Tag Archives: Dublin Castle

Chester Beatty Library – A World of Colour

Chester Beatty

Chester Beatty

The Chester Beatty Library is one of Dublin’s most interesting places to visit and the only museum in Ireland to be awarded European  Museum of the Year (2002). The exquisite collections of prints, manuscripts, paintings and early printed books from Western Europe, through Egypt, the Middle East to China are exceptional. They offer an insight in the rich history of great cultures and religions over the past three millennia.

Alfred Chester Beatty was born on 7th February 1875 in New York City. He graduated as an engineer from Columbia University in 1898 and went west to work in the mining business in Denver. Two years later he moved to Cripple Creek, Colorado and made a fortune mining gold. He was a millionaire in his early thirties, and for health reasons moved to London and established a successful consultancy firm and was often called ‘The King of Copper’. An avid collector since he was a boy he travelled widely buying and amassing the fabulous collection that is now housed in the renovated Clock Tower Building in Dublin Castle. The museum opened on the 7th February 2000, the 125th anniversary of Beatty’s birth. He moved to Dublin in 1940 and was made a Freeman of the City in 1954, and granted Honorary Irish Citizenship in 1957. And he was accorded a state funeral when he died on 19th January 1968 – a very unique honour indeed for a private citizen.

Clock Tower Building

Clock Tower Building

The short video about Chester Beatty just inside the Library’s entrance is informative and well worth a view. In the bright Atrium you will find the Library gift shop and, with so much on show coming from the East, the busy Silk Road Café. And the Roof Garden is not to be missed.

It’s a great place for all ages, and the word that most comes to mind when I think about my visit is – colourful. Check it out.

CBL - Entrance

CBL – Entrance

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Dublin Castle – Centre of power

Record Tower

Record Tower

It has played a part in Irish life for centuries and Dublin Castle had its origins back in time of the Vikings. It was originally settled on the high ground close to the Poddle and Liffey rivers and provided excellent an defence. However, with the Norman invasion in 1169 the old structure was demolished and a more permanent building was erected. King Henry II implemented this phase, which was completed in 1230 and was the beginning of the ‘Castle’ as we know it today. The Poddle was diverted underground and its water used to fill the moat that surrounded the fortress. Typical of Norman design there was a tower at each corner and the Record Tower (1228) is the only surviving one.

Over time many other buildings were added, especially in the Georgian period. The Treasury Building in the lower yard, the first purpose built office space in Dublin, was completed in 1714. In the upper yard the Bedford Tower, named for the Duke of Bedford who was then Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, was constructed in the 1750s. And it was from here in July 1907 that one of the most infamous events in the Castle’s history took place when the Irish Crown Jewels were stolen on the eve of the visit of King Edward VII. They have never been recovered.

Bedford Tower

Bedford Tower

As the centre of British power it was often challenged with it coming under attack during Robert Emmet’s short-lived rising in 1803 and Easter 1916. British power ceased on the 16th January 1922 when Michael Collins took possession on behalf of the new Irish Free State.

Sandman Sam

Sandman Sam

An exhibition of sand statues is now held every August in the upper yard. It has become a favourite with locals and tourists alike, with different characters and themes being addressed. While taking a photograph of Samuel Beckett a man beside me commented that ‘Becket was not only a sound man, but now he was a sand man, too.’ The striking image of the ‘Feet of Sand’ seemed very appropriate in a place with such sensitive political overtones.

Feet of Sand

Feet of Sand

Also in the upper yard are the State Rooms which were originally constructed for the Lord Lieutenant’s personal accommodation and entertainment. Nowadays, these lavishly furnished rooms – St Patrick’s Hall, Throne Room, State Drawing Room and State Corridor – are used for Government engagements including the inauguration of Presidents and State visit ceremonies.

