Historical description of county Dublin, Ireland

DUBLIN (County of), a maritime county of the province of LEINSTER, bounded on the east by the Irish Sea, on the north and west by the county of Meath, on the west and south-west by that of Kildare, and on the south by that of Wicklow. It extends from 53° 10' to 53° 37' (N.lat.), and from 6° 4' to 6° 36' (W. lon.), and comprises an area, according to the Ordnance survey, of 240,204 statute acres, of which 229,292 acree are cultivated land, and the remainder unprofitable bog and mountain. The population, in 1821, exclusively of the metropolis, was 150,011, and in 1831, 183,042.

The earliest inhabitants of this tract of whom we have any authentic notice were a native people designated by Ptolemy Blanii or Eblani, who occupied also the territory forming the present county of Meath, and whose capital city was Eblana, presumed on good authority to have been on the site of the present city of Dublin. By some writers it is stated that in subsequent remote ages the part of the county lying south and east of the river Liffey formed part of the principality of Croigh Cuolan; while that to the north was included in the principality of Midhe, or Meath. The Eblani, whatever may have been their origin, probably enjoyed peaceable possession of the soil until the commencement of the Danish ravages, and the seizure and occupation of Dublin by these fierce invaders. At this era, the tract now described experienced its full share of calamities, until the celebrated battle of Clontarf, which terminated in the overthrow of the military power of the Ostmen in Ireland. But that this people had made extensive settlements within its limits, which they were subsequently allowed to retain as peaceable subjects of the native Irish rulers, is proved by the fact that, at the period of the English invasion, a considerable part of the county to the north of the Liffey was wholly in their possession, and from this circumstance was designated by the Irish Fingall, a name signifying either the "white foreigners" or "a progeny of foreigners" the word "fine" importing, in one sense, a tribe or family. The country to the south of Dublin is stated, but only on traditional authority, to have been called, at the same period, Dubhgall, denoting the territory of the "black foreigners," from its occupation by another body of Danes. Though all Fingall was granted by Hen. II. to Hugh de Lacy, Lord of Meath, yet the number of other proprietors, together with the circumstance of its being the centre of the English power in Ireland, prevented the county, which was one of those erected by King John in 1210, from being placed under palatine or other peculiar jurisdiction. It originally comprised the territories of the O'Birnes and O'Tooles in the south, which were separated from it and formed into the present county of Wicklow, so lately as the year 1603. At an early period, the jurisdiction of the sheriff of Dublin appears even to have extended in other directions far beyond Its present limits; for, by an ordinance of parliament, about the close of the 13th century, preserved in the Black Book of Christ-Church, Dublin, it was restricted from extending, as previously, into the counties of Meath and Kildare, and into some parts even of the province of Ulster.

