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Beginnings of Belgrave Square

Until the 1830’s the area which is now Belgrave Square was a field with a river running through it from west to east.  The Swan river divided  into two branches as it traversed the field.[i] John Taylor’s map of the environs of Dublin 1816 (map 1) shows Rathmines to be a sparsely populated area with large tracts of open ground. Portobello Barracks is south of the canal on the west side of Rathmines Road. There are houses along most of the east side of Rathmines Road. Rathmines Castle is seen further south and to the east is a pathway which then becomes a lane leading to Milltown. Within thirty-five years this pathway was to become Belgrave Road and later Belgrave Square East.[ii]

map 1 John Taylor’s map of the environs of Dublin 1816

Twenty years later the Ordnance Survey Map of 1837 (map 3) shows much development, with several adjoining large houses surrounded by gardens along the west side and terraced housing along most of the east side of Rathmines Road. The area of Belgrave Square is still a field with the road to Milltown then called Cullenswood Avenue Upper along the east side of the field. On the north side Castlewood Avenue went from Rathmines Road to the Half–mile Road, a point on the Milltown Road where Charleston Road now meets Castlewood Avenue.  There was a small number of houses on Castlewood Avenue at the Rathmines end. On the northern side stands Castlewood Lodge, and on the south side there is a building site which was to become Castlewood House[iii], the home of John Holmes, a future Rathmines Town Commissioner and one of the main developers of the surrounding area and the future owner of Belgrave Square. To the west and south there were fields, except for Holy Trinity Church which was built in 1828. Dunville Avenue led from Holy Trinity Church and turned left into Cullenswood Avenue (now Oakley Road), where stood Cullenswood Cottage and Cullenswood House. Further north along Cullenswood Avenue were the Wellington nursery gardens while Toole’s nurseries occupied a large area to the east.

 

Within twenty years this pastoral scene was to be transformed. From the mid-1840’s onwards developers bought leases on the land and gradually over the next twenty years most of the houses around what was to become Belgrave Square were built, sometimes in twos or threes and sometimes terraces of upwards of ten houses. In the ten year period from 1841 to 1851 the population of Rathmines increased by almost 25% from 7,886 to 10,189 and this trend is reflected in the rapid development in Belgrave Square.[iv] More...

Belgrave Square North


[i] Sweeney, Clair L.: The Rivers of Dublin (Dublin 1991) p. 57

[ii] See map 1: John Taylor’s Map of the Environs of Dublin

[iii] Thom’s Directory  (Dublin, 1846)

[iv] Extract from the Census in Minutes of Rathmines Town Commissioners 1st Dec 1852