Gardiner Street Dublin History

Gardiner Street Dublin Historically Important

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Gardiner Street Dublin is one of Dublin’s best known Georgian Streets; Gardiner Street Dublin is historically, culturally, politically and architecturally important due to its unique history some of which is set out here.


Gardiner Street in the New Millennium

Gardiner Street Dublin is one of Dublin’s best known Georgian Streets; Gardiner Street Dublin is historically, culturally, politically and architecturally important due to its unique history some of which is set out here.

“History,” says Joyce’s Stephen Dedalus, “is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake.”


Queen Elizabeth visits Gardiner Street Dublin

In May 2011 Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II visited Gardiner Street Dublin and later joined Irish President Mary McAleese to lay wreaths at the Garden of Remembrance. The wreath-laying ceremony at the Garden of Remembrance, which commemorates those who died in pursuit of Irish freedom, was followed by one minute of silence. This visit marked a new relationship between two neighbouring nations.

Lower Gardiner Street

Lower Gardiner street south leads from Mountjoy Square to the fine stone Georgian Custom House overlooking the river Liffey. Lower Gardiner Street is home to some of Dublin’s finest family owned Hotels, Guesthouses and Tourist Hostels. Lower Gardiner Street is renowned for its Irish Hospitality including the Famous Ned Keenan’s Pub. Lower Gardiner Street is a central location and a focal point for public transport and day tour vendors such as Wild Rover Tours, departing The Town House Hotel and Globetrotters Tourist Hostel.

Public Transport Gardiner Street

The DART line crosses near the intersection with Beresford Place behind the Custom House and this end is only a few minutes’ walk from Connolly station, and around the corner from Lower Gardiner Street is the Luas red-line stop at Busáras. Lower Gardiner Street, is also part of Dublin City Council’s Inner Orbital Route, however, pedestrian crossing points are conveniently located and allow for safe and easy road crossing. Middle and Upper Gardiner Street are separated from the lower street by the west side of Mountjoy Square, a Dublin Georgian square noted for its cultural and historic connections.

Custom House

Custom House

Bono and U2

Gardiner Street Dublin has sown the seed of many music legends, Bono and U2 often practiced in the SFX Hall at the site of Gardiner Street Church before they flowered on the world stage.


Bob Geldoff

Bob Geldoff and the Boomtown Rats were rooted in their Punk Rock Music in the basement of Moran’s Hotel in Lower Gardiner Street (Moran’s Hotel was at Number 73 Lower Gardiner Street/this picture was taken in 1974).

Morans Hotel Gardiner Street Dublin

Morans Hotel Gardiner Street Dublin

Gardiner Street History

Every Dubliner knows the Historic Labour Exchange Building at 50 Lower Gardiner Street, Dublin 1. But few know it began its life in 1839 as the famous Trinity Church. ‘The Exchange’ is Trinity Church’s newly-acquired historic building on Gardiner Street. The original Trinity Church built in 1839, closed in about 1909, and was the Labour Exchange for almost a century. Now the reopened building is a lively centre of celebration and a venue for major city events, for personal restoration, training activities, community support and for the arts.

Gardiner Street Pictures

James Joyce

Gardiner Street Dublin would play an important part in the greatest literary work of the modern world, James Joyce, celebrated on Blooms Day each year in Dublin Ireland, was the author of Ulysses which was first published back in 1922, it expanded the public’s preconceptions about what was permissible in fiction despite being denounced as obscene and even unreadable by some critics. These days, Joyce’s labyrinthine novel is widely touted as one of the greatest fictional works of the 20th Century. Gardiner Street and its surrounding network of Georgian Streets would feature prominently in this classic.

Gardiner Street (Irish/Gaelic: Sráid Ghairdinéir) is in Dublin City Centre, Ireland and stretches from the River Liffey at its southern end via Mountjoy Square to Dorset Street at its northern end. The Georgian Custom House terminates the vista at the southern end, and the street is divided into Upper, Middle and Lower sections.

Upper Gardiner Street

On Upper Gardiner Street is located Saint Francis Xavier Church, a notable stone Classical building dating from 1829 and with a connection to the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins. Gardiner Street has another notable poetic connection by way of featuring in Patrick Kavanagh’s poem “Memory of My Father” (see also, Newman Church).

Memory of My Father

Every old man I see

Reminds me of my father

When he had fallen in love with death

One time when sheaves were gathered.

That man I saw in Gardiner Street

Stumble on the kerb was one,

He stared at me half-eyed,

I might have been his son.

And I remember the musician

Faltering over his fiddle

In Bayswater, London.

He too set me the riddle.

Every old man I see

In October-coloured weather

Seems to say to me

“I was once your father.”

