‘Dublin Docklands - An Urban Voyage’ was commissioned by the Dublin Docklands Development Authority, and published in 2009. The following represents research undertaken for the project which may or may not have been used in the final book.
In the wake of London’s devastating Great Plague of 1665, the Earl of Ormonde, Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, ordered that all new houses built along the Liffey in Dublin must face onto the river - and that a street must run along all new quays. Prior to this, all houses backed directly onto the Liffey and the inhabitants inevitably used the river as a rubbish dump collective and sewer. Within forty years of Ormonde’s directive, Dublin would be the second largest city, after London, in the fledgling British Empire. On the eve of the Georgian Age, the value of land was rising steadily.
In 1682, Dublin’s City Assembly authorised the surveyed of a large quadrilateral area of land submerged beneath the tidal waters of the Tolka and the Liffey. The area, which they planned to reclaim from the sea, was to be divided into 152 lots. Each lot would be awarded by lottery to a trusty Assembly member or some other favoured Protestant officials. The money raised from selling these lots was to be used to contain the river. However, constant tidal flooding and administrative difficulties put paid to the original ‘North Lotts’ scheme and it was abandoned in 1686.
In 1717, the North Lotts project was reborn with the creation of the North Wall Quay along the River Liffey and the ongoing extensions of the East Wall along the River Tolka. There were to be 132 lots, each portion consisting of two plots, and varying in size from 0.4 to 3.6 acres. The hope was that these would lead to residential and small-scale commercial developments similar to those successfully set in motion by the Gardiners and other Georgian estates along the river front.
The City Assembly chose the lucky lot winners. They used the rent to maintain and improve the restraining walls and to develop the roads.
Money was also allocated for the extension of the East Wall and rerouting of the River Tolka. South of the Tolka, the reclaimed land included what is now know as North Wall, comprising streets such as Mayor St, Sheriff St, Commons St, Guild St, New Wapping St, Castle Forbes Rd (formerly Fish St), Seville Place, West Rd, Church Rd and East Rd. The Assembly named the first four of these streets after the Lord Mayor, the Sheriffs, the Guilds of each trade from which the Corporation was then composed, and the Commons who elected them.
In 1728, Charles Brooking’s map of Dublin indicated that, despite the Assembly’s best intentions, this area was ‘as yet overflow’s by ye tide’. By 1743, a restraining wall had been completed along present day East Wall Road to the North Strand. But house building had still not begun in the North Lotts when John Rocque published his map of the city in 1756. When construction began on the new Custom House in 1781, that seems to have finally kick-started the first residential developments in the area, although these tended to be west of the present day Amiens Street.
Many of the first houses were occupied by artisans employed by Gandon on the Custom House project, such as the sculpting families of Smith, Schrowder and Foley who lived on Montgomery Street (now Foley Street). When construction on the Royal Canal began in 1789, this brought still more artisans and labourers to the area. Broughall’s glass manufacture further increased the working population. Shops and warehouses also began to appear. The community gathered for merrymaking in the Curlew Tavern.
Jesse Foley, father of the great Victorian sculptor John Henry Foley, is said to have arrived in the North Wall area from Winchester and taken up work as a glassblower. In February 1787, The Times noted that ‘a very considerable manufacture of glass has been opened upon the North Wall … in which several of the most capital workmen from Bristol have been engaged’. The factory was started by ‘a gentleman named Broughall, who lately retired from business on a considerable fortune’. The Times believed it promised ‘great profit’ but warned that it would ‘most matterially [sic] injure the English exportation of glass’. This was probably the manufacture of white flint glass, while plate glass for coaches was made and polished near the North Strand and another glass house in that vicinity exported services to Cadiz. From 1800, it is likely Broughall's factory employed a steam engine to carry out the grinding and polishing of the cast glass.
The newspapers of 1787 also speak of the iron mills of nearby Ballybough ‘as furnishing spades, shovels and other implements of husbandry, likewise a variety of culinary utensils, equal to any theretofore imported’.
A prison is said to have stood on Sheriff Street during the early 18th century, built for French prisoners captured during the Napoleonic Wars. These same prisoners reputedly built the Boundary Wall surrounding the bonded warehouses of the Custom House Docks, known in more recent times as the ‘Berlin Wall’. Local historian Terry Fagan recalls meeting an old man who showed him some stables by Spencer Dock. There were iron rings in the stable walls to which, the old man said ‘they used to lock prisoners … while they waited on transportation’.
