Dublin: the city and the river

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Boat Building and Ship Repair early 20th centuryThe area around the mouth of the River Liffey was inhabited from at least Neolithic times by farmers and fishermen. By the 8th century small churches provided the first signs of Christianity, one on the site now occupied by St Audeon’s on the hill above the Liffey. The great arc of Dublin Bay offered an inviting harbour for sea-going vessels, although its sand banks, shallows, slob lands and treacherous currents proved an obstacle to larger shipping in reaching safe anchorage upriver.

View Dublin: the city and the river image gallery.

The beginnings of Dublin as a major centre of habitation and trade go back to the Viking era when the River Liffey afforded a suitable landing place for Viking longboats and other trading vessels. Dublin was Ireland’s first town, it grew up at the crossing point of the River Liffey known as the Ford of the Hurdles, and got its name Baile Átha Cliath from that crossing. Its alternative name Dubh Linn is derived from the Black Pool in what is now Dublin Castle. Dublin was also a focal point for four ancient trackways which crossed the country and converged on the east coast at Dublin Bay. Throughout its life as a town and a city the River Liffey and its tributaries provided the life blood for Dublin’s growth and development. The river also has mythological qualities, as Anna Livia (Anna Liffey) becomes a character of folklore and literature.

A large collection of images from Dublin City Library & Archive can be viewed on Dublin City Council’s website www.bridgesofdublin.ie

Browse and search for images of Dublin at the Libraries and Archives Digital Repository.

Many of the engravings featured in Dublin: the city and the river image gallery are from the following two sources:

  • Anne Plumptre, Narrative of a residence in Ireland during the summer of 1814 and that of 1815 by Anne Plumptre, 3 volumes, London, printed for Henry Colburn, British and Foreign Public Library, 1817.
    The Dublin City Library & Archive copy is a Grangerised edition, made up of the text of "Narrative of a Residence in Ireland" together with "A Voyage Around Great Britain", interleaved with numerous plates, maps, prints, cuttings etc. from other sources of comparable date.


Further Resources

The following online resources can be accessed free of charge at your local library (access links via our NetVibes portal). Ask library staff for information and assistance.

  • Libraries and Archives Digital Repository: Digital records relating to Dublin, including photographs, postcards, letters, maps and ephemeral material. Highlights of the collection include the Fáilte Ireland Photographic Collection, Wide Street Commission Map Collection (1757-1851), the Irish Theatre Archive and the Birth of the Republic Collection, which comprises material from the period of the foundation of the Irish state.
  • Irish Times Digital Archive: This online archive service gives access to contemporary editions of the Irish Times from the mid-nineteenth century until the present.
  • Irish Newspaper Archive: This online archive service gives access to contemporary editions of the Irish Independent and a range of other newspapers.
  • The Ireland-JSTOR Collection: This online archive of academic articles can also be accessed free of charge at your local library.

For further reading, consult the Library Catalogue.

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