From A Topographical Dictionary of Ireland, 1837
EXTENT AND GENERAL DESCRIPTION OF THE CITY.
The city, which was originally confined to the summit of the hill, on the eastern brow of which the castle now stands, and whose circuit within the walls was little more than a mile round, and its suburbs confined to the few adjacent streets, now occupies a space covering 1264 acres, and is about nine miles in circumference. It is situated, at the western extremity of Dublin bay, and at the mouth of the Liffey, which passes nearly through the middle of it. The hill, which now forms the central part of the city, stands in the lowest part of the basin of the Liffey, which rises gradually on the southern side into the beautiful line of the Wicklow mountains, that skirt the boundary of the county, and still more gradually on the north and west till it loses itself in the extended plains of Fingal and Kildare.
It is somewhat more than three miles long in a direct line from east to west, and of nearly equal breadth from north to south, and contains upwards of 800 streets and 22,000 houses: the foot-paths are well flagged, and the carriage ways partly paved and partly Macadamised. The paving, lighting, and cleansing of the public avenues is regulated by an act passed in the 47th, and amended by one of the 54th, of George III., authorising the lord-lieutenant to appoint three commissioners, who are a corporation under the title of the "Commissioners for Paving, Cleansing, and Lighting the City of Dublin:" the total annual expenditure averages about £30,000. Several local acts have been passed for the supply of gas-light, and there are four companies,—the Dublin Gas Company, the Hibernian Gas-light Company, the Oil Gas Company, and the Alliance Company.
An ample supply of water is obtained by pipes laid down from reservoirs on both sides of the river to the houses and the public fountains, under a committee appointed in pursuance of acts passed in the 42nd and 49th of George III., the expense of which is defrayed by a rate called the pipe-water tax, producing about £14,000 annually. Three basins have been formed; one at the extremity of Basin-lane, in James-street, half a mile in circumference and surrounded by a broad gravel walk, formerly a favourite promenade; another at the upper end of Blessington-street, encompassed by a terrace, for the supply of the northern side of the city; and the third on the bank of the canal, near Portobello harbour, for the sup-ply of the south-eastern part.
Considerable improvements have been made by the Commissioners "for opening wide and convenient streets," appointed under an act of the 31st of George II., whose powers were subsequently extended by various successive acts till the 51st of George III. Their funds, till recently, were derived from a tonnage upon coal and a local rate, called " the wide street tax," the former of which ceased in 1832, and the funds arising from the latter amount to about £5500 per ann.
Among the chief improvements are the opening of a passage from the Castle to Essex bridge, an enlargement of the avenue from the same place to the Parliament House (now the Bank of Ireland), the opening of Westmoreland-street and Sackville-street, the clearing away the buildings that interfered with the free thoroughfare along the quays on both sides of the river, the entrance into the city by Great Brunswick-street, besides various improvements in the vicinity of the cathedrals of Christ-Church and St. Patrick. In short, the city may be said to have been new-moulded since the year 1760, through the instrumentality of this Board, as there is no portion of it which does not exhibit in a greater or smaller degree the results of its labours in improvements tending to augment its beauty or to add to its salubrity.
A circular road nearly nine miles in circuit, carried round the city, affords great facilities of communication throughout all the outlets, and also walks and drives of much beauty. Some portions of this road, however, particularly on the southern side, are already absorbed into the city by the continued extension of the streets; and most of the other parts, particularly on the eastern side, are likely, from the same cause, shortly to lose their distinguishing characteristic of an encircling avenue.
On the north side of this road is the Royal Canal, and on the south, the Grand Canal; both terminating in docks near the mouth of the Liffey: and beyond these are, on the north, a small river called the Tolka, formerly called Tulkan and Tolekan, which empties itself into the sea at Ballybough bridge; and on the south, the river Dodder, which, curving northward, terminates with the Liffey at the harbour, forming two striking natural boundaries towards which the city is gradually extending itself.
The city is now closely connected with the harbour of Kingstown by a railway formed under an act of parliament of the 1st and 2nd of William IV., which was opened in Dec. 1834. The number of passengers conveyed upon it during the months of May, June, July, and August, 1836, was 523,080: the greatest number conveyed in one day was 13,000.
In addition to the splendid line of communication afforded by the quays on both sides of the river, there are several noble avenues of fine streets, among which, that from the northern road is peculiarly striking, especially on entering Sackville-street, which is conspicuous for its great width, the magnificence and beauty of the public buildings which embellish it, and the lofty monument to Admiral Viscount Nelson, which stands in its centre. It consists of a fluted Doric column on a massive pedestal, inscribed on each side with the name and date of his lordship's principal victories, and over that which terminated his career is a sarcophagus: the whole is surmounted with a colossal statue of the Admiral, surrounded by a balustrade, to which there is an ascent by a spiral staircase in the interior. The structure was completed at an expense of nearly £7000.
On the southern side of the city, the avenue from Kingstown is equally imposing. Both meet in College-green, a spacious area surrounded with noble buildings, and having in its centre an equestrian statue of William. III., of cast metal, upon a pedestal of marble. Of the public squares, St. Stephens-green, situated in the south-eastern quarter, is the most spacious, being nearly a mile in circuit: in the centre is an equestrian statue of George II., finely executed in brass by Van Nost; Merrion-square, to the east of the former, is about three-quarters of a mile in circuit; on the west the lawn of the Royal Dublin Society. Fitzwilliam-square has been recently built and is much smaller than either of the others; the houses are built with much uniformity in a neat but unornamented style; some of them have basements of granite and the upper stories of brick.
Mountjoy-square, in an elevated and healthy situation in the north-eastern part of the city, is more than half a mile in circuit; the houses are uniformly built and present an appearance very similar to those in Fitzwilliam-square. Rutland-square is on the north side of the river, at the upper end of Sackville-street: three sides of it are formed by Granby-row, Palace-row, and Cavendish-row, the fourth by the Lying-in Hospital and the Rotundo.
The areas of the several squares are neatly laid out in gravel walks and planted with flowering shrubs and evergreens. A line drawn from the King's Inns, in the north of Dublin, through Capel-street, the Castle and Aungier-street, thus intersecting the Liffey at right angles, would, together with the line of that river, divide the city into four districts, strongly opposed to each other in character and appearance.
The south-eastern district, including St. Stephen's-green, Merrion-square, and Fitzwilliam-square, is chiefly inhabited by the nobility, the gentry, and the members of the liberal professions. The north-eastern district, including Mountjoy and Rutland-squares, is principally inhabited by the mercantile and official classes. The south-western district, including the liberties of St. Sepulchre and Thomas-court, and formerly the seat of the woollen and silk manufactures, is in a state of lamentable dilapidation, bordering on ruin: and the north-western district; in which are the Royal barracks and Smithfield (the great market for hay and cattle), presents striking indications of poverty.
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