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Surviving Richmond Building to be Restored

Richmond Barrak old

Surviving Richmond Building to be Restored

In Budget 2015, the Government announced an increased allocation of €212 million for the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. ‘Funding will also be provided for a programme of commemoration projects related to the social and political developments of the decade from 1912, which helped to form modern Ireland’. Richmond Barracks, as it was originally known from its establishment in 1814, has major historical significance in the events of the Easter Rising 1916 and its surviving buildings will avail of this additional funding. The proposal will see the site of the old barracks converted into an exhibition centre and archive for national and local history. It will also include a visitor’s centre, including a tearoom and a garden. Overall, it is envisioned to be an educational and community resource.

The Christian Brother ran a school (St Michaels) from the years 1929 – 2007 on the site, indeed, some of the classroom buildings are the last surviving structures from the barracks. The proposed development will provide for the conservation, repair and adaptation of the former school. As well as being one of the Barracks where the British army were located during the Rising, Richmond is also one of the last places where the Easter Rising leaders were held before they were executed. Due to this history, Dublin City Council will spend €3.5 million on this project as part of their commemoration plans for next year.


In 1810, while Ireland was under direct rule from Westminster, Britain was under threat of a possible attack from Napoleon’s France. To prevent a French invasion of Ireland, Martello towers were erected all over the coastline of Ireland and in Dublin along with two barracks. One of these barracks was the infantry barracks at Golden Bridge, more famously known as Richmond Barracks.

The barracks were finished by 1814 and it was ready to take in an estimated 1600 soldiers, these regiments were replaced once a year and the barracks hosted two regiments at a time. Should the barracks ever be over filled, it would send soldiers to Phoenix Park or the Curragh.

In 1815, victory for Britain was achieved at Waterloo and this meant that for the next 40 years war was not likely and therefore, large standing armies were unnecessary meaning unemployment and less soldiers living at the barracks. During this period, Ireland was in economic recession and matters were about to get substantially worse as in 1845, the Great Irish famine had arrived

British misrule meant Irish agitation and troops were enlisted in large numbers to control the movement set up by Daniel O’Connell to repeal the Act of Union (1830) between Britain and Ireland. The troops also had to control and protect the export of produce, as naturally, during a famine, with large amounts of food being exported by the British out of Ireland, these would have been just targets for attack.

Richmond Barrak old 2

The barracks was a target for the Fenians who had made plans to invade and destroy the barracks, but alas they never succeeded, even though rumour has it that one such Fenian leader, John Devoy, dressed himself up as a British soldier and successfully infiltrated the Barracks, but this remains a myth.

The barracks filled up with troops again towards the end of the 19th century for the Second Boer War – 11 October 1899 to 31 May 1902. Four battalions were stationed in the barracks at the time and were inspected at Richmond before they sailed for the Cape in 1899, 1,100 troops left from Queenstown for Africa to fight the Boer War.

Between 1907 and 1910, Richmond Barracks became a depot for the 4th, 8th, 11th and 13th Hussars and The Royal Irish Constabulary. When the First World War broke out in 1914, the barracks trained and disciplined three famous regiments, renowned for the ability on the battlefield (Source to be located). Thomas Highgate and his regiment were stationed at Richmond before being shipped to France. He was excused from the accusation of desertion in 2006, it came a little late for him though, considering he was executed 90 years previously. Then in 1814 Captain Lord Dunsany and Lance Corporal Francis Ledwidge, both writers, were posted to the barracks.

For most Dubliners familiar with the Barracks and its history, the 1916 Easter Rising would hold most significance. When the volunteers were arrested, including their most of their leaders, were brought to the Barracks and held there in the gymnasium prior to their court martial. Leaders incarnated there include Eamon de Valera, Countess Markievicz, Michael Collins, William T. Cosgrave, Eoin O’Neill, Thomas Ashe, Noel Lemass and Sean T. O’Kelly. When the executions began, then Prime Minister, Herbert Henry Asquith (1908-1916) decided to visit the Barracks, as a result of the growing unease in the British Parliament. This is a letter that was sent to Asquith at the time ~

May 12. 1916 Dear Mr.Asquith,

The name of the Bishop of Cork is Dr Daniel Cohalan.

