All That Remains: 1916 and the South Dublin Union

‘All wars end; even this war will some day end, and the ruins will be rebuilt … and this frontier of trouble will be forgotten’ J. Masefield ‘The Old Front Line’

The main aim of the Archaeology of 1916 project is to re-visit those parts of the city that were affected by the Easter Rising, to re-assess their place in the contemporary urban landscape and also to seek out any traces of the conflict that may still exist. As our research is building momentum we are beginning to realise that the post-1916 repairs are just as important as the damage they are covering up.


Looking down the stairwell from the top landing in the former Nurses’ Home, SDU.

Hide and Seek

“The Volunteers were scattered all over the place. It was like hide and seek…many encounters took place at point blank range … fighting actually took place in the wards where nurses and patients had a trying time escaping from the conflict”.   (J.V. Joyce, An t-Óglách, IV, No. 22, 3, 1926).

On Easter Monday, 24th of April 1916 members of the 4th Battalion of Irish Volunteers under the command of Éamonn Ceannt took hold of the 53 acre South Dublin Union (SDU), today’s St. James’s Hospital, a garrison which was to become one of the focal points of the conflict that saw some of the bloodiest fighting.

For those who do not know their way around St James’s it appears to be a maze of various buildings, dead ends, endless corridors and homogeneous wards. Imagine what it was like in 1916, for the Irish Volunteer or British soldier, unable to gauge where the next sniper was firing from or who you might find around the corner? Descriptions in the witness statements given by the staff and Volunteers give some insight into the panic, terror and confusion that went on at the SDU over Easter Week 1916.

The very first building recorded on the site was a poor house which was constructed in 1667. After which a foundling hospital which was established in 1727.

In 1916, the Union was a place for Dublin’s destitute, infirm and mentally ill that housed 3,282 people including staff and patients. During its occupation on Easter Week eight volunteers were killed and a nurse, Margaret Keogh, was shot inadvertently by a British soldier. Despite the dangers, the hospital staff – distinguished by red cross arm bands, white coats and white flags – did their best to manage the patients and inmates, getting food supplies and even burying anyone who died that week including patients, soldiers and Volunteers, all of whom were exhumed and re-buried afterwards.

By Easter Tuesday, the occupation of the SDU was confined to two isolated positions, the Board Room which was located above an arch forming the main entrance on James’s Street and the Nurses’ Home which was inside the entrance to the right. This building became the headquarters for the garrison – both Ceannt and Cathal Brugha and their comrades were positioned here, while W.T. Cosgrave was in the Board Room. This section was demolished in the 1970s but had particularly advantageous vistas up and down James’s Street. After British soldiers infiltrated the SDU complex, they set up camp in the hospital wing and Dining Hall opposite the Nurses’ Home. This meant that Cosgrave and his men were cut off from the rest, his only option was to bore ‘mouse holes’ through the partition walls of the intervening rooms and buildings to gain access and maintain communications with the rest of the Volunteers.

SDU Map 1907

1907 Ordnance Survey, showing buildings occupied at the South Dublin Union in 1916


Nurse HomeRoques Map

1756, John Rocque, Workhouse Master’s House (later the Nurses’ Home)

Note the local alley names in Rocque’s Map – ‘Murdering Lane’ was later called ‘Cromwell’s Quarters’ and is now known as ‘Cromwell’s Steps’. In 1916 machine gun fire was directed against the northern elevation of the Nurses’ Home from a lodge opposite the eastern gate of the Royal Hospital. The long lane at the back of the Nurses’ Home was still called ‘Cut Throat Lane’ in 1916.


The Nurses’ Home today (Photo: Alva Mac Gowan)

The Nurses’ Home

” … a three-storey stone structure in a commanding position.”  BMH WS 0268, W.T. Cosgrave

The Nurses’ Home is the only fully intact building left on the site that was occupied by the Volunteers. Built around 1740 as the Workhouse Master’s residence. The building can be seen on Rocque’s map of 1756, it was connected to the Foundling Hospital which was located opposite and the line of one-storey buildings that still exist today and are attached to the southern wall of the Home were originally used as a linen factory, these buildings later served as accommodation for those working at the SDU.  In 1916  Laurence Tallon and his family lived in the adjacent quarters and passed food to the Volunteers over the back wall. Two days later, his house was occupied by British soldiers who broke a hole in the intervening wall to access the Nurses’ Home in an effort to take the position and force a surrender; their efforts were unsuccessful.

“The Nurses’ Home was in a deplorable condition, everything broken, all the plaster of the walls and ceilings, floors ripped up, electric light shattered, and generally the place was rendered unfit for occupation.” (J.V. Joyce, An t-Óglách, IV, No. 22, 3, 1926).

