The Vision for Bull Alley

The most impressive collection of Iveagh Trust buildings stands between Bull Alley Street and Bride Road, to the north of St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

The Bull Alley scheme was part of a fundamental redevelopment of the entire area between Christchurch and St. Patrick’s Cathedral – a complicated procedure, requiring several private acts of parliament. The total cost exceeded £220,000, to which must be added completion of St. Patrick’s Park and provision of the Iveagh Market, a further sum of £98,680. Both St. Patrick’s Park and the Iveagh Market were carried out by Iveagh himself and not the Trust, but were nonetheless integral and complementary elements of Iveagh’s vision to transform this corner of Dublin.

Ultimately, to bring his vision for Bull Alley to fruition, Lord Iveagh would spend an amount considerably in-excess of the original investment envisaged for the Dublin and London funds combined.

This was one of the most extensive urban redevelopment projects Dublin had seen entailing total demolition of the area between the two medieval cathedrals and complete rearrangement of its street plan. Dublin Corporation had also undertook to complete a complementary housing scheme adjacent to the Bull Alley site, delivering a coherent design approach for the entire area based on Iveagh's initiative.

From south to north, the development comprised the construction of:

  • St. Patrick's Park
    Opened June 1902
  • Bull Alley Blocks A-D
    Completed 1903
  • Bull Alley Blocks E-H
    Completed 1906
  • Iveagh Hostel
    Completed 1905
  • Iveagh Baths
    Completed 1906
  • Iveagh Play Centre
    Completed 1915
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The Bull Alley Estate: 1901 – 1906

As St. Patrick’s Park was nearing completion, Lord Iveagh decided on a more ambitious scheme. He informed Trustees of the Guinness Trust in December 1898 that he was promoting a bill in Parliament to empower him at his own expense

“to acquire and clear about three acres of rookery in the heart of the city of Dublin adjoining the new St. Patrick’s Park now being formed”

and afterwards to use the site for straightening and widening roads but chiefly for the erection of housing for the working class.

The Dublin Improvement (Bull Alley Area) Act of 1899 allowed Lord Iveagh to proceed with his plans. Complete clearance of the site rapidly proceeded and included the removal of a large rather infamous inn, the Queen’s Head, and demolition of St. Bride’s Church and graveyard on the corner of Bride’s Alley and Bride Street.

There were various ideas for the new layout of the site. The plan finally adopted entailed eight T-shaped blocks, each of five stories, set out to line Patrick Street & Bride Street. Constructions of Blocks A – D facing Patrick Street began in 1901 and were fully occupied by 1904. Blocks E – H facing Bride Road got underway in 1904 and were fully occupied by the end of 1906.

Coinciding with the completion of the Bull Alley dwellings, work was also underway on the Iveagh Hostel, located on Bride Road, a newly aligned road that replaced Bride’s Alley. Two major recreational buildings were also to be provided; the Iveagh Baths located on corporation land opposite the Hostel & the Iveagh Play Centre, to be sited on Bull Alley street, facing the cathedral.

The completed scheme contained 244 homes for families, approximately half were fully self contained and half with shared wash & laundry facilities. The architects were Messrs. Joseph and Smithem of London, assisted by Messrs. Kaye, Parry & Ross, an eminent Dublin firm.

Each living room possessed a substantial kitchen range, food cupboard, coal bunker and a dresser. All bedrooms were fitted with stoves and cupboards. Each tenement was adequately ventilated and its entrance amply lighted. Laundries were fitted with galvanised iron coppers and glazed stoneware washing engines. In associated blocks each tenant had exclusive use of a laundry for at least one day in the week; sinks and taps for ordinary water service were placed on each landing. The completed Bull Alley scheme was a unique fully-serviced community in a central city location.

Accommodation & Rents at Bull Alley in 1903:

  • 32 three-room (self contained)
    5s. 9d weekly
  • 80 two-room (self contained)
    4s.3d weekly
  • 32 three-room (shared WC)
    5s.0d weekly
  • 80 two-room (shared WC)
    3s.6d weekly
  • 20 single-room
    2s.6d weekly
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1903: Establishment of The Iveagh Trust

There were multiple outcomes of Iveagh’s Bull Alley Scheme. The physical, structural and architectural changes to the urban landscape, as well as the social implications of these changes were plentiful. One direct consequence was the legislative severance of ties between the Dublin and London funds of the Guinness Trust and the subsequent establishment of the Iveagh Trust. The legislation which brought this into place was the Iveagh Trust Act, 1903.(150)

