The abandoned Main Line of the Grand Canal 4

This is the last of four pages about the abandoned Main Line of the Grand Canal. Here, in case you want to visit them, are links to Page 1, Page 2 and Page 3. We’ve seen as much as we could from outside and indeed from the vantage point of the Guinness Storehouse; now it’s time to go inside.

We start with another look at the sketch map.

The Grand Canal harbour and surrounding area

The Grand Canal harbour and surrounding area

We return to the curved part of Grand Canal Place, with a look in through one of the Guinness gates …

Looking in at Guinness

Looking in at Guinness

… and a look back east along Grand Canal Place from the corner with Echlin Street. The curved building is out of shot to the right.

The north side of Grand Canal Place

The north side of Grand Canal Place

Let’s go past the curved building …

Please look after this building

Please look after this building

… whose roof was in considerably worse condition by 2011, despite its being a protected structure

More holes in the roof (October 2011)


… to the eastern end of St James’s Avenue for a moment, and look back eastward.

The curved building from St James's Avenue

The curved building from St James’s Avenue

You can see the curved building and, beside it, a building where, on the 1830 map, Ruth Delany shows a turf bank.

The white truck marks the entrance to the Grand Canal Company premises. I sneaked in while the site (excluding the curved building) was being cleared for development.

Cobbles at the entrance

Cobbles at the entrance

A pillar at the entrance, seen from outside

A pillar at the entrance (seen from inside)

This entrance led into the yard with various offices (and officers’ houses) on the west side, while the harbour ran down the east side. For convenience, we’ll call this the western yard. The cars are parked in a filled-in area that crosses the southern side of the old curved harbour; it provides access to a yard between the post-closure factories and warehouses. This, which we’ll call the eastern yard, did not exist when the harbour was in use.

Note that, by 2011, a steel gate and other security precautions prevented access.

Let’s start with the western yard. I don’t know why, but drilling was under way at the time. I didn’t want to be seen taking a photo ….

Drilling under way

Drilling under way

Perhaps it was the influence of Sir James Bond ….

Here’s a shot looking down the length of the western yard. I think those gates are relatively recent, with the old entrance gate a little further down.

Looking down the yard

Looking down the yard

A short update from March 2011: a locked gate now bars access to the interior.

No entry

But back to happier days, when access, if illicit, was possible ….

You may be able to see a metal track a little way in. Here’s a close-up. I presume there was a sliding gate or suchlike at this point.

Metal track

Metal track

Looking out past the old entrance

Looking out past the old entrance

This view from the inside looking out may make things clearer. The new gates are further away with, behind them, the small building where the turf stack used to be. Beyond that is the end of the curved building.

Closer at hand, the blue excrescence is obviously a newer building. Between it and the pillar is the entrance to the eastern yard, which we’ll come back to later. Then there’s the stone pillar, with the track for the (presumed) sliding gate leading up to it. To its right is one of the thin buildings that we saw from the Guinness Storehouse and that may be an original Grand Canal Company building: what Ruth Delany marked as the Ballinasloe store on the map of the harbour in 1830. Interestingly, just to the left, out of shot, is where (according to the same map) the caretaker’s house was positioned, close to the sliding gate. The shed with the canopy is recent.

Now let us go around to the eastern yard which, of course, did not exist when the harbour was in water. We’re taking our lives in our hands ….

Here be dragons

Here be dragons

We’re now in behind the curved building, presumably swimming through the curved harbour.

In behind the curved building

In behind the curved building

It is possible — though I don’t know — that the foundations of the demolished building on the left are in line with the quays between the two sections of the harbour. The curved building clearly needs care and attention.

Just south of the demolished building (shown in the previous photo) is the back of what I think may have been the Ballinasloe store. Here is the long side of the building, with some stonework visible. There seems to be some concrete-block patching at the corner (left side of the photo).

Looking along the side of the building

Looking along the side of the building

We saw one end of that building from the western yard a moment ago; the photo below shows its back. By the way, I think we are now standing in the canal cut connecting the curved harbour with the middle harbour.

The back of the Ballinasloe store

The back of the Ballinasloe store (on the left), the foundations of the demolished building and the back of the curved building

The building on the right may contain some elements of the old Inwards store; here’s a view from the other direction (well, from north-west rather than south) with some stone visible.

Some stone from the Inwards store?

Some stone from the Inwards store?

Anyway, let’s go further down the eastern yard.

Note the two narrow buildings

Note the two narrow buildings on the left

I thnk that the two narrow buildings on the left, with a broad building between them, may both have been on the quay dividing the curved harbour from the middle harbour. The OS map of 1907/11 suggests that there were two thin buildings, with canopies around them.

