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A Snippet of Dublin History (Part 2)

Malt View from Capel Street looking over Essex Bridge, Dublin

Dublin has always been renowned for its restaurants and cafes and the early part of the Eighteenth century was no exception. On the eastern side of Essex Bridge, in the vicinity of the Custom House a coffee- house called the Cocoa Tree was located. In the recess between the bridge and the Custom House there was a ‘chop house’, known as “Old Sot’s Hole”. This establishment had the reputation of having the best steaks and ale in Dublin. The owner of this chop house was a Mr. Thretford. His golden rule was he never gave any credit to anyone, even the very wealthy. He died in 1742.

The chop house still flourished. At a meeting held there in 1757, it was decided that the passage leading from the bridge to Essex Street was too narrow and after discussion, money was given to a Mr Bristow, a Commissioner of the Revenue, for the widening of this passage. Subsequently, a Bill was passed that all the narrow alleys in the City of Dublin, were to be widened. Houses had to be demolished for this work to proceed and certain room keepers and lodgers felt that they should have been given at least six months notice of this fact. Fourteen Bills of Injunction were filed and the authorities decided to react. The roofs of the houses of those who had filed the injunctions were removed in the middle of the night. Panic ensued and people ran into the streets, not knowing what had happened. In 1762, Parliament granted  £12,000 for the purchase of all houses, preventing the street widening, from their owners. The street widening was carried out and the new street was called Parliament Street.

In 1763, the Corporation of Weavers and other dealers in silk submitted a petition Parliament informing them that there were only fifty silk looms working, where previously there had been eight hundred looms, and asking them for assistance. The Parliament made grants available, to establish a public warehouse, where silken goods, manufactured in Ireland only, would be sold. A house was found for this purpose in Parliament Street and would be used by the wholesale and retail trade. This building was called the Hibernian Silk Warehouse and was officially opened in February 1765. All the wealthy and fashionable ladies flocked there to buy their produce and the silk trade in Dublin received a great boost as a result. The main traders in Parliament Street at this time were wool and textile merchants.

A General Thomas Russell, who was banished to the Continent as a result of his support of the United Irishmen, returned to Ireland in the early 1800’s. He was arrested on the 9th September 1803, on the second floor of number 28, Parliament Street. £1,500 had been offered for his capture. He was tried at Downpatrick and executed on the 2nd October 1803.

The merchants of Dublin presented a petition to Parliament for a section of land to build an Exchange.  This building was to be a meeting place for merchants and traders. This petition was granted and the foundation stone of the Exchange was laid on the 2nd August 1769. The completion of this building took ten years and was finally opened in 1779. Rather than being used by the merchants, the Exchange became a place where public and political meetings were held. During 1798 it was converted into a military depot and court martials were held there. On   the 13th of January 1800, Daniel O’Connell made his first public speech against the union with Britain, there. People who were deemed to be part of the revolutionary movement were punished in the Exchange. The public came to view these punishments being doled out. In 1814, a crowd had assembled in the Exchange for the whipping of a culprit. The balustrade in front gave way, nine people were killed and many were badly injured.

In September 1852 the Exchange changed its purpose for the final time; it was inaugurated as the City Hall of the Corporation of Dublin.

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