A Dictionary of Dublin for the Year 1738

A Dictionary of Dublin for the Year 1738

Postby Paul Clerkin » Wed Feb 16, 2005 5:46 pm

Dictionary spells out way of life in 18th century Dublin
Rose Doyle




TradeNames: A directory of events and the people of 1738 Dublin, compiled by Dublin City Library and Archive, provides a valuable insight, says Rose Doyle

If Trade Names has proven anything over the years it's that there's nothing new under the sun. Or in Dublin.

Further proof is to hand. Dr Maire Kennedy of the Information and Cultural Heritage Services in Dublin City Library and Archive in Pearse Street can confirm that the capital, as long ago as 1738, was awash with coffee houses. That deals, gossip and business went on across tables and over cups of the roasted bean long before mobile phones or lap tops arrived. Long before Bewleys.

"The coffee house," Kennedy confirms, "was very big in the culture of 18th century Dublin. There were loads of them and an awful lot of business went on both in and around them."

The most famous of them all, in 1738, was Dick's Coffee House on Skinner Row, between Winetavern Street and Fishamble Street.

"It was on the first floor of an old, 16th century, half-timbered building and was very, very important in the life of the city," says Kennedy.

"The proprietor was Richard Pue. There was a shop on the ground floor and the coffee house itself was wainscoted. Merchants, students, and everyone else came to talk politics, to do deals and gossip."

This, and much more, was discovered by Kennedy and colleagues when researching a remarkable publication. A Dictionary of Dublin for the Year 1738 gives an insightful picture of Dublin and Dubliners of the time. Bound and finished after an 18th century fashion, it contains the names, addresses and occupations of nearly 3,000 citizens of the time. There's also a specially prepared map showing the Dublin streetscape in 1738.

And then there are the facsimiles of contemporary advertisements on the inside cover pages.

If you wanted to buy "a handsome dwelling house and large garden well walled, on the southside of Smithfield, in the city of Dublin wherein the Lady Gormanstown lately dwelt, with coach-house and stables to be let, for any term of years under thirty" then you had to apply to the Right Hon. the Earl of Westmeath, at his seat at Clonin, in the County of Westmeath.

The ads prove that bottled water is nothing new either. "Fresh Pyrmont-water and German spa-water" was being sold by one Will Lyndon, Merchant, on Lower Ormond Quay. And nor was good wine: The Vine, in Smithfield, has "a parcel of right good French and Spanish Wines to dispose of..." Nor toothpaste. Thomas Allam, an "operator for the teeth" was offering a "most excellent Dentrifice" and recommending that it be used "with water and tooth brush, applying it twice a week, unless the teeth be very foul."

The dictionary began as a good idea around 40 years ago, after a number of manuscript sheets, measuring 5" x 4" and dated 1738, were found during building work on Green Street courthouse. They were identified as recognisances, or bail bonds, and were all to do with what Maire Kennedy describes as "small offences, the equivalent of today's parking fines. They'd been granted between April and September 1738 by Dublin magistrates Nathaniel Pearson, Eaton Stannard, Henry Burrows and William Walker and gave the name of the person involved as well as those who put up bail for them. There were lots of names."

The names were the key. The manuscripts were handed on to Fred Dixon of the Old Dublin Society. The window opened, by the names, on an everyday, 18th century Dublin gave him the idea of putting together the directory. He gathered 800 names before he died.

His widow, Beatrice Dixon, gave her husband's list, as well as the bail bonds, to Dublin Corporation Public Libraries: Dr Kennedy takes up the tale.

"Nollaig Hardiman (retired divisional librarian) decided that there would be a directory and that we would do it," she explains. "That was the easy bit! She also decided to expand it, to research newspapers, birth registers, and other places where we could find contemporary names and addresses. We went to the Representative Church Body Library, to the Cess Books (tax records) of the Dublin City parishes of St Michan and St John, to the Dublin Daily Advertiser, to Faulkner's Dublin Journal. It was great fun; we really enjoyed doing it. When Nollaig's retirement was due we put on a great spurt and got it finished just before she left. The first print run ran out at Christmas 2000 and we had to reprint."

Dictionaries of the city existed in the 18th century but the first of these was published in 1751. The 20th century compilers decided to confine their listing to 1738. By the time they'd finished they had three times as many names, addresses and occupations as the later directories.

"The great challenge was to make it look like a dictionary of the time," says Ms Kennedy. "Dictionaries were traditionally bought as presents at Christmas and the New Year in the 18th century and had magnificent bindings. The map is based on a 1738 map of the city but is made easier to read and has the addition of streets that occur in the sources.

"Most of the people listed would have come from the ranks of the hoi-polloi and trades people because they were the people whose names would have come up in the Cess Books or newspaper ads. Labourers and hawkers wouldn't have turned up."

Those who did turn up include: George Clark, hosier, The Sign of the Three Stockings, Fishamble Street. Charles Phipps, writing master in Fade Street near George's Lane. James Digges Latouche, banker, merchant and seed importer, Bachelor's Walk. Margaret Rhames, printer, Capel Street.

By the time the dictionary was finished Ms Kennedy had a strong sense of the 18th century city. Change was in the air; radical and worrying to the traders, merchants, property owners, who were convinced the end of the city as they knew it was nigh.

"Dublin city and its life was concentrated around the Custom House," says Ms Kennedy, "which was just off today's Capel Street bridge - then known as Essex Bridge - the last bridge as you came into town. This meant that ships came right up the river, to Essex Bridge and the then Custom House. A crane used for lifting cargo from ships gave Crane Lane its name. You would have seen the big, tall masts of the ships all huddled around the Custom House, the merchants all gathered there too."

It was decided, as the century drew to a close, that the Custom House would move closer to the mouth of the river.

"Everyone worried that this would mean the ruination of the centre of the city," Kennedy says. "When the new Custom House opened in the 1790s it did change things, but the city was changing anyway. Grafton Street was already becoming a street of posh shops. Until then these had been in Dame Street and the streets off it."

Putting the dictionary together was a real team effort and Ms Kennedy pays tribute to colleagues Eithne Shalvey, Thecla Carleton, Aoife O'Reilly and Seamus Meaney, among others in the wonderful Dublin City Library and Archive, to the Survey and Mapping Section and to the many guardians of treasured records who gave access. A database of sources the information was gathered from is in the library.

A Dictionary of Dublin for the Year 1738 costs €31.74 in hardback, €12.68 in paperback and is also available in the library.
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Paul Clerkin
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