It is in the diocese and province of Dublin, and, for purposes of civil jurisdiction, is divided into the baronies of Balrothery, Castleknock, Coolock, Nethercross, Newcastle, Half Rathdown, and Upper Cross, exclusively of those of St. Sepulchre and Donore, which form parts of the liberties of the county of the city, The irregularities of form in the baronies are very great: that of Newcastle is composed of two portions, that of Nethercross of six, and that of Uppercross of five, of which three constituting the parishes of Ballymore-Eustace, Ballybought, and Tipperkevin, on the confines of Wicklow and Kildare, are wholly detached from the rest of the county: the irregularities of the two latter baronies are owing to their constituent parts having been formerly dispersed church lands, enjoying separate jurisdictions and privileges, but ultimately formed into baronies for the convenience of the civil authority. The county contains the ancient disfranchised borough. and corporate towns of Swords and Newcastle; the sea-port, fishing, and post-towns of Howth, Kingstown, Balbriggan, and Malahide; the fishing-towns of Rush, Skerries, and Baldoyle; the inland post-towns of Cabinteely, Lucan, Rathcool, and Tallaght; the market-town of Ballymore-Eustace, and the town of Rathfarnham, each of which has a penny post to Dublin; besides numerous large villages, in some degree suburban to the metropolis, of which, exclusively of those of Sandymoont, Booterstown, Blackrock, Donnybrook (each of which has a penny post) , Dolphinsham, Irishtown, Rathmines, and Ringsend, which are in the county of the city, the principal are those of Finglu, Golden-Ball, Dalkey, Drumcondra, Stillorgan, Rabeny, Dundrum, Roundtown, Ranelagh, Artaine, Clontarf, Castleknock, Chapelizod, Glasnevin (each of which has a twopenny post to Dublin), Donabate, Portrane, Garristown, Belgriffin, St. Doulough's, Old Connaught, Killiney, Bullock, Lusk, Newcastle, Saggard, Balrothery, Little Bray, Clondalkin, Coolock, Crumlin, Golden-Bridge, Island-Bridge, Kilmainham, Milltown, Merrion, Phibsborough, Sandford, and Williamstown. Two knights of the shire are returned to the Imperial parliament, who are elected at the county court-house at Kilmainham: the number of electors registered under the 2d of Wm. IV., c. 88, up to Feb. 1st, 1837, is 2728, of which 788 were £50, 407 £20, and 622 £10, freeholders; 18 £50, 427 £20, and 423 £10, leaseholders; and 12 £50, 30 £20, and 1 £10, rent-chargers: the number that voted at the last general election was 1480. Prior to the Union, the boroughs of Swords and Newcastle sent each two members to the Irish House of Commons. A court of assize and general gaol delivery is held every lix weeks, at the court-house in Green-street, Dublin; and at Kilmainham, where the county gaol and court-house are situated, are held the quarter sessions, at which a chairman, who exercises the same powers as the assistant barrister in other counties, presides with the magistrates. The local government is vested in a lieutenant, 17 deputy-lieutenants, and 88 magistrates, with the usual county officers. The number of constabulary police stations is 30, and the force consists of 6 chief and 29 subordinate constables and 113 men, with 6 horses, the expense of maintaining which is defrayed equally by Grand Jury presentments and by Government. The Meath Hospital, which is also the County of Dublin Infirmary, is situated on the south side of the city, and is supported by Grand Jury presentments, subscriptions, and donations, and by an annual parliamentary grant; there are 25 dispensaries. The amount of Grand Jury presentments for the county. in 1835, was £23,458. 2. 7., of which £2188. 9. 10. was expended on the public roads of the county at large; £6904. 14. 0. on the public roads, being the baronial charge; £8365. 7. 0. for public establishments, officers' salaries, &c.; £3106. 8. 8. for police; and £2895 towards repayment of advances made by Government. In military arrangements, this county is the head of all the districts throughout Ireland. the department of the commander-in-chief and his staff being at Kilmainham; it contains six military stations, besides those within the jurisdiction of the metropolis, viz., the Richmond infantry barrack, near Golden-Bridge on the Grand Canal, Island-bridge artillery station, the Portobello cavalry barrack, the Phoenlx-park magazine and infantry barrack, and the recruiting depot on the Grand Canal, an of which are described in the account of the city, affording in the whole accommodation for 161 officers, 3282 men, and 772 horses; there are, besides, 26 martello towers and nine batteries on the coast, capable of containing 684 men; and at Kilmainham stands the Royal Military Hospital, for disabled and superannuated soldiers, similar to that of Chelsea, near London. There are eight coast-guard stations, one of which (Dalkey) is in the district of Kingstown, and the rest in that of Swords, with a force consisting of 8 officers and 64 men.

