Newswire » Local History » A Snippet of Dublin History (Part 3) – High Street Area

A Snippet of Dublin History (Part 3) – High Street Area

This High Cross Stood at High Street in Dublin 8

This High Cross Stood at High Street in Dublin 8

(Image taken from the UCD Library Collection)

High Street is stated to have been the boundary, agreed in the 2nd Century, when Ireland was divided between Eoghan, King of Munster, and Conn of the Hundred Battles. It was built on very marshy ground and the buildings and houses were erected on wooden frames. It was noted that when carts passed through the street, the surrounding houses were seen to shake.

The Church of St. Michael the Archangel, situated in High Street, was founded by Donogh, Bishop of Dublin, in the 11th Century. It was situated at the corner of Christ Church Lane and was used by the Guild of Shoemakers, who resided in the area. In the 15th Century it was made a Parish Church, the parish of St. Michael was very small, covering an area of only five acres and two roods. The Parish had only 1317 inhabitants. The popularity of the church increased and in the 16th and early 17th centuries it was described as the most frequented church in the city of Dublin. However, the church fell into decay in the early 1700’s and from 1787, church ceremonies were celebrated in Christ Church. St. Michael’s was rebuilt in 1815 but its glory days were gone and it was finally demolished by George Edmund Street, during his restoration of Christ Church.

At the western side of St. Michael’s Church, extending from High Street to Cook Street, was MacGillamocholmog’s Street. It was named after a tribe whose chieftains were lords of the territory of Ui Dunnchadha, in the immediate vicinity of Dublin. A the beginning of the 15th century the street name was changed to St. Michael’s Street. At that time it contained many houses and shops. From 1641, the houses were described as “large houses with porches and cellars”. The area was chiefly occupied by lawyers, who held their offices there until the courts were moved to Inns Quay.

At the junction of High Street and Skinner’s Row stood the “High Cross” of the city of Dublin. During the Middle Ages, High Street was one of the most important streets within the walls of the City of Dublin. Thus, the High Cross was its most renowned edifice. It was customary to read out proclamations such as Papal Bulls, excommunications and other significant documents from here, to the citizens of Dublin. In 1566, William Sarsfield, Mayor of Dublin, resided in High Street. He was the grandfather of Patrick Sarsfield, created Earl of Lucan by James the Second.

 A regular postal communication service between Dublin and England was first established during the wars of Shane O’Neill, in the reign of Elizabeth the First. In 1668, the Dublin Post Office was described as a “timber house in High Street, with a large backside or garden plott reaching to Back Lane, now called the Post house”. Post  houses were first established in the main towns in Ireland around the year 1670. In the reign of Charles the Second, the General Post Office of Dublin was moved to Fishamble Street and the High Street Office was occupied by buildings known as MacCulla’s Court, named after James MacCulla, a “projector” of copper coinage for Ireland.


The ceremony of the waking of Theobald Wolfe Tone, one of the founding members of the United Irishmen, took place in 1798, at number 65, High Street, in the residence of his cousin, William Dunbavin. William was a member of the yeomanry corps and was totally opposed to Wolfe Tones political opinions. Dunbavin, because of his influence and a written order, was able to procure Theobald’s body from a Major Sandys. The body was taken to his house and laid out in a room on the second floor, where it was waked for two days, during which time a great many people came to pay their final respects. Eventually, a Government order stated the body was to be buried as quickly and privately as possible. Under order of the authorities only two people were allowed to attend the funeral. These two people were his cousin, William Dunbavin, and a John Ebbs, a brazier, from Bride Street. Both were members of the yeomanry. Wolfe Tone was interred in Bodenstown, close to the wall of the old abbey, with his brother, grandfather and uncles.


At the beginning of the 15th century a narrow passage leading from High Street to Cook Street, was known as The Ram Lane. The free school of the city of Dublin was erected in this area and then the name was changed to School-House Lane. In 1613, a vicious murder was carried out at the end of School-House Lane, near Cook Street. A young man called John Laffan from County Tipperary was killed by a soldier of the guard. The soldier was arrested, tried and sentenced to be hung, drawn and quartered. At this time, School-House Lane was regarded as one of the narrowest and most dangerous lanes in the city of Dublin.

2 Responses

  1. Tony Gorman says:

    Hi Betty
    I enjoy the site immensely and its great to read your snippet’s of Dublin, they are very enlightening.
    When we were young we should have been taught everything about Dublin but I suppose back then it got lost by the wayside.
    But lucky in our old age we can still get snippet’s of our history on your site.
    I suppose the most famous monument of my time that stood out was Nelson’s Pillar.
    I remember when it blew up as I worked in the Metropole Cinema as a barman.
    Keep up the good work of teaching us old ones.A Memory of Nelson’s Pillar 8th May 2014 by/Tony Gorman

    I remember dear old Dublin back in my boyhood days
    So far back that in the westerns was a bearded Gabby Hayes
    And old Nelson on his pillar standing proud and tall and high
    As we paid our tanner and climbed those steps and headed towards the sky
    Climbing to the top seemed endless and our heads were spinning too
    But from up there on Nelsons vantage point you had the most fantastic view
    You could see the red and white Ringsend chimneys that were landmarks of their own
    And the colourful peaks of the Dublin Mountains casting shadows when the sun shone
    And down below O’Connell Street as busy as could be.
    And the GPO with its memories of those men that set Ireland free
    And the Metropole cinema and the queues that stood outside
    And the ships mooring on the Liffey dock’s helped by the incoming tide
    And after all our viewing we headed back down from Nelson’s top
    We wondered in our heads if these steps would ever stop
    On the last turn of the rail we could see the daylight glare
    And we heard the flower seller calling out and we knew that we were there
    Then we crossed the road to get our bus looking up at where we’d been
    And we told the people at the stop of the views that we had seen
    Now I’m old and grey and my mind will stray to those days when we were young
    When the Pillar was our pride and joy and used by everyone
    It was a meeting point for visitors from near and far away
    It stood its part in history until that fatal day
    For on the 8th March 1966 old Nelson took a powder and he blew
    Just like the song by the Dubliners that was sung by Ronnie Drew
    So we say goodbye to Old Nelson and those memories he gave to us
    As we stood there at the bus stop waiting for the West Cabra Bus

    Tony Gorman

  2. Sean O' Sullivan says:

    Does anyone have any historical information about the Back Lane Hostel ? (off Nicholas Street) – the hostel is 100 years old next year


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