They filed for 1051-9-2 for damage done to No. 56 and the adjacent property, No. 34 Bachelor’s Walk, which they also owned [6]. Included in their claim was the repair of the holes bored in the walls by the Volunteers on the second floor.


Kelly’s file from the Property Losses (Ireland) Committee (PLIC/1/4347).


Detail of the claim for repair of the hole bored by Volunteers through Kelly’s (PLIC/1/4347).

Shortly after the Rising, the lease on the building was acquired by Knapp and Peterson, pipe-makers, who set about renovating the property. In June 1916, the Irish Builder carried a notice for their intended works:

Dublin – Messrs. Kapp and Peterson Ltd., having acquired the premises No.56 Lower Sackville Street, otherwise known as “Kelly’s Fort,” intend to carry out alternations and repairs to put the premises in thorough order again. It is intended to clear away all the brick walls on the ground floor and carry the superstructure over the shop by steel joists and a steel column at the corner, the joists being supported by stanchions bedded on reinforced concrete. A handsome shop front and shop fixtures are to be installed by Mr. A. H. Bex, 19 South King St, which will include the formation of island show cases, polished granite bases to the shop windows etc.  The upper portion of the premises which was badly riddled by shell and rifle fire during the insurrection, is to be practically rebuilt, with new floors, partitions, etc., to make the rooms suitable for letting as offices. The building operations are to be carried out under the superintendence of Mr. G. P. Sheridan, architect, 1 Suffolk Street [4].

In 1918 a photograph of the renovated premises accompanied an article in the Freeman’s Journal on the rebuilding of O’Connell Street after the Rising. Today the façade of the building looks much as it did in 1916. The shop front erected by Kapp and Peterson in the aftermath of the Rising can still be seen complete with the company’s logo.

1918 Knapp & Peterson Freeman's Journal 6 June 1918

Kelly’s Fort in 1918 after the renovations by Kapp and Peterson Ltd. Image: The Freeman’s Journal, 6 June, 1918.

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Kapp and Peterson’s shop front today.


[1] Foy and Barton, The Easter Rising (The History Press, 1999), 175.

[2] Christine Casey, The Buildings of Ireland, Dublin (Yale University Press, 2005), 213.

[3] https://comeheretome.com/2012/10/15/kapp-and-peterson/

[4] The Irish Builder, No. 58, 24 June 1916, p. 284-287.

[5] Foy and Barton, The Easter Rising (The History Press, 1999), 189.

[6] National Archives of Ireland, PLIC/1/4347.

On the Barricades around North King Street

UCD collection

Postcard of soldiers posing at a barricade on Talbot Street (UCD Library).

In the aftermath of the Rising photographs played a key role in shaping memories of the event. In addition to press photography, postcards were a popular medium for the circulation of photographic images. Among the UCD Curran Collection is a suite of postcards published in 1916 shortly after the Rising. The images, focused tightly on the area around O’Connell Street, document the dramatic damage wrought on the iconic street. Prominent too are photographs of barricades. The images typically depict uniformed British soldiers posing with their weapons. The barricades themselves, thrown together from carts, drays and household furniture, capture something of the disruption of the episode. While the British Army barricades around O’Connell Street were committed to image, those in the lesser known battlefields are documented only in sources like the Witness Statements collected by the Bureau of Military History (BMH) in the late 1940s and ’50s.

Barricades were central to the strategy of the First Battalion of Volunteers in the North King Street area. The web of narrow streets and lanes extending north from the Four Courts was easily blockaded, and the industries and building yards dotting the area provided ample materials for the purpose. The First Battalion of Volunteers, under the command of Ned Daly, initially aimed to hold a line running from the Four Courts to Cabra, linking up with the 5th Battalion in North County Dublin and with the garrison in the GPO. (WS0201, 5, WS0162, 3). Their position also aimed to defend against attack from the Royal (Collins) and Marlborough (McKee) Barracks to the north and west (WS0162, 3).

On Monday the Volunteers set about securing the area, occupying and fortifying buildings and building barricades. They took over and barricaded key buildings including St. John’s convent, Fr Matthew Hall, Moore’s Coach Factory, Clarke’s Dairy, Reilly’s Public House, and the Four Courts. By Tuesday afternoon, they had built over 20 barricades in an area stretching from Church Street Bridge to Coleraine Street and from Smithfield to the Fruit Markets. They sealed off the ends of the main arteries of North Brunswick Street, North King Street and Church Street, and set up blockades at Mary’s Lane, Cuckoo Lane and Chancery Place, facing east towards the markets, and at May Lane and Hammond Lane facing west towards Smithfield.