Unfortunately we have been unable to source any images of the building immediately after the Rising. Today, it would appear to have survived relatively unscathed, however the witness statements paint a very different picture. After a number of visits and detailed inspections it has become apparent that the building saw significant modifications to its fabric and structure as the physical evidence of 1916 was gradually erased, only to survive in the oral and historical record.

“…a sustained attack was made on the Nurses’ Home. During the engagement the plaster was shot off the walls and ceilings. Holes were breached in the walls from one room to the next to permit more freedom of movement when the attack increased in severity. Explosions went on repeatedly and every now and then a shower of bricks would fall from the Nurses’ Home.” BMH WS 0268, W.T. Cosgrave

Cosgrave’s description of the building is interesting as it may confirm the fact that the external walls were not rendered in 1916. Today its austere rubble calp limestone walls show little sign of the conflict. Dublin calp was cheap and not particularly durable. Workhouses tended to use inexpensive local stone so as not to draw attention to themselves, and decoration was kept to a minimum, including details like render or plaster. The only real decorative feature is the carved granite Gibbsian doorcase.


Evidence for cement and paint covering on the original granite door case of the Nurses’ Home. (Photo: Alva Mac Gowan)

On closer inspection the granite has been repaired with Roman cement and covered with multiple layers of paint (see above image), currently it is decorated with a splattered paint effect replicating granite. If the parts that are chipped away clearly show the base material is granite, could the layers of paint and touches of cement be an attempt to cover up the damage inflicted in 1916? The granite string coursing that runs below the ground floor windows is not painted and displays chipping to its underside. This may constitute evidence of a frontal attack. The key points in the building that would have been targeted  were the windows and doorcase. The only Volunteer fatality at the Nurses’ Home was Frank Burke, who was shot in the neck as he leaned across a window to light his cigarette from a comrade’s lit match. This window was above the main door, directly opposite the hospital wing that was occupied by the British soldiers.


Damage visible to the underside of the granite string coursing along the façade of the Nurses’ Home (Photo: Alva Mac Gowan).

The Volunteers were well aware that any openings weakened the buildings’ security and so anytime a building was taken over, the first task undertaken was to block barricade any embrasures. In 1916 a porch stood inside the hall door of the Nurses’ Home. This was quickly secured.


According to the witness statements a small barricade was positioned on the first landing of  the Nurses’ Home. There is evidence for the repair and replacement of a number of balustrades at this level (Photo: Alva Mac Gowan).


Top landing, note centre balustrade is different from the others. This could be due to ware and tear or was part of the renovations which took place immediately after its occupation. (Photo: Alva Mac Gowan).

The Condition of Nurses’ Home after the attack

” The severity of the fight may be gleaned from the damage done.
There was little or no plaster left on the walls of the rooms, furniture
was broken and it was only the strong granite stone walls that could
withstand the machine and rifle fire and several attempts were made

to undermine the building by boring. On Friday there was a lull in the operations.” BMH WS155, P.S. Doyle




Rear elevation of the Nurses’ Home showing structural arches and pilasters.

In his witness statement Liam O’Flaherty was positioned on the upper floors at the back of the house:

“The Nurses’ Home was under fire from the Old Men’s House (the Royal Hospital Kilmainham), during the whole week and the back windows on the stairs were cut away by bullets.” BMWS0248

In the photograph above of the rear elevation of the building we can see two of the five brick structural arches, the windows are surrounded with the same buff yellow brick and no trace of any machine gun rounds can be found on the upper storeys. This has led us to believe that the back of the Nurses’ Home could have been completely rebuilt – there can be no doubt the roof must have suffered enormous damage but would have been costly to replace. So an alternative would have been the insertion of these structural brick arches and the use of the same to reconstruct the windows indicated the work was carried out at the same time.


An extension is recorded in 1931 for “toilets” which may be the return extension we see today (see above image). Clad in concrete, this extension blocks any light that may enter the stairwell, except on the top floor. In Liam O’Flaherty’s witness statement he mentions ” … the back windows of the stairs …”. Could this confirm the whole rear elevation and extension was rebuilt after 1916? If the windows on the stairs were all ” … cut away by bullets …” then it is a logical place to position an extension – to the area most damaged that can be accessed by the stairwell.

James Coughlan’s witness statement confirms this:

“…  the staircase was particularly vulnerable, being exposed for most of its length to the view of very large windows.” BMH.WS0304

A photograph taken by the Air Corps in the 1940s shows this extension existed then, along with an early kitchen wing which was used during the building’s occupation in 1916 and demolished afterwards. We are hoping to get more information from the Insurance claims that were made by the South Dublin Union for the reconstruction and repairs of the building these will be released this Wednesday.

“After the volunteers vacated the South Dublin Union the gates were thrown open and crowds went in all through the Nurses’ Home looking for momentos; and a lot of articles were taken which were not momentos but were things belonging to the nurses. The nurses got compensation afterwards.” BMH WS 0297, Annie Mannion, Assistant Matron


The view of the Royal Hospital of Kilmainham from the rear of the Nurses´Home



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.