The county stretches in length from north to south, and presents a sea-coast of about thirty miles, while its breadth in some places does not exceed seven. Except in the picturesque irregularities of its coast, and the grand and beautiful boundary which the mountains on its southern confines form to the rich vale below, it possesses less natural diversity of scenery than many other parts of the island; but it is superior to all in artificial decoration; and the banks of the Liffey to Leixlip present scenery of the most rich and interesting character. The grandeur of the features of the surrounding country, indeed, give the environs of the metropolis a character as striking as those, perhaps, of any city in the west of Europe. The mountains which occupy the southern border of the county are the northern extremities of the great group forming the entire adjacent county of Wicklow: the principal summits within its coufines are the Three Rock Mountain and Garrycastle, at the eastern extremity of the chain, of which the former has an elevation of 1586 feet, and the latter of 1869; Montpelier hill; the group formed by Kippure, Seefinane, Seechon, and Seefin mountains, of which the first is 2527 feet high, and Seechon 2150; and the Tallaght and Rathcoole hills, which succeed each other north-westward from Seechon, and beyond the latter of which, in the same direction, is a lower range, composed of the Windmill, Athgoe, Lyons, and Rusty hills. From Rathcoole hill a long range diverges south-westward,. and enters the eastern confines of Kildare county, near Blessington. In the mountains adjoining Montpelier and Kilmashogue are bogs, covering three or four square miles; but the grandest features of these elevations are the great natural ravines that open into them southward, of which the most extraordinary is the Scalp, through which the road from Dublin to the romantic scenes of Powerscourt enters the county of Wicklow. From their summits are also obtained very magnificent views of the city and bay, and the fertile and highly improved plains of which nearly all the rest of the county is composed, and which form part of the great level tract that includes also the counties of Kildare and Meath. The coast from the boldly projecting promontory of Bray head, with its serrated summit, to the Killiney hills is indented into the beautiful bay of Killiney. Dalkey Island, separated from the abovenamed hills by a narrow channel, is the southern limit of Dublin bay, the most northern point of which is the Bailey of Howth, on which is a lighthouse. The coast of the bay, with the exception of these two extreme points, is low and shelving, but is backed by a beautiful and highly cultivated country terminating eastward with the city. Much of the interior of the bay consists of banks of sand uncovered at low water. About a mile to the north of Howth is Ireland's Eye, and still farther north, on the peninsula of Portrane, rises Lambay Island, both described under their own heads. Between Howth and Portrane the coast is flat, and partly marshy; but hence northward it presents a varied succession of rock and strand; off Holmpatrick lie the scattered rocky islets of St. Patrick, Count, Shenex, and Rockabill.

The soil is generally shallow, being chiefly indebted to the manures from the metropolis for its high state of improvement. It is commonly argillaceous, though almost every where containing an admixture of gravel, which may generally be found in abundance within a small depth of the surface, and by tillage is frequently turned up, to the great improvement of the land. The substratum is usually a cold retentive clay, which keeps the surface in an unprofitable state, unless draining and other methods of improvement have been adopted. Rather more than one-half of the improvable surface is under tillage, chiefly in the northern and western parts, most remote from the metropolis: in the districts to the south of the Liffey, and within a few miles from its northern bank, the land is chiefly occupied by villas, gardens, nurseries, dairy farms, and for the pasturage of horses. Considerable improvement has taken place in the system of agriculture by the more extensive introduction of green crops and improved drainage, and by the extension of tillage up the mountains. The pasture lands, in consequence of drainage and manure, produce a great variety of good uatural grasses, and commonly afford from four to five tons of hay per acre, and sometimes six, The salt marshes which occur along the coast from Howth northward are good, and the pastures near the sea side are of a tolerably fattening quality; but more inland they become poorer.

The only dairies are those for the supply of Dublin with milk and butter, which, however, are of great extent and number. The principal manures are lime and limestone gravel, of which the latter is a species of limestone and marl mixed, of a very fertilising quality, and found in inexhaustible quantities. Strong blue and brown marl are found in different parts, and there are likewise beds of white marl; the blue kind is preferred as producing a more durable elfect: manures from Dublin, coal ashes, and shelly sand found on the coast, are also used. The implements of husbandry are of the common kind, except on the farms of noblemen and gentlemen of fortune. The breed of cattle has been much improved by the introduction of the most valuable English breeds, which have nearly superseded the native stock. The county is not well wooded with the exception of plantations in the Phoenix Park and the private grounds of the gentry: there are various nurseries for the supply of plants. The waste lands occupy 10,912 statute acres: the largest tract is that of the mountains on the southern confines, extending about fifteen miles in length and several in breadth. The scarcity of fuel, which would otherwise press severely on the industrious classes, from the want of turf nearer home, which can be had only from the mountains in the south and the distant commons of Balrothery and Garristown on the north, is greatly diminished by the ample supplies brought by both canals and by the importation of English coal.