The barricades were built with a variety of articles taken from adjoining houses, stores, yards, including barrels, boxes, carts, cabs, old furniture, planks, sacks filled with sand and rubble (WS0162, 3). On North Brunswick Street, Glynn’s and Cullen’s building yards were raided for cement, sandbags, and building materials (WS0313, 3). Further south on Church Street, rubble and old timber from ruined tenements and materials from an adjacent construction site were used to build ‘a massive brick barricade’ (WS0619, 6; WS1686, 16). The Volunteers even recruited men from the crowds queuing at Monk’s Bakery to carry materials from the building site to nearby barricades in exchange for bread (WS0314, 11).


These houses on Church Street, opposite Fr Matthew Hall, were under construction in 1916. Material from the building site was used to make barricades in the area.

North King Street Barricades

Map of the core area held by the First Battalion of Volunteers. The approximate locations of barricades are marked by diamonds.

Carts and cars were commandeered from all over the area, upturned and piled into makeshift defences. In May Lane, Liam Archer took carts from Jameson’s Distillery (WS0619, 6), and on North Brunswick Street, Moore’s Coach Factory was occupied and carts, traps, a motor bike, and household furniture were thrown into a barricade defending the junction of Church Street and North Brunswick Street (NI PLIC/1/3022). The ‘formidable’ barricade outside Reilly’s Fort was reported to be ‘at least 14 feet high’, (WS920, 16). On Church Street Bridge the barricade included a cab, a motor taxi, and barrels of porter commandeered from a local publican (WS0842, 8-9). This barricade was reinforced with stone setts dug up from Hammond Lane, bed-ends from the adjacent Starkey’s Foundry Yard, and the Volunteers spread broken glass bottles in front of the barricade to prevent enemy forces approaching on their hands and knees (WS0842, 11).

IT Townsend Street

Carts used in a barricade on Townsend Street (Image: Irish Times).

The tactics employed by the Volunteers were not mere improvisation. In 1915 Connolly had published articles on the tactics of urban warfare, gleaning lessons from the insurrection in Paris in 1848:

The insurrection of Paris in June, 1848, reveals how districts of towns, or villages, should be held. The streets were barricaded at tactical points not on the main streets but commanding them. The houses were broken through so that passages were made inside the houses along the whole length of the streets. The party walls were loopholed, as were also the front walls, the windows were blocked by sandbags, boxes filled with stones and dirt, bricks, chests, and other pieces of furniture with all sorts of odds and ends piled up against them (Workers’ Republic, 24 July 1915).

Volunteer Seán Cody reported that ‘lectures in street fighting and the construction of barricades and road blocks from all available materials were given to us at regular intervals by officers from Headquarters’ Staff, and all men were expected to acquaint themselves with the layout of streets, important buildings, entrances to factories, position of windows and any information which could be of use in the course of a Rising’ (WS1035, 4). Similarly, Volunteer Liam O’Carroll from Cabra recalled attending lectures by Connolly on urban house to house fighting and by MacDonagh on open air guerrilla fighting (WS314, 2-3).

During the Rising O’Carroll held the eastern end of North Brunswick Street facing Smithfield. In the week before the Rising he had walked the area with Ned Daly deliberating on the best position for barricades.

We proceeded into North Brunswick Street, through Red Cow Lane, to the vicinity of the Richmond Hospital … “Well, now”, he [Daly] said …  tell me exactly what preparations you would make for the purpose of defending the position against an attack by the military, approaching from Stoneybatter”. I went round and examined the area in the immediate vicinity; and I selected the spot immediately east of the old Richmond Hospital as the most suitable point to defend; I also found to the west of this point a carrier’s yard – Cullen’s, I think – in which there was an amount of timber and heavy lorries; I decided that this would be very suitable material for the erection of a barricade; I pointed out four or five houses on each side of the street, and opposite to one another, and. explained the loop-holing I would do, and the breaking-in from one house to another, and the provision of rear exits. Commandant Daly informed me then that he was very satisfied with the plan; and he then said: “You may be called on very shortly to carry out that plan” (WS0314, 6-7).