The Foresters’ Hall, Parnell Square West

The Archaeology of 1916 project aims to record what’s left in the contemporary urban landscape of the buildings and sites associated with the 1916 Rising. The task becomes all the more pressing 100 years on as we begin to realise how little is left of Dublin’s early twentieth-century streetscapes and vistas. One site that survived until relatively recently was the Foresters’ Hall, located at the back of 41 Parnell Square (then known as Rutland Square), a structure which itself was only built in 1912. Its history articulates something of the linkages between constitutional nationalism and the more militant tendencies in the run up to the Rebellion and indeed in the years immediately after.

Figure 2 copy

41 Rutland Square as depicted by the Ordnance Survey in 1907 prior to the hall’s construction.

Figure 4

The Forester’s [sic] Hall, Ordnance Survey, 1943.

The Irish National Foresters Benefit Society (Coillteoirí Náisiúnta na hÉireann) began in 1877 as a breakaway section of the Ancient Order of Foresters on foot of certain political disagreements. The movement ostensibly had its roots in late medieval English secret societies which would meet in forests to avoid the attentions of the magistrates. The leadership was afforded titles associated with forestry where the ‘Chief Ranger’ and ‘Assistant Chief Ranger’ held national executive positions, and local branches were run by ‘Woodwards’ and ‘Beadles’.

The organisation was supposedly non-sectarian and non-political, and there was no class distinction within the membership. It can nonetheless be considered an equivalent of the Orange Order, where at its root it was a mutual aid society, established to assist members in financial distress and dependants of deceased members. The membership would partake in public displays at such events as St. Patrick’s Day or on Easter marches, dressed in green regalia with local banners and bands. In later years, the uniform was dispensed with and green sashes, similar to those worn by the Orange Order, were worn instead.

The INF grew rapidly and soon became the largest friendly society in Ireland. It supported Irish nationalism and its constitution called for ‘government for Ireland by the Irish people in accordance with Irish ideas and Irish aspirations’ (Irish Independent, 25 May 1942, 3). By 1914 the order had spread worldwide and had a quarter of a million members in over 1,000 branches. It was particularly strong in Scotland and among the labouring diaspora in Australia and the US. With the establishment of the Free State and the gradual expansion of the social welfare system, the organisation went into decline although some branches still exist in Ulster and north Leinster.


Foresters returning from the funeral of those shot dead by British troops at Bachelors’ Walk, July 1914  (Hulton Getty Picture Collection).


The political circumstances of the popular rejection of Home Rule in Ulster led to the formation of the Ulster Volunteers as an openly armed organisation. This was seen as a useful model by the secret Irish Republican Brotherhood for the establishment of a similar popular body, and a committee began to meet regularly from July 1913 to monitor the situation in Ulster and to encourage the organic formation of a militant separatist force from within a more constitutional milieu. The IRB themselves could not openly take the initiative, where it was likely that any militant organisation would face immediate suppression by the state.

The IRB began the preparations for the open organisation of the Irish Volunteers in January 1913. James Stritch, a prominent member of the Brotherhood, appears to have persuaded the Foresters to build a hall at the back of 41 Parnell Square, which was also the headquarters of the Wolfe Tone Clubs. Anticipating the formal establishment of the Volunteers, classes were held in foot-drill and military movements. These were conducted by Stritch himself together with members of the republican scouting organisation Na Fianna Éireann. They began by drilling a small number of IRB members associated with the Dublin Gaelic Athletic Association, led by Harry Boland. The Volunteer organisation was publicly launched on 25 November, with their first public meeting and enrolment rally at the nearby Rotunda. This brought many more volunteers into the ranks and the Foresters’ Hall became one of the many such halls throughout the city where the organisation trained.


Volunteers undertaking musketry drill, though possibly not in the Foresters’ Hall (AP/RN).

The hall was designed by a notable architect William Alphonsus Scott (1871-1921), who apart from holding the new Chair in Architecture in the National University (succeeding Sir Thomas Drew who had died only two months after his own appointment), had also designed the Town Hall in Enniskillen (1897) and indeed had exhibited a design for the town’s Foresters’ Hall at the RHA in 1906. He was responsible for several ecclesiastical buildings in the dioceses of Kilmore, Raphoe and Clogher and despite a fondness for alcohol in his later years, he was possibly one of the best known architects in the country, with over 120 designs undertaken throughout the island (Larmour 2001).

Tenders for the new hall were invited in March and April 1911, to measure 97 x 30 ft., with a stage, store rooms, lavatories and a small assembly room (Irish Builder 52, 19 March 1910, 181 and 53, 1 April 1911, 210). The successful contractor was John Dillon of Drumcondra, who undertook to build the structure for £1,500 (Freeman’s Journal, 21 March 1911). It would appear to have opened its doors the following year where the nascent Volunteers were drilling there in January 1913.