Unfortunately, with the Act of Union, economic decline and political change became the norm and the pace of Dublin's development north of the river reduced dramatically. Nonetheless, the North Wall Quay slowly evolved into a landscape of factories, warehouses and stores. These included ‘His Majesty’s Excise Stores’ (photograph) on Mayor Street, built in 1821 by an unknown architect, possibly George Papworth. Similar in detail to Stack A, this barrel-vaulted compartment is the only remaining vault of sixteen that once stood in this building and stretched all the way to the North Wall Quay. Spirits imported from other parts of Britain would have been kept here. The Excise Bar and Restaurant now operates in this building.
Amongst other stores in the area were those owned by the Corporation for Preserving and Improving the Port of Dublin which, by 1840, were used for the storage of ‘sound and well coopered casks [of] the best pale Spermacetl Oil … for use in the Irish light houses’. By 1848, rapeseed oil and seal oil were also stored here. There were also a few industrial works scattered about. In 1844, John D’Alton noted that, within close proximity to the new Drogheda-Dublin railway, there were a bottle factory, Kane’s bleaching powder works, a soap boilery and the two funnels of the Dublin vitriol works.
But, for the most part, the North Lotts was still meadow, pasture and wasteland in the early years of Queen Victoria’s reign. The 1838 Ordnance Survey map shows just seven large houses in the North Wall – East Wall area. These were Forbes Castle (on East Road, ‘in ruins’ by Cosgrave’s day), Fort William (Upper Sheriff St), Fort Crystal Court, Fort Lodge (West Rd), North’s Court, Mayfield and Fort Crystal (described in 1844 as ‘the ruins of an eccentrically constructed glasshouse’ on Church St). Sheriff Street comprised just one terrace of five houses and there is no indication of any prison there.
The residential composition of both North Wall and East wall changed dramatically with the arrival of the Dublin and Drogheda Railway (later the Great Northern Railway) in the early 1840s. It arrived on an arched viaduct over Seville Place considered 'one of the boldest and most magnificent works of the line'. (D'Alton). Within a few years there was a population of 4,000, mostly Catholics.
The Roman Catholic Church began construction on the St Laurence O’Toole Church and Schools in 1844. The population was considerably swelled by the massive influx of men, women and children from the Irish countryside in the wake of the devastating Potato Famine.
In 1866, the Christian Brothers established a boys school on Seville Place which, with Coburg Place, was now amongst the most upmarket addresses on the northside. Commons Street also became something of a well-to-do area, with hotels and boarding houses, while Sheriff Street thrived with greengrocers, butchers, a dairy, newsagents, a station and a post office. Haig & Haig Whiskey also had their warehouses on Upper Sheriff Street.
Good news of a sort came to Sheriff Street with a report in 1866 from the Royal Dublin Society's milk tasters.'We have stated that the principal object of this investigation was to determine whether the poor were worse supplied than the richer classes. It is therefore very pleasant to be enabled to state they are not - for Rathmines receives quite as bad milk as Brabazon street or Great Britain Street, and the best of all is obtained from Sheriff Street in the heart of a decidedly poor district'. [4a]
Revolutionary activity was never far from North Wall. In May 1848, The Times noted how, during the trail of Young Ireland leader John Mitchel, police were assailed on Seville Place by a mob ‘the chief leaders of which were women’. The correspondent marvelled at ‘one amazon conspicuous of her daring. She hurled stones and brickbats with unerring aim at the constabulary, cursing lustily the cowardice of the men of Dublin in leaving the fighting to the women. All the efforts of the police to effect her capture were useless and she finally escaped in a crowd of combatants ’. 
Sheriff Street was again to the fore in the Fenian Rising of the 1860s with many St Laurence O’Toole parishioners implicated. Among these were Francis Petit, a former sergeant with the 57th Regiment of Foot, who lived on Commons Street, and the informer Pierce Nagle, employed as a church clerk in St Laurence’s and later a ‘folder of newspapers’ at the Irish People office.. Nagle fared better than dockland labourer John Kenny who was shot to death beneath the arches of the Great Northern Railway off Seville Place in July 1882, for informing on Fenian activity in the area. A year later, a Sheriff Street tailor named Joe Poole was hung for his murder in Richmond Prison.
