a shorter photo essay- Four Courts to Green St & around.


This is the companion photo essay to the recent Pearse St post.   https://arranqhenderson.com/2013/02/20/autumn-when-dublin-comes-to-life-a-little-picture-essay-of-pearse-st/    This walk took place on the same Open House weekend.   And our little gathering of arcitectural and social history afficianados were led by the same guide, the excellent Lisa Cassidy.

We started just behind the Four Courts, at Chancellery House, (above), designed by Herbert Simms, commemorated in this plaque,  below. 


Next we walked to the lovely old city markets.  I have been a fan of these great buildings for many years, and have written articles and even a chapter of my endless Hidden Dublin book about them.  But I usually tend to concentrate on the wonderful decorative scheme on the exterior of the building, with its fantastic terracotta reliefs of fruit and fish.  Image

Lisa drew our attention more to  the interior iron frame of the building. (above and below) 


Next it was off to the 18th century Green Street Court House.  (below)  This is where the romantic, doomed figure of Robert Emmet was tried.  It was from the dock of the courtroom inside this building that he made his famous speech, so often reproduced and so celebrated by later Irish patriots.


Emmets fellow United Irishmen, the equally tragic and heroic Sheares brothers, were also condemned in these courts, also receiving the death penalty for treason.  (They were sentenced to the gruesome and cruel fate to be hung, drawn and quartered)  Today, their remains lie interred in the famous crypts of nearby St Michan’s Church.   Due to the astonishing properties of the air in the limestone magnesim cypts, which tends to mummify bodies, it’s even possible their poor corpses are still relatively intact.   I hope to post about St Michan’s someday soon, on some of the many stories associated with this unique Dublin church.

In the meanwhile, let’s take one look at a detail from the Green Street Court House. where everyone from the 1798 United Irishmen to 1990s Republican splinter group Dissidents have been tried.  (the later by the no-jury Special Criminal Court, formed by the Irish state in order to prevent jury intimidation during the tense, critical period following the Good Friday peace accord )   For a place with so much dark and serious history, this sweet little symbol of the guiding hand pictured below, seems like something of a anomaly.



Next it was on to Smithfield Square.  All Dubliners will know this place well. It is of course the home of an old, historic distillery, now turned into a visitor attraction. (I nearly wrote tourist trap!)  Smithfield is also the home of a famous horse market, that takes place on the first Sunday of every month, a lively and occaionally dangerous affair.   Smithfield is also huge, easily the length of two full football picthes, and almost a wide as one. (I totally failed to get a picture that captures this sense of scale, apologies for that)   This enormous plot of urban land  has also been much modernized in the last 15 years or so, during the boom years, and I think it is fair to say results were mixed, certainly not always happy.

For example, there is an absurd series of vast 20-meter high poles.   Each topped with an enormous gas burner, designed, one can only presume, to create some sort of Triumph of the Will, Nuremberg rally effect.  But the gas burners were lit less and less, as people realsied that they were:  a- an ecological nightmare (duh);   b- incredibly expensive to run (duh)  and finally: c- that people in the adjacent flats might not actually want a huge screaming torch burning right outside their windows (double-duh)   So the big metal poles just stand there now, useless and unused; vain and redundant,  another dismal reminder of the follies, vulgarity and the waste, of those recent, feckless years.

Did I get a picture of the Fascist-style, gas burner poles?  No I did not.   Instead i present a happier Smithfield motif: this rather cool & modernist little services building, below.  Very sexy & Miesian it is too.  I always hope or dream this little building is some sort of projection box.   But apparently it is not.   I have to be told this repeatedly and can still not quite accept it.  It looks like a projection box.  Oh well.     Perhaps they’ll install a projector one day, and use the whole huge square as a giant drive-in movie venue.    Dublin needs a drive-in, in my opinion.    Summer nights…   drifting away…


Nearby, Lisa drew our attention to this nice old signage.  (below)


Not to mention this lively graffiti,  (below) 


At the other, top end of Smithfield Square, stands the well-know Cobblestone pub, synonymous with traditional and live music sessions.   Here is a picture of the eccentric side entrance, (on tiny Red Cow Lane, nowhere near the notorious motorway junction of the same name)  The upstairs rooms in the pub (which this is the entrance to) are always used for live music too, particularly at the weekends.


