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Rathmines Board of Commissioners

Further evidence of the growth of Rathmines was the establishment of the Rathmines Board of Commissioners in 1847.  A meeting was held in Portobello Hotel about the provision of water to Rathmines by the Corporation. An inquiry was set up; Frederick Stokes and Terence Dolan, both substantial landowners in the area, supported the establishment of a township and had prepared good arguments. The opposition was not so well prepared. The proponents of the township said they could provide better services, roads and water at not much more than they were paying to the Grand Jury for unsatisfactory services. In 1847 Rathmines Township was created by Act of Parliament (10 & 11 Vict. c. 253) and the Rathmines Board of Commissioners was established with Frederick Stokes as its chairman. The majority of the Commissioners were involved in building and developing in the Rathmines area.[i]

In his book  Dublin’s Suburban Towns, Dr. Séamus O Maitiú notes that some large landowners gave very long leases on small acreages which led to land speculation.

     On the city’s boundary, the most promising area for the activities of speculative property developers was Rathmines and the adjoining districts.  Unlike Pembroke to the east, most of the land of Rathmines was in the hands of small owners as the Meath Estate had leased property on very long leases, sometimes up to 999 years, in the preceding century and a half. The earliest registers in the Registry of Deeds in Dublin show that much of the land in Rathmines was changing hands in small acreages in the early eighteenth century…….. However because the land was held by lessees on such long leases, the interest of the Meath estate in the area was minimal……..This absence of a large landowner controlling the supply of land made Rathmines ideal for the speculative builder.[ii]

This was indeed the case in Belgrave Square where there was much exchange of land between a group of men who were, furthermore, almost all Rathmines Town Commissioners at one time or another. It is interesting to note that the Meath Estate was the original lessor of the southern third of the square[iii] (map 2), the section between the river and the railings but it was leased for 999 years at a peppercorn rent which John Holmes said in 1897 had never been demanded.

Indeed the development of the area which was to become Belgrave Square and the establishment of  Rathmines Board of Commissioners were almost contemporaneous. One of the earliest leases for the future Belgrave Square is dated 23rd April 1842 and refers to building plots on Kensington Terrace (later known as Castlewood Avenue and then Belgrave Square North). Within twenty-five years Belgrave Square was almost completely developed, the only land remaining being on the west side. This mirrored the rapid development in the Township as a whole.

In this paper I propose to give an account of the transformation of the area from a rural landscape to an urban developed square during the mid-nineteenth century. I will then deal with the use of Belgrave Square as private playing fields for High School and following the relocation of the School to Rathgar, the campaign mounted by the residents to acquire the square for public use. More...

The Beginnings of Belgrave Square


[i] O Maitiú, Séamus, Dublin’s Suburban Towns 1834-1930  (Dublin 2003)

[ii] O Maitiú, Séamus,  Dublin’s Suburban Towns 1834-1930  (Dublin 2003)

[iii] Armstrong, William: Map - Survey of part of the Estate of the Earl of Meath in the south suburbs of the city of Dublin (1841)  in Dublin City Council

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