Mr.F.Sheehy Skeffington’s house in Dublin was searched on Friday the 28th April, in accordance with general instructions that the houses of suspects were to be searched for arms. Military assistance was given to the police for this purpose. It was not done by Capt Bowen Colthurst – I am enquiring as to what officer was present. As far as I know Mr.Sheehy Skeffington’s death was not known of at the time the search was made. I enclose a paper on this gentleman’s antecedents.

The number of troops in Ireland irrespective of 59th Division is roughly 17000 Infantry 3149 Cavalry 1000 Artillery but these are all the 3rd line troops and draft units.

Will it be convenient for you to visit Richmond Barracks at 2.30 tomorrow and afterwards George V hospital as I find I have an inspection at 4p.m. at Trinity College, Dublin.

Yours very truly


P.S. I would call your attention to the leading article in today’s Freeman’s Journal”

Richmond Barrak old letter

Despite the fact that Asquith had sent a telegram to General Maxwell not to continue the executions, on the 12th May 1916, Séan MacDiarmada and James Connolly were executed, because Maxwell felt that their part in the Easter Rising was too big and that they as the leaders of this revolt could not be excused from execution.

Following the War of Independence, the Barracks changed hands in 1922 as the newly formed Free State Army took up residencey.  It then became known as Kehoe Barracks, named after Col-Commandant, Tom Kehoe. Kehoe belonged to Michael Collins’ assassination squad and died from a land mine injury at Macroom in September 1922.

The Dublin Corporation took the Kehoe Barracks over in 1924 and used it for housing less fortunate families in the area. This was a scheme organised to solve the immediate problem of poorer families and rent them accommodation at a cheaper rate, it turned into a slum. In 1969 it was renamed and became known as the St Michael’s Estate, though people in the area would often refer to it as St Michael’s “Mistake”. St Michael’s Estate was an estate that continued to look after families that were not financially well-off and stayed a problem area. The barracks were occupied by classrooms run by the Christian Brother’s for a while. Now the barracks are not in use and will once again be brought back to life and provide the community with a nostalgic tour through the past.

Tyrone place

Going Forward

In Ireland, our history plays a very important role in how the we think of our heritage and culture. This should bring good fortune to the area, increased tourism, and increased local commerce. The restoration of the surviving gym and classrooms from Richmond Barracks will begin in 3 or 4 months’ time, once the planning permission has been approved. Planning permission will be applied for in a fortnight and it will take about 8 weeks for the permission to be granted. This should be a good place to visit once it’s finished and will definitely be one of the sites that will do well during next years’ Commemoration Festivities.

Stay tuned to as I interview the DCC project coordinator in the next few days to get the details on this exciting development!

Richmond Barrakc

5 Responses

  1. tim lowery says:

    sadly that is not possible but what is happening is Our goverment have given 4 million euro of our moneys to the Richmond Barracks advisory committee,to make major repairs to the gym the mid part of St Micheals school , which played a major part in irish history.The work is to be finished for the 2016 easter celebrations. ! From Richmond Barracks to Keogh Square then St. Michaels Estate to the opening of thornton heights 09/09/2014 . Richmond Barracks is Long Gone ! never to be restored ever “Fact”

  2. Admin says:

    Hi Tim, I believe Jacqueline refers to the specific buildings being developed in the article, but I think you’re right the title is a little misleading and has been duely changed. Thanks for the interest!

  3. tim lowery says:

    awesome thank you kindly ! it does not refers to the a specific building being developed in the article just saying , and the new heading addresses this , well done for your kind reply !

  4. Patrick Lynch says:

    Let’s get it right. St. Michael’s school did not play a “major part” in the 1916 Rising; nor for that matter did Keogh Square, St Michael’s Estate or Thornton Heights. Richmond Barracks did, and not just the Gymnasium; hundreds of men and women were held in various parts of the barracks . We can put whatever names we choose on those buildings, but Richmond Barracks is the only name that is pertinent to the Easter Rising and the memory of these men. Five of the original buildings of Richmond Barracks are still standing. The mortuary chapel is now in private ownership; the garrison chapel is now the Parish Church; the northern recreation room has already been restored by the HSE. It is the other two buildings, the gymnasium and the southern recreation room which are now being restored. – Patrick Lynch

  5. tim lowery says:

    I stand corrected thank you Patrick Lynch ,memories of the 50s

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