St Stephen’s Green Park 140 Years Old
St Stephen’s Green Park, often informally called Stephen’s Green or just ‘The Green’, is spread over 22 acres (8.9 ha) and it is the largest of the parks in Dublin’s main Georgian garden squares.
Today it’s cared for by the Office of Public Works (OPW), but access to the Green was restricted to local residents until 1877, when the then Parliament passed an Act to reopen St Stephen’s Green to the public. This was the initiative of Sir A.E. Guinness, a member of the Guinness brewing family, and referred to as ‘Lord Ardilaun’s Gift to the People’.
It is estimated the redevelopment of the park cost £20,000
Sir Arthur’s next objective was to landscape the park which would provide an oasis of peace and tranquillity in the city. Sir Arthur took an active part in the design of the redeveloped park, and many of the features in the park are said to have been his suggestions. The main features of the redeveloped park included a 3-acre man-made lake complete with a waterfall, picturesquely arranged Pulham rockwork, and bridge. Along with formal flower beds, fountains, and the superintendent’s lodge which was designed along with Swiss shelters.
The name St Stephen’s Green originates around the 13th century
The name St Stephen’s Green originates around the 13th century when a church called St Stephen’s, with a leper hospital attached was situated in that area. Around this time the area was a marshy piece of common ground, which extended as far as the River Dodder and was used by the citizens of the city for grazing livestock.
In 1663 the city assembly decided that the plot of ground could be used to generate income for the city and a central area of 27 acres was marked out which would define the park boundary, with the remaining ground being let out into ninety building lots. Revenue generated from rent was to be used to build walls and paving around the Green. Each tenant also had to pay to plant six sycamore trees near the wall, in order to establish some privacy within the park and in 1670, the first paid gardeners were hired to tend to the park.
The Centre of Fashionable Display
The Green became a particularly fashionable place during the 18th century, owing mainly to the opening of Grafton Street in 1708, Dawson Street in 1723 and the construction of desirable properties in and around this area. The Beaux Walk, situated along the northern perimeter of the park, became a popular promenade to show off one’s latest fashions from London or Paris to the admiring or jealous glances from other aristocratic gentlemen and ladies of high society. The western perimeter boasted the equally elegant French Walk and it led to Leeson’s Walk and Monk’s Walk.
The park opened its gates to the public on 27th of July 1880
After three long years of construction work and without any formal ceremony, the park reopened its gates on 27th of July 1880, to the delight of the public of Dublin.
The gratitude widely felt towards Sir Arthur was expressed in 1892 when a statue to him was unveiled on the western boundary opposite to the Royal College of Surgeons.
Apart from the statue of Lord Ardilaun, many more statues and memorials have been introduced to the park and have made St Stephen’s Green a window into Irish history, particularly of the last three centuries. The Wolfe Tone statue, standing opposite to the Shelbourne Hotel, honours a doomed leader of the abortive 1798 Rebellion. Robert Emmet (situated close to Lord Ardilaun) was also executed for leading the failed revolution of 1803. The Great Famine of the 1840s is commemorated by a bronze group to the rear of Wolfe Tone. Close to the Grafton street entrance is a memorial bronze to another revolutionary Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa who died in 1915 and was an inspiration for others to ignite the Easter Rising of 1916 in which St Stephen’s Green played a role following its short occupation by the rebels.
Most visitors to the Green enter from the Grafton street entrance
Fusiliers’ Arch is a monument, which was erected a century ago, forms part of the Grafton Street entrance to St Stephen’s Green park, in Dublin. Erected in 1907 and modelled on the Arch of Titus in Rome, it was dedicated to the officers, non-commissioned officers and enlisted men of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers who fought and died in the Second Boer War (1899–1902).
St Stephen’s Green Park is easily accessible from the top of Grafton Street
St Stephen’s Green Park is easily accessible by walking up to the top of Grafton Street or by taking the Luas Green Line tram. Maintained to an extremely high standard, the park remains open during daylight hours so is obviously open for longer in the summer than in the winter. The park provides a link between the fast pace of city life and the soothing, gentle relaxed elements of the countryside in the heart of Dublin.
To find out more about St Stephen’s Green Park, you can take an audio tour on your smartphone or laptop and listen to an audio guide here.
Really interesting article, great to read about “the Greens” history!
Thanks JM! It’s so important to retain as much ‘Green’ space in every city. We’re so lucky we have it.