This is Page 2 of a four-page account of the abandined Main Line of the Irish Grand Canal. If you missed Page 1, you can find it here.
Update November 2009
Added a link to Pól’s web page about the Cage bridge.
Update September 2012
Added Richard Twiss’s comments, from 1776, about the City Bason.
Update October 2012
Added the Rev G Hansbrow’s description of the City Bason, from 1835.
Having come down the line of the canal as far as The Gut, accompanied most of the way by the LUAS tram, let us leap magically northwards from McCarthy Terrace to the junction of James’s Street and Echlin Street; the junction is at the top of this sketch-map the harbour and its surrounding streets. We’ll take an anticlockwise tour of the area, and we will pass McCarthy Terrace again en route to Bond Street (at which point we move to Page 3).
Grand Canal harbour and district
This is the entrance from James’s Street to Echlin Street.
Corner of Echlin Street and James’s Street
This friendly local pub is at the other end of Echlin Street, where it meets Grand Canal Place.
The Old Harbour
And, at the left of that photo, you can see a bit of the curved Grand Canal building — which, happily, is protected against the depredations of developers, although not against those of time and neglect. It’s difficult to get a shot that shows the whole of the building. Here’s one from the James’s Street end of Echlin Street. You can just about make out the name on the building, just under the roof.
The curved building from James’s Street
A view from the west
This next photo is taken from the western end of St James’s Avenue, looking back east.
St James’s Avenue
We’re taking St James’s Avenue to get to Basin Street Upper. Another look at the map:
Another look at the map
The sketch shows the Basin, but it doesn’t actually exist any more. The supply of water to the City Basin ceased in 1869 as the new high-pressure water supply from the Vartry scheme came into use. These blocks of flats have been built on the north end, along Basin Street Upper. Incidentally, what used to be called Basin Lane, running from James’s Street to the north end of the Basin itself, now seems to be called Basin Street Lower.
Richard Twiss, in A Tour in Ireland in 1775 with a Map, and a View of the Salmon-Leap at Ballyshannon [London 1776], wrote:
The city bason is a reservoir, capable of holding water to supply the city for some weeks, when the springs from whence it is filled are dry; both the springs and the reservoir were dry whilst I was in Dublin. In 1765 a canal was begun to be cut from this place, and intended to be continued to Athlone, which is about seventy English miles off, in order to open a communication with the Shannon; at the rate the work is at present carried on it bids fair for being completed in three or four centuries.
And here is the Rev G Hansbrow in his An Improved Topographical and Historical Hibernian Gazetteer; describing the various boroughs, baronies, buildings, cities, counties, colleries, castles, churches, curiosities, fisheries, glens, harbours, lakes, mines, mountains, provinces, parishes, rivers, spas, seats, towers, towns, villages, waterfalls, &c &c &c, scientifically arranged, with an appendix of ancient names. To which is added, an introduction to the ancient and modern history of Ireland published by Richard Moore Tims; William Curry, Jun and Co; John Robertson and Co, Dublin; King and Co, Cork; Marks, Waterford; Simms and Mairs, Belfast; Campbell, Derry; M’Kerin, Limerick; Wheelock, Wexford; Collins, Drogheda; Dunlap, Coleraine; Purcel, Tralee; Kyte, Cashel; Blackham, Newry; Bole, Castlebar; Devir, Westport; and other booksellers in 1835:
The City Bason is the pleasantest, most elegant and sequestered place of relaxation the citizens can boast of; the reservoir, which in part supplies the city with water, is mounded and terraced all round, and planted with quickset hedges, limes and elms, having beautiful green walks between, in a situation which commands a most satisfactory prospect of a vast extent of fine country to the south. The entrance is elegant, by a lofty iron gate, and the water that supplies it, is conveyed from the neighbouring mountains.
The early OS map shows a burial ground to the west of the Basin and a rope walk to the east of Basin Street.
Basin Street flats
On the other side of the street is the James’s Street Christian Brothers School. Its website has some interesting historical information.
James’s Street CBS school
James’s Street CBS school
There are some older houses along the street.