The alternative is that the broad building is occupying the water-space of the middle harbour and that the nearer narrow building is on the quay dividing the middle from the southern harbour. However …

Looking from the southern end of the eastern yard

Looking from the southern end of the eastern yard

… if the nearer narrow building is on the quay dividing the middle from the southern harbour, then the space between the red car and the photographer is the southern harbour. But that harbour, which was the last to be filled, is occupied by a halting-site for members of the travelling community, so it is behind the photographer. Accordingly, it seems more likely that the two narrow buildings were both on the quay dividing the curved from the middle harbour, constituting the Ballinasloe store on Ruth Delany’s map showing the harbour in 1830. And the space between the red car and the photographer, above, is the middle harbour and perhaps some of the Limerick store on the quay dividing middle and southern harbours.

There seems to be no trace of any original buildings on the right of the photo.

We looked at this photo a moment ago.

Note the two narrow buildings

Note the section of drainpipe

Here is a close-up of the wall at that point, with the stone suggesting that the right-most (narrow) building is older than the other one.

Stone to the right

Stone to the right

Looking further along the wall, we find some stone kerbing, which may have marked the edge of the quay.

Stone kerbing, perhaps marking the edge of the harbour

Stone kerbing

And right down the far end, near the south-western corner of the site, is the only physical evidence I found that suggested there was once a harbour here. This might have been on the wall of the Limerick store, on the quay dividing the middle from the southern harbour.

Was this for mooring boats or horses?

Was this ring for mooring boats or horses?

Work on the development may have paused; while access to the inside has been blocked, some firms are operating in premises in the outer section and short-term leases are being offered. I do not know what further demolition has taken place or whether any evidence of the area’s past activity still remains. The roof of the curved building has suffered further damage.

Grand Canal Company building with roof damage March 2011

It will be clear from my account that I am not entirely clear on what was where so, as always, comments and clarifications would be welcome.

Now, if you came to this page as part of the suggested Dublin walking tour, this would be a good time to visit the Guinness Storehouse, if there are no long queues. Look out for traces of the old Guinness 1″ 10″ railway (excellent article here). Inside, look out for the model of the Guinness Liffey barge and the two engines from the Guinness railway. There is a bar too.

To see how extensive the Guinness network was, and how strategic the brewery’s positioning alongside the canal, the Liffey and a mainline rail terminus, look at the OSI ~1900 map. Switch to Historic 25″, but you’ll have to scroll to see the whole thing.

And here’s a page about Uncle Arthur’s resting-place.

29 responses to “The abandoned Main Line of the Grand Canal 4

  1. Great too have this for the records, before everything is demolished.

  2. Agreed. I don’t know whether any proper industrial heritage survey was done, either when the harbour was closed or in connection with the current development.


  3. Thanks for these pages.

    I am chasing up my family history (Burgess/Medlar et al) in James’s St. and Rialto. I was told that there was a metal bridge, known as the Medlar bridge, over the canal, probably at the southern end of the harbour.

    If this is true, I wonder how might it have been related to the Cage. Perhaps Councillor Medlar inaugurated some improvement in the bridge (1930s?). My mother told me she was once blown off a bridge/lock over the canal on her way to work. She worked in Monaghan’s at the corner of Rialto Rd., and SCR. Unfortunately I was not sufficiently interested in the geography of the area to ask her exactly where this was.

    Rath ar an obair.

  4. Póló: thanks for the interesting message. The Cage is one possibility; the other is a swing bridge running from Bond Street at the south end of the harbour complex. I haven’t heard the name Medlar Bridge applied to either of them, and googling has produced no results, but as you will have gathered I really don’t have enough information about the area. It may be that the Guinness archivist could help.

    Walking from James’s Street to the Rialto end of the SCR, your mother would not have needed to pass over any locks, but she might well have had to cross the Main Line of the canal, and the two main options would have been Rialto Bridge and the Cage, and I think it is unlikely that she would have been blown off Rialto Bridge.


  5. I really enjoyed these pages. Well done. It would be fantastic if you could source some old photographs. I came across this website while searching for an image of the Iron Bridge, or the Cage as you refer to it. I attended James’ St. CBS from the mid-sixties to 1976. The secondary school of that time no longer exists. It was at the St. James’ Avenue end of Basin Street, entrance on the east. The Iron Bridge was my usual route to school and it was a completely caged in bridge, unlike those over the DART line. The cage continued along the high wall that bounded the Basin to the south. I vaguely remember a huge door/gate in this wall. When the caged in walkway reached the west side of Basin View, there was a cut through to the street. There was a small factory which, based on the contents of their bins, were involved in winding transformers and/or stiching leather straps onto bags/luggage.

    Anyhow, great job.

  6. Lorcan

    Thanks for your kind comments and for the interesting information about the bridge.