The construction of the hall after 1912 fulfilled one of the organisation’s objectives to provide venues for Catholic social functions under the general banner of ‘Unity, Nationality and Benevolence’. In this regard, hiring the hall to the Irish Volunteers would have provided an income as much as they supported the organisation’s general principles. Where these were not as ostensibly subversive as those of the more advanced nationalist organisations, it is likely that many activists belonged to both groups.

The Witness Statements in the Bureau of Military History attest to the importance of 41 Rutland Square (prior to the construction of the hall), as the meeting place of the IRB Leinster Council. Recently released files from the National Archives demonstrate that the Dublin Metropolitan Police was well aware of the activities taking place in the hall in the months leading up to the Rising. The hall was placed under surveillance along with a number of key locations, including Thomas Clarke’s shop at 75 Parnell Street, the Irish Volunteers Office at 2 Dawson Street and the headquarters of the Gaelic League at 25 Parnell Square.


Handbill for a benefit concert in the Foresters’ Hall.

The hall seems to have been initially used by Na Fianna Éireann, where the father of a prominent activist Padraig Ó Riain was the caretaker (O’Connell 2012). For many Dublin Volunteers, an inkling of what was about to take place was given at a concert organised by Cumann na mBan on Palm Sunday 1916 (BMH WS0081, Bulmer Hobson) where several secondary accounts of the Rising mistakenly have the hall as the mustering point for Ned Daly’s 1st Battalion on Easter Monday.

The hall continued to have republican associations after the Rising and was used for a period during the War of Independence as a Sinn Féin court, established to supplant the administration of imperial justice imposed by the British:

In the calling of justices, plaintiffs, defendants, witnesses etc. we ran a very great risk of being captured. This was especially so in the case of defendants who were often hostile. However, we did succeed in carrying on and often when calling a sitting of the Court for 41 Parnell Square we transferred same to a few doors down at 46. All classes of offenders were brought before the Courts and dairymen who had put too much water in their milk before delivery to the people were fined substantial sums. The most notable and numerous cases were those in connection with “Process for Civil Bill”. Criminals were often apprehended and taught a salutary lesson. In many cases they were deported. During this period I maintained my membership of ‘A’ Coy 1st Battalion I.R.A., and naturally most of those actively engaged in Court work were members also. (BMH WS0619, Sean M. O’Duffy).

The hall was also the venue for several IRB Council meetings prior to the Civil War, where attempts were made to reach a political accommodation with those who would later take the republican side in the conflict.

The Foresters’ Hall’s associations with militant Republicanism perhaps overshadow its significance as a theatre venue and indeed as a meeting place for the Gaelic League. The first of March 1914 for example saw a production of Seumas O’Kelly’s Matchmakers by the Croke Club, which also undertook a production of Seamus O’Beirne’s An Doctuir (O’Ceallaigh Ritschel 2001, 92-3).

Long after the INF ceased to be a force to be reckoned with, the hall was a venue for ceilidhe and dances. The remains of a secondary suspended ceiling in front of the stage area attest to a modernisation of the venue, possibly undertaken in the 1950s. It’s interesting to contextualise its construction within the trajectory of public usage of the square’s former grand residences in the twentieth century. On Parnell Square (its official name after 1933) the Ierne and National Ballrooms vied with each other seven nights a week well into the 1970s. To these can be added the smaller halls such as the one under discussion, the Irish Club and indeed the Teachers’ Club (which still survives several doors up from No. 41).

The hall appears to have been derelict for at least fifteen years and was surveyed by the project prior to the removal of its exposed roof trusses which were endangering the party wall to a crèche in the adjoining property. It remains roofless, within the curtilage of a Protected Structure in private ownership.


The Foresters’ Hall from 41 Parnell Square.

Plate 1

Interior of the Foresters’ Hall prior to the removal of its roof structure.

Plate 11a

Detail of roof structure.

Plate 9

The stage.


Larmour, P. 2001. ‘‘The Drunken Man of Genius’: William A. Scott (1871-1921)’. In Irish Architectural Review, 3, 28-41.

O’Ceallaigh Ritschel, N. 2001. Productions of the Irish Theatre Movement, 1899-1916: A Checklist. Dublin.


In search of the Linen Hall Barracks

Archaeologists do love boundaries. From the circular crop mark of an enclosure, perceptible only from the air, to rivers and watercourses still extant, to parish boundaries fossilised in twentieth-century housing estates, boundaries are where things tended to happen and in many cases they are all that’s left of an archaeological monument in the contemporary landscape. This is true of the Linen Hall Barracks, the scene of the greatest destruction of the city’s built fabric wrought by the Volunteers, where the boundary survives in its northern wall with perhaps more significant fabric survival of the adjacent Yarn Hall evident the Dublin Institute of Technology’s School of Architecture off Henrietta Place.

