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Ireland Gazeteer

Dublin County in 1837

DUBLIN, a county in the province of Leinster in Ireland; bounded on the north-west and north by the county of Meath; on the east by the Irish channel; on the south by the county of Wicklow ; and on the south-west by the county of Kildare. Greatest length from Gormanstown on the north to Bray upon the south, 25 Irish, or 31¾ English miles. Greatest breadth from the promontory of Howth upon the east to the boundary of Kildare at Leixlip on the west, 15 Irish, or 18¼ English miles. The coast line from Bray to the point of junction with Meath is about 55 Irish, or 70 English miles. Until the publication of the Ordnance Survey Map of Dublin, the area cannot be stated with certainty. It is given by Dr. Beaufort at 228,211 statute acres, or 355 square statute miles, including the county of the city of Dublin. According to the more accurate survey made for the grand jury in 1821, by Mr. Duncan, the superficial contents are, arable 132,042 acres; not arable 16,191 acres. Total, exclusive of county of city, 148,233 acres. Exclusive of the county of the city of Dublin, the population in 1831 was 176,012.

The county of Dublin, excepting a small tract on the south, is a champaign country highly cultivated. The only portions of the county not under cultivation are the promontory of Howth, and the range of mountains which separates Dublin from Wicklow on the south. The Dublin mountains, of which the central group has an average height of 1,000 or 1,200 feet, are partially separated from the loftier elevations of the county of Wicklow by the valley of Glencullen on the east, and by that of Ballynascorney or Glenismael on the west; a neck of elevated land, intervening between these valleys, connects the advanced range with the group of Kippure and Seechon on the south. The elevation of Kippure, part of which is in the county of Dublin, is upwards of 2,700 feet. The whole range forms a fine mountain back-ground to the rich scenery of the plain of Dublin.

The northern part of Dublin county is more undulating than the immediate vicinity of the capital. A low range of cultivated eminences, called the Man-of-War Hills, extends across the line of communication with Meath and Louth, and the ground on the north-western border next Meath and Kildare is pretty much broken by picturesque valleys. The only marked eminences, however, north of the mountainous tract, are the islands of Lambay and Ireland's Eye, and the hill of Howth. The isthmus which connects Howth with the mainland is a low narrow neck, which gives Howth very much the appearance of an island. The highest point of the promontory of Howth is 567 feet above the level of the sea. The cliffs towards the bay and channel are lofty, and the whole promontory contributes much to the picturesque effect of Dublin bay.

The principal creeks north of the bay of Dublin are those of Baldoyle, Malahide, and Rogerstown; but these tide-harbours are of little commercial advantage. The only tolerable harbour north of Howth is that of Balbriggan. The town of Balbriggan, which in 1831 contained 3,016 inhabitants, has taken its rise almost solely in consequence of the construction of a pier here by the late Baron Hamilton, who received £1,500 towards this work from the Irish parliament in 1761, and a further sum of £3,752 for the same purpose in 1765. The total cost is stated at upwards of £15,000. The quay is about 600 feet in length, and is frequently occupied with craft; but it would still require a large expenditure to make it complete for vessels of the second class. From 80 to 100 cargoes of coal are annually delivered here, besides rock-salt, bark, slates, &c. There is an excellent light-house on the pier-head, built by the Ballast Board. Four miles south from Balbriggan is Skerries, the chief fishing village on the east coast of Ireland, with a pier for small craft 450 long, built in 1755.

