Merrion Square. Urban Park in Dublin, Ireland

Merrion Square

Urban Park in Dublin, Ireland

Merrion Square, sculpture of a pregnant woman, by Danny Osborne Photo © William Murphy

Merrion Square

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Oscar wilde - merrion square - Merrion Square
Oscar wilde - merrion square - Merrion Square. Photo by William Murphy
Merrion Square is a square-shaped park in the heart of Georgian Dublin, Ireland. It is often regarded as one of the greatest surviving garden squares in the city – two other remaining ones are Fitzwilliam Square and St Stephen’s Green. One side of the park is home to several important government and cultural buildings, such as Leinster House, the National Museum of Ireland, and the National Gallery, while the three other sides are lined with gorgeous Georgian townhouses.

Besides being the home of many cultural and other institutions, the park also has many other purposes. Now, it is first and foremost a place of leisure, a place where people go to relax and enjoy open space and greenery in a large city. Additionally, there is, of course, the park's rich political, social,and scientific history.

Merrion Square used to be a preferred place to live among Dublin’s aristocrats and upper classes. Former residents are Daniel O’Connell, Oscar Wilde, W.B. Yeats, and many others.

Merrion Square - Dublin - Merrion Square
Merrion Square - Dublin. Photo by William Murphy

History

Merrion Square was mapped out in 1762, more than 250 years ago. Construction of the park was completed several decades later, in the beginning of the 19th century. At first the park had a double line of trees surrounding it. Later on, the trees were replaced by railings.

At the time of planning, almost the entire area south of the River Liffey (Wikipedia Article) was undeveloped. Georgian townhouses and green parks and gardens became necessary after the Earl of Kildare decided to build his home in Dublin there. Later, he became the Duke of Leinster and the building that he had built was Leinster House, the second-largest aristocratic house in Dublin. The biggest one was Dublin Castle. This project resulted in five residential, Georgian squares in the city’s southside, all lined with magnificent Georgian townhouses. There are three squares left.

The park was made up of a French Garden design; its layout consisting of contoured grassy areas, winding paths, perimeter planting, and concentrations of trees. After construction was completed, Merrion Square soon became a popular place for Dublin’s aristocrats, wealthy families, and bishops. They all sold their houses in the northside and moved to the new and modern southside.

In 1930, the Roman Catholic Church bought the park as the site for a new cathedral. These plans were never acted upon though, mainly because of the outbreak of the Second World War. In 1974, the Archbishop transferred the ownership of the park to the Dublin Corporation. Most of the Georgian houses were occupied by residents up until the 1950s, but now almost of them are used as office space. For example, the Irish Red Cross, the Irish Architectural Archive, the Irish Traditional Music Archive, and the Irish Georgian Society are headquartered there. Merrion Square was a place that only residents and other privileged people – that is, people who had a private key – were allowed to enter until as late as 1960.

Former notable residents include Oscar Wild who lived at 1 Merrion Square, a place where also Bram Stoker was a regular guest, W.B. Yeats who lived at 82 Merrion Square, and Daniel O’Connell who lived at 58 Merrion Square. Up until 1972 the British Embassy was located at 39 Merrion Square, but that building was burned down by a furious 20,000-strong crowd after the Bloody Sunday (Wikipedia Article) tragedy in Northern Ireland.

The park was named Archbishop Ryan Park, after the Archbishop who gave it back to the city, but after he was criticized in a public report, the city decided to rename the park. The City Council officially changed the park’s name to Merrion Square in 2010.

Merrion Square - Dublin - Merrion Square
Merrion Square - Dublin. Photo by William Murphy

Visiting Merrion Square

Nowadays, Merrion Square is open to the public and absolutely free to visit. It is a superb park, beautifully designed and maintained, and a wonderful place to get some fresh air. The surrounding Georgian houses provide a stylish contrast to the greenery of the park.

The park is well-known for its Open Sunday Art Gallery. During this great weekly event, almost two-hundred artists display their work on the fences and railings of three sides of Merrion Square. Visiting the park on a Sunday is like going to a free open-air art museum. It’s brilliant.

The central area of the park serves as a public park, with open spaces, lawns, playgrounds, flowerbeds, and a little coffee shop. Additionally, Merrion Square is also home to several statues and sculptures, the most famous of which are the Oscar Wild Statue and the Rutland Memorial, and a fine collection of old Dublin lamp posts.

Similar Landmarks

Dublin has several other public parks and gardens. St Stephen’s Green is probably the most famous and most-visited, while Phoenix Park is one of the largest urban parks in the world. Other green areas worth visiting are the Iveagh Gardens, the National Botanic Garden Dublin, and Fitzwilliam Square.

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Author: bramreusen. Last updated: Jan 10, 2015

Pictures of Merrion Square

Merrion Square - Oscar Wilde - Merrion Square
Merrion Square - Oscar Wilde - Photo by William Murphy

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