As the name suggests, the three-acre site had a long history prior to its partial acquisition by the British army in the 1870s. The Irish linen industry had developed slowly throughout the seventeenth century, assisted to some extent by the tariffs imposed on the woollen trade and conversely by government attempts to foster the industry by importing high quality flax and foreign experts. The most significant of these was possibly Louis Crommelin, a Dutch merchant banker of Huguenot extraction who was invited to Ireland by William III and quickly established ‘A Society for the Improvement of the Linen Trade’ in 1698. In 1711 ‘A Board of Trustees of the Linen and Hempen Manufacturers of Ireland’ (or simply the Linen Board) was founded from the Society’s membership to encourage and extend the linen trade beyond the Ulster heartland. It consisted of eighty members (twenty for each of the four provinces) and it met on a weekly basis, generally in Dublin.

The Linen Board was responsible for encouraging and supervising the industry and was entrusted with the disposal of parliamentary grants, which varied from £10,000 to £33,000 a year. As the industry developed there was a perception that a centralised market was necessary. A Linen Hall was proposed in 1722 and several sites were considered in the city before an undeveloped site was chosen at the start of the ‘Great Northern Road’. The complex was designed by Thomas Burgh (with later additions by Thomas Cooley) and it opened for trade on 14 November 1728, just in time for an inaccurate impression of its façade to be included as an illustration on Charles Brooking’s map of the city.

The Linnen Hall Brooking

The Linnen Hall (Charles Brooking 1728).

John Rocque’s 1756 depiction of the city shows the building within a network of new streets named after the principal linen centres of the country. Its façade looked down Linen Hall Street and there was sufficient space to expand the complex to the northeast to accommodate a Yarn Hall and a Cotton Hall by 1784. The Linen Hall contained a large trading floor with 550 compartments or bays for the storage of linen. There was also a large boardroom for the use of the trustees and what was described as ‘a large and elegant coffee-room for the accommodation of factors and traders who daily crowd its courts’ (Warburton, Whitelaw and Walsh, 1818, History of the City of Dublin, 967).

Rocque 1756

Linen Hall (John Rocque, 1756).

With the opening of the Belfast Linen Hall in 1783, the Dublin industry went into terminal decline and the Linen Board was abolished in 1828, where the market function of the complex appears to have continued. During the 1870s the Linen Hall was used as a temporary barracks by the British Army and it was taken over by the Board of Works in 1878. On the 1907 25 inch mapping the site is annotated as the Linen Hall Bks (Disused) however in April 1916 it was at least partially occupied by the Army Pay Corps.


Ordnance Survey, Sheet 13, 5ft. to 1 mile (1847).

The Yarn and Cotton Halls appear to have been alienated from the main complex and at some stage prior to 1880 at least part of the complex was occupied by the well-known firm of Hugh, Moore and Alexanders Ltd. who had branched off from the linen trade to focus on the manufacture, sale and distribution of veterinary and pharmaceutical products. The ‘Hall’ from where the company operated featured in their advertisements for products such as Hall Health Salt (‘Cleanses the system and keeps the blood cool and pure’) and Hall Boot Polish (‘Creates a quicker, better and more lasting shine than any other’). On the evidence of contemporary newspaper advertising, Dubliners would have been familiar with ‘Dr. Kirn’s Phospho-Lactine’, which was particularly suitable for ‘children, fastidious persons, delicate women, and nervous men’. Developed by Dr. Leon Kirn of Paris, phospho-lactine was a ‘wonderful powder’ made from cod liver oil and albuminous sulphate of lime.

OS 1907

Ordnance Survey, 25 inch to 1 mile (1907).

Several of the witness statements recount setting the barracks on fire on the Wednesday of Easter Week. The operation commenced at midnight under the command of Captain Dinny O’Callaghan when an attempt was made with picks and crowbars to bore a hole in the western wall on Coleraine Street, close to the Lisburn Street corner,. Dynamite was stuffed in the hole but failed to detonate (Sean O’Duffy BMH WS303). Another attempt was made to set fire to an adjacent shop however according to one witness (Gearoid Ua h-Uallachain BMH WS328) the main gate was ‘hammered’ until it was opened by some of the soldiers inside. The unarmed garrison of 30 or so surrendered and were escorted to the Fr. Matthew Hall, where one account has them filling sandbags.

Oil and drums of tar were taken from Moore’s coachworks (Sean Cody BMH WS1035) where Ua h-Uallachain refers to ‘oils and paints we had brought from a druggist’s shop in North King Street’. They were ‘spilled the in a large room on the first floor, and then [we] piled up the bed-boards. We then lighted the fire. The fire spread with amazing rapidity and Dinny suggested it might be better if we opened the windows. I crossed the room to open the windows and I will never forget the heat. It took me all my time to get back, and the soles were burned off my boots in a few minutes. The fire continued throughout the day and Wednesday night, and we had to use hoses on it to keep it from burning the dwelling-houses in the vicinity’ (BMH WS328). This relates to the houses on the eastern side of Lurgan Street and indeed the fire spread to the east into the premises of Hugh, Moore and Alexanders, where there was also an oil store which ignited. The fire had the effect of illuminating the area to an extent that made it difficult for the Volunteers to move around at night without attracting sniper fire from the surrounding British positions.