South of Skerries the sandy shore gives place to a limestone cliff as far as the creek of Loch Shinney, another site well adapted for the construction of a harbour. One mile south from Loch Shinney is Rush, a considerable village, with a small pier for fishing boats. Off the creek of Malahide is the rocky island of Lambay. In 1821 the population was only thirty-four. There is good anchorage all round the island in five to eight fathoms water, clear ground ; it has also a small pier and harbour. The Muldowny bank lying off the creek of Malahide is a good artificial oyster bed. The peninsula of Howth contains about 1,500 acres, and excepting towards the low isthmus which connects it with the mainland, stands in deep water. The sound between Howth and Ireland's Eye, a rocky picturesque island of thirty acres, which lies about three quarters of a mile off the northern side of the promontory, being a sheltered situation with considerable depth of water, was selected by government in 1807 for an asylum and packet harbour; but unfortunately this object has not been accomplished. The work, which was completed under the direction of the late Mr. Rennie, consists of two piers, of which that on the east is 2,493 feet in length, and that on the west 2,020 ditto. On the extremity of the eastern pier is a lighthouse. The entrance between the extremities of the piers is 300 feet across; and the space enclosed 52 English acres. The whole work is faced with cut granite, except the sloping glacis under water which is of red grit from Runcorn in Cheshire. The entire amount expended on Howth harbour from the 2nd July, 1807, to 5th January, 1832, was £420,472, 8 shillings, 5½ pence. The deepest and best anchorage afforded by the sound is left outside the piers; one half of the space enclosed is dry at half-ebb, and two-thirds at low-water; and the sands from the bank on the west side are daily accumulating in the entrance; so that the mail packets for want of water in the basin have been latterly transferred to the Kingstown station. From Howth round to the sands of the North Bull the whole of the promontory which stands in deep water is rocky and precipitous towards the sea. On a detached rock at the south-eastern extremity, called the Bailey, stands a lighthouse, which marks the northern entrance to the bay of Dublin. Another lighthouse now disused stands on the brow of the promontory above, a little to the north.

From the Bailey of Howth to the island of Dalkey at the opposite extremity of the bay of Dublin, is a distance of 6¾ English miles. Between these points the bay recedes in a semi-elliptical sweep to a depth of about six miles inland. The shore surrounding the head of the bay, where the Liffey, Tolka, and Dodder rivers empty themselves, is low: it rises, however, towards Blackrock and Kingstown, and beyond the latter town is of a very bold and picturesque character The river of Bray, which discharges itself about half a mile north of the bold promontory of Brayhead, is the county boundary.

As a harbour, the bay of Dublin is materially encumbered by a great tract of sand, which is bisected by the Liffey in a direction from west to east. The portion on the north of the Liffey is called the North Bull, and that on the south the South Bull. In order to protect the navigation of the Liffey from the sands of the South Bull, a pier consisting of a mound of gravel contained between double stone walls was undertaken by the Irish government in 1748. It runs from the suburb of Ringsend along the northern margin of the South Bull, to a distance of 7,938 feet. Here the main work at first terminated in a basin and packet station, called the Pigeon-house; and the remainder of the channel, extending 9,816 feet from the Pigeon-house to the north-eastern extremity of the Bull, was protected by a range of frame-work and piles. The expense however of keeping this part of the wall in repair was found so heavy, that in 1761 a light-house was commenced at the extremity of the Bull, and from it the wall was carried inwards towards the Pigeon-house until completed in 1796. This sea-wall is composed of two parallel walls of hewn granite, alternate leaders and stretchers, laid without cement. The space between is filled to a certain height with gravel and shingle; over which is a course of stone-work imbedded in cement; and the whole is finished on the top with a course of granite blocks of large dimension, laid in tarrass. The wall is thirty-two feet broad at bottom, and twenty-eight at top. The Pigeon-house, since being disused as a packet station, has been converted into a strong depot for artillery and military stores. The amount of parliamentary aid given to the construction of the south wall from 1753 to 1780, was £57,169, 4 shillings, 6 pence. Another wall, running nearly south-east from the opposite shore of Clontarf, is intended in like manner to confine the sands of the North Bull, and to scour the channel. This, which is called the north wall, has been constructed by the Ballast Board of Dublin, and cost from 1819 to 1824 a sum of £103,054, 19 shillings, 11 pence . Notwithstanding these great undertakings, the navigation of the Liffey is still very imperfect, and requires constant dredging. The bar, on which there are but five feet of water at spring-ebbs, runs across the channel immediately outside the lighthouse.

