Dunleary - the pre-1821 village

480 reputed date of the "Dún" (fort) of Laoghaire

The name Dún Laoghaire translates as Laoghaire's Fort, and relates to a 5th century "High King" of Ireland whose main base was at Tara.  There is no written evidence of a connection between Laoghaire and our town, nor have any reliably authenticated artifacts from that period been found in the area of the town.  The reputed location of the fort is in the area of the railway bridge close to the original (1767) harbour, now known as the Coal Quay. That particular location was however, the subject of many transformations

  • the building of the original (1767) harbour
  • a martello tower and gun battery was constructed on the site about 1806
  • The martello tower was demolished and the railway line and bridge was build across the site about 1837
  • The bridge was rebuilt and the railway was modified for electrification 1984

As a result of these activities it is unlikely that any further archeological evidence of the origins of the town will be found at this location

1767 Dunleary Harbour (supervised by Charles Vallancey)

The harbour of Dunleary built in 1767 is attributed to Thomas Eyre (d.1772), Surveyor General of Ireland Charles Vallancey (1721-1812), a military engineer posted to Ireland. For biographical details of both click here

The 1767 harbour was a small harbour at the mouth of a small river, now culverted under the road on Pakenham Road and Wallace's Lane. The single harbour wall is now "The Coal Quay".  The harbour wall is depicted on some maps as having an ornamented end. In 1800 it was surveyed and found to be 163 yards long. The harbour stretched inland to include the area now occupied by the West Pier Service Station and a vacant old factory premises opposite.  The village of Dunleary or Dunlary consisted of a small number of houses and a coffee house overlooking the harbour.  The low status of the town at that time can be guaged from the fact that no road to Dunleary is depicted on contemporary maps of the period

The area now occupied by the town is shown as a rocky commonage leading to a rocky shoreline.

1800 Survey of Harbour by Captain William Bligh

Before the construction of the North Wall and South Wall in Dublin, the profile of Dublin Bay made it difficult for shipping.  Much of the problem was attributed to moving sandbars.  Captain William Bligh(1754-1817) was commissioned to advise.  Bligh had previously been Commanding Lieutenant of the Bounty when a mutiny happened.  In relation to Dunleary, Bligh stated "It has nothing to recommend it, being ill adapted for its purpose and ill taken care of, and although sheltered from the east winds, is much incommoded by the swell which sets in around the pier end as well as with the northerly winds."  Bligh's survey found to be 163 yards long and with a high tide depth of 14ft.

1807 Sinking of HMS Prince of Wales and The Rochdale

Dublin Bay is littered with the wrecks of ships, but none had so dramatic an impact as the sinkings of HMS Prince of Wales and The Rochdale.  Both sinkings happened on the same night, 19th November 1807.  For full details click here

  • HMS Prince of Wales was a sloop of 103 tons.  It was carrying over 120 soldiers.  It was driven on to the rocks at Blackrock.  The Captain and some crew survived. Most of the soldiers were drowned.
  • The Rochdale was a brig of 135 tons.  265 lives were lost when she went on the rocks at Seapoint

The deceased were buried in mass graves at Carrickbrennan cemetery and at Belle Vue cemetery on the Merrion Road near the Tara Towers hotel.

A campaign for the development of an Asylum Harbour in the vicinity of Dublin developed almost immediately.  An Asylum Harbour is one which would provide shelter to ships in time of storms.

The obvious location to start the campaign was at or near to the site of the 1807 disasters, and in March 1808 a campaign meeting was held at Monkstown.  The organisor of the meeting was Richard Toutcher (1758-1851).  Toutcher specifically promoted the case for the construction of the Asylum Harbour at Dunleary

1809 First plan for new harbour (Dawson)

Following this campaign, the first recorded plan for a new pier at Dun Laoghaire is by Reverned William Dawson

1811 Plan for harbour by A Seaman (Probably Richard Toutcher)

1814 Toutcher leased Dalkey Quarry for harbour construction

1815 Commissioners appointed to oversee Dunleary harbour construction

1817 Dunleary harbour foundation stone laid

1820 Agreement to build second pier (West Pier) for Dunleary