Richmond Barracks – within whose walls over 3,000 Irish rebels were held – has been carefully restored to house an interactive, multimedia attraction tracing the story of the site from military barracks to housing estate, and from school to exhibition centre. Visitors can discover this lost chapter of Kilmainham’s and Inchicore’s history in the heart of Dublin.
If one sees the saga of Easter Week 1916 as a drama, the first Act is centred on the GPO and the last Act focuses on the the executions in Kilmainham Gaol. But the middle Act was played out in Richmond Barracks. Over 3,000 rebels, men and women of the Easter Rising, were held and sorted in the barracks buildings. The front line soldiers, rounded up from across Ireland, were packed in tightly, awaiting their sentence to prison camps in England or Wales.
The leaders were plucked out of the crowd and set aside in the barracks gymnasium to await their courts martial and fate. 90 death sentences were handed out over the first two weeks of May, and 14 executions were carried out in Kilmainham, including the seven signatories of the proclamation. Many of the architects of the new Irish state were held in the barracks including Michael Collins, Eamon De Valera, Arthur Griffith, and William T. Cosgrave.
Even the conclusion to the Rising has its roots in the Richmond Barracks. The British Prime Minister, Herbert Asquith, visited Richmond Barracks on the 13th of May, and the stay of executions which followed is often attributed to that visit.
In time, Richmond Barracks was given over by the State to to house people who required accommodation. By 1926, the converted barracks were renamed Keogh (or Kehoe) Square. By 1928, 248 families were housed in the barracks buildings and an additional 218 families lived in houses built on the thirteen acre field east of the square.
When the barracks were first converted into flats, they were amongst the finest in Dublin. Each hall housed six families, two on each floor, and each flat usually had two or three bedrooms, a large living room and open fire, a small kitchen, and a toilet. The estate was working class, with some people struggling to get by on small or no wages while feeding large families. It was a strong and stable community with close ties to one another. Though the community in Keogh Square changed and moved on, the Richmond Barracks Exhibition Centre shines light on the local history and folklore of Inchicore and Kilmainham.
The adjacent Goldenbridge Cemetery is now open to visitors for the first time since it closed in 1869. This was the first Catholic cemetery in Ireland, founded by Daniel O’Connell in 1828. Visitors can walk through the unspoilt garden cemetery; learn about the vaults, the watchmen with guard dogs, bodysnatching; and visit a Taoiseach’s grave and that of an eight year old boy killed as a result of a bullet wound in the 1916 Rising.
Open Mon-Fri 10.00 am – 4.00 pm (last admission 3.00 pm). Daily tours at 11.00 am and 2.00 pm.
Saturday/Bank Holidays – Access only by pre-booked guided tour at 11.00 am
Closed Sundays. Closed for lunch 12.45 pm – 1.45 pm Monday to Friday.
Off Bulfin Rd, Inchicore, Dublin 8
Tel: 01-222 8400
Admission must be pre-booked online.
Guided tours – Adults €8; concessions. Guided tours last 90 minutes and include an exclusive tour of Goldenbridge Cemetery.
Self-guided visit – Adults €6; concessions.
“The Mess” Café is open from 10.00 am to 4.00 pm Monday-Friday only and got a very favourable review from the Irish Times in August 2017. Parts of this review are reproduced below.
The Mess Cafe at Richmond Barracks in Inchicore is a beautiful room in the restored classrooms of the old barracks. There are high ceilings, arched sash windows and the kind of original glass and timber partitions for which hipster designers would sell their grandmothers.
It’s a sad fact that Irish museum cafe ambitions rarely stretch past keeping the cellophane-wrapped muffins in date. Yet no one is blowing a bugle about the Mess Cafe. My hunch is that it’s only 1916 buffs, the community groups who meet here and their friends who know about it. There is plenty of parking (bike and car) out front beside the green. Apart from a small chalkboard at the entrance there’s little sign that there is food to be had here, much less good food.
The second great thing about the Mess Cafe is the people running it. It’s the Green Kitchen, a social enterprise started in a former butchers’ shop in Walkinstown to train people with learning difficulties in hospitality, kitchen and horticulture skills.
The menu is simple. Everything is cooked from scratch so food can take a while. It’s no hardship to soak up the sun waiting for a goat’s cheese and tomato tart, a circle of flaky pastry topped with the kind of ingredients you might find in your own fridge (with the lovely added flourish of candied walnuts) all finished with fresh leaves. There’s a crumbly scone and good coffee to follow.
Visitors come in waves and then the place fills and empties again quickly. They need more tables outside and probably a few more staff for when word spreads. Weekend openings would bring a whole new crowd. Dublin 8 is coming down with trendy cafes. But there’s a combination of heart and history here that’s really very special.