Heritage hot spots: History, nature, art, environment
What is it?Merrion Square is probably the best known and most loved of the five Georgian squares in Dublin city centre. (The others are Parnell, Mountjoy, Fitzwilliam and Mountpleasant squares; St Stephen’s Green is the city’s most famous square, and includes Georgian buildings, but is significantly older.)
Built between 1762 and 1793 under the architect John Ensor, Merrion Square still has fine Georgian houses on three sides, with the gardens of Leinster House, the Natural History Museum and the National Gallery of Ireland on the fourth.
The original concept was “the design of a grand residential suburb in close proximity to the city and not a formal urban space”, according to Nicola Matthews, who writes about Merrion Square in The Georgian Squares of Dublin (Four Courts Press, 2006).
Now, on the 250th anniversary of the beginning of building work, the square is being promoted as a cultural quarter in its own right.
Why visit?Many of its buildings have a rich history. Oscar Wilde lived as a child at No 1, for example, Daniel O’Connell lived at No 58 and William Butler Yeats lived at No 82. Organisations to be found on the square now include the Irish Traditional Music Archive, the Irish Architectural Archive – with its current exhibition of drawings, Merrion Square 250, until October 12th – the Irish Georgian Society and the Royal Society of Antiquaries.
Why now?The anniversary celebrations continue throughout this month with the September on the Square programme of music, art, literature, architecture and family events. Highlights include lunchtime concerts on Tuesdays and lunchtime talks by owners and curators on Thursdays. The latter begin this week (at 1.15pm) when Brendan Twomey, treasurer of the Royal Society of Antiquaries, shows visitors the beautiful Georgian garden at No 63.
The Irish Traditional Music Archive, at No 73, will hold a concert with music chosen from its archives at 1.15pm on September 18th. There will be ballroom dancing on September 20th and a Georgian banquet on September 22nd in the reception rooms of the Irish Architectural Archive. Ingenious Ireland will hold walking tours, starting from the Oscar Wilde statue, on Mondays and Fridays at 10am. You’ll find the full programme at merrionsquare.ie.
How do I get there?Merrion Square is 10 minutes’ walk south of O’Connell Bridge. Follow the railings of Trinity College along Nassau Street, then fork right on to Clare Street; the east side of the square is just ahead of you.