The Square On Dame Street



From top: The Dame Street/College Green plaza; The Proposed Plan for Bedford Square, as shown on Roque’s Map of Dublin (1757)

Further to news of a new plaza at the at the College Green end of Dame Street, Dublin 2…

Sibling of Daedalus writes:

This is not the first time a large civic area has been planned for that locale. Back in the 18th century the Wide Streets Commissioners had plans for a similar development at the other end of Dame Street, just in front of the entrance to Dublin Castle.

The proposed square, to be known as Bedford Square, was to consist of a large plaza with a statue of George I in the centre.

The motivation behind the plan was not to provide public amenity to the citizens of Dublin but rather to provide an excuse to clear out the existing disreputable houses in the area, home of many of the city’s brothels as well as the Eagle Tavern, in-town meeting place for members of the Hellfire Club.

The scheme for the new square was abandoned after it was decided that this aim could be better achieved by replacing the proposed plaza with a stock exchange, now City Hall, which stands approximately where the square would have been.

Bedford Square stands with the Eccles Street Circus (abandoned after the decapacitation of Luke Gardiner at the Battle of New Ross in 1798) and the Kennedy Memorial Hall as one of Dublin’s proposed developments what never were.

If the choice had been made to go ahead with the idea of a large civic plaza, Dublin might have developed into a very different, more continental city, with citizens congregating in the open air rather than indoors in pubs. Or perhaps not



Previously: Sibling of Daedalus on Broadsheet

Bedford Square map via archiseek

32 thoughts on “The Square On Dame Street

  1. Percival

    “a very different, more continental city, with citizens congregating in the open air rather than indoors in pubs. Or perhaps not…”

    Well probably not, considering our climate has a lot to do with that but the wealthy had their private squares closed off from the public.

    Merrion Square
    Mountjoy Square
    Fitzwilliam Square (still private)
    Dartmouth Square (still sort of private)
    Pearse Square
    St. Stephen’s Green
    Iveagh Gardens

  2. The Dude

    If I may add to Grosvener Square to Percival’s list as square that continues to be for private use only.

    Separately, just as a point of information, the Eagle Tavern relocated shortly after the plans for Bedford Square to Eustace Street, where the IFI is today located. It was there on November 9th 1791 that the United Irishmen was set up as then led by the earnest and munificent Archibald Hamilton Rowan – and which is commemorated by a plaque to this day… Remember, remember – the good ninth of November :-)

    1. Sibling of Daedalus

      @The Dude

      Thank you for the update on the Eagle, did not know that!

  3. aha Batman

    How about save your money on poo like this and build a proper transport system? Underground anyone?

    1. Boomskidaboom

      Amen to that. This will be a huge attraction for scrotes and their ilk when completed.

    2. LiamZero

      Yeah I’d say they could easily build six Metro lines with the money they would save by not doing this square.
      You’re talking poo indeed.

  4. Spaghetti Hoop

    Thanks Sib – you sent me on a complete tangent on George I and the entire interest the House of Hanover had / didn’t have in the Dublin Wide Streets Commission. Which we were so lucky to have as experimenters and urban planners.
    I can’t imagine this square like I can the proposed new one for Dame Street; maybe because of the incline. Plus in Georgian Dublin, the scroats and junkies were confined to back-streets for fear of arrest. Unlike today…..

    1. LiamZero

      I just don’t get why people are so one-dimensional in their thinking here that they assume public square = haven for “scrotes and junkies”.
      Are Stephen’s Green and Merrion Square overrun with these “scrotes and junkies”? Is Grafton Street? Sure, there are some beggars and junkies in those places but for the most part they function as excellent civic amenities with rare instances of trouble.
      The positives enormously outweigh any negatives. Dublin is a city choked by busy roads and to have a plaza like this, in one of the least pleasant parts of the city traffic-wise, would make such a massive difference to the enjoyment of the place for locals and tourists.
      It will work, if the authorities have the foresight and bravery to ignore the naysayers and just build this thing.

      1. Spaghetti Hoop

        Have you spent an hour or two at Wolfe Tone Park recently? Or indeed the public area between the Stag’s Head / Dame Tavern? ‘Story-Bud Tracksuit Junkies’ are hardly a good start for a civic space.

      2. Kieran Nice Young Chap


        A fierce urge to wee all over anything new, different or positive

      3. Brother Barnabas

        Barnardo Square (not that far away from this proposed plaza) has failed as a civic space precisely because of inevitability of nuisance / anti-social behaviour. And it replaced the former garden between City Hall and Palace Street, which was levelled because it had become a magnet for the same sort of thing. Why you think another civic space 3 minutes down the street will fare any better?

