Rewind - pride and spirit in Crumlin Village

By Sean Heffernan

WHEN I pop down to Crumlin Village for my regular dose of tea and chat with a good friend of mine, I am struck by the sense of individuality this little pocket of Dublin 12 retains.

It’s as if the area in the main stood still, while all around it, especially in the 1930s, a massive housing development plan was springing up.

crumfin

St Mary's Church (right), Crumlin Village

The name Crumlin is not unique to Dublin 12, and is in fact the given name to a number of places on the island of Ireland, such as in Co Antrim, or an area in Springfort Co Tipperary.

The area we are focussing on is reckoned to have gotten it’s name from the ‘curved glen’, which related to the Lansdowne Valley area in what is now Drimnagh.

While a lot of towns and villages owe their origins to the grand designs of a nearby king or wealthy landlord, it seems this one came into being after the Norman conquest of Ireland, and had an organic unplanned growth.

There is evidence that the Haptree family from Somerset in England, settled in the area and built a Manor House somewhere between St Mary’s Road, and Pearse Park.

In 1193, the Prince of Moreton, who later became the famed King John, of whom a castle in Limerick city is named after, gifted the collegiate of St Patrick permission to build a church in the area, and the original St Mary’s Church of Ireland came into being.

In 1594 the original ecclesiastical facility was damaged by fire, but is was not until the 1630s, as denoted by maps from that time, that the church was finally repaired.

Maps from the 14th century attest to Crumlin containing a part of the water concourse for Dublin, which ran alongside the Poddle River, and it was also noted as flowing through the settlements of Dolphin’s Barn and Harold Cross.

A map produced in 1731, is the first to show a Roman Catholic church in the area.

It had been built five years earlier in 1726, and it stood until 1969, when it was demolished to make way for the existing St Agnes Church.

St Agnes of Rome was martyred by the forces of emperor Diocletian, who murdered anyone convicted of practising Christianity.

She is the saint of, amongst others, married couples and gardeners.

Documents from 1837, attest to the area as being “part of the Barony of Newcastle, and province of Leinster, some 2¾ Miles South-West of the Post-Office, Dublin”.

It is said that at that time there were 958 inhabitants living in 115 homes, with 544 persons living in the village itself.

(In contrast, the 2011 Census figures from the Central Statistics Office showed there was 21,838 people living in Crumlin).

There were a handful of sizeable properties located there including Lisle House, which has a road named after it – some were so fancy they had four hearths, which was palatial back then.

In the 1820s, a major renovation took place of St Mary’s, and a few years afterwards a police barracks was constructed nearby.

Fast forward almost 100 years, when plans were announced to change irrevocably this sleepy backwater in South Dublin.

At that time there was serious concern in many quarters at the squalid conditions many people had to endure in Dublin city centre.

Many families lived in single rooms in tenement buildings that lacked running water and basic sanitation.

Disease was rampant, as the damp and decrepit conditions meant many children suffered from respiratory and other avoidable illnesses.

The template had been set in Marino a couple of years earlier, where the first “slum clearance” development was built by the Cumann na nGaedheal government.

In 1932, Seán T O’Kelly, a minister of the newly elected Fianna Fáil Government, spearheaded a compulsory purchase drive, and Crumlin was one of the areas picked, as part of a massive drive to provide new quality housing for families then living in squalor.

In 1956, the hospital for children was built, to cater for the growing numbers of children living in the area and the rest of South Dublin.

So while the area might have changed utterly in the last 90 years or so, the pride and spirit of the people living in and around the village is as strong as ever.

So the next time you walk down Mary’s Road, and turn into Crumlin Village, you might stop and reflect on King John’s anglicisation of the country, and the diminution of the power and prestige of the Gaelic chieftains of Ireland.

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