Read's, Dublin's oldest shop, shuts its doors after 200 years

Read's of Parliament Street, the oldest shop in Dublin, has closed "until further notice" and is unlikely ever to reopen as a…

Read's of Parliament Street, the oldest shop in Dublin, has closed "until further notice" and is unlikely ever to reopen as a cutlers. The business was founded in 1675 and had been trading at its present location for over 200 years. Through peaceful and turbulent times over the past two centuries it was the place to buy a good pair of scissors or a set of kitchen knives. All of its current stock, housed in glass cabinets, is still in place behind the shuttered windows. Mr Michael Smith, of An Taisce, said Read's was another victim of the property boom, along with many other Dublin icons which had become casualties of the Celtic Tiger economy that was turning the city into a "faceless, nameless place".

"An Taisce has been railing about this for years, that loads of money plus inadequate protection for our heritage spells cultural collapse at a rate that's directly proportionate to our economic growth. Other cities are more careful to retain the things that are important."

Mr Smith said Read's was not only the oldest but the most charming shop in Dublin, with much of its interior still intact. "The owner promised to keep it and even to put in a museum on the first floor, but, needless to say, this hasn't happened," he added.

Mr Hugh O'Regan, the pub transformation wizard who acquired Read's four years ago, told The Irish Times that it was "unlikely we will reopen it as a cutlers' shop", though he emphasised that no final decision had been taken on its fate.


"We had a couple of bad incidents there recently. Ronnie Carbury, the cutler who had served in the shop for 40 years, was threatened by three guys with knives who robbed the till. There wasn't much in it, admittedly, as the shop doesn't make any money."

Mr O'Regan borrowed the name of its founder, Thomas Read, for his pub next door, which incorporates The Oak bar on Dame Street. Its interior contains elements of the elaborately carved pulpit from St George's Church in Hardwicke Place.

He has planning permission for a hotel on the upper floors of Thomas Read's and The Oak, having initially considered an apartment conversion. Two apartments and the promised museum were to be installed on the upper floors of the old cutlers' shop.

"It would be great to maintain the shop as a cutlers, but unfortunately it doesn't pay. If someone came up with a range of goods that would appeal to tourists, I would consider it," Mr O'Regan said. "On the other hand, maybe the OPW would like to take it over."

Frank McDonald

Frank McDonald

Frank McDonald, a contributor to The Irish Times, is the newspaper's former environment editor