The Royal Hospital, Kilmainham

J. Stirling Coyne & N. P. Willis
c. 1841
Volume I, Chapter VI-2 | Start of chapter

The vice-regal lodge, an unostentatious but tasteful building, is situated near the principal road through the park. At a short distance from the lodge, in the centre of a small area, stands a fluted Corinthian pillar, thirty feet in height, surmounted by a phoenix, forming a picturesque object when viewed through the leafy avenues which conduct to it. It was erected by the celebrated Earl of Chesterfield, who was governor of Ireland in 1745. The Royal Infirmary, or hospital for the soldiers of the garrison, which occupies a pleasant and healthful site near the grand entrance of the Park, and the Hibernian School, for the maintenance and education of soldiers' orphans, situated in the south-west angle of this spacious demesne, are both deserving the attention of strangers; nor should the Royal Hospital of Kilmainham be passed unnoticed, whose tall chimneys and formal spire may be seen on the opposite side of the Liffey, emerging from the thick foliage of the lofty elm-trees which surround it.[28] This is the Military Asylum for invalid soldiers and officers, where about two hundred deserving veterans, selected from the out-pensioners of Ireland, are supplied with every necessary and convenience, similar to that afforded at Chelsea Hospital, near London.

The dining-hall of the hospital, where, amongst other portraits, are those of Charles II., William and Mary, Queen Anne, and Prince George of Denmark, is an object of curiosity to visitors; also the ceiling and altar-screen of the chapel, the former being enriched with elaborate and beautiful ornaments in stucco, and the latter exhibiting an exquisite specimen of carving in oak, said to have been executed by the celebrated Gibbons. But, certainly, the most interesting and amusing spot within the limits of the Phoenix Park is the Zoological Gardens,[29] charmingly situated on a plot of ground sloping to the margin of a small lake. The natural beauties of this place, heightened and embellished as it is by the hand of art, have rendered it a fashionable promenade for the inhabitants of Dublin during the summer season. The animals, though not so numerous as in the gardens of the London Zoological Society, have been selected with great care; and it has been asserted that "there is no collection in Europe in which the animals are generally in such fine condition, or in which the proportion of deaths is so small."

The only thoroughfare between Dublin and the Park was formerly through Barrack Street, a disreputable outlet in the immediate vicinity of the Royal Barracks, where scenes of debauchery and drunkenness too frequently met the eyes and shocked the feelings of the respectable portion of the community. This nuisance has, however, been obviated by the erection of the beautiful metal bridge which crosses the Liffey, near the entrance of the park, and which has been named King's Bridge, to commemorate the visit of George IV. to Ireland, in 1821.[30]


[28] The first stone of this excellent institution was laid by the Duke of Ormond, in 1680. It was erected from the designs of Sir Christopher Wren, and was completed in less than four years, at a cost of £23,559, which was defrayed by a levy of sixpence in the pound out of the pay of every soldier and officer on the military establishment of Ireland.

[29] For the establishment of this intellectual and beautiful place of recreation the people of Dublin are mainly indebted to the exertions of Sir Philip Crampton, the Surgeon-General, and Doctor Stokes, the Professor of Natural History in the University. The Duke of Northumberland, under the sanction of Government, gave a site for the garden in the Phoenix Park, on the spot where formerly stood the residence of the Irish Secretary of War, and in the month of August, 1831, the Zoological Gardens were opened with a small collection of animals, principally presents from the Zoological Society of London.

[30] A sum of £13,000 was raised by public subscription for the purpose of erecting a national monument to perpetuate this event,—but the good sense of the managers of the undertaking substituted a work not only ornamental but highly useful to the city, instead of an idle pillar-trophy which it was the original intention to erect with the funds subscribed.