The county presents several interesting features in its geological relations. Its southern part from Blackrock, Kingstown, and Dalkey forms the northern extremity of the great granitic range which extends through Wicklow and part of Carlow. The granite tract is bordered by a range of incumbent mica slate, which extends eastwards from Shank ill and the Scalp to the hills of Killiney, and on the western side commences near Rathfarnham, passes to the south of Montpelier hill, and occupies the upper part of the hollow which separates Secfinane mountain, on the east, from Seechon on the west: in this holloware displayed some curious intermixtures of the strata of mica slate, granite, and quartz. In the descent from Seechon mountain, both south-westward and north-westward, towards Rathcool, the mica slate passes into clay slate, containing frequent beds of greenstone, greenstone slate, and greenstone porphyry, and occasionally likewise of quartz. The Tallaght hills consist of clay slate, greenstone, and greenstone porphyry, interstratified; the latter rocks more particularly abounding in the eastern quarter. Rathcoole hills, and the range extending from them southwestward, are composed of clay slate, clay slate conglomerate, and grauwacke slate, alternating with each other. The low group west of Rathcoole is composed of clay slate, grauwacke, grauwacke slate, and granite, of which the last is found remarkably disposed in subordinate beds in the prevailing grauwacke slate of Windmill hill, whence some of them may be traced westward to near Rusty hill. This county contains the only strata of transition rocks known to exist in the eastern part of Ireland. They appear in detached portions along the coast from Portrane Head, by Loughshinny, Skerries, lind Balbriggan to the Delvan stream, the northern limit of the county. The rest of the county, comprising nearly the whole of its plain surface, is based on floetz limestone, commonly of a blueish grey colour, often tinged with black, which colour in some places entirel, prevails, especially where the limestone is interstratified with slate clay, calp, or swinestone, or where it abounds in lydian stone. The black limestone in the latter case is a hard compact rock, often of a silicious nature, requiring much fuel for its conversion into lime. Calp, or "black quarry stone," which is generally of a blackish grey colour and dull fracture, and may be considered as an intimate mixture of limestone and slate clay, forms the common building stone of Dublin; it is quarried to a great extent at Crumlin and Rathgar. Besides carbonate of lime, it includes considerable quantities of silex and alumen, traces of the oxydes of iron and manganese, and a small proportion of carbon, which gives to it its durk colour: by exposure to the air it undergoes a gradual decomposition. The elevated peninsula of Howth consists of irregular alternations uf clay slate and quartz rock, both pure and intermixed, on its southern coast the strata present some extraordinary contortions. The only metallic ore at present found in considerable quantity is lead, once abundantly raised near the commons of Kilmainham, and at Killiney; a much more productive vein on Shankill is now being worked by the Mining Company of Ireland. White lead is found in small quantities; the ore is smelted and refined at Ballycorus, in the immediate vicinity of the mine: on Shankill is a tower for the manufacture of shot. At Loughshinny is a copper mine, and at Clontarf a lead mine, both now abandoned. On the south-western side of Howth, grey ore of manganese and brown iron-stone have been obtained in considerable quantities; and a variety of earthy black cobalt ore has been found there. Coal is supposed to exist near the northern side of the county, and unsuccessful trials have been made for it near Lucan. Among the smaller minerals may be enumerated schorl or tourmaline and garnet, frequently found in the granite; beryl, a variety of emerald, which occurs in several places; and spodumene, which is in great request from its containing eight per cent. of a newly discovered alkali, called lithia, is procured at Killiney, as is also a mineral closely resembling spodumene, designated killinite by Dr. Taylor, its discoverer, from its locality. The limestone strata usually abound with petrifactions, specimens of which, remarkable for their perfection and variety, may be obtained at St. Doulough's, and at Feltrim, about seven miles north-east of Dublin. The shores of the county, particularly from Loughlinstown to Bray, abound with pebbles of all colours, often beautifully variegated, which bear a polish, and are applied to a variety of ornamental uses.

The manufactures are various, but of inferior importance. The most extensive is that of woollen doth, carried on chiefly in the liberties and vicinity of Dublin. The manufacture of paper is carried on in different parts, more particularly at Rockbrook and Templeoge. There are also cotton-works, bleach and dye-works, and ironworks, besides minor establishments, all noticed in their respective localities. The banks of the numerous small streams by which the county is watered present divers advantageous sites for the erection of manufactories of every kind within a convenient distance of the metropolis. The great extent of sea-coast affords facilities for obtaining an abundant supply of fish. Nearly 90 wherries, of which the greater number belong to Skerries and Rush, and the others to Howth, Baldoyle, Malabide, Balbriggan; and Ringsend, are employed in this occupation: there are also about twenty smacks and five seine nets occupied in the salmon fishery between Dublin and Kingstown; the former, in the season, are likewise engaged in the herring fishery; and at Kingstown and Bullock are also a number of yawls, employed in catching whiting, pollock, and herring. On the river Liffey, from Island-Bridge to the light-house at Pool beg, there is a considerable salmon fishery. The harbours are mere fishing ports, except that of Dublin, and its dependencies Howth and Kingstown, upon the improvement of both of which vast sums have been expended, with but partial success.