By the time the Protestant church of Saint Barnabas was built in 1870, North Wall and East Wall had become two very distinct communities with the railway acting as a divisive boundary between the two. In 1873, the distinction was further defined when the Midland and Great Western Railway Company (MGWR) built the Spencer Dock connecting the Royal Canal and the River Liffey. A stone on the bridge in Lower Sheriff Street [apparently still there?] commemorates the moment when the 5th Earl Spencer officially opened the dock. The 1876 Ordnance Survey Map of Dublin indicated that there was also a Vinegar & Charcoal Works on Sheriff Street.
In 1883, a mysterious Dutch gentleman calling himself Count Jottka came to lodge with a Mrs Inglis on Sheriff Street. The Count soon fell in love with the Inglis’s daughter but Mrs Inglis would have no truck with the notion of marriage until he gave a proper account of who he was and where he came from. A row ensued in which the Count shot Mrs Inglis through her dress but missed her flesh and body. As she fled, the Count turned the gun on himself and put a bullet into his own heart. The following year one of Jottka's Dutch colleagues told court that the dead man was not, in fact, a Count.
The merchant William Meagher, Lord Mayor of Dublin and Home Rule MP for Meath had his townhouse on Lower Sheriff Street in 1884. However, as the 20th century approached, North Wall was slowly evolving into one of the more impoverished inner city landscapes in Dublin. The tenement houses on Guild Street, Sheriff Street and Nixon Street were becoming dangerously overcrowded. Seville Place remained relatively prosperous, populated by naval pensioners, businessmen, lawyers and, latterly, artists. When Lord Aberdeen and the Lord Mayor went on a tour of Dublin City in April 1886, they visited ‘the extensive improvements being carried out in Seville Place’.
Mary Aikenhead’s Religious Sisters of Charity opened their pretty red-brick Convent of St Laurence O' Toole on Seville Place in November 1882. From here, the sisters visited the poor and sick, ran a primary school at East Wall, and served dinners from their large dining hall to poor men. In conjunction with the Catholic Social Service Committee, expectant mothers were also given nutritious dinners. The Sisters conducted a combined hostel for nuns and ‘business girls’, and a second one for girls out of employment. By Edwardian times, the Sisters were providing the celebrated ‘St. Anthony's penny dinners’ to the poor. In 2003, the Sisters combined force with the North Inner City Drugs Task Force (NICDTF) to establish the Deora Project to provide counselling for those suffering loss as a result of bereavement, suicide and/or addiction.
In 1904, Heiton’s coal importing merchants rented the Spencer Dock Wharf, kitting it out with modern screening plant, rail siding and steam cranes. This enabled coal to be passed over the screens direct from the ship’s hold into ralway wagons, cutting down on handling costs and ensuring the coal was properly screened.
In October 1910, the biggest fire of the year broke out in Archer’s huge timber stores and sawmills on the North Wall. Dublin’s brand new Leyland motor fire engine raced to the scene but the interior was already ‘a sheet of flame shooting up in glowing showers of burning timber, illuminating the entire docklands’. The pens at the railway yard were hastily emptied of terrified cattle. The fire spread to the surrounding sheds and, were it not for the fire brigade’s proximity to the water supply of the Liffey, would have engulfed some twenty cottage homes. 
In 1911 Dublin's 305,000 population had a higher death rate than Calcutta. Twice as many deaths occurred in the city's pauper workhouses, lunatic asylums and other institutions for the diseased, as the worst industrial slums of England. By 1913, one third of Dublin's population were living in slums. 26,000 families lived in 5,000 tenements and many of these were in North Wall. Discontent was understandably widespread in the working classes.
The Irish Transport and General Workers' Union (ITGWU) launched its first successful strike in 1911, among carters and railway workers. In the midst of this strike, a timber merchant named TL Crowe chanced to drive down Sheriff Street with four horses. A mob surrounded him, shouting ‘Blackleg!’ and throwing stones and bottles. Knocked down and severely injured, Crowe pulled out a gun and fired two shots overhead to keep the crowd back. His revolver was wrenched from him and he was beaten on the head with sticks and stone. He survived to identify two of his assailants in the Northern Police Court two days later.