Below is a detail of that crazy ramshackle window again,


I’ve a terrible feeling there is a bench and table, just the other side of this window.   And an even worse feeling i may have sat there myself some drunken nights.  The whole window box looks like it’s about ready to detach from the building and crash down into the street, wiping out anyone just inside.    I won’t be sitting there again.    (yeah, yeah,I know;  easy to say when you’re sober)

Finally from Red Cow Lane, here’s another nice bit of graffiti, (below) presumably from those people who wearGuy Fawkes masks, hack into computers, stage protests at G8 summits and always seem ready to take over the world.                                                               (Wish they’d get on with it, we need all the help we can get)


We ended our tour by the old Richmond Street Court Houses.  You can tell how much crime and rebellion Ireland had, by the sheer quantity of courts.  (There’s still a backlog of cases, and they recently built another big one)    Anyway, as you may observe, this super building has a slightly Indian appearance, with its green copper Mogul-style domes.


There is a long-standing tale that this building was indeed intended for India,  but the architects’ plans got mixed up and they were sent here to Dublin instead.    (Presumably there is a corresponding, Irish-looking building, in Calcutta or Madras or somewhere)   I’ve never been able to establish if tis story is really true or just one of those urban myths that are so pleasing we all endlessly repeat them.

Perhaps one day I’ll get a burst of pedantic energy, and check.

Until then,  see you next time.- Arran.

6 thoughts on “a shorter photo essay- Four Courts to Green St & around.

    1. thanks Roy, nice to see you here again. I’m not sure tbh what the state of play is with that window, or even whether the building is listed with a preservation order, which would of course mean there was a legal onus on the owners to conserve & maintain the building and all its features. It does look badly in need of repair, doesn’t it? Hopefully it will be repaired, and not simply replaced, (potentially with some hideous PVC effort) . Then again, this is Ireland, so I’m not holding my breath! Thanks for stopping by. -A.


    1. Hi Robert, well, as for the condition of the buildings themselves, as well as can be expected. Some of the lovely terracotta reliefs are badly weathered of course, as one would expect after all this time, and unfortunately there are a couple that are destroyed (whether a market trader bashed them accidentally, perhaps with the top of a forklift or fruit & veg pallet i don’t know) But in general the buildings, I’m pleased to report, and indeed most of the superb terracotta decorative scheme, are actually in rather good condition, a testament of course to the quality of the original construction, and indeed I am sure this building is also the subject of considerabel affection by most of those who use it and do, in their own unobtrusive way, try to take care of it. As for your other query Robert, (about the current status of the refurbishment & re-use plan)- I too had thought that was on indefinite hold, for obvious budgetary reasons. But when i went up to take some pictures for my book about 3-4 months back, i met a rather interesting man who was head of an association of local business people involved on getting the scheme or a new version of it, back on track. he told me they were wining DCC around and progress was now afoot. We shall see. The plan did seem excellent, a mixed use wholesaler & retail spaces, with much of the later space dedicated to organic, farmers’-market-type retailers. I asked him could they match the English market in Cork and he said it would be far better. Again, we shall see. The ultimate model for this type of space, as you’re no doubt aware, is the extraordinary Bocaria markets of Las Ramblas, Barcelona, often described by foodies and urban heritage & design aficionados alike as the finest of its kind in the world. (although I also hear the Tokyo fish markets run it close) Anyway, if this new scheme off Capel St. ever does come to pass, and is half as good as the gentleman claims & hopes, it could be a vital hub for this historic district. Here’s hoping….


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