The Black Rock & Blackrock Park
The Black Rock (An Charraig Dubh) a geological outcrop that marked Dublin’s city limits, long constituted a serious coastal hazard for shipping in Dublin Bay, and in the c18th divided the local strand into Men’s and Women’s bathing areas at low tide. The limestone calp, which appears black when wet, was extensively used for wall cappings in the area. The Rock is now buried under Blackrock Park (except for a bit still visible just north of the pond).
Blackrock Park was established in 1873 to cover a malodorous saltwater marsh created in 1834 by the construction of the Dublin & Kingstown Railway line across the previously popular bathing strand. The gardens and granite gates at the main entrance once belonged to Vauxhall Gardens, opened in 1793 in the grounds of Fort Lisle, the residence of John Lysaght, MP for Charleville (Co. Cork), a famous miser who was made Baron Lisle in 1858 and died in 1781; his brother-in-law, Admiral Matthew Moore, was buried on the strand in 1787.
Blackrock Railway Station, opened on 17th December 1834, has high walls made of limestone cut from the eponymous Black Rock. It is now served by the DART.
Blackrock Sea Baths
The Blackrock Sea Baths were built by the railway company on the seaward side of Blackrock Railway Station in 1839. It was possible to buy a special train ticket that also permitted entrance to the baths.
Rebuilt in concrete in 1887 with a large gentlemen’s bath and a smaller ladies’ bath, and renovated for the 1928 Tailteann Games, the venue could accommodate up to 1000 spectators for swimming galas and water polo events in the 50m pool.
The baths suffered a decline in use in the 1960s, and were closed in the late 1980s. Now partially dismantled, the old basins and diving platform can still be seen near the train station.
Leigh’s New Pocket Road-Book of Ireland(1885) described Blackrock as “the most celebrated sea-bathing place in the vicinity of the capital. The streets are rather confined, but the extraordinary beauty of the country residences, and of the sea-shore, secures to the Rock a long train of equestrian visitors and jaunting cars, which have, however, considerably decreased since the railway to Kingstown was established“.
Blackrock Village, formerly aka Newtown-on-the-Strand / Newtown-at-the-Black-Rock, was developed primarily under the supervision of the Blackrock Town Commissioners, appointed in 1853. Nowadays it is now a rather bland commercial centre with office blocks, banks, traditional shops, boutiques, art galleries, antique stores, home improvement outlets, and a good range of pubs, cafés, restaurants etc.
Blackrock Town Hall was erected in 1865 and extended in 1880. The adjoining site, presented to the Town Commissioners by William Field MP in 1898, was used for the 1905 construction of the Technical Institute and Blackrock Library, funded by Andrew Carnegie and designed by George L O’Connor, presumably responsible for harmonising the façade across all three buildings.
The Blackrock Cross, aka the Cross of the Rock / the Market Cross, used to stand in the grounds of Monkstown Castle, and was repositioned as a boundary marker c.1770. It was moved to its present overblown pedestal on Main Street amidst much controversy in 1865, and has since lost several parts to vandals. Some regard it as one of the c12th Fassaroe Crosses dotted around the region, while others insist it is much older; one suggestion is that it was originally a pagan idol, “Christianised” into a cross.
The Blackrock Shopping Centre, built in 1984, is one of the most fashionable malls in the region.
The Blackrock Market, set up off Main Street in 1996, is a venue for artesans selling items ranging from leather goods, bean bags, candles, second-hand books, coins, stamps and antiques to cakes, crepes and ethnic food. The market is open at weekends, but some stalls also open during the week.
Deepwell House & Gardens can only be visited at certain times of year. The house, originally called Fairy Hill, was erected in 1810, remodelled and renamed in 1840. Occupants have included members of the Guinness family. The formal Italianate garden and the herb garden have won several awards.
Blackrock’s Old Houses
Frescati House, built in 1739, was the childhood home of Lord Edward FitzGerald (1763-1798), the head of the United Irishmen and commander of the 1798 Rebellion. Despite extensive protests and attempts to save it, the lovely old building was demolished in 1983 to make way for the Frescati Shopping Centre.
Lisaniskea (Lios na Uisce) was the home of Lady Arabella Denny, aunt of the British Prime Minister, the Earl of Shelburne, who sometimes stayed with her. A highly regarded philanthropist, she was visited in 1783 by John Wesley, who described the property as an earthly paradise. It was leased to Kevin O’Higgins from 1923 to 1925.