Basin Street Upper 1
Basin Street Upper 2
The canal narrowed as it passed the south end of the Basin and curved north to the harbour. This narrow section was known as The Gut. In 1974, Elgy Gillespie spoke to local residents for an Irish Times article about whether the by-then-derelict line of the canal should be filled in (most of them wanted it filled in because of the rats and the danger that children might drown). She said that there was a footbridge across The Gut and that it was called The Cage because of the sides added when a man was blown off it in a gale and drowned in The Gut. The bridge does not appear on the maps I have consulted, but it might have led to this narrow section at the bottom of Basin Street.
It is surprising how little information has been available on t’internet about this bridge, but happily the indefatigable Pól has researched the matter. He has written about the history of the bridge, mapped its location and even found a photograph: all is revealed here. And now I owe him a pint. There is also a photo here, with some other photos from the area.
Possible link between Basin Street and The Cage (footbridge). The buildings may be Brandon Terrace
And just to finish with Basin Street, here is Basin View — which, alas, I cannot locate on any map. Where does it join Basin Street?
We emerge from Basin Street to see Grand Canal Bank (more or less) across the canal (I mean, where the canal was) from us, to the south.
Grand Canal Bank
I think this is (as it were) a subset of McCarthy Terrace .
Have another look at the map before we move on. We’ve come from James’s Street down Echlin Street, west along St James’s Avenue and then down Basin Street Upper to McCarthy Terrace. Now we move east for a quick look at some of the streets on that side of the harbour.
The map again
This is Forbes Lane from Marrowbone Lane. Turning right up here, from Marrowbone Lane, meant a narrow and dark approach to the glory of the canal (where I never saw a boat moving, alas).
Marrowbone Lane and Marrowbone Lane Close
This area of Dublin has been associated with the city’s water supply since the thirteenth century and it is pleasing to note that Dublin City Council’s water department is still based on Marrowbone Lane.
Dublin City Council water department offices
We return to the Harbour area. Long’s Place has some gloomy features …
Long’s Place: a bit grim
… but parts of it are attractive. The canal ran behind where the wall is on the left, and the harbour began at the far end of the road.
Long’s Place: the cheerful side
Here is Pim Street, looking towards Forbes Lane.
Newport Street runs at right angles to Pim Street.
Newport Street and Pim Street
This is the uninspiring corner of Bond Street and Pim Street.
Bond Street and Pim Street
Now another look at the map.
The map again
You can see that the harbour had five main sections:
- at the north, the section with the semicircular end, behind the curved building, connected by a narrow cut to …
- a rectangular section, connected by another narrow cut to …
- a second rectangular section, from which a short canal leads east (right) to …
- a small basin inside a building, while finally …
- three short fingers stretch south from the west side of the second rectangular section. These fingers were the dry docks. The eastern dry dock may have been covered.
You can also see that the south-east corner of the canal is defined by Bond Street and Long’s Place. We’ve already looked at Long’s Place, so here are some photos of Bond Street. You’ll recognise the building on the right as the one on the corner with Pim Street. This is a view away from the canal.
Looking down Bond Street
The next photo is looking in the opposite direction.
Looking along Bond Street towards the canal
The wall on the right (which wasn’t there in canal days) shows where the southern end of the southernmost rectangle of the harbour was. That rectangle was the last section of the harbour to be filled in.
The road ahead is curving left into Long’s Place (thus avoiding plunging into the canal). There was a swing bridge across the canal just south of where it entered the harbour; it ran from Bond Street to about halfway down the length of the dry docks.
If we go a little way south along Long’s Place, we can look across the old line of the canal.
Looking west across the line of the canal
You can see the distinctive roofline of the Basin Street flats in the background. I wonder whether the two stone flags running from left to right, about one third of the way up the photo, might define the edge of the canal. I didn’t spot them while I was there, alas.
Note the wall on the left.
Looking west again
Here’s the other side of the same wall. Little trace of the canal here.
At this stage, we’ve gone around three (well, two and a half) sides of the harbour and we’ve looked at the site of the City Basin as well. Now we move to Page 3 of 4 to look at the Guinness connection.