The insecurity of the bay, joined to the failure of the works at Howth, led to the commencement of the present noble asylum harbour of Kingstown, on the site of the old harbour of Dunleary, on the south side of the bay, in 1817. The small pier and tide harbour at Dunleary have been enclosed within the new works, and are now crossed by the Dublin and Kingstown railroad. The new harbour is entirely artificial, consisting of an area of about 200 acres contained between two piers, of great dimension. There is a depth of 24 feet at the pier-head, at the lowest springs, which is sufficient for a frigate of 36 guns, or an Indiaman of 800 tons. The work was commenced under the authority of two acts of the 55th and 56th George III; the latter of which grants certain duties on all vessels entering the port of Dublin, to be vested in commissioners for carrying the work into execution.

The Liffey has a course of little more than eight miles from the point where it enters Dublin county to the bay of Dublin at Ringsend. It is navigable for vessels of 200 tons to the Custom-house, and for barges and row-boats to Chapel Izod, about two miles farther up. The Dodder, the course of which lies almost wholly within this county, takes its rise from numerous small streams descending from Kippure mountain, and forming a rapid stream which descends in a course of about ten miles into the bay of Dublin at Ringsend. The Tolka is a small river rising near Dunbryna in the county of Meath; it flows east by south, through Blanchardstown and Glassnevin to the north-western extremity of Dublin bay, which it enters by Ballybough bridge.

The Royal Canal running west by north from its chief terminus at Broad-stone on the north-west of the city of Dublin, unites the capital with the Upper Shannon at Richmond harbour in the county of Longford. A short branch encircling the north-east of the city connects the basin at Broad-stone with docks opening into the Liffey east of the Custom-house. The width of the line throughout, at top is 42 feet, and at the bottom 24 feet, with locks, and a depth of water calculated for boats of from 80 to 100 tons. The entire length of the canal from the Liffey to the Shannon is 91 English miles. Loch Ouil, in Westmeath, supplies the summit level, which is at a height of 307 feet above high-water mark in the Liffey docks. The supply of water to the northern part of the capital is drawn from the Royal Canal. The canal is the property of a company of subscribers which was incorporated by royal charter in 1789.

The chief terminus of the Grand Canal, the most important line of water-carriage in Ireland, is at James's Street Harbour, on the south-west of the city, from which it crosses the counties of Dublin, Kildare, and King's County, in a direction west by south to the Shannon at Shannon Harbour, about two miles north of Banagher. The summit level commencing at 17 Irish miles from Dublin, is 261 feet 10 inches above the tide-water in the Liffey. This level is supplied by the Middletown and Black-wood rivers, which are branches of the Barrow; and is ascended from James's Street Harbour by four double and fourteen single locks. The total length from the western extremity of the capital is 79 English miles. From the summit level, at a distance of 20½ Irish miles from Dublin, a branch of similar dimensions with the main trunk descends 103 feet half an inch in 22¼ Irish or 28½ English miles, through two double and nine single locks, by Rathangan and Monasterevan to the navigable river Barrow at Athy. The dimensions throughout are, at the top, 45 feet; at the bottom, 25 feet; the depth of water, 6 feet in the body of the canal, and 5 feet on the sills of the lock-gates. The locks are generally 70 feet long, 14 wide, and calculated to pass boats of 60 tons in from two and a half to five minutes.

The Grand Canal has a second terminus in an extensive range of docks covering an area of 25 English acres on the south side of the Liffey near Ringsend. The communication with the river is by three sea locks, and the basins within are capable of containing 600 sail in 16 feel of water Attached are three graving-docks for vessels of different dimensions, with several extensive piles of stores; the whole being surrounded by spacious wharfs. This portion of the works has failed in a remarkable manner. The stores have long been unoccupied, and the wharfs are for the most part overgrown with grass.

The Dublin and Kingston railway passes the western dock by a viaduct and raised causeway, and a factory for the repair and supply of locomotive engines is being erected by the proprietors of the railway on the southern side of the same basin. The communication between the Grand Canal docks and the line from James's Street harbour is by a branch canal of about three miles, running from the docks round the south-east and south of the city. The canal is now the property of a company which was incorporated in the year 1772, and who are stated to have spent from time to time on these works a sum of a million and a half sterling. The supply of water for the southern part of the capital is drawn chiefly from the canal.

