Dublin Castle

J. Stirling Coyne & N. P. Willis
c. 1841
Volume I, Chapter VI-7 | Start of chapter

Notwithstanding its antiquity, Dublin has few ancient edifices, either public or private: the massy labours of the early inhabitants having given place to the lighter works of their sons. Even the Castle of Dublin, nominally ancient,[33] is in reality a modern building. It was formerly moated and flanked with towers; but the ditch has been long since filled up, and the old buildings rased; the Wardrobe or Record Tower excepted, which still remains.[34] The castle at present consists of two courts, called the upper and lower castle yards, the former of which is an oblong square formed by four ranges of buildings, which contain the state and private apartments of the viceroy. The external appearance of this quadrangle is exceedingly plain; the grand entrance to it from the city is by a fine gate, surmounted by a statue of Justice. The lower castle yard contains several of the government offices, and the beautiful little Gothic chapel, built by the Duke of Bedford, in 1314. A late writer remarks of it, that "though of limited dimensions, it must be viewed as the most elaborate effort made in recent years to revive the ancient ecclesiastical style of building, and is beyond a question the richest modern casket of pointed architecture to be witnessed in the British empire." It must however be confessed, though Dublin Castle is pretty, and even in some parts magnificent, it is deficient as a whole; having no uniformity of plan, and so scattered that the eye can take in but little at once; it has no dignity of appearance, and bears too evident marks of the various repairs it has undergone; and, like Sir John Cutter's worsted stockings, so often darned with black silk that they changed their original nature—all traces of its venerable origin is lost in the incongruous embellishments of modern art.

It is not our intention to speak of all the public buildings and valuable institutions with which this metropolis is embellished; they will be found accurately described in various Guide-books; but we cannot deny ourselves the pleasure of taking a stroll with our readers along the line of noble quays which stretch east and west through the centre of the city, from the Military Road to the North Wall Lighthouse, a distance of three miles. Travellers who have only seen the busy wharfs, docks, and quays of other seaport towns, black, dirty, and crowded with dingy-looking warehouses, can scarcely form an idea of the beauty and grandeur of the banks of the Liffey, confined by walls and parapets of hewn stone, and its numerous magnificent bridges, connecting the handsome quays that extend on either side of the river. Commencing then at the castellated entrance to the Military Road, which forms an agreeable promenade between the Royal Hospital and the city on the north side of the river, we proceed in an easterly direction along Ussher's Island and Ussher's Quay.


[33] The building of the Castle of Dublin was commenced about the year 1205, by Meyler Fitzhenry. Lord-Justice of Ireland, and was completed in 1220 by Henry de Loundres, Bishop of Dublin, but it was not until the reign of Queen Elizabeth that it became the seat of Government. The court was previously held, sometimes at the archbishop's at St. Sepulchre's, sometimes in Thomas Court, and sometimes at the Castle of Kilmainham.

[34] In the Record Tower are now preserved the statute rolls, the parliamentary and other national records; the walls are of great thickness, and it is built upon a rock of black stone. It was originally called the Ward Tower, and was the prison of the castle, in which for five hundred years all state offenders were confined. The last who suffered incarceration there were Arthur O'Connor and some of his revolutionary colleagues.