The Bull Alley Act of 1899 maintained that once the scheme had been completed at Iveagh’ expense, it was to be handed over to a group of Trustees for its management. The Guinness Trustees’ agreement to take on these responsibilities was formalised in 1899 and further consolidated in 1903. The Act of 1899 outlined the responsibilities of the Trustees: they were: 'to manage, control and regulate the buildings’, ‘to borrow money on any terms’, ‘to demise or let or otherwise dispose of … in such a manner as he thinks fit any of the said lands buildings and premises’, ‘to employ, appoint and remove’ staff such as secretaries, clerks and servants, ‘to make byelaws, rules and regulations’

subject to the approval of the LGB, as well as prohibit the use of the buildings for events for political purposes and of a party or sectarian character. The Act allowed the Trustees to:

‘act in all things in relation to the improvement scheme and improvement area and exercise all or any of the powers and discretions by this Act or otherwise’.(151).

They were to carry the same powers conferred on Iveagh during the scheme’s undertaking after it was carried out and handed over to them. Iveagh did, however, maintain some form of control; it was stipulated that during his lifetime, the Trustees were forbidden to rescind, revoke, amend or vary byelaws, rules and regulations made by him without his written consent.

The legal linkage made between the new improvement scheme of the Bull Alley area and the Guinness Trustees necessitated the severance of the ties so that the Dublin Fund could manage such a large operation with full dedication. The 1899 Act stated that it was Iveagh’s desire and intention that as long as the Guinness Trust was in existence, the Trustees of that Trust would be the same persons appointed as Trustees for the Dublin Improvement (Bull Alley Area) Scheme. It was under this premise that the Iveagh Trust was formed.

There were several objectives of the Iveagh Trust Act. Firstly, and most importantly, it was an act to amalgamate the Guinness Trust Dublin Fund with the Bull Alley Scheme. Secondly, it was necessary to vest the property already owned by the Guinness Trust (Dublin) fund into the new Trust. Thirdly, a new name for the amalgamated Trust was imperative and lastly, the act was used to confer additional powers on the Trustees of this new Trust.(152)

As the 1903 Act specified, both the objects and purposes of the two Trusts – the Guinness Trust (Dublin) Fund and the Bull Alley Scheme – were ‘to a large extent similar’ and, therefore, ‘it would increase their usefulness and the benefit to be derived from them and tend to the more efficient and economical management of such trusts if they were consolidated and amalgamated into one Trust’.(153).

Further to the amalgamation of the two schemes, it was decided to name the new consolidated trust the ‘Iveagh Trust’, distinguishable from the Guinness Trust exclusively based in London. The Trustees cited in the 1899 Act were those named as the new ‘Iveagh Trustees’, with three additions, the Right Hon. William Lee Baron Plunket, Hon. Arthur Ernest Guinness and the Hon. Walter Edward Guinness – the latter two being Lord Iveagh’s younger sons. Furthermore, necessary actions were to be undertaken, such as the creation of new accounts and for an audit to be carried out before embarking on this new chapter of Trust operations. Additional powers were also conferred on the Iveagh Trustees. They were able ‘to delegate the management and control of the Iveagh Trust … to any public body, company, committee … as they may think fit’ or could enter into arrangements for the ‘joint working administration or management’ of the new Trust ‘with any other trustees or with any public body, company, committee, person or persons carrying out analogous objects’.(154)

Despite such alterations to Iveagh’s Dublin Fund, its foundation remained unchanged. It continued to be, like all other ventures connected to it, wholly unsectarian and non-political … [with an] exclusion of all influences calculated or tending to impart to it a character sectarian as regards religion or belief or exclusive as regards politics and no person or persons shall be excluded from participation in the benefits thereof on the ground of religious belief or political bias. (155)

This strong ethos of inclusion was to remain intact ‘provided that nothing … shall restrict the discretion of the Iveagh Trustees in giving aid to or contributing … towards any undertakings, charities or other objects they think fit notwithstanding the same may have a sectarian or political character’.(156)

And so the Iveagh Trust was born out of a web of legislative dealings in order to make it more efficient, economical and effective. The next phase of its history is one of boom, chiefly due to the projects ‘of a permanent character’ attached to the Bull Alley Scheme. (157)

Credit: Chloe Michelle O'Reilly, an extract from: The Iveagh Trust of Dublin: A Constructed Community, 1889-1939

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