The main roads subject to turnpikes, which issue from Dublin, are those to Howth, Malahide, Drogheda by Swords, and the Naul, Drogheda by Ashbourn, Ratoath, Navan, and Mullingar, Carlow by Rathcoole and Tallaght. The chief lines free from toll are the military road and the roads to Enniskerry, Bray, and Kingstown.

The only railway at present completed in Ireland is that between Dublin and Kingstown in this county. It is the property of a company incorporated by 1st & 2nd William IV, c. 69, with a capital stock of £200,000, in shares of £100 each. The line extends from Westland Row, in Dublin, to the jetty opposite the main street of Kingstown, called the Forty-foot road, a distance of nearly six English miles.

The entire line is lighted with gas. The railway bed consists of layers of gravel and concrete, with numerous cross drains. The sleepers are massive blocks of granite, which it was supposed would give unusual solidity to the structure, but the want of elasticity in these supports causes the engines to work harshly. The railway was opened for traffic on the 17th of December, 1834, between which day and the 1st of March, 1836, the number of passengers carried was 1,237,800, being, on the average, 2,000 persons daily. Since that period the number of passengers had increased considerably, as appeared by the following statement for the year 1836 of the number of passengers conveyed by the Dublin and Kingstown Railway:—May, 119,000; June, 119,080; July, 146,000; August, 139,000; total, 523,000.

The cost of constructing the railroad and stations, locomotive engines, carriages, &c., and the expenses of obtaining the act of incorporation, amounted, on the 1st of March, 1836, to £237,000, or upwards of £40,000 per mile, exclusive of 972 yards since added. Of this sum, £75,000 has been advanced as a loan by Government. At the same period the company had realized a net profit of £11,517, yielding about 8 per cent, per annum on the capital paid by the shareholders.

By act 6th and 7th William IV, c. 132, a company is incorporated for the purpose of making a railway from Dublin to Drogheda. At present the only incorporated railway companies in Ireland are those above mentioned, and the Cave-hill and Ulster Railway Companies.

The climate of Dublin is temperate; frosts rarely continue more than a few days, and snow seldom lies. The heaviest fall of snow on record is that which commenced on the 18th of January, 1814, and continued undissolved till the beginning of the next April. The prevailing winds are from the west. The average proportion of winds, as stated by Rutty, is west, south-west, and north-west, to east, south-east, and north-east, as 9061 to 5141. Of 68 storms noted by Rutty, 57 were from the south-west, and but two from the east and north-east. The easterly and north-easterly winds which prevail in spring not being broken by any high grounds, are violent and ungenial. On an average of forty-one years there were in this county—of springs, 6 wet, 22 dry, 13 variable; of summers, 20 wet, 16 dry, 5 variable; of autumns, 11 wet, 11 dry, 19 variable. It also appears by a mean of observations that the dry days in Dublin are to the rainy as 110 to 255. The quantity of rain is, however, by no means as great as at Cork or Belfast. In 1792, one of the wettest years on record, the depth of rain which fell in Dublin was 30.7 inches; of this 5.8 inches fell in the month of August. The average annual depth of rain which fell in Dublin during the sixteen years preceding the year 1817, was 23 inches 7 lines.