During the Strike and Lock Out of 1913, workers at the Gas Company stores refused to supply T&C Martin’s timber yards on Sheriff Street. Five weeks later, on November 3rd, the Royal Irish Constabulary baton-charged a crowd of 500 strikers on Sheriff Street who had been throwing stones at ‘free labourers’ as they walked to work in the docks. Another riot took place on November 11th when strikers attacked police and strike-breakers making their way from the wharves to their lodgings on Commons Street.
The Saint Laurence O'Toole G.A.A. club was founded on Seville Place in 1888 and, associated with the Gaelic League from earliest times, became one of the most iconic clubs in the city. During the Easter Rebellion of 1916, over seventy members of the O'Tooles club took their stand among the city garrisons. Tom Clarke, President of the Saint Laurence O'Toole Pipers, was executed after the Rising, as was Sean Mac Dermott, a non playing member of the O'Tooles club. Other club members who took part included Liam O'Briain, Professor of Romance Languages at U.C.G., Citizen Army Sergeant, Frank Robbins, who later became President of the Dublin Council of Trade Unions and Tom Ennis who was later a Free State Army General.
The 1920s was the football club’s golden age, with two All-Ireland and five Leinster titles falling to the tiny parish of St Laurence O'Toole's. Between 1918 and 1931, the club won the Dublin Senior Club Football Championship eleven times. The various McDonnells, Synotts and Kavanaghs who played for the club have become part of Dublin folklore.
Nine of the Dublin footballers playing at Croke Park during the infamous Bloody Sunday massacre were from O'Toole's club. The fleeing Tipperary players were taken to the streets of Seville Place and hidden in the houses of O'Toole's players. Amongst these were the McDonnell brothers who were apparently the receiving point for weapons smuggled in at the North Wall from London and Glasgow. After the match, Johnny McDonnell had to quickly dispose of a kitbag of revolvers and other weapons in his house. His brother Paddy co-founded the St Laurence O'Toole's Drama Society in 1917 with playwright Seán O'Casey, also present in Croke Park that day. (It was here that Peter and Jim learned their skills, performing O'Casey's 'Shadow of a Gunman’). The club’s last football victory was in 1938. In 1969, O'Tooles won their first senior hurling championship. They have won seven more since, most recently in 2002. In recent times O'Toole's have shifted their operation to the Malahide Road. 
In 1925, the cement and plaster manufacturer Chadwicks established extensive new storage and stabling facilities on Sheriff Street in buildings leased from the Great Northern Railway, now incorporated with Coras Iompar Eireann. For more click here.
In the 1930s, Dublin Corporation attempted to solve its housing problems by clearing the slums and building flat complexes, or tower blocks. Amongst the most famous of these were the now-demolished Sheriff Street flats, built between 1930 and 1952 to house large numbers of dockers, stevedores, cattle drovers and their families. A total of 445 flats were built in eighteen four-storey flat blocks. Each tower had a name such as St. Laurence’s Mansions, St. Bridget’s Gardens and Phil Shanahan House. Each flats typically consisted of either two or three bedroom units. Residents tended to suffer from high levels of unemployment and low educational achievement. Around the flats, the landscape was replete with the brick walls and asbestos roofs of warehouses. 
Serious decline set in with the coming of containerisation and the closure of the inner city docks. Unemployment became rife. Education standards were consistently low. In 1938, the St Laurence O’Toole Boys School closed and its pupils were relocated to the Christian Brother School on Seville Place, a stuccoed Modernist idiom built by Robinson and Keefe in 1936. The State made some efforts to stem the tide when, in 1941, they set in motion a new central bus station beside the Custom House at Busaras. In 1949, the Electricity Supply Board built a new oil-fired power generating station on the North Wall. The following year, the Department of Posts and Telegraphs purchased the lands to the north of the Custom House Docks adjoining Sheriff Street which they developed as the new Central Sorting Office for the post. Such emploment boosts were rather tempered by the move of Chadwick’s building supplies from Sheriff Street to extensive new premises in Walkinstown in 1954.