The files of the Property Losses (Ireland) Committee suggest that the destruction of the barracks inconvenienced more organisations than the British Army. James Dillon, honorary secretary of the Irish National Foresters Brass and Reed Band claimed £9 11s 6d for the destruction of a clarinet, case and clothing, for which he was given £7 18s (NAI PLIC/1/6365). Another clarinettist, an Edward Fulker, then resident at Islandbridge Barracks but who was probably one of those captured by the Volunteers, claimed £7 for the destruction of another clarinet, music and clothing, a claim which was declined by the Committee (NAI PLIC/1/6236). The St. Patrick’s Ambulance Association in the personage of its secretary, Percy J Chillingworth claimed £14 4s for the loss of stretchers, first aid equipment and property, where £13 was recommended by Committee (NAI PLIC/1/4287). Other more commercial enterprises were also using the old Linen Hall. Victor Reginald Harold Jameson, acting on behalf of Kodak, claimed ‘£6 9s 9d for destruction by fire caused by insurgents of Kodak films, paintings and property at Linenhall Barracks’ and the Committee recommended a €5 payment (NAI PLIC/1/6114). A more complicated claim made by Richard Dickeson and Company Limited, the wholesale grocers, specified inter alia ‘destruction of buildings by fire’ at the barracks (NAI PLIC/1/4592).

The destruction wrought on the barracks is evident from the photographs taken immediately afterwards and serves to illustrate the effects of fire − as opposed to artillery − on the city’s built heritage during the conflict. Four of the photographs were taken by the antiquarian Thomas J. Westropp from Lisburn Street and the Lurgan Street entrance where another was taken from the yard to the east of the main barracks complex, looking to the northwest across the range of buildings designed by Cooley in 1784. These were occupied by Hugh, Moore and Alexanders in 1916 where the 1907 mapping appears to indicate a certain amount of pre-existing dereliction, with Cooley’s courtyard now covered over. The practice of Millar and Symes had been commissioned by the company to design repairs and alterations for what was referred to as the Linen Hall in 1904, which were possibly being undertaken by J. and P. Good as the map was being surveyed (Irish Architectural Archive, Dictionary of Irish Architects 1720-1940).


T.J. Westropp, view of the barracks from Lisburn Street, 1916.


T.J. Westropp, view of the barracks from Lurgan Street, 1916.


T.J. Westropp, view of the barracks from the corner of Lurgan Street and Lisburn Street (left), 1916.


T.J. Westropp, view of facade from Lisburn Street, 1916.

The afterlife of the Linen Hall Barracks throws some light on the early, post-independence attempts of Dublin Corporation to eradicate slum housing conditions in the city. Where other former army barracks (such as the Richmond Barracks in Inchicore, the Marshalsea Barracks off Thomas Street and Beggarsbush) were acquired for conversion into social housing, the remains of the Linen Hall were demolished and in September 1925 the 2¼ acre site was leased to the Corporation for 99 years for the erection of 70 temporary dwellings ‘for the poorer class of workers’ (Dublin Corporation Reports and Printed Documents (Housing Committee), 224/1925). It is not clear if the temporary dwellings were ever erected as the Linenhall Public Utility Society (PUS) applied for permission in 1926 to erect 63 four- and five-roomed houses on the site, having acquired it from the Corporation for an annual rent of £126 (R. McManus, 2002. Dublin 1910-1940. Shaping the City and the Suburbs, Dublin, 246).

Linenhall PUS plaque

The Linenhall Public Utility Society Ltd. 1926, date plaque, Linenhall Parade.

The PUS was founded in 1925 with the assistance of the Rev. David Henry Hall, a protestant cleric who had championed the formation of similar societies across the city. The 1925 Housing Act was instrumental in encouraging such schemes which were partially financed by private capital and partially by state assistance given at the same rate as grants to local authorities. In the case of the Linenhall PUS, two of the major local employers, Jameson & Sons and Maguire and Patterson, provided considerable support where a number of their employees would obviously benefit from proper housing. The Church Representative Body also invested £6000 in loan stock (McManus, 246). Collen Brothers were awarded the building contract at a cost of £30,500.

What survives today of the original complex? The northern boundary of Burgh’s Linen Hall survives in the plot boundary to the rear of Linenhall Terrace against the Dublin City Council Housing Services yard to the rear of Coleraine House. The wall is of calp limestone with frequent blocked openings with brick reveals which accommodated windows and a doorway. The wall returns to the north behind the houses on Linenhall Parade, before returning east again at the boundary to the King’s Inns.