The greater part of the county of Dublin is occupied by a tract of mountain limestone, being a part of the central limestone field of Ireland, which extends from the Atlantic to the Irish sea. This secondary tract extends into Meath on the north, and is bounded in this county on the south by primary rocks. Along the northern coast also there are patches of primitive rock, as the greenstone and argillaceous schists, which form the Man-of-war Hills and the island of Lambay, and the stratified quartz and schist of Howth. Lambay consists of strata of argillaceous schist and greenstone porphyry. The schistose strata are much indurated and contorted. In Howth the stratification is very obvious, and the schistose beds exhibit a great diversity of hues from purple to red. Some of the strata rest on their edges, others are undulated, and sometimes curved upon themselves so as to resemble the concentric crusts of some spheroidal formation (Dr. Scouler). The primitive formation on the south of the limestone plain consists of a ridge of granite supporting flanks of micaceous and argillaceous schists. The granite extends on the south from Dalkey island to Blackrock, and from thence to Dundrum and Rathfarnham; it then takes a southerly direction and crosses the range of the Dublin mountains by the line of the military road; whence, crossing the northern extremity of Glenismael, it extends into the group of the Kippure mountains. On the south it runs from Dalkey to the hill of Killiney, and thence inland by Rochestown hill to the Scalp, whence, holding a southerly course, it passes on to Glencree, in the county of Wicklow, and so southward to a distance of nearly sixty miles, forming the nucleus of the entire range from Killiney to Blackstairs mountain, between the counties of Carlow and Wexford. The granite comprising the greater part of this range is of a coarse texture, and easily disintegrated; in Glenismael particularly, it is frequently found decomposed to a depth of several feet, and hence probably the uniform outline presented by the summits of the range. At Dalkey, however, and generally along the eastern and north-eastern limits of the granite district, the stone quarried is of the closest grain, and excellently adapted to all purposes of building. It is here free from hornblende; the felspar is of a pearly whiteness, and in the stone obtained from the quarries of Kilkenny the mica, instead of occurring in plates, is found in the form of plumose mica.

This mass of granite is almost everywhere in contact with the micaceous schist, both on its western and eastern flanks; and the junction of the rocks may be observed at Killiney, the Scalp, and Rathfarnham. The argillaceous schist approaches it very closely at Ballynascorney ; and between Blackrock and Dundrum the edges of the limestone field are in several places within a few yards of the granite, the intervening rocks of the series not being observable. The limestone which elsewhere possesses the usual character of carboniferous limestone, is extremely compact along the margin of the field towards the primitive series, and has a schistose structure (the Calp of Kirwan), which renders it highly useful as a material for building. Dolomite, or magnesian limestone, occurs near the junction of the primary and secondary strata, at Sutton on Howth. Magnesian limestone also occurs on the Dodder, near Milltown. It dresses with peculiar sharpness under the hammer or chisel, and is the material of some beautiful specimens of building; among others, of the Lord-Lieutenant's chapel in the castle of Dublin.

The only mines at present worked (and that but partially, in the county of Dublin, are the lead mines at Ballycorus) within half a mile of the Scalp. Galena, potters' clay, and manganese have been found on Howth. Fuller's earth of a middling quality has been found at Castleknock, on the north bank of the Liffey.

The soil of Dublin abounds in mineral springs: of those within the city, ten were analysed about the year 1750: they are all saline purgative springs, and some of them so strongly impregnated as to yield on evaporation from three to four hundred grains of salts per gallon: of some of those salts two drachms operated as a brisk cathartic. In 1758 a spring strongly impregnated with sulphureted hydrogen gas was discovered in the vicinity of a disused chalybeate spa at Lucan, on the south bank of the Liffey. These waters have been found very efficacious in cutaneous disease

There are tepid springs near Finglass and Leixlip; the heat is 75½ degrees Fahr. In general the water, which rises from the Calp district around Dublin, is impregnated with a considerable portion of sulphate or nitrate of lime, which renders it unfit for most domestic purposes, unless with the use of large quantities of soda. It deposits a copious sediment on the vessels in which it is used; and in one distillery mentioned by Whitelaw an incrustation of sienite half an inch in thickness, had frequently to be cleared from the inside of the boilers.