        1. LiamZero

          Barnardo Square (I didn’t know it had a name until now, so thanks for that!) has failed because it is badly designed and pointless. There’s barely any reason to stop or gather there and that Robocop building beside it looms over the whole space, blocking out light and creating a claustrophobic atmosphere, plus there’s a busy road running down one side of it. The reason a plaza three minutes down the road will work is because it is surrounded by some of the city’s most famous buildings and will attract tourists and locals alike, and will not be choked on all sides by buses and cars.
          Similarly, @SpahettiHoop, no I don’t spend time in Wolfe Tone Park because it’s also poorly designed and not exactly scenic. It’s also a bit of a neglected area, which Dame Street would not be. Don’t underestimate the power of tourists. They are a large part of the reason places like I mentioned earlier function as well as they do. What tourist would visit Wolfe Tone Park? Why would they want to?
          However, I have spent time in that Dame Lane area at weekends and I think it’s quite a nice place to gather when it’s not absolutely packed. But it’s not an equivalent, as it’s based around pubs, so it’s pretty much a giant smoking section.
          For places that do work better than WTP, look at say Temple Bar’s squares: they may not be to your liking but they do work as intended.
          I genuinely think College Green as a plaza is a positive and smart idea and I’d love to see it happen. But sadly I don’t really see it happening, or if it does it will be a watered-down and half-assed version of what they’re planning, which would be far more likely to be a disaster.

          1. Spaghetti Hoop

            I think the College Green plaza is a lovely idea too. I also like Wolfe Tone Square, which actually does attract tourists visiting the nearby leprechaun museum, and is vibrant when hosting events like the Chinese New Year. There are some great public open spaces in the city. The problem, my friend, is that the anti-social behaviour ruins them. Why do people tolerate it?

          2. Brother Barnabas

            Yes, fair enough on Barnardo Square.

            The other concern I’d have about the College Green Plaza idea is the effect it would have on the other end of Dame Street – the City Hall / Dublin Castle / Parliament Street / Cork Hill end. If I understand correctly, traffic will essentially either just do a U-turn back up towards Christchurch or turn onto George’s Street, which will essentially double the volume of traffic along this short-ish stretch. Even if the Plaza turns out 10 times better than anyone even hopes, the other end of the street will be destroyed. A good trade?

        1. Bertie "the inexplicable pleasure" Blenkinsop

          Sibling, you never fail to fascinate :)

    1. Spaghetti Hoop

      Well I’m glad his statue is there not here and I am less inspired about Charles I but moreso about John Beresford, our man on the (wide) street. He, Gandon, Johnston and all the lads did a great job with a blank canvas and it seems it was pretty much funded and unmonitored by the English Crown. Beautiful.

    2. Bertie "the inexplicable pleasure" Blenkinsop

      Do either of you two buffs know…
      my Da always told us the Custom Hall was built back to front –
      any truth in that or is it an urban myth?

      1. Spaghetti Hoop

        It was supposed to be built down river nearer the docks – to facilitate the emigrants and dockers in and out with ease and away from the posh gentry up at Merrion Square, who had an issue with the plans and the risk that its construction on that site would lower their property values….on top of all that wretched disease.

  5. Sibling of Daedalus

    Not an architect, Bertie, so mere speculation, but it was built with two entrances, one from the river side and one from the street side. The river side entrance is more elaborate and if you are looking at it from the street side it might indeed look like they got the main entrance in the wrong place until you consider its function as a customs house which would make it more appropriate to have the main entrance on the river side…

      1. Sibling of Daedalus


        *waits for someone to conclusively prove it WAS built back to front, whereupon will feel like right eejit*

        1. Brother Barnabas

          The cattle head carvings, which supposedly symbolised the dominant trade with Britain at the time, were originally only placed at the riverine entrance, but were later – by a few years –
          placed at the street entrance too. By logic, these carving and all the other ornamentation would/should have been at the street entrance (which would have been one used by dignitaries and officials), whereas the riverine entrance would have been used by merchants/captains etc (who weren’t such a big deal). I think that’s where the idea that the riverine facade was meant to be for Beresford Place comes from [or so my grandfather told me… he was an extraordinary spoofer though]

          1. Bertie "the inexplicable pleasure" Blenkinsop

            Good stuff.

            I enjoyed this thread, it’s like a lovely little haven away from all of the sniping and backbiting on the other threads :)

          2. Spaghetti Hoop

            Didn’t know about the cattle-head carvings, thanks for that.
            Did your grandfather speak like ould Mr. Brennan?

          3. Brother Barnabas

            Not at all. He wore leopard skin jodphur boots with a not-all-that-smallish heel, and was inclined to categorise everyone he met within around 30 seconds of meeting them – you were either a “geezer” or a “cnut”. Saw himself as a white Phil Lynott.

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