Royal Dublin Society, Ballsbridge

In 1731 a man called Thomas Prior formed a group called the Dublin Society to try to help farming and industry in Ireland. From 1815 until 1923 the RDS was situated in Leinster House, which currently houses the Dáil. In 1923 Leinster House was sold to the Government and the RDS moved to its current location in Ballsbridge

This video is designed as a resource for primary and post-primary students up to Junior Certificate.

The Royal Dublin Society (RDS), Ballsbridge

You probably know the  RDS from the ‘Young Scientist of the Year’ competition, which takes place every year in its exhibition halls in Ballsbridge. Or maybe you were at “Funderland” Maybe you went to  Dublin Horse Show?
Well all these take place in what we call the RDS.  Not many may know that the Society has a long history and a huge influence on Dublin and Ireland as we know it today.

In 1731 a man called Thomas Prior formed a group called the Dublin Society which tried to help improve farming and industry in Ireland. They also wanted to encourage the arts, sciences and the horse industry. In 1820, King George IV became a sponsor or patron of the Dublin Society and allowed them to be called the Royal Dublin Society.

The Society was one of the first with a  ‘Buy Irish’ idea. In 1771 they offered rewards to businesses who bought goods manufactured in Dublin. They also collected art, books and plants and with their collections started the Botanic Gardens, the National Gallery, the National Museum, the Natural History Museum and the National Library. These belonged to the RDS at first but have been owned by the state since 1877. 

The RDS had many homes. The first was at Parliament House which is now the Bank of Ireland on College Green. In 1815, it moved to Leinster House, which currently houses the Dáil in Kildare Street. In 1877, the RDS bought a large field in Ballsbridge to hold its shows as the space on Leinster Lawn was not big enough. Then in 1923 Leinster House was sold to the Government and the RDS moved to Ballsbridge. Today’s stone-faced buildings on Merrion Road were built in 1924.

When the RDS started to show its Spring Shows and Horse Shows in Ballsbridge, they were so popular that the Society bought land on the other side of Merrion Road. They even built their own short railway track from Lansdowne Road Station to a small station on Merrion Road so that farmers could transport their livestock to the grounds. The first train ran on this line in April 1893. Until 1971, when this special station was closed, it was a familiar sight to see the traffic on the Merrion Road halted to let the horses cross the road from the station to the showgrounds. A horse trough outside the Allied Irish Bank Centre allowed horses to have a drink while waiting to cross.

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