Places to visit: Museums

Royal Hospital Kilmainham

Royal Hospital Kilmainham ***

The Royal Hospital Kilmainham is a 17th Century building modelled on Les Invalides in Paris as a retirement home for old, sick and disabled soldiers. The building contains the Master’s Quarters, the Great Hall, the Chapel, a magnificent Courtyard and a Vaulted Cellar. There are notable formal gardens. The Royal Hospital Kilmainham predates its sister, the Royal Hospital Chelsea, by just two years and is the oldest classical building in Ireland.

The Royal Hospital stands on the site of the 7th century Early Christian settlement of Cill Maighneann, from which the area of Kilmainham derives its name.

In 1174, Strongbow developed the site replacing the Christian settlement with a medieval hospital and monastery of the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem (Knights Hospitallers).

With the dissolution of the monasteries under the rule of Henry VIII between 1536 and 1541, the settlement was closed and the lands remained vacant until 1680.

The Royal Hospital Kilmainham was established and built between 1680 and 1684 on a 60 acre site granted by King Charles II at the instigation of James Butler, First Duke of Ormond.

Inspired by ‘Les Invalides’ in Paris, France, then recently opened as Louis XIV’s home for his army pensioners, Ormond obtained a charter from King Charles to construct a similar type of building at Kilmainham.

A retirement home for old soldiers rather than a hospital, the building opened its doors in 1684 and for the next 243 years, thousands of army pensioners would live out their final days within its walls.

Classical in design and Continental in layout, leading architects such as William Robinson, Thomas Burgh and Francis Johnson worked on the building making the Royal Hospital not only a building of distinction, but the starting point of Dublin’s development into a city of European standing.

In the 19th century, the military significance of this building was greatly enhanced when it became the residence and headquarters of the Commander-in-Chief of the British army in Ireland.

The Royal Hospital remained an old soldier’s home until 1927 when it was finally handed over to the newly established Irish Free State Government, where it served a number of purposes in the decades that followed (including serving as Garda Headquarters from 1930 to 1950).

In 1980 Taoiseach Charles Haughey approved plans to renovate the building at a cost of IR£3 million. It took four years to complete the project – which is as long as it took to originally build it three centuries before!

Today, the Office of Public Works retells the story of this magnificent building through its ‘Old Man’s House’ Exhibition. Visitors can discover the history behind the North Range, the Formal Gardens, the Meadow and Dublin’s Oldest graveyard, Bully’s Acre. Located on the ground floor of the West Wing, the exhibition enables one to enter a window into the past,  learning about the lives of those who once worked and resided within its walls.

The building became home to the Irish Museum of Modern Art in 1991 (please click here for more information about IMMA).

Heritage guided tours are provided on request only (please email paulf.obrien@opw.ie to enquire). The tours cover Bully’s Acre (Dublin’s oldest cemetery) and the Royal Hospital grounds and formal gardens.

You can read a full account of the Hospital’s fascinating history at www.imma.ie

Old Man’s House exhibition, grounds and gardens open Mon-Sat 10.00 am – 5.00 pm; Sunday and Bank Holidays 12 noon – 5.00 pm. The IMMA art gallery is closed on Mondays.

Military Road, Kilmainham, Dublin 8

Tel: 087 1169347

Admission free.

www.heritageireland.ie

www.rhk.ie

Tenement Museum

Tenement Museum (14 Henrietta Street)

Dating from the 1720s, Henrietta Street in Dublin’s North inner city is the most intact collection of early to mid-18th century aristocratic townhouses in Ireland. These vast houses were divided into tenements from the 1870s to the 1890s to house the city’s working poor.

Built as a townhouse for the members of Dublin’s ruling elite, 14 Henrietta Street was divided into 19 tenement flats in 1877, with some 100 people living under its roof by 1911. It remained a tenement house until the last families left in the late 1970s.

14 Henrietta Street tells the story of the building’s shifting fortunes, from family home and power base to courthouse; from barracks to its final incarnation as a tenement. The stories of the house and street mirror the story of Dublin and her citizens.

14 Henrietta Street seeks to help visitors deepen their understanding of the history of urban life and housing in Ireland, through people and memory. Taking the stories, personal experiences and objects of former residents of the tenements, coupled with new ongoing social and architectural history research, the Museum gathers, interprets and preserves Dublin’s tenement history.

Why tenement living developed in Dublin – After the Acts of Union were passed in Great Britain and Ireland in 1801, all power shifted to London and most politically and socially significant residents were drawn from Georgian Dublin to Regency London. Dublin and Ireland entered a period of economic decline, exacerbated by the return of soldiers and sailors at the end of the Napoleonic Wars. The rise of the cotton mills of Lancashire had a negative impact on the Irish poplin industry.

