NMI Burial Excavation Records


Sites and Monuments Record No.: N/A Licence number: 04E0035

Author: Edmond O'Donovan

Site type: Post-medieval garden


ITM: E 715534m, N 735214m

Latitude, Longitude (decimal degrees): 53.354503, -6.264502

The development of Parnell Square was prompted by the creation of pleasure gardens and the erection of the Rotunda Hospital by Bartholomew Mosse on a largely undeveloped plot of land to the north of Great Britain Street (now Parnell Street) in the mid-18th century (Pearson 2000). Mosse acquired the lease of land at Parnell Square in 1748, opening pleasure gardens to the public in 1750 to fund the erection of the hospital, on which construction commenced in 1751. Speculative tradesmen constructed many of the houses built around Parnell Square on formal property plots acquired from the Mosse family from the mid-18th century onwards. No. 20 Parnell Square was built by the plumber T. Sherwood, who acquired the site in 1765 and completed the building in 1769. No. 21 was built by J. Reid, a bricklayer who acquired the site in 1760 and completed the building in 1771 (Arnold 2002).

The Dublin Magazine of 1763 recorded that 'vast quantities of human bone' had been found while digging the 'new gardens' that now lie beneath the grounds of the Rotunda Hospital. More burials were uncovered on Cavendish Row and Granby Row, and one at the latter included 'a large sword with a spear of about two feet in length with crumbling pieces of iron resembling broad rivets'. In a letter written to the Irish Builder in 1897, it is argued that the Rev. Dr Edward Ledwich wrote the account given in the Dublin Magazine and is believed to have personally inspected the burials on Granby Row. In 1788, Joseph Walker also wrote that a sword and helmet with several human bones had been uncovered during the sinking of foundations of a house on Parnell Square North (Walker 1788).

Monitoring and limited excavation was carried out on the site of a proposed extension to the Dublin City Gallery: The Hugh Lane. Archaeological deposits dating from the 18th century were encountered on the site. A well was discovered along the eastern boundary wall of the site. The well dates from the 18th century and appears to be at least 4-5m deep. The findings confirm the location and layout of buildings illustrated on the historic maps and the finds were consistent with the domestic nature of the site prior to its conversion as a ballroom.

Arnold, P. 2002 Historical report on Charlemont House and 20 & 21 Parnell Square, Dublin 1. Unpublished report.
Pearson, P. 2000 The heart of Dublin. Dublin.
Walker, J.C. 1788 Historical memoirs of the Irish bards: an historical essay on the dress of the ancient and modern Irish.

Margaret Gowen and Co. Ltd, 27 Merrion Square, Dublin 2.