St Patrick's Hall

St Patrick’s Hall

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Rory O’More Bridge – One Bridge, Many Names

One of the most attractive Liffey bridges, the single span Rory O’More that connects Ellis Street from the north quays to Watling Street on the south quays, has had an interesting history.
A wooden bridge was erected on site in 1670 to the great displeasure of certain vested interests. They wanted people to continue using the ferries that crossed the river, thus maintaining their influence and income. After an attack by hired thugs in 1671 a fight on the bridge with soldiers led to four fatalities and the bridge was soon known as Bloody Bridge.
A new four-arch stone bridge replaced the old bridge around 1700 and this became known a Barrack Bridge as it was the main route for soldiers travelling from Dublin Castle to the new barracks on the north side of the Liffey (now Collins Barracks).
Construction of the current bridge began in 1858 and after many delays the work was completed under the guidance of John Killen in 1861 at a cost of £11,000 – much more expensive than originally estimated! After Queen Victoria and Prince Albert arrived in Dublin they made their way along the quays and crossed the new bridge on 30th August 1861. From then on the bridge was called The Victoria & Albert Bridge.
As part of the 100th anniversary of Catholic Emancipation in 1929 when Benediction was celebrated on the bridge it then became known as Emancipation Bridge.

True blue and elegant

True blue and elegant

Finally, in 1939 the bridge was renamed Rory O’More Bridge in honour of the leader of the failed rebellion in 1641. He and his men had planned to seize Dublin Castle on October 23rd, but a traitor revealed the plan to the authorities. O’More managed to escape capture and made his way up north to continue the fight. However, when Oliver Cromwell and his 10,000 troops arrived in 1649, the final traces of revolt were brutally swept away.

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Open House Weekend

Mansion House

Mansion House

In a few short years the Open House Weekend has become something of a favourite with Dubliners and tourists alike. The fact that we can gain access to buildings, houses and offices that are normally off-limits to the general public, is a great reason to get out and about and enjoy the ‘search.’ Everywhere I went people studied maps, pointed this way and that and happily queued, cameras at the ready to snap a piece of history. There was, inevitably, lots of talk and much advice on offer as to which places to visit.

I began my walkabout with a visit to the Mansion House. The guide, a councillor and former Lord Mayor, really knew the history of the building and made the whole experience memorable. It was built by Joshua Dawson (who built many of the buildings on Dawson Street) in 1705 as his city residence, but sold it to Dublin Corporation in 1715 for £3,500! The Oak Room is lined with the crests of all the previous Lord Mayors with Daniel O’Connell’s (1841) being the first. There are many beautiful paintings in the Drawing Room where Eamonn DeValera, Michael Collins and others sat at the long table and discussed, no doubt heatedly, the division of Ireland.

A brisk walk took me to Dublin Castle where the queue for the State Rooms stretched almost around the Upper Castle Yard, and I decided it was a good idea to use my time and go elsewhere. I had not planned to visit Dublin City Hall but I’m happy that I did. Having, like many others, passed by the old place countless times, I had never given it much thought and walked on. But not today, thankfully. Formerly the Royal Exchange, built between 1769 and 1779, it has been the centre of municipal government since 1852. The building has recently been renovated to its former glory and it was well worth the visit. The rotunda was wonderful, especially when the sun shone down onto the colourfully tiled floors. And the ‘Story of the Capital’ exhibition in the basement is informative and well presented.

City Hall

City Hall

After that I walked the few yards across the cobblestones to the Rates Office. It was designed by Thomas Ivory in 1781 for the Newcommen Bank. Built of Portland Stone, in the style of John Adams, it was altered in the 19th century due to the demands for local road improvement. The renovated stairs was impressive as were the two oval offices that look down on the entrance to Dublin Castle. Eamonn Ceannt, a signatory the Proclamation of the Irish Republic and a leader in the Easter Rising of 1916, worked in the City Treasurer’s Department from 1900 to 1916.

Afterwards I made my way along Dame Street, past Trinity College and the Bank of Ireland, and squeezed into the lift that took me and my fellow passengers to the top of Liberty Hall. This is the tallest viewing area in the city and has been off limits for years. Built in 1965, the view from the roof terrace of what was Ireland’s first skyscraper was a real thrill, and I took the rare opportunity to click away at the panorama on offer. The Liffey sparkled as it snaked its way eastwards to the sea under the new bridges that have added hugely to the architectural landscape. To the west, the city spread out towards the Dublin Mountains, and the backdrop of a blue sky and puffy, white clouds was something special. Open House Weekends are fun and, hopefully, here to stay.

Atop Liberty Hall

Liberty Hall – what a view!

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