Some of Fianna Fails politician Cyprian Brady’s memories of his childhood in the 1970s include being dragged off Sheriff Street into his grandmother's house when a bull broke loose on Johnny Cullen's Hill and came charging over the bridge. Another early memory was ‘the strong, spicy smell of the port and wine from the bonded warehouses under the dark, damp railway arches in Seville Place’. In his memoir, Dublin theatre director Peter Sheridan recalled a Sheriff Street shop called Mattie's as ‘the best sweet shop in Dublin’.
‘Lucky Lumps that were tuppence uptown were only a penny in Mattie's. He had four different kinds of licorice. He had sherbet sticks, loose rock, loose biscuits, penny packs of sweet cigarettes with red tips on them as if they were lighting, loose marshmallows, honeybee sweets six a penny, everlasting gobstoppers, nancy balls (aniseed balls if you wanted to be posh), nougat, macaroon, blackjack, and flash bars. The best of the sweets were Lucky Lumps. Soft, sticky pink sugar on the outside, and hard on the inside. If you were lucky there was a three penny bit waiting for you on the inside, and if you were less lucky you could get a certificate you could exchange for a free Lucky Lump. I looked in Mattie's window. There they were, staring back at me. Bull's-eyes. I'd forgotten about them. They looked delicious. I loved the way your whole mouth went black eating them. At the end of the day, though, they were only a sweet. Lucky Lumps were a sweet and a surprise.’
In his award-winning documentary ‘Alive Alive O! A Requiem for Dublin’, film-maker Se Merry Doyle included footage of a fresh-faced U2 playing a gig on Sheriff Street in 1982. The film director Jim Sheridan who grew up beside St Laurence’s Church did not forget the landscape of his childhood. Sheriff Street features in both ‘In The Name of The Father’ (1993) and 'The Boxer' (1997). Indeed, although set in Belfast, the latter film was almost exclusively shot in the run-down docklands. With watchtowers, roadblocks and republican graffiti, the flats were transformed into a part of Belfast at the height of the "Troubles". The flat complex where Daniel Day-Lewis’s character lives was earmarked for demolition but this was postponed until filming was completed. In 'The General' (1998), John Boorman also used the flats to recapture the Hollyfield flats of Martin Cahill's childhood. Jim Sheridan is in talks with Hells Kitchen and Sony Classic to direct a feature film called ‘Sheriff Street’.
With the incorporation of the Sheriff Street flats into the CHDA’s designated area in 1987, the area entered a new age. A decision was taken to knock the flats. 385 flats were still occupied at this time. Over 1,000 residents were duly re-housed by Dublin Corporation under the watchful eye of the Sheriff Street Committee. The de-tenanting of the Sheriff Street flats was completed in 1996. The following year, Chesterbridge Developments acquired the 5.7 acre Sheriff Street site for €5.5 million. On 24th and 25th February 1998 the flats were demolished, an event recalled by Peter Sheridan in his 2003 novel, Big Fat Love.
In 1998, the second phase of the International Finances Services Centre development plan commenced with the construction of a brand new district based on the original street grid as devised by the 18th century North Lotts project. The only change to the original plan was the creation of Excise Walk, a pedestrian route from the North Wall Quay to Mayor Square. Chesterbridge duly developed the former Sheriff Street flats into Custom House Square, a series of blocks comprising 600 apartments laid out around courtyards, and present day Mayor Square, making it one of the most profitable residential and retail developments in Dublin. Anthony Reddy & Associates were the architects responsible for the design of the Custom House Square apartment complex, as well as the Custom House Plaza and the ABM-AMRO building in the former Sheriff Street Sorting Office. The area has now contains several multinational company headquarters, a college, hotels, up-market restaurants, a rail station, expensive apartments and the campus of the National College of Ireland (Burke-Kennedy-Doyle, 2003). Mayor House on Mayor Street was developed as a partnership between the Dublin
Docklands Development Authority and a consortium of private investors led by
Christopher Bennett Construction. This sturdy U-shaped complex is now inhabited by Bank of Ireland. Sheriff Street also boasts numerous studios occupied by architectural glass specialists, gilders and artists.
