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Chapter 11

Rebirth of
Dublin Castle
illustration by Charles Brooking
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An illustration from Charles Brooking's
map of Dublin in 1728

For much of the 18th Century, Dublin thrived in the new era of peace and prosperity. The population is estimated to have risen from 60,000 at its beginning, to 172,000 at the end of the Century. This was the time when the famous squares of Dublin, Fitzwilliam, Mountjoy etc. were laid out and the Royal and Grand Canals completed. It was also the time when Dublin Castle and the surrounding streets took on their modern form.

The illustration in Charles Brooking's map of Dublin of 1728 shows the Castle in transition, with building work well underway. The east, south-east and west ranges had been completed and are recognisable today. The south-west range was under construction, with the Gate Towers still in existence, beside the site where the north-east wall had been demolished.

By 1720, building works had been completed for the Trustees of the Linen in the East Building and the Auditor General, the Treasury and the Ordinance in the new building in the Lower Castle Yard. Today, the Comptroller and Auditor General occupies that same building. A munitions explosion in the Armoury, in 1764, damaged the Ballroom (now St. Patrick's Hall) and the (south-western) Bermingham Tower, which had to be taken down to first floor level and rebuilt. In 1737 King George II issued a royal warrant for the pulling down of part of the Castle - 'the Great Staircase, Battleaxe Hall, Chaplain's Apartments and the Castle entrance being in most ruinous condition'.

When the 'Wide Street Commissioners' were set up in 1757 (their functions were later taken over by Dublin Corporation), they were given extensive powers for the widening of streets - including compulsory purchase and control of building standards. The following year an act was passed to make 'a wide and convenient street from Essex (now Grattan) Bridge to the Royal Castle of Dublin'. When the owners of the planned site changed their minds about selling, the Commission 'unroofed the houses in the middle of the night to get people out for the street widening'. Parliament Street opened in 1762.

Plans had been made for the construction of a new entrance to Dublin Castle, in line with Cork Hill, which necessitated demolition of all the houses from 'Doran the Joiner' to the Castle Gate. The properties were compulsorily purchased. An article in 'Faulkner's Journal' of 12th July 1768, stated that 'the workmen began to throw down the old buildings of Cork Hill, in order to widen the avenue and prepare the ground for erecting the new Exchange (or Merchant's Business Centre) at Cork Hill'. The following year, Lord Lieutenant Townsend laid the first stone of the Royal Exchange, what is now, City Hall.

A new gateway and entrance were erected to the Lower Castle Yard, where Castle Lane had been widened and renamed Palace Street. The new Cork Hill Gate, the Guard House and Court Marshall Room, which were constructed beside the old Gate Towers, were completed in 1751. Human skulls were unearthed during the digging of the foundations. The scaffolding was taken down in September, in time for the beginning of the new 'Castle Season'. Bedford Tower, with balcony for state musicians, became the centrepiece of the newly completed Great Courtyard, or Upper Castle Yard. It mainly housed the offices of the Second Secretary, subsequently the Master of Ceremonies and the Aide-de-Camps to the Lord Lieutenant. Later still, this was the Office of Arms, from which the 'Crown Jewels' of the Illustrious Order of St. Patrick were stolen.

The north side of the Great Courtyard is acknowledged as presenting one of the most beautiful architectural compositions in Dublin, 'reflecting the serene architecture of the Renaissance'. The image of Bedford Tower is now the logo of the modern Dublin Castle Conference Centre and State Apartments facilities, while the flanking archway supporting Van Nost the Younger's Statue of Justice (in which the sensitive Castle authorities bored holes to restore equilibrium to the tilting scales), is the logo of the Revenue Commissioners.

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