Both the Volunteer witness statements and the Property Losses Ireland Committee (PLIC) claims indicate that O’Carroll and his men carried out their plan. The PLIC was set up in the aftermath of the Rising to address the substantial damage to property that had occurred during the Rising. Businesses or individuals who had suffered losses could claim for compensation from the committee. The PLIC archive provides a fascinating insight into the material culture of Dublin households in 1916. They also aid in the mapping of the Rising, by noting which buildings were occupied by which parties, and what damage was done in the process. There was a cluster of claims for damage due to ‘rebel occupation’ around the junction of Redcow Lane and North Brunswick Street near O’Carroll’s barricades. Most of the occupied houses have since been demolished, but on the southern side of the street Nos 73-76 survive. The four properties are visible on the 1950 BMH Air Corps photo of the much changed junction.

PLIC distro copy

Distribution map of PLIC claims for North Kings Street, Church Street Upper, and North Brunswick Street. Background map is the 25-inch 1907 OS map.

Redcow Lane houses

Air Corps photograph of the junction of Redcow Lane and North Brunswick Street (c.1950). Surviving buildings are outlined in red.


Nos 75 and 74 North Brunswick Street. No. 75 (on the left) was the residence of Thomas Nolan who made a claim with the PLIC for damage caused by occupation of the property by the Volunteers.

The only valid PLIC claim for these properties was by one Thomas Nolan, who lived and ran a grocer shop out of No. 75 North Brunswick Street. On Monday afternoon he and his family were evacuated from their home by Volunteers who ‘said they wanted them for the Irish Republican Army’. Nolan and his family were given shelter by Dr Joseph O’Carroll in the Richmond Hospital on Monday, and they stayed with a friend for the rest of the week. When Nolan returned to his house on Wednesday at noon, he found ‘shop door & gates open and Volunteers gone, and my shop looted’. The house was searched by Crown forces on Sunday morning, and the family returned on Monday. After the Rising Nolan made a claim to the PLIC for damage to his home and for loss of stock by looting (PLIC/1/506).

Moore's Coach Factory

No. 3 North Brunswick Street was the residence attached to Moore’s Coach Factory. In inset images to the right of the picture show evidence for an earlier phase of brick suggesting that the facade is a rebuild.

The east side of North Brunswick Street was also heavily fortified. G Company took Moore’s Coach Factory (Nos 1 to 3) as their headquarters (WS1035, 9). Clarke’s Dairy on the diagonally opposite corner was also occupied. In addition, they took possession of a number of dwellings around the junction of North Brunswick Street and Upper Church Street.  Most of Moore’s Factory was demolished to build apartments, but No. 3, the late-eighteenth century dwelling that formed part of the property, survives. Mary J. Moore resident of the house in 1916 claimed £165 from the PLIC for extensive damage to the structure and its contents. According to Moore’s claim, the hall door was smashed in by rebels and the locks were blown off; holes were bored through the walls of the house and the factory; bricks were removed from the external sides of windows; window glass was smashed; and the internal walls were damaged by bullet holes (PLIC/1/2102). In addition, furniture from the house was hauled out of the house for use in barricades, and personal effects were broken or stolen. Moore included a matching gold bracelet, brooch and earrings, a mother of pearl beads and a while ostrich fan worth £1 in her PLIC claim. Little trace of the structural damage cited by Moore is apparent on the façade of No. 3 today. Traces of earlier brown brick are visible on both gables of the building, and it appears that the entire façade of the building may have been rebuilt after 1916.

Across the road, at No. 100, the humbler dwelling of Mrs Catherine Nolan, was also damaged by the Volunteers. Nolan reported that her house was ‘taken over by rebels’, and claimed for property ‘destroyed by them whilst in possession’. Among her itemised possessions were two mattresses, bed linen, 3 ½ dozen cigarettes, food, and a hand saw (PLIC/1/3810). Only the much-altered façade of No. 100 North Brunswick Street survives. The buildings either side, also occupied by the Volunteers, have since been demolished.


No. 100 North Brunswick Street.

