For this episode of the Memory Lane series, we shall be traipsing along the main thoroughfare of the biggest urban park in Europe, Phoenix Park. Having just walked past the noisy hustle and bustle of the Criminal Courts of Justice on Parkgate Street, walking through the main gates of ‘The Phoeno’ it’s like stepping into another world, as a veritable oasis of calm awaits.
It is thanks to the 4th Earl of Chesterfield that we now have such a wonderful amenity to stroll around or play sports in. In fact, it is due to this former Lord Lieutenant, that Chesterfield Avenue got its name. Passing by the quaint cottage beside the entrance gates, one might choose to have a walk around the pond, feeding the ducks as they pass. Should you choose to go the other direction, one can instead marvel at one of the highlights of the Dublin skyline; the Wellington Monument.
The Wellington Monument
This is one of the most pivotal structures in Dublin, and can be seen for miles around. It was built to honour the military victories of Arthur Wellesley, who is more commonly known as The Duke of Wellington. Many people reading this will be surprised to learn that he was in fact born in the Irish Capital on May 1st 1769. It is the largest obelisk in Europe, measuring 205 meters, and would have been even bigger, but for the lack of funds to take it higher.
Construction started in 1817 and took 44 years before it was officially unveiled in June 1861. It was designed by one of the foremost architects in history, Sir Robert Smirke. The statue on top was made by Thomas Kirk who also designed the one on top of Nelson’s Column. Made using Irish limestone, it had originally been planned to locate the Obelisk in Merrion Square, as it is widely claimed that Wellesley was born in 25 Merrion Square (now part of the Merrion Hotel). It was erected by the great and good of the city to honour Wellington and his famous victory at the Battle of Waterloo. He moved to England at a very young age to attend Boarding School. However unlike say, U.S. President Joe Biden or actress Anne Hathaway, Wellington was anything but proud of his Irish roots; when once asked about being born in Dublin he is said to have replied “Just because you are born in a stable, does not make you a horse”.
Heading further up Chesterfield Avenue, taking a right turn and visiting Ye Olde English Tea Rooms is a must, especially if it’s lovely sunny day. Sitting at an outside table watching the world go by as you sample a scrumptious homemade cake and velvety hot chocolate, is a little bit of heaven found in Dublin 8. It is likely there will be a constant flow of families with very excited looking children passing you by, en-route to our next stop on this famous avenue – Dublin Zoo
“Oh thunder and lightning is no lark, when Dublin City is in the dark, so if you’ve any money gerr’up to The Park and view the Zoological Gardens”. So warbled the late great Ronnie Drew about this venerable Dublin institution and national treasure based in The Phoenix Park. Dublin Zoo
was first opened on a four acre site in 1831, and there was much excitement across the city when an elephant made its first debut after being gifted to Dublin from London Zoo in 1836.
Would you believe the thatched entrance to this famous attraction is nearly 200 years old having been built in 1833? It has grown bigger and bigger over the years and is now the third most visited tourist attraction in Ireland with over 1.25 million visitors a year behind The Cliffs of Moher and Guinness Storehouse.
For many a person born and reared on this Emerald Isle, one will often think about this venerable institution alongside another from our television screens. For it was here that Bosco, the loveable red haired puppet, Pat and Grainne would tell us in song that “We’re all going to the zoo tomorrow, and you can come along too”. He would then leave his cosy little box and the camera would cut to one of the many enclosures as Bosco said hello to the tigers, penguins and many other animals in segments of his very popular children’s show broadcast on RTE 2. If anyone had any doubts as to just how close the Irish population holds Dublin zoo to their hearts, they were quickly dispelled when a recent online fundraiser saw over €1 million donated within a matter of days by the public.
Civil Service Cricket Grounds
Walking further on up Chesterfield Avenue, one might wish to stop for an ice-cream at the van that is located near the main car park. As you queue you will notice the sporting structure across the road, officially known as “the Civil Service Cricket Grounds”. This Pavilion was first established in 1836, but due to the fact Civil Servants back then worked a half-day on Saturdays, matches were constantly delayed, or did not take place at all, owing to the lack of numbers turning up. The mix of nationalities who now play for the club is truly a testament to the wonderfully cosmopolitan nature that is Dublin in the 21st Century.
Phoenix Park Polo Grounds
Across the road, one will notice what is regarded as one of the more unique sporting arenas in the capital – the Phoenix Park Polo Grounds. Long being associated with the very rich and famous - not least the British Royal Family - the club, setup by a Mr. Horace Rochford in in 1873 holds the prestigious title of being the oldest club in Europe. Polo, which is regarded as the oldest team sport in existence, began life in Iran in around 6 BC, it later found its way to India and then Ireland and the UK, after British soldiers stationed in that country witnessed it being played. The club is still growing strong and with more Polo clubs having opened up across the country, the sport seems to be thriving like never before.
The Papal Cross
Continuing our walk up this prestigious thoroughfare, we have now alighted on the spot of undoubtedly the most famous event to have taken place within i’s 1,752 acres – the Papal Cross. For it was here on September 29th
1979, that the then head of the Catholic Church, Pope John Paul II, celebrated mass in front of a crowd that was reputed be over 1 million in size.
