In a word . . . Tenters

In this column one tries to be good because one knows that one should – one's prayer at the end of the day. But it doesn't always work out that way. So when one wrote here recently about "tenterhooks", Colette Ní Mhoitleigh of Ascal Rath Gearr in Dublin was disappointed. One failed to mention the Tenters in Dublin's Liberties.

Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa. For those who, like Shakespeare, have neither Latin nor Greek, that means "through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault". It comes from the Confiteor, a prayer that means "I confess".

What is a prayer? You cannot be serious! Forget it. Look up your latest Funk & Wagnalls. (If you were around in the late 1960s/early 1970s you'll remember that reference from the Rowan and Martin Laugh In show on TV. If you weren't, no explanation is possible.)

Anyhow, following a dollop of flattery, Ms Ní Mhoitleigh proceeded to say she was “sorry” I didn’t mention “the Tenters area of the Liberties” in the column. The effect on this sensitive soul was not dissimilar to biting into a berry, expecting the taste buds to juice swimmingly in sweetness, only to find the berry is a bitter sloe.


In the 12th century, King Henry II of England ordered an Abbey of St Thomas the Martyr to be established at a site close to the modern church of St Catherine in Dublin. The Augustinian monks of the Abbey were given extensive lands to the west of the city as well as privileges and powers to control trade within their "liberty", hence the name the Liberties.

In the 16th and 17th centuries the area had a sizeable Huguenot population, escaping persecution in France, and it became a centre of excellence in wool production. The cloth needed to be stretched and dried on tenterhooks in the fields between what is now O'Curry Avenue and Clarence Mangan Road, the Tenters.

In 1814 a Tenter House was built on the land so the drying could also take place indoors. The very success of these Dublin industries was a disaster for counterparts in England, so London introduced taxes which drove the Liberties industries into decline. The name the Tenters remained and the area was built on in 1922.