Wall at DCC

Portion of the surviving northern wall of the Linen Hall on Coleraine Street.

The most significant survival in the area is perhaps the remains of Thomas Cooley’s Yarn Hall, which, although not part of the barracks in 1916 was gutted by the fire started by the Volunteers. The claim made by Hugh, Moore and Alexanders Ltd. was for £32,752 19s 4d, to cover the destruction of premises and property by fire at Linenhall, Henrietta Place and Bolton Street. A payment of £20,500 was recommended by Committee (NAI PLIC/1/3763).


‘Linenhall Barracks, Dublin, shelled’ (Keogh Photographic Collection, NLI).

Where the building appears to have been substantially gutted, the walls survived at ground floor level at least and the rusticated arcading survives to this day ubder a heavy render on the DIT School of Architecture. The arcade on the southern elevation makes a partial appearance on a photograph in the collection of the NLI, where the roofless remains of the eastern portion of the Linen Hall are evident in the background. The arcades have been filled in to create arched window opes which survive along the entire frontage on the elevation shown below and indeed in the northern elevation, where they are now within the extended building.

Yarnhall now

The Yarn Hall today, compared with NLI image above (Photo: Alva MacGowan).


Wider view of arcaded breakfront (Photo: Franc Myles).


Another look at the  Keogh Photographic Collection in the NLI has uncovered two more photographs of the Yarn Hall after the fire. The first shows a group of men standing on a pile of smoking rubble with what appears to be the cast iron skeleton of the roof structure placed over the courtyard and depicted on the 1907 mapping.


Untitled (Keogh Photographic Collection, NLI).

The second identifies the location as being ‘Hugh Moore’s premises’ and shows the same group of men, possibly in front of the arcaded northern elevation, now within the DIT School of Architecture. Captions such as this only encouraged the popular perception that the shelling of the city was more extensive than it actually was. The photographs do however demonstrate something of the destructive nature of fire. The project will be looking in some detail  at the insurance claims arising from the Linen Hall fire, which extended as far as the Bolton Street frontage where Nos 57-59 were completely rebuilt after the Rebellion.


‘Men standing outside the shelled remains of Hugh Moore’s premises’ (Keogh Photographic Collection, NLI).

Where was Clarke’s Dairy?

Clarke's Dairy 1

Clarke’s Dairy, looking east down North Brunswick Street, with New Lisburn Street extending beyond (Bureau of Military History).

Of all the battlefield sites of the rebellion, North King Street is perhaps the most difficult to interpret in the contemporary landscape. Air Corps photographs taken in 1950 depict an area completely alien to modern eyes, one which still retains many of the buildings evident on the Ordnance Survey 25 inch mapping undertaken in 1907. According to the Bureau of Military History (BMH) website, the photographs were annotated by Commandant R. Feely who fought in the area in 1916 and when taken along with the other images obtained by the Air Corps they provide a fascinating glimpse of a city which has virtually vanished in the intervening years.

Our task as archaeologists is to treat this area as an archaeological site and to collect the evidence as we would were we excavating trenches in the ground. This may appear an unusual endeavour; however the theory of using archaeological techniques in contemporary landscapes is one which has gained currency elsewhere and where traditional archaeological approaches usually involve the destruction of the evidence through excavation, our approach is to interpret what’s in front of us, to identify what survives today and hopefully to redefine ideas of what actually happened over the period of the Rising.

In addition to the photographs, the BMH has over 20 witness statements from participants and observers of the fighting in the area, which provide details of the location of barricades and premises occupied by the Volunteers from the Monday through to the eventual surrender of the final outpost the following Sunday. The witness statements were collected between 1947 and 1957, some thirty to forty years after the events took place, and a certain degree of imprecision is to be expected. Where historians treat these texts as (often contradictory) primary sources, the team initially interrogated the documents for references to the buildings occupied and attempted to annotate them on the 1907 mapping before examining the evidence in the field.

It’s striking that anyone under the age of 60 will have no memory of the general area around Church Street and North King Street as it would have appeared in 1916 and in this respect, this brings the area closer to a traditional archaeological site. Of all the sites to be covered in the project, this landscape is perhaps the most denuded in terms of its built heritage and historic vistas, where the widening of the principal road junction makes it very difficult to appreciate the intimacy of the fighting over the final hours as Reilly’s Fort was being attacked from the east.

Reading through the witness statements certain buildings achieve a deserved prominence and in the case of one building in particular, something of the difficulty in reimagining the landscape with the historical sources can be appreciated. Clarke’s Dairy is annotated on all the maps of the fighting as being located on the southwestern corner of Church Street and North Brunswick Street. More recently published accounts of the Rising persist in locating the dairy to the west of Church Street and the secondary accounts of what took place here are obviously influenced by this perception of its location.

