Acquisition by Dublin Corporation

Eventually the Corporation succumbed to pressure and on Sept 16th 1975 acquired the ground, described as playing fields, from the Dublin, Glendalough and Kildare Diocesan Board of Education for £7,500.00.[i] The present residents of Rathmines and Ranelagh owe a great debt of gratitude to all who participated in the campaign, particularly to the founding Committee, especially Dr Roy Johnston.

The October 30th meeting was at last able to consider what should be done with the square. No agreement was reached at this preliminary stage except that it was not suitable for football (although High School had played rugby there for three-quarters of a century!)

Debate followed about the future use of the square. Some felt it should be private and restricted to residents, others wanted football pitches; some wanted seats, whereas others wanted it to be left as a wild space. Some thought they would like the girls to continue playing hockey there and others thought it would make a great pitch and putt course.[ii]

On Feb 10th 1976, a sketch proposal, prepared by Mr. D. Byrne from the Corporation and based on a consensus of opinion on how the square should be utilised, was presented. It was agreed that the old, toddlers and adolescents should be catered for but since only £5,000 had been allocated “the square  won’t be improved much for a while.’  The Corporation presented three options but the association felt that a strong stand should be taken in favour of the green space for young and old and against football. A deputation attended a meeting at City Hall on June 28th 1976 in order to put this view to the councillors. At the October 20th 1976 meeting it was noted that agreement had been reached on Plan 4, with two basketball pitches in one all-weather area. Further progress was reported in November through correspondence from Alderman Hederman and Councillor Quinn. Satisfaction was expressed with the multi-use design with two small all-weather areas as on Plan 4. It was noted that the railings were being repaired. Mr John O’Neill informed the meeting that work was shortly to commence on the Square.[iii]

 

The locally produced paper the Rathmines Reporter reported on November 26th 1976 that:

 A recreation plan for Belgrave Square has finally been accepted…

Three plans were originally drafted by the Corporation some months ago for the conversion of the square which has been lying desolate for a number of years. The first of these provided for a park with little recreation area, the second, complete recreation facilities and the third was a combination of greenery and hard surface area. All three were rejected at a public meeting attended by Residents Associations and others interested in a park.

 

Corporation Principal Officer, Davy Byrne, invited letters and suggestions from youth groups, clubs and schools in the area on how to make the most of the acre of space and finally a fourth compromise plan was drawn up by the park superintendent on 6th October… This compromise plan was accepted and passed.

 

Two football pitches cum basketball courts, a children’s play space, changing cubicles, surpervisor’s office, toilets and shelter are provided for.

 

These facilities are expected to cost £25,000, one fifth of which is allowed for in this year’s budget, but according to a Corporation spokesman, work on the park will not commence until next year’s budget has been drawn up.[iv]

This note of caution proved prophetic as the Belgrave Square Association deplored the unfinished state of the Square in 1980.[v]

The Corporation gradually  developed  Belgrave Square as an amenity for the citizens of Dublin especially those of Rathmines and Ranelagh. Since the late 1970’s it has undergone various changes.  From the outset there were variations to the Plan which had been accepted. No building was  ever constructed but the other elements of the Plan, the children’s play area and the area for football or basketball were provided.

At first paths were laid and it was set out in grass and some shrubs. Later there were two large tarmacadammed areas which were used a lot for football. These areas were surrounded by dense shrubbery but as time went on it was felt that these thickets were not conducive to public safety and so they were uprooted. The whole square was then converted into a rolling landscape with grass and little hillocks and some fine trees dotted around. These trees are at their best in May when many of them have beautiful blossoms. There are also some large old chestnut trees at the southern end. There is a small playground which is particularly suitable for the very young.

Belgrave Square has been the setting for many events, musical performances, fun days and even a recreation of Crosbie’s balloon ascent which sadly had to be cancelled because of high winds. On a fine day people flock to the Square and even on not-so-good days there are people walking and playing in it.  It is a wonderful amenity enjoyed by thousands of people every year.

Belgrave Square today does indeed fulfil the vision of the residents of the 1970’s of ‘a green space for young and old.’


Bibliography



[i] Dublin Corporation document

[ii] Conversation with Eibhlin Glenn and Enna Lane Feb and March 2008.

[iii] Minutes of the Belgrave Residents’ Association October 1973 to March 1977

[iv] Rathmines Reporter dated November 26th 1976

[v] Belgrave Residents’ Association Archive: Letter from Belgrave Residents’ Association to Southside Express July 4th 1980

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