Catherine Nolan’s PLIC claim makes no mention of damage to her home from wall boring, but we know from BMH witness statements that it was a tactic used in the vicinity. As the fighting escalated during Thursday, both Volunteers and British soldiers were forced to advance by boring through houses to avoid constant streams of gunfire in the narrow streets. As Reilly’s Fort came under increasing pressure, members of G Company commenced boring through houses at the corner of North Brunswick and Church Streets in a bid to reach the position. They took hammers, sledge hammers, chisels and saws from Moore’s Coach Factory (PLIC/1/3022) and broke holes through the party walls of a terrace of early eighteenth-century houses on the western side of Church Street. Seán Cody gave this account of events:

On Thursday the British advanced, from Bolton St. up North King St. firing from all directions, and severe fighting was taking place at the barricade near Reilly’s public house which held Lieutenant Shouldice’s men, and immediately north of this post we of “G” Company and others were burrowing our way through party walls of houses to come nearer to the junction of North King St. and Church St. We pushed out windows and under the shining example and command of Paddy Holohan kept up a terrific fire on the barricade through which the British were advancing … During the night of Thursday, I think, we were attacked as it seemed from an sides, and when dawn arrived we could hear the voices of British soldiers all down North King St. towards Bolton Street (WS1035, 13).

Gearoid Ua h-Uallacháin, a member of Fianna Eireann, also recounted a plan to reach Reilly’s Fort through the adjoining houses and to bomb out the soldiers with tin-can hand grenades. The men were carrying out this operation when news of the surrender reached them (WS328, 66). Although the southern corner of North Brunswick Street and Church Street Upper has been demolished, most of the building through which the Volunteers tunnelled survive. They are Nos 116-22 Upper Church Street, and No. 44 North King Street, the site of Reilly’s Fort.


Nos 116-22 Church Street Upper and No. 44 North King Street. The Volunteers bored through this terrace of houses to reach Reilly’s Fort at No. 44 (the taller building at the end of the terrace).


No. 44 North King Street, the site of Reilly’s Fort, now the Tap Bar.

Day 1 Fieldwork in the North King Street area


Archaeology and Built Heritage Team outside ABH HQ.  Alva MacGowan, Franc Myles and Eve Campbell (left to right) (Photo: Alva MacGowan).

“On Friday the 28th of April 1916, the 1st Battalion of the Irish Volunteers held North King Street, a congested area of the city, penetrated by infinite passages and alleys, more closely resembling a rabbit warren rather than a battlefield.” (1916 In Focus. Crossfire- The Battle for the Four Courts by Paul O’Brien)

This morning we walked around North King Street and the surrounding area consulting the 1912 25 inch Ordnance Survey map, contemporary images taken just after the Rising from the Bureau of Military History and the extensive collection of eye witness statements from the Military Archives, in an effort to re-imagine the urban landscape in this area in 1916.

Much has changed in this part of the city in the last 100 years – buildings have been demolished and replaced, streets widened and house numbers changed. However, we still managed to find some traces of scars from the Rising that survive in the buildings that have remained.


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Single surviving granite pillar on North Brunswick Street with possible bullet strikes.



Casualties were brought to the Richmond Hospital on North Brunswick Street throughout Easter week. Nearby is Saint John’s Convent that served as the headquarters of the 1st Battalion at the start of Easter Week.


Saint John’s Convent, North Brunswick Street

Frank Shouldice (1st Lieut. F/Coy. 1st Bn.) gave the following account to the Bureau of Military History:

Battalion Headquarters was at first situated at St. John’s Convent in Nth. Brunswick St. and later in the Four Courts Building. The latter was made H.Q. when it was considered no longer feasible to retire to the country via North County Dublin as was, I understood, originally intended (WS0162, p. 5)

The nuns also helped the Volunteers by providing them with food as Sean Cody (G Company, 1st Battalion) attested in his BMH statement:

During the week’s fighting there was little time available to prepare food due to our small numbers and the many posts to be manned both by night and day, and sincere appreciation was felt by all the Volunteers in the Church St. and North Brunswick St. area for the nuns of Saint Vincent de Paul at Saint John’s Convent who prepared food for as many men as could find time to eat it and this appreciation extends also to the Master of the North Dublin Workhouse who by night and day carried the food prepared by the nuns to the men on the barricades and in house positions (WS1035, p. 15).

At Coleraine Street, behind the Carmichael Centre we found the remains of the north wall of the Linen Hall Barracks.

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The Carmichael Centre. The stone wall between the centre and the house on the right of the image is from the Linen Hall Barracks.

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The north wall of the Linen Hall Barracks.

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Looking south down Beresford Street at the junction of Stirrup Lane.

There were barricades all over the North King Street area. This account by Frank Shouldice describes an incident that happened on a barricade on Beresford Street.