The witness statements are admittedly ambiguous as to the exact location of the dairy, where its strategic significance is accepted in all primary accounts. The witness statement of Captain Nicholas Laffan (BMH WS201) for example states that he established his HQ in Moore’s (coachbuilders) Factory, which occupied the northwestern corner of the junction, and that he also occupied Clarke’s Dairy ‘diagonally opposite’. Eamon Morkan’s witness statement (BMH WS411) agrees with Laffan and states that ‘we manned a house, Clarke’s, at the junction of Church Street and New Lisburn Street’.

The positions on North Brunswick Street have an added significance in the narrative of the Rising, being the last to surrender on the Sunday morning. The British, having taken Reilly’s Fort the previous day, had effectively cut off communications with the new HQ established in the Four Courts and the surrender of Clarke’s Dairy was negotiated by Paddy Holahan, who had taken over the position after Laffan was wounded.

An examination of the 1915 edition of Thom’s Directory does not list Clarke’s Dairy and indicates that the southeastern corner of New Lisburn Street and Church Street was occupied by Monk’s Bakery, where several of the witness statements state that Monk’s was on the northeastern corner of Church Street and North King Street. The files of the Property Losses (Ireland) Committee were also examined and they indicate that Thomas Clarke of 80 Church Street Upper claimed for £53 for damage to stock and furniture, where he was eventually granted £20 (NAI PLIC/1/3575).

Clarke's Dairy OS copy

Ordnance Survey 25 inch mapping c. 1907. Clarke’s Dairy at 80 Church Street Upper outlined.

The four Air Corps photographs taken of the building known as Clarke’s Dairy in 1950 undoubtedly depict the structure identified by Laffan and Morkan. The building has long been demolished and its foundations, which presumably survive underneath the carriageway on Church Street, have now become an archaeological site in their own right. When the photographs are examined with the 1907 mapping, the strategic importance of the building becomes obvious. The three windows in its north-facing elevation provided an excellent field of fire against any British advance being made down Constitution Hill from their position at Broadstone, where the angle of fire from the windows in the west-facing façade dominated any attempted advance from the west along North Brunswick Street. The witness statements also specify that ‘loopholes’ were broken through on the north- and south-facing elevations, which explains how fire could be directed on Reilly’s Fort after its capture by the British.

Moore's Coach House then and now

North Brunswick Street c. 1950 (left) with Clarke’s Dairy to centre and the scene today (Alva Mac Gowan).

Clarke's Dairy then and now

North-facing elevation of Clarke’s Dairy c. 1950 (left) and the same vista today (Alva Mac Gowan).

How is it possible that a site of such significance continues to be incorrectly mapped? The landscape of the Rising was certainly extant when the witness statements were being collected in the 1950s. As late as 1964 local TD Richard Gogan asked a parliamentary question regarding the clearance ‘of that part of the scheme consisting of Lisburn Street, Coleraine Street and Upper Church Street, which consists mainly of derelict houses’ (Dáil Éireann Debates, Vol. 181 No. 1). The road widening eventually came to pass by the end of the ‘60s, resulting in the construction of Kevin Barry House and urban landscape we see today.


Moore Brothers coach factory (right) on the corner of Church Street and North Brunswick Street with the gable of Clarke’s Dairy (left). Photograph looking west from New Lisburn Street (An tÓglách, May 15, 1926).

The first account of the fighting in the North King Street area was published as three instalments in the journal of the National Army, An tÓglágh in May 1926. It was written by John J. Reynolds, Curator of the Municipal Art Gallery ‘from statements made to the writer shortly after 1916, by actual participants in the fighting’. Reynolds refers to the occupation of ‘Moore’s Coach Factory, a long low building at the comer of North Brunswick Street’ and states that ‘at Monks’ Bakery the high three storey house, Clarke’s Dairy, opposite the coach factory was taken’. Where Laffan thirty years later specified that the buildings were diagonally opposite one another, the map published in the third instalment of Reynolds’ account places Clarke’s Dairy directly opposite Moore’s on the southern side of North Brunswick Street. All of the maps of the battlefield published since have perpetuated this mistake where the accompanying narratives have followed suit.

Our investigations of this landscape continue. Over the next few posts we’ll be looking at what remains of the Linenhall Barracks, what the files of the Property Losses (Ireland) Committee can tell us about the location of Volunteer positions and the conflicting evidence for the conflict around the Four Courts.

1st Battalion area of operations, Easter 1916

‘Map of Four Courts and North King Street Area’, An tÓglách, May 29, 1926. Note 20, the location of Clarke’s Dairy.

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.


Tues 29 IMG 2

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.

Tues 29 IMG 11

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

Tues 29 IMG 12

The north wall of the Linen Hall Barracks.

Tue 29 IMG 19

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.

Tues 29 IMG 15

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

Tues 29 IMG 16

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?

Tues 29 IMG 14.jpg

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.