Exercise of Authority

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  • Exercise of AuthorityTitle: Exercise of authority: Surveyor Thomas Owen and the paving, cleansing and lighting of Georgian Dublin
  • Author: Finnian Ó Cionnaith
  • Size:
  • Format: Paperback | Hardback
  • Pages: 156pp; colour illustrations
  • Price: Paperback €17.95; Hardback €26.95 (guide price)
  • Publisher: Dublin City Council c/o Dublin City Public Libraries & Archive, February 2016
  • ISBN: 978-1-907002-30-4 (paperback); 978-1-907002-23-6 (hardback)

Book available from Four Courts Press and other bookshops.


From the 1770s to the mid-nineteenth century the commissioners for paving the streets of Dublin, commonly known as the Paving Board, were responsible for the paving, lighting and cleansing of the capital. Granted sweeping powers by the Irish parliament, this organisation tackled problems still familiar to modern Dubliners such as traffic congestion, street paving, road works, waste removal, public lighting and anti-social behaviour. The Commissioners attempted to stamp Georgian conformity and order on a city trying to shake its medieval image and move into the modern world. Prior to its foundation, the maintenance of Dublin's streets was a haphazard affair with the city's patchwork of diverse and divergent parishes bearing responsibility for services within their borders. The Paving Board took this misbalanced system and placed the city under one hierarchical organisation capable, in theory, of helping the rapidly growing city cope with the changes it encountered. The legacy of the Paving Board can still be seen today in the setts and granite curbstones which can be found in Dublin’s historic core and yet this book is the first history of this important body, looking at the first formative fifteen years of the Board from the viewpoint of one of its most important officers, surveyor Thomas Owen.

'Exercise of Authority' is the second in a new series of books issued by Dublin City Council to explore the engineering history and heritage of the city, other titles in the series being 'Bridges of Dublin', 'The Rivers Dodder and Poddle' and 'The Ha'penny Bridge Dublin'. This richly-illustrated book is essential for a complete understanding of Georgian Dublin.