The chief river is the Anna Liffey ("the water of Liffey"), which has its principal source at Sally gap, in the Wicklow mountains, and taking a circuit westward through Kildare county, enters that of Dublin near Leixlip, where it is joined by the Rye water from Kildare, and pursues a winding eastern course nearly across the middle of it, descending through a deep and rich glen by Lucan and Chapelizod: below the latter it flows through some pleasing scenes on the borders of Pheenix Park : at Island-Bridge it meets the tide, and a little below it enters the city, to the east of which it discharges its waters into the bay of Dublin. The river is navigable for vessels of 300 tons up to Carlisle bridge, the nearest to the sea; for small craft that can pass the arches, up to Island-Bridge, and for small boats beyond Chapelizod: so circuitous is its course, that although the distance from its source to its mouth, in a direct line, is only ten miles, yet, following its banks, it is no less than forty. Numerous streams, which supply water to many mills, descend into the Liffey: the principal are the Dodder, the Brittas or Cammock, and the Tolka , a stream called the Delvan forms the northern boundary of the county at Naul. The two great lines of inland navigation commence in Dublin city, but as they run in parallel directions within a few miles of each other during some parts of their course, the benefits anticipated from them have not been realised to tbe utmost extent. The Grand Canal was originally commenced in the year 1755, by the corporation for promoting inland navigation in Ireland: in 1772, a subscription was opened, and the subscribers were incorporated by the name of the Company of Undertakers of the Grand Canal, who, by the completion of this work, have connected the capital both with the Shannon and the Barrow. Its entire cost was £844,216, besides £122,148 expended on docks: one-third was defrayed by parliament. The Royal Canal, incorporated by a charter of Geo. III., in 1789, and afterwards aided by a grant of additional powers from the legislature, is navigable from Dublin to Longford and Tarmonbarry, near the head of the navigable course of the Shannon, an extent of 92 miles: its construction cost £776,213, which was wholly defrayed at the public expense. The roads and bridges are for the most part in excellent order, being frequently repaired at great expense. The Circular Road is a turnpike, nearly encompassing the metropolis, beyond which the Grand and Royal canals for a considerable distance run nearly parallel: from these limits of the city the great mailcoach roads branch in every direction, and all, excepting the south-east road through Wicklow to Wexford, are turnpikes.

Of the ancient round towers which form so remarkable a feature in the antiquities of Ireland, this county contains three, situated respectively at Lusk, Swords, and Clondalkin. There is a very fine cromlech at Glen Druid, near Cabinteely, and others at Killiney, Howth, Mount Venus (in the parish of Cruagh), Glen Southwell or the Little Dargle, and Larch hill, which last is within a circle of stones; and there are numerous raths or moats in various parts. The number of religious houses existing at various periods prior to the Reformation was 24, of which there are at present remains only of those of Larkfield and Monkstown; but there are several remains of ancient churches. Although always forming the centre of the English power in Ireland, the unsettled state of society caused the surface of the county, at an early period, to be studded with castles, of which the remains are still numerous; these, with the ancient castles yet inhabited, and the principal gentlemen's seats, are noticed in their respective parishes. Among the minor natural curiosities are some chalybeate springs, of which the best known are, one at Golden-Bridge, one in the Phoenix Park, and one at Lucan. Southwell's Glen, about four miles south of the metropolis, is worthy of notice as a remarkably deep dale, lined with lofty trees, and adorned by a waterfall. From the district of Fingal, which is the ancient name of a large tract of indefinite extent to the north of Dublin, the distinguished family of Plunkett derives the titles of Earl and Baron.

Transcribed from Samuel Lewis' A Topographical Dictionary of Ireland, 1840