Saturday morning at dawn on our barricade facing Bolton Street. The attacking party numbering 12 or 15 meeting with a hot reception from this barricade rushed into Beresford. St. about 50 yards up Nth. King St. on our right from the crossing. This was a veritable death trap as there was another barricade unmanned about 10 or 15 yards in but covered by our men who were holding the partly built cottages backing on to Beresford St. and Stirrup Lane. This part Ct Beresford St. was also covered by our snipers in the Malthouse and between their fire and the fire of the men in the cottages the military party was practically wiped out. This was an opportunity to get some badly needed rifles and ammunition for our men which was promptly taken advantage of and about a dozen Lee Enfield Rifles and about a hundred rounds of ammunition fell into our hands. The most of the rifles were found to have been shattered by the Volunteers’ fire and were consequently useless. Frank Shouldice (WS0162, p. 7).

We finished up the day by looking at the Four Courts. A major problem with interpreting damage to the Four Courts is the fact that it was attacked in 1916 and again in 1922.

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Possible bullet strikes on the east face of the Four Courts.

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In this picture you can see the repairs to war damage made to the columns of the Four Courts.

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Bullet hole on a column at the Four Courts? How do live rounds behave when they strike Potland stone?

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The Medical Mission, Chancery Lane.

The Medical Mission on Chancery Lane, where survivors of the ill-fated British Army Lancer column took refuge after being attacked while escorting an ammunition train along the quays on horse back. These troops were used to fighting in open battle, the dynamics of urban conflict was completely different and unfortunately this was a lesson which cost them a number of casualties.

Despite the death of their commander, low ammunition and very few supplies, they took refuge here on Monday 24th of April and held out until they were picked up by an improvised armored car which had to be reversed right into the door way, as the building was located next to the Four Courts which were occupied by the Irish Volunteers.

All images by Alva MacGowan.

The Archaeology of 1916

Moore Street (Image: Franc Myles)

Previous fieldwork by ABH investigated Moore Street. This project aims to assess the other sites associated with the Rising.

The Archaeology of 1916 project kicks off on Tuesday where the project team will be snooping around the North King Street area. One of the principal objectives of the project is to see what survives in physical terms of the urban landscape of 1916. As archaeologists, we’ll be taking a different approach to that taken by historians, where the fabric of the city will constitute our primary source material. We’ll be updating this page on a daily basis as well as our facebook and twitter feeds.

Investigating Moore Street

Today, archaeologist Franc Myles from Archaeology & Built Heritage, led a group of students from UCD’s School of Archaeology, together they re-traced the movements of the Irish rebels retreat from the GPO during the Easter Rising in 1916. The aim of The Archaeology of 1916 Project is to search for the evidence for the Rising in the very fabric of the Dublin’s contemporary urban landscape, using maps, historical documents, witness statements and photographs as a starting point.


Archaeologist and Project Director, talking outside Dublin’s GPO.


The Spire now stands where Nelson’s Pillar once towered in 1916. The plinth of the pillar would’ve been 2 and a half times wider than the spire – when imagining the urban landscape of 1916, it is just as important to note what has changed and disappeared in the last 100 years as what still survives.


If you look closely at this painted sign on Moore Lane, behind Moore Street, you can see the letters “O’BRIENS” behind “Goodalls of…” this is really important as O’Brien’s Mineral Water Stables were mentioned in the witness statements taken from those who were associated with the retreat through Moore Street in 1916. It’s incredible that paint traces from over 100 years ago still survive today and contribute to such a significant event in Dublin’s history.


If you look closely at the right corner of the top corner brick of this wall on Moore Lane, you will see a chip and small bullet hole where a bullet ricocheted during the conflict in 1916, this physical evidence is the archaeology of 1916, which still surives in Dublin’s contemporary urban landscape – all you have to do is know where and what to look for… 


Nos 14-17 Moore Street which are a National Monument. This terrace of houses was used by the Irish Rebels who retreated from the GPO as an escape route to dodge the British Army who had already shot innocent civilians on this street. In order to pass through the buildings they burrowed large holes in the dividing walls, these holes since blocked up, are still evident today. At least 350 people passed through this route, including an injured James Connelly who was carried on a stretcher.


Project directors, Franc Myles and Prof. Aidan O’Sullivan, heading towards the Liffey, eyes freshly peeled after all that detective work…!

All images by Alva MacGowan.