Trinity College Dublin: A History

Dublin University, Trinity College was founded under charter signed on 3 March 1592. The first students, who arrived in 1594, were accommodated in an Elizabethan brick quadrangle which formed the nucleus of the College buildings well into the Georgian period. From the later 17th century the college was rebuilt on the scale of one of the smaller colleges at Oxford and Cambridge. The Rubrics is the only range of buildings of this period to survive. From the earliest period, the basic principle of the College architecture has been the construction of ranges of buildings grouped around courtyards and open spaces.

Records of early entrants only go back to 1637, as early admission books did not survive. It is known, however, that eighty-nine students were admitted in the first fifteen years of foundation and that the annual intake was about sixteen by the early 1620’s. The civil wars in the mid and late 17th century in Ireland marked the lowest point of the College’s history. No new entrants were recorded between 1645 and 1652.

The new age of the 18th century brought considerable progress to the College. A great building programme commenced with the Old Library in 1712 followed by the Printing House and Dining Hall which expressed the ordered vigour of the College’s life. In this period, the curriculum was informed by Enlightenment trends. Chairs in modern languages were founded and there were increased numbers of students, which rose from under 400 to over 600 during the course of the century.

During the 19th century the College responded to the momentous changes which were taking place in Ireland and abroad. Between 1830 and 1900 twenty new chairs were founded, and Trinity scholarship displayed to the full versatility, the industry and self-confidance of the Victorian age. Student numbers passed the 1000 mark in the early 1800’s and averaged 1300 in the latter half of the century.

In the 20th century and particularly in recent decades the growth in total student numbers has accelerated. In the past forty years, student numbers have increased from 3,109 in 1964 to 11,298 in 1994, while the range of courses offered and departments established has widened considerably. Over this same period, the composition of student numbers has changed, both across disciplines and across degree levels, with a very significant increase in the number of postgraduate students, from 357 in 1964 to 2,531 in 1994.

The Trinity College Site Planning Committee (SPC) noted that the sense of collegiality which permeates the College Green campus,  despite having a current student population of some 10,000, stems from the fact that the College was very small for a long period of time.  This sense is strongly reinforced by the College architecture, and the objective of any planning of buildings on the campus should be the combination of the sense of intimacy and grandeur which is achieved in the West End of the campus.

Posted by Reflecting City Team on Wednesday, September 17, 2008
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Georgian & Governmental Quarter

The area that runs eastward from Kildare Street to Merrion Square and southward from the perimeter of Trinity College to Stephen’s Green and Baggot Street is replete with buildings of historic and architectural significance. Many of these have been latterly adapted for cultural use whilst others house important governmental functions.

In 1745 the Earl of Kildare bought land in Molesworth fields to build a residence. Plots to either side were quickly bought up and the street, previously known as Coote Street, was renamed Kildare Street.  When the Earl was promoted to Duke of Leinster his house was renamed Leinster House.  It is said that the White House at Washington is largely a reproduction of its main features, though the American building has a semicircular colonnaded porch, which conceals the likeness. By the later part of the 18th Century Kildare Street was a fashionable residential street and by 1890 the National Library of Ireland, designed by Thomas Newenham had been built there.

The northern side of Merrion Square was begun in 1762. The lower stories of the houses are stone and the upper brick,  the style being that universally extolled as Georgian. The interiors were magnificent, with some fine plaster ceilings and marble fireplaces. At first the houses were occupied by Peers and Members of Parliament. After the Act of Union (1801), however, they tended to move elsewhere, and were succeeded by Judges and Doctors and these in turn by modern offices for bodies such as the RIAI, the Arts Council and the FAI.

The National Gallery, which faces onto Merrion Square, was founded in 1854. The original building was an exact elevational copy of the Natural History Museum by Frederick Clarendon across Leinster Lawn. After a falling out with the Board of Trustees,  the engineer turned architect Richard Griffith was replaced by Charles Lanyon who designed the magnificent interior staircase. Lanyon was then replaced by Francis Fowke whose galleries were so technologically advanced with regard to their lighting and ventilation that the NGI was one of the most advanced in Europe.

The foundation stones of the current Government Buildings,  further up on Merrion Street, were laid by Edward VII in 1904. It was originally constructed as a College of Sciences and the Georgian houses on the site were demolished in 1913. The building was finally completed in 1922 after the end of British rule. The architect was Sir Aston Webb.

Posted by Reflecting City Team on Wednesday, September 17, 2008
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Temple Bar: A History

The evidence from recent excavations of the area we now call ‘Temple bar’ suggests that it was first inhabited in the Viking-period during the 10th century if not even earlier. Much of this archaeological evidence relates to the western end of Temple bar, which lay within the boundaries of the old Viking town. The strategic importance of this town is reflected in the discovery of the remains of Isolde’s Tower on the 13th century Anglo-Norman city wall, also near the west end. To the east an Augustinian friary was established in 1257 at the north end of Temple Lane. From the Middle ages onwards Temple bar was an identifiable zone of land within the city.

Geographically the confluence of the now subterranean river Poddle with the river Liffey formed a barrier of mud flats between the western and eastern sides, whilst the Liffey itself to the north along with the dominant east-west axis of Dame Street forced the area into a roughly rectangular shape. In time the Poddle was contained and canalised and land was reclaimed from the rivers with mounds of dumped soil,  industrial ash and domestic waste.

The period between 1600-1720 became an era of great activity and development for the quarter when a new Custom House and quay were built along the river and Dame Street swelled with the mansions and gardens of aristocrats, stretching to the river. These landowners subdivided and leased their plots thereby sketching a blueprint of nascent streets. These plots were leased by a variety of people and organisations, ensuring a diversity of building and urban design.

When the east-west oriented Essex St and Essex Bridge, linking the north city, were laid down in the 1670s development further accelerated, to the extent that by the early 18th century the quarter could be justly considered the heart of the city. Further extensions of the quay walls were followed by the Wide Street Commissioners’ work in the 1840s. Yet, apart from the latter, the Victorian impact on the area was relatively minor as it was nearly completely built up by this stage.
The area remained important to the lifeblood of the city until the mid-20th century when businesses, shoppers and residents began to move elsewhere. From 1981 onwards CIE (the national transport company) began to purchase property to build a huge Transportation Centre. Over the years, while dealing with the planning process, it rented out its properties at low rents to artists, musicians, Co-ops ad other cultural bodies. This inevitably lent an alternative, bohemian atmosphere to the place and residents began to see a real value in their area.

They formed a committee known as the Temple Bar Development Council in 1988 to oppose CIE’s plans for the bus depot (the name ‘Temple Bar’ first appeared in a 1985 An Taisce `The Irish National Trust` report). They successfully lobbied Dublin Corporation and various government departments and in 1991 CIE sold its properties to Temple Bar Properties, a newly constituted development company established on the behalf of the Department of the Taoiseach (Prime Minister). The most remarkable project of urban renewal of the state’s history had begun.

Posted by Reflecting City Team on Wednesday, September 17, 2008
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