The vegetable soil of the county of Dublin is generally shallow. On the granite bottom it is a light gravel, which requires strong manuring. The subsoil of the Calp district is a tenacious clay, which retains the water and renders the loamy soil wet and cold; but drainage and an unlimited supply of scavengers' manure from the city have brought that part of this district, which lies immediately round the capital, into a good state of productiveness. The quality of the land improves towards the west and north, and the district bordering on Meath is not inferior to the generality of wheat lands in the midland counties. The soil along the junction of the northern primary strata and the limestone is also of excellent quality. There is but a small proportion of the county under tillage. Villas, gardens, dairy farms, kitchen gardens, and nurseries occupy the immediate neighbourhood of the capital, and grazing farms and meadow-lands extend over the country which is not occupied by demesnes, to a distance of ten and twelve miles beyond those on the west and north. The mode of feeding generally pursued is grazing during summer and hay feeding in winter. Many extensive farmers and resident proprietors however pursue the system of green crops and stall-feeding the year round. The total annual value of the agricultural produce of the county of Dublin has been estimated at £1,145,800; the rental of proprietors at £343,700 per annum, and the rent paid by them at £ 3 per acre. The rents paid by land-occupiers vary from £4 and £ 4 10 shillings to £10. in the vicinity of the capital.

Dublin County is divided into nine baronies; namely:—

  • Balrothery on the north, containing the towns of Balbriggan, population in 1831, 3,016; Skerries, population 2,556; Rush, population 2,144.
  • Nethercross, scattered through the other baronies in seven separate divisions, of which six lie north of the city of Dublin, containing the towns of Swords, population 2,537; Lusk, population 925; and Finglass, population 840.
  • Coolock, on the north-east of the city of Dublin, containing the towns of Clontarf, population 1,309; Baldoyle, population 1,009; Howth, population 797; and Glassnevin, population 559.
  • Castleknock, on the north-west of the city of Dublin, containing part of the town of Chapel Izod, total population 1,632.
  • Newcastle, on the west and south-west of the city of Dublin, containing the towns of Lucan, population 1,229; Rathfarnham, population 1,572; Crumlin, population 544; and Newcastle, population 3,915.
  • Donore, a small barony, embracing a portion of the south-west of the city of Dublin, with a population of 11,153.
  • St. Sepulchre's, a small barony embracing a portion of the south of the city of Dublin, with a population of 13,631.
  • Uppercross, on the south-west of the city of Dublin, containing the towns of Ranelagh (a suburb of Dublin), population 1,999; Rathmines (ditto), population 1,600; Harold's-cross, population 1,101; Milltown, population 673; Rathcoole, population 602; Clondalkin, population 756 ; Dalkey, population 544 ; and Ballymore Eustace, in the detached portion of the county, population 841.
  • Half Rathdown, on the south-east of the city of Dublin, containing the towns of Kingstown, population 5,756; Blackrock, population 2,029; Little Bray, population 1,168; Stillorgan, population 650 : and Dundrum, population 680.

There is not at present in the county of Dublin any town exercising corporate privileges. Swords and Newcastle each returned two members to the Irish parliament. The county of Dublin, the city of Dublin, and the university of Dublin are each at present represented by two members in the imperial parliament.

The commerce of the county of Dublin, exclusive of the capital and its immediate vicinity, is limited to the small coast trade carried on at Balbriggan, Bray, and the other coast towns. The cotton and stocking manufactures are carried on at Balbriggan with considerable spirit. There are two cotton factories, and numerous establishments for stocking weaving; the Balbriggan hosiery has long held a high character in the market. Considerable quantities of flour are manufactured in this county. The principal corn-mills are on the Liffey, the Balbriggan river, and the Kimmage brook, on the south-west of Harold's-cross.

In 1835 the number of boats belonging to the county of Dublin, which were employed in the fisheries, was as follows —

Decked vessels, 121; tonnage, 4,651; men, 789:—

half-decked vessels, 27; tonnage, 265; men, 150 :—

open sail-boats, 66; men, 297:—

row-boats, 65; men, 249 ; number of fishermen, 1505.

The fishing grounds lie in from 15 to 60 fathoms water between the Dublin coast and the Isle of Man. The fish consist chiefly of turbot, brit, sole, and plaice, which are sent to market daily throughout the year. There is a well-known fishing ground between Rush and Lambay Island, on which cod, ling, haddock, whiting, &c., are taken. Trawling is the mode of fishing generally practised by the decked and half-decked boats. White trout and salmon are taken at the bars of the Bray river and Liffey. Since the withdrawal of bounties the fisheries along the coast, as well as elsewhere in Ireland, have declined.