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Shelbourne Road

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Title: Shelbourne Road  
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Subject: Shelbourne, History of Volkswagen in Ireland, Ballsbridge, Automotive industry in Ireland, Lansdowne Road
Collection: Ballsbridge, Streets in Dublin (City)
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Shelbourne Road

Shelbourne is not a formally recognised district of Dublin, Ireland. However, the informal use of the moniker Shelbourne is sometimes used to refer to the area around Shelbourne Road, Ballsbridge, in the south east part of Dublin city.

In John Rocque's map of 1756, today's Shelbourne Road and Upper Grand Canal Street, from which it extends, appear together as Beggars' Bush Road. Wilson's Plan of 1793 shows that Beggars' Bush Road has become known as Artichoke Road. Some sources[1] attribute this change of name to John Villiboise, a French huguenot, who had obtained a ninety-year lease on 1 rood of land from Richard 5th Viscount Fitzwilliam in 1736 and who planted artichokes on the land adjoining his house. This house, located in the vicinity of today's Holles Street, became known as Artichoke House and eventually the road became known as Artichoke Road. In William Duncan's map of 1821, the district known as Beggars' Bush is a rather ill-defined area that seems to coincide more or less with the area of land now occupied by Lansdowne Road's rugby stadium and the houses to its west. Later ordnance survey maps give the precise size and boundaries for Beggars Bush: it is an area of 116 acres, 2 roods and 21 perches bounded on the east by the Dodder from the bridge at Ballsbridge to the bridge at Ringsend; on the north by Ringsend Road from Ringsend bridge to South Lotts Road; on the south-west by South Lotts Road to Beggars Bush Road (Shelbourne Road); from Shelbourne Road to Lansdowne Road; the boundary then runs south-west on Lansdowne Road alongside Trinity College's botanical gardens and turns south on Pembroke Road to join the bridge at Ballsbridge. Old street directories show that the name Artichoke Road was still in use in the 1860s, but that the numbering of houses ran in the opposite direction from that currently employed - for example, no.2 Artichoke Road corresponds to no.68 Shelbourne Road; no. 3 Artichoke Road corresponds to no. 66 Shelbourne Road.

The 1876 Ordnance Survey map refers to the road as Shelburne Road, a spelling that conforms to that of one of the titles of William Petty-Fitzmaurice, Marquess of Lansdowne, second Earl of Shelburne (family name Petty-FitzMaurice). Petty-Fitzmaurice, born in Dublin, was Prime Minister from 1782 to 1783. It is unclear how the spelling of today's Shelbourne Road acquired an o; Shelburne Falls in Massachusetts, also named in commemoration of William Petty-Fitzmaurice, has conserved the original spelling.

Shelbourne Road runs south-east from Haddington Road and skirts the site of the former British Army barracks at Beggars Bush. It crosses Lansdowne Road just west of the famous international rugby union and football grounds. From there, it runs south-west to Merrion Road which it meets at the River Dodder bridge.

Early maps seem to indicate that the route of today's Shelbourne Road was determined by the borders of the marshy Dodder estuary which, fed by the Swan River (now culverted) and subject to tidal flooding, extended almost as far west as the site of the Beggars' Bush Barracks. Although reclamation of the area can be said to have started with the construction of Sir John Rogerson's Quay in 1713, it wasn't until William Vavasour took a 150-year lease at £80 per annum on an area of sixty acres of marshland between Beggars' Bush and Ringsend in 1792 that the area began to take on the appearance we recognise today. According to The Dublin Chronicle, ...This tract, which is every tide inundated by the tide and Dodder, the taker, it is said, intends immediately to reclaim by a complete double embankment of the Dodder, which, thus confined to a determined channel, will then form an handsome canal through it; a circumstance that will not only ornament an unsightly spot, but materially improve the salubrity of the air at Irishtown, Ring-send, &c”..[2] Although further drainage works were undertaken in the 1830s to facilitate the construction of the Dublin and Kingstown Railway line, oyster and mussel shells frequently unearthed today during building and renovation works in houses along the road continue to provide reminders of the sea's recent presence.

In 1904, James Joyce rented the front upstairs room of No. 60 Shelbourne Road from a family called McKernan for a short period. It was from this house that, on 16 June 1904, he set out for a rendezvous with Nora Barnacle, later to be his wife. He commemorated this date by choosing it as the day on which the action of his novel, Ulysses, takes place. The 16 June is now frequently referred to as 'Bloomsday'.

Farrington, the protagonist of Joyce's short story, Counterparts, alighted from a tram at Shelbourne Road and he steered his great body along in the shadows of the wall of the barracks as he made his way home, possibly to No. 60 Shelbourne Road.

On the site now occupied by the Berkeley Court and Jurys hotels stood Trinity College's Botanic Gardens. In 2005, this seven-acre plot of land was purchased for €379 million, making this corner of Shelbourne Road perhaps the most expensive real estate in Europe. Plans to re-develop it have faltered.

Richard Turner, best known for the Curvilinear Range in the Irish National Botanic Gardens, built his foundry, Hammersmith Ironworks, in 1834 on a six-acre site at the southern end of Shelbourne Road, immediately adjacent to Trinity College's Botanic Gardens. Many sections of the railings of Trinity College were cast in this foundry.

Turner built fourteen houses, known as Turner's Cottages, for his employees. These were located in the laneway opposite the Oval building and survived until the early 1970s. They were known locally as The Gut, for reasons that are not exactly clear but probably because each end of the estate was built in an arc, resembling a human gut.

Swastika Laundry

The Swastika Laundry was a laundry founded in 1912, located on Shelbourne Road. They used electric vans, that were painted in red with a black swastika on a white background,[3] to collect and deliver laundry to customers.

The use of Shelbourne Road and Lansdowne Road copies the name street crossings in Kenmare, County Kerry, the origin perhaps being that the Cromwellian army physician Sir William Petty also "moonlighted" as a part-time ordinance surveyor/cartographer.

Shelbourne Football Club

Shelbourne Football Club, founded in 1895, was named as a result of the founders (who included James Rowan and 2 Wall brothers) tossed a coin under the Bath Avenue railway bridge to decide whether the name would be Bath FC or Shelbourne FC. The club originally played at St Marys Field close by, then at Shelbourne Park, and later moved to Ringsend("Pnuemonia Park") still terraced in the middle of a housing estate, followed by a short stay at Harolds Cross. Shelbourne FC now play on the northside of the city at Tolka Park.


  1. ^ Encyclopaedia of Dublin - Douglas Bennett
  2. ^ "Beggars Bush". Retrieved 28 June 2011. 
  3. ^ Ask About Ireland Website


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