For a time, Henrietta Street was occupied by lawyers. Dublin’s population swelled by about 36,000 in the years after the Great Famine, and taking advantage of the rising demand for cheap housing for the poor, landlords and their agents began to carve their Georgian townhouses into multiple dwellings for the city’s new residents.

Houses such as 14 Henrietta Street underwent significant change in use – from having been a single-family house with specific areas for masters, mistresses, servants, and children, they were now filled with families (often one family to a room,  the room itself divided up into two or three smaller rooms – a kitchen, a living room, and a bedroom). Entire families crammed into small living spaces and shared an outside tap and lavatory with dozens of others in the same building.

For the safety of visitors, groups must be small, with no more that 15 on a tour at a time. Tour Guides accompany you through three floors of the house and its many stories, told through the walls of the house itself, recreated immersive rooms, sound and film.

As the building dates from the late 1720s with minimal intervention in the structure, some spaces are small and the steps of the original back stairs are uneven and steep. It’s advised that you wear comfortable shoes, and perhaps dress in layers, as parts of the house can be a little cold.

14 Henrietta Street recognised in European and Irish awards – The conservation of a  former tenement house at 14 Henrietta Street in Dublin’s north inner city was named Best Conservation/Restoration Project, and won the Special RIAI Jury Award at the prestigious annual RIAI Irish Architecture Awards.

Tour times
Wed-Sat: 10.00 am; 11.00 am; 12.00 pm; 1.00 pm; 2.00 pm; 3.00 pm; 4.00 pm
Sunday: 12.00 pm; 1.00 pm; 2.00 pm; 3.00 pm; 4.00 pm
Monday & Tuesday: Closed
Tours last approximately 75 minutes; pre-booking is pretty essential.

14 Henrietta Street (Tenement Museum)
14 Henrietta Street, Dublin D01 HH34

Tel: 01- 524 0383

www.14henriettastreet.ie

Adults  €9; concessions 

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia (Sheila1988 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=74915583)

 

 

Trinity College Zoological Museum

Zoological Museum (Trinity College)

Getting your picture taken through the jaws of a shark and feeling the might of a crocodile’s teeth are just some of the thrills on offer at Trinity College’s Zoological Museum. This 250-year old collection houses 25,000 specimens. Despite over two centuries of disruption and change, much of the collection remains intact and provides a vital undergraduate teaching resource for the Department of Zoology.

The Zoological Museum holds some of the most amazing creatures on the planet.

  • Don’t miss the tragic tale of Ireland’s Last Great Auk. Extinct since 1844, only a handful of these beautiful birds survive in museums today.
  • Meet Prince Tom, the ‘Royal’ elephant who travelled the world with Queen Victoria’s son, Prince Alfred.
  • Have your photograph taken through the jaws of a Great White Shark.
  • Admire the world-renowned delicate glass artworks of sea creatures crafted by father and son team Leopold and Rudolf Blaschka in the 19th century.
  • Keep clear of the giant Gavial – Is it as fierce as it looks?
  • Hold one of the world’s strangest teeth – What animal do you think it’s from?
  • Look out for the Tasmanian wolf – Is it really extinct?

Open Mon-Sun 10.30 am-4.00 pm (1 June to 31 August only).

www.tcd.ie/visitors/zoological/

Zoological Museum, School of Natural Sciences, Department of Zoology, Trinity College, Dublin 2.

Tel: 01-8961366.

Admission €3.

 

Dundalk Museum

County Museum Dundalk

The County Museum Dundalk is one of Ireland’s finest Local Authority Museums. It is located in a restored 18th Century distillery. Interesting artefacts include a Heinkel bubble car and the leather coat worn by King William of Orange at the  Battle of the Boyne.

There are three galleries of permanent exhibitions: “From Farm to Factory” – the story of Louth’s industrial development;  “The Archaeology of Louth” – an introduction to archaeological methods; and “The Irish in World War One” – an evocation of the soldier’s life & the aftermath of war.

There is a memorial garden dedicated to the botanist Thomas Coulter. A further exhibition, “On the Trail of the Arctic Fox”, celebrates the great Irish Arctic explorer, Francis McClintock.

Open Tues-Sat 10.00 am–5.00 pm.
Closed Sun, Mon, Bank Holidays.

www.dundalkmuseum.ie

Carroll Centre, Roden Place, Jocelyn Street, Dundalk, Co.Louth.

Tel: 042 9392999

Adults €2; concessions.