As North Wall prospers, perhaps the most vital development has been the links across the river with the southside - over the Sean O'Casey Bridge and the 2010 landmark Calatrava-designed Samuel Beckett Bridge to Macken Street - putting the Liffey right back at the heart of the city. The area is served by the Docklands Railway Station on Sheriff Street which commenced services on the Western Commuter line in 2007. Under the Transport 21 initiative, due for completion by 2015, this will permanently move to the Spencer Dock Station and connect to the DART network on Pearse Station via the 5.2km (3.2 mile) DART Interconnector tunnel and to the extended LUAS red-line at Heuston Station (southwestern railway line). Iarnród Éireann's proposed underground rail link will pass under the Docklands by Spencer Dock, then run beneath the River Liffey before curving westwards beneath Pearse station and St Stephen's Green towards Heuston station.
Amongst the more imaginative new builds were the seven-storey yellow-brick and timber apartment towers of Clarion Quay, built by Urban Projects (Gerry Cahill Architects, McGarry Ni Eanaigh and DTA Architects) and winner of the 2004 Silver Medal for Housing by the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland. Seven of the 190 apartments are managed as affordable rental housing by the Cluid housing association, demonstrating the potential for integrated, well managed, mixed tenure housing. Alanis, the Kelly family and Pierse developed the complex. They, along with hotelier Brendan Curtis, own the Clarion Hotel. They also built the National College of Ireland, which opened in the IFSC in 2002.
Throughout the downtimes of the 20th century, the Sheriff Street community somehow managed to retain an element of pride. Inspired by the success of local boys Jim and Peter Sheridan, a theatrical bent has never been faraway, not least with the celebrated Balcony Belles drama group in the 1990s. Among the areas local heroes is actor Liam Cunningham, best known for portraying Dan the train driver in The Wind that Shakes the Barley, was the son of a docker and grew up in St Laurence's Mansions. Boyzone star Stephen Gately was the second of five children raised between Sheriff Street and Seville Place.
When Niall Quinn’s Community Support Programme convened in 2008 to award monies gathered in from Dublin Bus’s unclaimed passenger refunds, he was joined by pupils from the St Laurence O'Toole's Girls School. The sporting prowess of the Larrier Girls has been a considerable inspiration throughout the Docklands. Likewise the on-going victories of the St Laurence O’Toole Pipe Band are cause for huge celebrations in the locality. Other motivating Sheriff Street stars include the young Blackburn Rovers winger Keith Treacy, who grew up between East Wall and Seville Place, and Trevor Molloy, the Glenavon striker who became Ireland's top scorer when they took the bronze medal in the 1997 FIFA World Youth Championships. The Homeless Soccer ‘Street League’ is based in St Laurence O'Toole's Recreation Centre on Sheriff Street. Conceived by Sean Kavanagh, editor of the Big Issues magazine, the homeless soccer tournament has gone global with an annual Homeless World Cup, as well as five leagues in Dublin, catering for 100 players per league.
With thanks to Mark Kavanagh, Simon Thornton, Michael Fox, Joe Mooney, Aodhan O'Riordain and others.
 A list of the 132 lot-holders can be found in John de Courcy, 'The Liffey in Dublin'. However, 59 of these men were allocated lands north of the Tolka which were not actually reclaimed until the late 20th century.
 The Times, Thursday Feb 08, 1787, pg 3, issue 670, col A.
 The History of Drogheda With Its Environs, and an Introductory Memoir of the Dublin and Drogheda Railway By John D'Alton (Dublin, 1844).
 The History of Drogheda, John D'Alton (Dublin, 1844).
[4a] The Journal of the Royal Dublin Society, 1866, p 10 and 11.
 The Times, Tuesday, May 30, 1848; pg. 8; Issue 19876; col F
 The Times, Monday, Oct 02, 1865; pg. 7; Issue 25305; col A
 The Dublin Fire Brigade, Tom Geraghty, Trevor Whitehead (Jeremy Mills Publishing, 2004).
 The Times, Tuesday, Nov 11, 1913; pg. 5; Issue 40366; col A
 The Gaelic Athletic Association in Dublin 1884-2000, editor and compiler William Nolan; contributors Jim Wren, Marcus de Búrca, David Gorry (Geography Publications, 2005),
 This information taken from ‘The Custom House Docks’, an on-line essay by Brendan Bartley of the Department of Geography, National University of Ireland in Maynooth. This includes an interview with Gerry Fay of the North Wall Community Association on March 10, 1998 April 28, 1998
 44: Dublin Made Me, Peter Sheridan (Viking, 1999).