Heart of Dublin: Gloucester Diamond

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Diamond BarView Gloucester Diamond Image Gallery 

The Gloucester Diamond got its name from the diamond-shaped intersection at Gloucester Place and Sean Macdermott Street. Colloquially, ‘The Diamond’ refers not just to Gloucester Place, but the entire area surrounding it. It is recorded in Thomas Campbell’s map of 1811 which predates the first Ordnance Survey maps of the area (1829-41).

Sean Macdermott Street was then called Gloucester Street, and received its present name in 1933. The Diamond was located not only in the heart of the city but also in the heart of one of Dublin’s former red-light districts, the infamous 'Monto', which comprised the area enclosed by Summerhill in the north, Talbot Street in the South, Marlborough Street to the west and Buckingham Street/Portland Row to the east.

Morally-motivated reformers like Frank Duff and the Legion of Mary initiated an action in 1922 that led the brothels in Monto to be shut down in 1926. In relation to this, Dublin Corporation carried out some redevelopment in the 1930s, following this up with further redevelopment programmes in the 1960s, 70s and 80s. The photographs in this gallery were taken between 1968 and 1987 and therefore depict the later redevelopments.

Before this, in 1941, Dublin Corporation bought Gloucester Place Upper and Lower, as well as surrounding tracts of land that included parts of Gardiner Street, Sean Macdermott Street and Summerhill, by means of Compulsory Purchase Order. This meant that the landowners did not reach an agreement with the Corporation, resulting in a forced sale. As part of this, existing tenement dwellings were reconditioned, while cottages and smaller dwellings at Gloucester Place Upper were gradually cleared to make way for Lourdes House, built c.1962. Throughout the sixties parts of Summerhill, Rutland Street Upper and Lower were bought by Compulsory Purchase Order for the purpose of erecting new blocks of flats, for example Matt Talbot Court on Rutland Street Upper /Great Charles Street North (1972) and Mountain View Court on Summerhill (1977).

August 1978 marked a critical turning point in Corporation policy as a new and controversial Development Plan for the city was drawn up. According to this the area enclosed by Marlborough Street to west, Summerhill to the north, Foley Street to the south, and Rutland Street to the east were designated ‘redevelopment areas’, which correspond almost exactly to the area formerly known as Monto. The 1978 plan sparked controversy because it called for the demolition of tenement dwellings, but did not guarantee that families would be rehoused in the area after being moved out. The Corporation was also criticised for the lack of transparency and not engaging in dialogue with local residents when drawing up the plans. This led to a number of action groups and protests, most famously the Gardiner Street Protest in December 1978. Despite this, families were henceforth moved to other parts of the city en masse. It is estimated that between four and five hundred families were moved between 1978 and 1981. In the midst of this, the Diamond Remembered Festival took place in September 1981, the success of which prompted the 'Inner City Looking On' Festival in July 1982. Both brought hundreds of former residents back to the area as a defiant act of commemoration and a celebration of their community.

Other developments included the construction of two inner city parks (pictured in this gallery), one at Foley Street (1979/80) and the other at Gloucester Diamond (1986). Then in March 1982 Tony Gregory, Independent TD for North-east Inner City Dublin was able to negotiate a deal with Charles Haughey of Fianna Fail that became known as ‘The Gregory Deal’ and led to the Urban Development Areas Bill (1982) being drawn up. Though not enacted due to the volatile political situation at the time, these relations arguably pushed local inner city concerns regarding housing, education and employment to the top of the central government’s agenda. In the long run it led to more houses being built in the city centre, not least the area around Gloucester Diamond.

However, rather than provide a systematic account of its redevelopment, the photographs in this gallery show the places that made up the fabric of the community around the Gloucester Diamond from the late sixties to the eighties. Therefore they are not ordered chronologically but as a walked route, beginning at the Twenty-Seven Steps and continuing in a circle all around the Diamond, finally closing at the Diamond Park. Included are photographs of houses, shops, pubs, pawnshops, schools and local landmarks. As the recent past constitutes an equally important part of its history, the gallery also includes contemporary images.

The street’s diamond shape remains an enduring part of the topography today, while the histories and memories that make it the Gloucester Diamond continue to grow with the changing community. It is therefore hoped that along with oral history, folklore, archaeological artefacts, song and art dating from various periods, these photographs will contribute to the memories and histories of Gloucester Diamond.

Further Resources

Dublin City Public Libraries has a wide range of sources on the social, political, and cultural history of Dublin, some of which are available online and some through the Dublin City Public Libraries network.
The Reading Room, Dublin City Library and Archive, Pearse Street holds a wealth of material on the history of Dublin, including books, pamphlets, journals, street directories, and almanacs.

For more information on the Gloucester Diamond Area see:
Terry Fagan and Ben Savage (eds), All around the Diamond (Dublin, 1994)
Terry Fagan and Ben Savage (eds), Those were the days (Dublin, 1992)
Ronan Sheehan and Brendan Walsh, The heart of the city (Dingle, 1988)

Useful newspaper articles include:
‘Corporation to build old flats area’, Irish Times, 2 August, 1978
‘Dublin’s Inner City’, Irish Press, 4 July 1980
‘Death of a community’, Irish Times, 19 January 1981
‘Car Parks versus People’, Irish Press, 5 May 1981
‘The Diamond Dublin’, Irish Independent, 26 August 1981
‘Gregory gets £91m new housing pledge’, Irish Times, 10 March 1982
‘Mayor plan to reform local housing’, Irish Press, 23 June 1984

Other useful sources include:

Placing voices, voicing places. Archaeology in Inner-City Dublin: spatiality, materiality and identity-formation among Dublin's working class and immigrant communities (Instar report, Dublin, 2008).
Reports and Minutes of Dublin Corporation (on open shelf at Dublin City Archive, Pearse Street)
Thom’s Dublin Directories

Ordnance Survey Ireland maps of the period

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.

This image gallery was researched and compiled by Laura Sinnott, a History graduate from Trinity College Dublin, where she is completing an M.Phil in Public History and Cultural Heritage. As part of her postgraduate degree she carried out an internship in Digital Projects at Dublin City Library and Archive for whom she has curated this Image Gallery.

With special thanks to:
Lourdes Youth and Community Services, Rutland Street Lower
Terry Fagan, North Inner City Folklore Project
Dr Thomas Kador (University College Dublin)
Dr Ciaran O’Neill (Trinity College Dublin)

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