The Old Pembroke Township

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NewsFour sought to investigate the origins and uncover the history of the area whose concrete pavements Dublin 4 residents walk upon every day. The inhabitants of Ringsend, Irishtown, Sandymount, Ballsbridge and Donnybrook all once co-existed under the umbrella of the old township of Pembroke.

We sat down to chat with John R Holohan, Chairman of the Ballsbridge, Donnybrook and Sandymount Historical Society, about the township.

The township of Pembroke was established in 1863, formed for local government purposes and regulation of services by private Act of Parliament. At the time, the area was expanding significantly and there was a pressing need for an authority to manage sewage, water, paving and other services.

One main aim of maintaining services in the area was to create municipal housing, given the low-quality homes that were plentiful at the time. The Pembroke Estate built many housing projects from the 1880s onwards in areas such as Shelbourne Road and Ringsend, designed to house employees of the estate along with other groups such as artisans and craftspeople. Seven ninths of the estate were owned by Lord Pembroke himself, with the remaining 14 being elected by property owners. The agent of the estate was an ex-officio commissioner.

The population of the township was approximately 13,200 in 1863, and covered an area of 1,592 acres. The Pembroke Urban District Council would levy rates on the occupants of the houses for the provision of the paving of roads and other social services. The first rates were struck in 1864, originally at two shillings on the pound.

Pembroke Town Hall was built in Merrion Road, Ballsbridge and opened in 1880. Previously, the township offices had been located on Ballsbridge Terrace, where the Herbert Park Hotel now stands. The town hall was designed by Edward Henry Carson, the father of Lord Carson, who would go on to play a pivotal role in Irish unionist politics.

The hall served as the main headquarters for the Pembroke UDC, with 15 founding commissioners, their professions ranging from medicine, architecture and merchandise. Another interesting historical fact regarding the town hall is that, in 1916 during the Easter Rising, the British army requisitioned the Hall as a place for holding prisoners, among them being one Commandant Eamon de Valera.

The township was run by the Pembroke UDC until 1930, when it merged with Dublin City Council, along with the inclusion of other Dublin townships like Rathmines, Clontarf, Kilmainham and Drumcondra. In fact, if you walk along Morehampton Road in Donnybrook you can see for yourself an engraving on the opposite side of the Clyde Road junction, which signified the demarcation point between the Pembroke and Rathmines townships. The records of the Pembroke township are now contained in Pearse Street Library.

John Holohan spoke to us about the role of the Ballsbridge, Donnybrook and Sandymount Historical Society.

“Our first lecture was in January 2007. We have a committee that’s active; we do outdoor outings to places of interest in the locality. We also try to sponsor exhibitions and we did an exhibition for the 1907 International Exhibition in Herbert Park in 2007. There is a local history file in the Pembroke Library and a lot of our members have written books and articles on the area.”

By Craig Kinsella