    I have generally steered clear of old photos because it’s hard to be sure who owns the copyright. At least with my own photos, I know who took them! On some of my other pages I have put links to old photos on other websites, but I didn’t do so here. If I can think of a good way around this, or if I find a website with old photos I could link to, I’ll do that.


  7. @bjg

    Re photos, might you hide behind “fair comment” when reproducing them here, or just include a link to where they appear online?

    Regards and compliments,


  8. @bjg

    I have been pursuing the “Medlar” bridge with some success and have uploaded a page to my site which contains what I know to date. I will be following it up further according as I get the time.

    Peter Walsh, former curator of the Guinness museum and archive, has given me permission to reproduce a slide of his showing the bridge in 1973. You could link to that at:

    but should acknowledge that it came from Peter.

    I’ll stick you for that pint one of these days.

    Beir bua!

  9. Póló: an extremely interesting account of the bridge. I’ve put a link on the second page of this series. Anyone who hasn’t visited Póló’s page should do so immediately!


  10. Pingback: Unhappy new year | Irish waterways history

  11. Pingback: Money | Irish waterways history

  12. For a fascinating insight into the Medlar family click “The Medlars Gotcha The Story Of A Dublin Family. Patrick Joseph Medlar, a Kilkenny-man
    1885-1949 was responsible for the Medlar Bridge as a member of Dublin
    Corporation. He also officiated at the opening of the Tivoli Cinema on
    Dec 21-1934

  13. Thanks, James. There was no link but Google found what I presume is the page here at DocStoc. DocStoc seems to require Flash as well as some plug-in that I don’t have, so I wasn’t able to read it, but that may be because of my browser settings. bjg

  14. Brian

    The Medlar’s Gotcha is the title I gave the talk in Pearse St. and I have the backup page here with all the relevant links in it.

    Straight html, no Flash required.

    The actual presentation itself is a Powerpoint and you can download the latest version of the free viewer from Microsoft here:



  15. Thanks. I thought that might be so, and was searching your site when I got distracted. James Molloy was very complimentary! bjg

  16. Indeed. Very remiss of me.

    Thank you James for the compliment. It is always encouraging to know there is someone out there somewhere reading something you wrote.

    Cheers me up for the rest of the day, at least.


  17. I’ll add to the cheer later: I intend to refer to your Armagh posting in one of my own. bjg

  18. Just realised I hadn’t linked this site in my backup page on the Medlars. Now done (under other sources).

    Awaiting the reference to the Armagh posting with bated breath :)

  19. Thanks. Armagh reference here. bjg

  20. Brian,

    Just read this article (all 4 pages) in detail today. In the photo entitled “Metal track”, what it appears to be is an inverted ‘bridge’ rail by CIE in their canal section (although the fact that the Grand Canal Co came to CIE late might rule out that theory).

    Bridge rail is a section of rail in the shape of an inverted U with flanges at the base to pin the rail to sleepers. As it name suggests, it looks like an arch bridge. The original rails on the Great Southern & Western Railway (the line that ran closest to the Grand Canal) were inverted U shaped iron bridge rails of 90lb/yard, spiked to cross sleepers. Especially wide sleepers were placed under joints, obviating the need for fishplates (the interface between the sleeper and the rail).

    Bridge rails were early development of metal rails and were ultimately superceded by flat bottomed or “Vignoles” rail that remains the standard to this day.

  21. That’s interesting; thanks, Ewan. There were friendly relations (at least at times) between the GCC and the GSWR, so it’s possible that the canal company, needing a bit of rail, sent some of the lads down the hill to Kingsbridge … or perhaps to Inchicore. bjg

  22. Hi Brian

    Came across this post incidentally. Not sure if it is of any interest to you.

    Beir bua


    PS: lost your email addy.

  23. Excellent. I want one! bjg

  24. Pingback: GCC inspection launch | Irish waterways history

  25. You should gp up and lookat the basin now its all cleared out the harbour that is and you can see whats on your map its all filled back up with water again I live on james avenue the developers dont want the land anymore

  26. Thanks. I haven’t been there for some years. bjg

  27. Thanks Zac. Someone mentioned that to me recently and I have in mind to go back to see it. A water feature of some sort was envisaged in the overall regeneration project for the area but I think much of the project got stalled.

  28. I drove by the old harbour Dock. Its now gutted for redevelopment at a large scale. Going up in James’s st area you can imagine the grand canal Dock was a place of great interest to us for fishing for pinkeens and jumping on the barges, I did have a friend that lived on the Dock, Liam clinton and family. I was born in1953 ( don’t look it tho). The bridge in question over the canal was known as the iron bridge, our school was in basin lane, James’s st cbs. We still have a golf society made up of lads from the area. With knowledge of historical nature. The gateway told me they are going to have a coffee shop with a small museum collection of what the archaeologists found on the docks site, when it’s all finished. I enjoyed your 4 pages and photos. Good luck.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.