After soaking up the wonderful view of the city, one can witness while standing beside the cross, we now descend their steps to continue our sightseeing. In a short time we will have gone from a monument dedicated to the First Citizen of the Catholic Church, to a building that now houses the First Citizen of the Republic of Ireland.
Áras an Úachtarain
In 1751, the Chief Ranger of the park, Nathaniel Clements decided to build a lodge for himself on the site of an old house called Newtown Lodge. His main job was keeping an eye on the deer sanctuary established there by the Duke of Ormonde almost 100 years earlier. He was known as a man who saw himself as very important, and was proud of the fact he was overseer of 1,750 acres of pristine parkland, upon which masses of deer roamed. Between offices, storage rooms, reception rooms and private quarters, there are 92 doors in the Aras, this is why some mistakenly think there are 92 rooms in the famous building. At this time, the living quarters of the Viceroy to Ireland was in Dublin Castle. The Viceroy was the King/Queens Chief representative in Ireland, an area manager for the Island of Ireland to put it simply. The first ever appointee of that position was Hugh de Lacy Lord of Meath, who occupied the position for a year from 1172-1173 and from 1177-1184 (the final three years jointly run with Lord Salisbury).
In May 1882, a new Viceroy was appointed, but he was to remain in the position for a mere few hours following his arrival off the boat. When walking from an event in Dublin Castle back to his lodge, he was joined by Thomas Henry Burke. A short while later, they were accosted by a group of seven men who have become known as “The Invincibles”, who stabbed both men to death before fleeing the blood soaked scene. It was an event that sent shockwaves through the British Establishment.
The final person to hold the title of Viceroy to Ireland was Edmund Fitzalan-Howard who held the post from April 1921 to December 1922, whereupon the lodge was handed over to the control of Saortstat Eireann, The Irish Free State. From 1922 until 1938 ‘The Governors’ General of the Irish Free State’ resided in the park, with Tim Healy holding the office for six years, upon being replaced by James McNeill who was then replaced by Domhnall Ua Buachalla in 1932.
In 1938, Douglas Hyde became the first President of Ireland in the newly renamed Áras an Úachtarain (roughly translated as House of the Irish President) and was to occupy that position until 1945. In 1990, Mary Robinson was elected President and became one of the first female heads of state in the world, and as we know did a most remarkable job in her role as Uachtarán na hÉireann, for the seven years she occupied the role. The former Senator from Mayo was succeeded by first, Mary McAleese, then then current occupier of the role, Michael D. Higgins. Both also took on the role with great gusto and reverence and were/are praised by a great many citizens for their efforts.
To find more of the top heritage sites to visit in Ireland, please click here
The Phoenix Park Monument
We have now come to a roundabout which features what is known as “The Phoenix Park Monument”. This is a column that was carved from Portland stone and has a phoenix rising from the ashes at the top. It’s construction was ordered by the previously mentioned 4th Earl of Chesterfield, who wished to have something grand for visitors to witness as they travelled to the Viceregal Lodge.
Across the road, we can see another fine looking building with a stars and Stripes Flag fluttering in the wind; this is the official residence of the U.S. ambassador to Ireland. The building was built in 1776, by the then British government chief secretary to Ireland, John Blaquiere. When Ireland gained its independence in 1922, the British appointee left and it was 5 years later that Frederick A. Sterling arrived and took up his role as the U.S. Government’s Representative in Ireland. Edward F. Crawford recently ceased to be the U.S. Ambassador to Ireland on January 21st and it is up to President Biden to announce his successor.
Ordnance Survey Ireland
As we come towards the end of our journey, we will take one last wander off the Avenue, this time onto a road known as Ordnance Avenue, for it is here that a building that should be more famously known, is located. It is here you will find the Headquarters of Ordnance Survey Ireland
In 1824, the powers that be in London decided to undertake an Ordnance Survey – Detailed Mapping of the Island of Ireland – an exercise which changed the face of mapping across the world. The methods used are still very much in use today and ‘Ordnance Survey’ is the by word of the mapping agencies in countries from Canada to India and Australia. As Ireland continues to expand, the staff working inside the building are playing a key role in ensuring this expansion the future needs of the population.So the next time you check GeoFindIT and see a new suburb in Dublin or Donegal, you can thank OSI for the key role it has played in enabling you to easily get to your destination. Learn more about how we use OSI's cutting edge technology and geographical expertise in our data here
Planning a sunny staycation in Ireland this Summer? Or perhaps a new hike once restrictions lift? Be sure to download our free, award-winning location app GeoFindIT here
to help you explore more and get to your destination on time.
If you enjoyed this edition of the Memory Lane series, you may be enjoy our trip through O'Connell Street
With the longer days and brighter evenings heading into Summer, you may be interested in learning about the top locations to walk your dog in Ireland here.
The Irish Times
Posted: 02/05/2021 09:58:52