The Four Courts, Dublin

J. Stirling Coyne & N. P. Willis
c. 1841
Volume I, Chapter VI-8 | Start of chapter

As we proceed, Barrack Bridge, Queen's Bridge, Whitworth Bridge, and Richmond Bridge, successively attract our attention, and by their handsome proportions give an air of picturesque grandeur to the river. Midway between the two last named bridges on the north side of the Liffey stands THE FOUR COURTS, a noble edifice, presenting a beautiful portico facing the river, consisting of six Corinthian columns, supporting a pediment ornamented with three statues of Moses, Justice, and Mercy. At the two extremities of the front are corresponding statues of Wisdom and Authority. From the centre of the building rises a circular colonnade, surmounted by a handsome dome, whose massive proportions injure the effect of the light and elegant portico beneath. The arrangement of the interior is not liable to the same objection as the exterior; the great circular hall, around which are situated the law courts and offices, is conspicuous for the beauty and simplicity of its design.

The Four Courts, Dublin

The Four Courts, Dublin

We have now reached Essex Bridge, built upon the model of Westminster Bridge, but, of course, of much smaller dimensions. Looking up Parliament Street, which forms the avenue to the Bridge on the north side, may be seen a portion of the Royal Exchange, an extensive and elegant building, situated on Cork Hill, which, it has been generally admitted, forms one of the principal ornaments of the city. The form of this superb edifice is nearly a square of one hundred feet, having three beautiful fronts of Portland stone in the Corinthian order. The building is surrounded at the top by a handsome balustrade—a low dome rising from the centre. Owing to the acclivity upon which the Exchange stands, the grand entrance on the west side is by a kind of terrace, protected by a light metal balustrade supported by rustic-work.[35]

The interior of the edifice is even more remarkable for architectural beauty than the exterior, and the effect produced upon the spectator when he enters it is strikingly impressive. "Twelve fluted pillars of the composite order, thirty-two feet high, are circularly disposed in the centre of a square area, covered by a highly-enriched entablature; above which is a beautiful cylindrical lantern, about ten feet high, perforated with twelve circular windows ornamented with festoons of laurel-leaves; the whole crowned with a handsome spherical dome, divided into hexagonal compartments, enriched and well-proportioned, and lighted from the centre by a large circular skylight." The pillars, columns, floor, and staircase, are all of Portland stone. Opposite to the north entrance is a statue, by Van Nost, of George III. in a Roman military costume. On the stairs in the north-western angle of the building is one of Dr. Lucas, through whose exertions in Parliament a grant was obtained to aid in the building of the Exchange;[36] and in the centre of the circular hall stands a finely executed statue to the memory of Henry Grattan, Ireland's greatest patriot. It bears the following brief but touching inscription:—"Filio optima carissimo Henrico Grattan patria non ingrata."

Resuming our route along the quays, we pass Wellington Bridge, a light, handsome metal structure, spanning the river by a single arch. It was built by two private individuals; and is intended for foot-passengers only, each person crossing it paying a toll of one halfpenny.


[35] On the 24th of April, 1814, a vast crowd having assembled to witness the whipping of a sweep who had caused the death of his apprentice by cruelty, the balustrade gave way, and numbers were precipitated into the street; several persons were killed on the spot, and others seriously injured.

[36] The first stone of the exchange was laid on the 2nd of August, 1769, by Lord Townsend, then Lord-lieutenant of Ireland. The entire expenditure, including the purchase of the ground, amounted to about £40,000.