Maretimo House was built in 1770 as a summer residence for Nicholas Lawless, 1st Baron Cloncurry, who had his main house in Lyons, Co. Kildare. His son Valentine Lawless, 2nd Baron Cloncurry was compensated for the construction of the Dublin & Kingstown Railway line across his land with, among other things, a private railway bridge and harbour. Maretimo house was demolished in 1970 and apartments of the same name now stand in its place. The private railway bridge can still be seen today, but its once elegant walkway has been replaced by a corrugated iron structure.
Blackrock House, built in 1774 by John Lees (1737–1811), was later used as a summer residence for the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. The mansion has some fine features such as a two-storey red brick porch, a large coach-house, stable yard and gate-lodge; it is currently divided into flats.
Talbot Lodge, an C18th villa, was expanded and incorporated by the Religious Sisters of Charity into the Linden Convalescent Home complex, where Eamonn DeValera died in 1975. The house was demolished by developers in the 1990s.
Carysfort Road, Avenue etc. in Blackrock, like similar toponyms in Britain and Australia, derive from the Earls of Carysfort, of Glenart Castle near Arklow, whose title in turn came from the small hamlet nowadays known as Macreddin, near Aughrim (Co. Wicklow).
Carysfort College, officially called Our Lady of Mercy College, a major primary school teacher training establishment run by the Sisters of Mercy, opened in 1977 and closed in 1988; the impressively landscaped 90-acre campus is now occupied by UCD‘s Michael Smurfit Graduate School of Business, while the old chapel floorboards reputedly grace the Quiet Man pub in Barcelona.
Blackrock Places of Worship
The church of St John the Baptist (RC), designed by Patrick Byrne as the first Gothic Revival edifice in the Archdiocese of Dublin, was inaugurated in 1845 on land donated by Lord Cloncurry. The fine interior features stained glass windows by Evie Hone.
All Saints church (CoI) on Carysfort Avenue was erected in 1868.
St Andrew’s church (Presbyterian) on Mount Merrion Avenue dates from 1899.
The former Methodist church on George’s Avenue is now a community amenity called Urban Junction.
A Kellyite church built c. 1850 on Carysfort Road by Anglican followers of the schismatic Rev Thomas Kelly of Athy (Co. Kildare) was handed over to the Church of Ireland in 1872 and demolished as surplus to requirements in the 1960s.
Newpark Comprehensive School, a large non-fee-paying co-educational secondary school under Church of Ireland management, founded in 1972 to replace the Avoca School (1891) and the Kingstown School (1894), occupies extensive grounds on Newtown Park Avenue, with excellent sports facilities, a Sports Centre, a Music Centre and an Adult Education Centre offering evening classes.
Harry Hammon Lyster (1830 – 1922) of Stillorgan Park, a lieutenant with the 72nd Bengal Native Infantry during the Indian Mutiny of 1858, was awarded the Victoria Cross for “gallantly charging and breaking, singly, a skirmishing square of the retreating Rebel Army from Calpee, and killing two or three Sepoys“; as an interpreter for General Sir Hugh Henry Rose, he was also wounded in a sword fight with Mohomed Fazil Khan’s nephew, who he killed. He commanded the 3rd Goorka Regiment at the 1880 Battle of Ahmed Khel during the Second Anglo-Afghan War, was promoted to Lieut. General in 1891, and retired from the British Indian Army in 1892, dying in London 30 years later.
Sir William Orpen (1878 – 1931), a famous portrait painter and WWI war artist, lived on Grove Avenue.
Maurice Walsh (1879 – 1964), novelist and author of The Quiet Man, lived at Stillorgan Park Avenue and Avoca Road.
Eamonn DeValera (1882 – 1975) was educated at Blackrock College, later taught there and at Carysfort College, and resided at various local addresses during his long political career.
Brian O’Nolan / Flann O’Brien / Myles Na gCopaleen (1911 – 1966), brilliant satirical writer and journalist, lived at Avoca Terrace and later Merrion Avenue.
Cecil King (1921 – 1986), a largely self-taught abstract artist, lived on Idrone Terrace.
Blackrock Dolmen (1987) by Rowan Gillespie (b.1953), an iternationally renowned sculptor who works from his bronze casting foundry at Clonlea in Blackrock. (Photo by Sarah 777).