Tag Archives: obelisk

A man who left a few marks

The 'royal feet' in Howth

The ‘royal feet’ in Howth

It is often the case during a presidential or royal visit for the person to leave a mark, be it by planting a tree or unveiling a plaque, but George IV took this to a new level when he came to Dublin. He arrived in Howth, according to contemporary reports, the worse for wear on 12th August 1821, his 59th birthday, having eaten too much goose pie and washing it down with plenty of Irish whiskey. He stumbled onto the quay and was assisted as a stonemason marked out his feet on the large granite block. Later, Robert Campbell cut out the exact marks, and you can still see the ‘royal feet’ at the end of the West Pier.

Sloping roof of the Round Room

Sloping roof of the Round Room

Large crowds turned out to see and cheer the King along his journey into the city centre, at the head of two hundred carriages. It was the most popular royal visit as he took great pleasure in meeting local dignitaries and entertaining them and making many drinking toasts. It was the biggest occasion Dublin had seen since the Act of Union in 1800 which closed the Irish Parliament, leading to an exodus of many politicians and wealthy businessmen and landowners. Ahead of the visit a request was sent from London for those who wished to see the King should be dressed in clothes made in Dublin. This was a boon to local tailors and milliners who were suddenly busier than they been in years. And due to the number of people who were invited to meet the King the Round Room was constructed as an adjunct to The Mansion House because there was no room in the city big enough to cater for the crowd that attended.

King's Bridge (Sean Heuston) today

King’s Bridge (Sean Heuston) today

Part of the reason for his popularity in Dublin was because he had previously married, illegally, Maria Fitzherbert, an Irishwoman and that he was close to the Dublin playwright Richard Brinsley Sheridan. Daniel O’Connell, who was pushing for Catholic Emancipation welcomed the King, and after the visit organised a campaign to raise funds for a memorial. The money was subsequently used to construct a bridge across the Liffey near the Phoenix Park that came to be known as King’s Bridge (Sean Heuston Bridge), as was the neighbourhood.

Dun Laoghaire obelisk

Dun Laoghaire obelisk

He stayed in the Vice Regal Lodge (Aras an Uachtarain) in the Phoenix Park from where he attended races at The Curragh, a show at the Theatre Royal (now Hawkins House) and visited his mistress Elizabeth, Marchioness Conyngham, at her home in Slane Castle. He left from Dun Laoghaire on 3rd September, and a memorial in the form of an obelisk was subsequently erected opposite the point of his ship’s departure. Not long afterwards the town changed its name to Kingstown in his honour, and this remained until 1920 when it was changed to Dun Laoghaire.

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The Obelisk, Stillorgan

Obelisk and its stairway to....

Obelisk and its stairway to….

In south Dublin, as far as obelisks are concerned, I was familiar with two of them: the wonderfully sighted one on top of Killiney Hill and the other on the seafront in Dun Laoghaire that commemorates the site from where King George IV left Ireland in 1821. However, until recently I had not seen the oldest of them all, and that is the Stillorgan Obelisk on Carysfort Avenue.

As part of the Summer of Heritage (run by Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council) it is open to visitors who can go on a free guided tour and enjoy a unique piece of history. The two guides, William & Eamon, who led us around were well-informed and happy to engage with our questions. It’s definitely a ‘must-see’ and, hopefully, you will have as bright and sunny day as I had.

The obelisk was built in 1727 on lands owned by Joshua Allen, 2nd Viscount Allen, that stretched north-to-south from Blackrock to Stillorgan and east-to-west from Newtownpark Avenue to Mount Merrion Avenue. He and his wife lived in Stillorgan House, a large country mansion that was demolished more than a century ago, and is roughly the site where the Stillorgan Park Hotel now stands.

Base Gates

Base Gates

Margaret, Lady Allen, hired the young but sought-after architect Edward Lovett Pearce to design the obelisk at the far corner of the property where it would offer fabulous, uninterrupted of Dublin Bay. Pearce had travelled in France and Northern Italy in the early 1720s and visited many great classical buildings and was most impressed by the work of Andrea Palladio who is widely considered the most influential person in the history of architecture. So, on his return to Dublin he adopted his style as was knighted in 1731 for his design and building of The Irish Parliament (now the Bank of Ireland) on College Green.

View from the top

View from the top

Lovett may well have referred to the restored Obelisk of (Emperor) Domitian that was used by Lorenzo Bernini in his River of Fountains work in Rome, as he had probably seen on his travels. The stone was brought from a quarry in Stepaside before being cut and set in place. The steps that circle the structure lead to an inner space with four windows that must have been a joy to sit and look out of. Up there was a popular spot for visitors that included politicians, merchants and men of learning like Jonathan Swift who liked to ‘take the air’.

It is still (just about) possible to see Howth on a clear day, and when it was finished the obelisk would have been one of the tallest buildings in the area. And, after almost three centuries of encroaching development and tree growth, it still stands tall and has a great story to tell. It’s no longer a hidden gem!

In all its glory!

In all its glory!

As part of dlr Summer of Heritage 2018 the obelisk will be open on Saturdays, between 1-5pm, until 1 September

 

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Killiney Hill – A view to thrill

So where would you find a pyramid in Dublin? It was a question that our teacher asked one day and none of us had an answer. After some serious head scratching from the class he told us but we had to see it to believe. That was a while ago, and the memory of my first sighting of the Pyramid, atop Killiney Hill, is a fond one.

The Pyramid

The Pyramid

Killiney Hill is one of two hills, the other being Dalkey Hill, that are within Killiney Hill Park which was opened to the public on 30th June 1887. A committee was set-up to raise the necessary funds to buy the land and open the place to the public as part of the celebrations for Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee (50th). With much hard word the asking price of £4,000 was collected by various events, raffles and public subscriptions and paid to the owner Robert Warren in late June. The land had always been a popular spot for picnics and walks, and the committee was mindful of Sir Charles Cameron’s (Dublin City Health Officer) comments that the benefits of ‘opening up new lungs in the city would be incalculable’.

The Mapas Obelisk

The Mapas Obelisk

Colonel John Mapas owned the land in 1740 and built Mapas House soon afterwards. After the particularly harsh winter of 1741-42 he arranged for workers to build an obelisk on top of the hill. This helped keep workers busy and for them to get some much-needed money. The men also erected the wall that still surrounds the park. (An older obelisk in Stillorgan was built in 1727 and, although different in style and setting, it is worth checking out.) The obelisk stands 173 metres (510 feet) above the sea, from where the viewer can enjoy a fantastic 360 degree panorama. On a clear day it is possible to look to the East and see the coast of Wales.

Out to sea

Out to sea

Just below the obelisk is the Pyramid, a set of steps erected by Robert Warren, where the viewer can sit, relax and take in the sweep of Dublin Bay with the beautiful Sorrento Terrace and Dalkey Island beyond. There is much to see from here, but the park is also popular with walkers and those interested in local flora and fauna.

View of Killiney Bay to Bray

View of Killiney Bay to Bray

 

As part of the dlr Summer of Heritage 2018 there are Free Guided Tours of the Obelisk and Hill Park on Thursdays from 1-5pm, until 30 August

 

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