Patrick Kavanagh 1904-1967

 Gardiner Street Church

Gardiner Street Church, St Francis Xavier, is home to the Jesuit Order and Pope Francis is the first Jesuit to be elected Pope.

Francis (Latin: Franciscus PP [franˈtʃiskus]; born Jorge Mario Bergoglio on 17 December 1936) is the 266th and Pope of the Roman Catholic Church, elected on 13 March 2013. As such, he is both head of the Church and sovereign of the Vatican City State.

A native of Buenos Aires, Argentina, he was ordained as a priest in 1969. He served as head of the Society of Jesus in Argentina from 1973 to 1979. In 1998 he became the Archbishop of Buenos Aires, and in 2001 a cardinal. Following the resignation of his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, on 28 February 2013, the conclave elected Bergoglio, who chose the papal name Francis in honour of Saint Francis of Assisi. Besides being the first Jesuit pope, he is also the first to choose the name Francis, and the first from either the Americas or the Southern Hemisphere.


Gardiner Street Architecture

Commenced in 1792 and finished around 1820, Gardiner Street was developed by Luke Gardiner as part of his grand vision which was to see a crescent built where the Mater Hospital now stands. Georgian terraces remain at the lower end approaching the Custom House, and at Mountjoy Square, and streets in its surrounds.

Luke Gardiner

Luke Gardiner

Portrait of Luke Gardiner, 1st Viscount Mountjoy (1745-1798), half-length, in a beige, fur-trimmed coat, white stock and striped red waistcoat. Sir Joshua Reynolds, P.R.A. (Plympton, Devon 1723-1792 London). Sold for approximately £500K at Christies Auction House, London.

Guinness Gardiner Street

It was Mid-summer’s Day 1961 that saw the last commercial passage of a Guinness barge on the River Liffey Dublin. According to Al Byrne in his most entertaining book “Guinness Times – My Days in the World’s Most Famous Brewery”, it was 6 p.m. when the 80-foot long by 17-foot-one inch-wide barge, Castleknock, sailed from the Custom House with a load of empties and slowly made its funereal way up river to the jetty at St. James’s Gate.

“It was the last time Dubliners would see a Guinness barge doing its job on the Liffey Dublin. Truly, many a tear was shed and many a story told that night about a part of Dublin that was gone forever.”


Gardiner Street Famous Residents

Historic former residents Playwright, producer and actor Dion Boucicault (1820–1890) lived in number 47 Lower Gardiner Street (Now: The Townhouse Hotel). Boucicault was involved with over 150 plays, and is best known for The Shaughraun, yet also wrote “Napolean’s Old Guard”, “A Legend of the Devil’s Dyke”, “London Assurance”, and “The Colleen Bawn”. His mother was a relative of the first Arthur Guinness. Both Seán O’Casey and JM Synge acknowledged him as being a major influence on their dramatic works.

Lafcadio Hearn, who was better known to his Japanese friends as Koizumi Yakumo, was born of Irish-Greek parentage in 1850, on the Ionian Island of Lefkas and became. In 1851, when Charles Hearn (an assistant Surgeon in various regiments) was assigned to the West Indies, he sent his wife and infant son, Lafcadio, home to his mother in Dublin who lived at Number 48 Lower Gardiner Street. Rosa, Lafcadio’s mother did not speak English and was treated very much as an alien by the conservative Hearn family. As a journalist and writer Hearn poured out book after book about the land of his adoption. Through his keen intellect, poetic imagination and clear style, he became the great interpreter of things Japanese to the West.

Gardiner Street Politics

Number 41 Gardiner Street Upper was home of Joe McGuinness, elected as a Sinn Féin TD for Longford South to the first Dáil in 1918 while in Lewes Gaol, under the slogan of “Vote him in to get him out”. During the Easter Rising in 1916 McGuinness was also involved in commandeering the Four Courts for the volunteers.


Joseph McGuinness TD Funeral

Dublin 1913 Strike and Lock-out

“You’ll crucify Christ no longer in this town”

– James Larkin to the employers of Dublin

During one of Dublin’s most turbulent political periods Gardiner Street played a key role as can be seen from the, “Report of the Dublin Disturbances Commission, 1914″, due to its close location to key Dublin City locations, as well as being the scene of street disturbances relating to the 1913 Strike and Lockout, Gardiner Street facilitated numerous meetings of those involved in the Strike and Lockout including James Larkin.


About 5 p.m. on Sunday evening, the 31st August, extensive rioting prevailed in the district around Gardiner Street, and crowds assembled in that street, and at the corners of streets communicating therewith.

In the first instance the police came into contact with the rioters at the corner of Gloucester Street, and dispersed them after being met with a fusillade of stones and bricks, in many cases thrown from houses. A number of troopers were engaged in keeping the crowd moving, but their efforts were greatly hampered by the persistent stone throwing that took place from nearly all the houses in the streets through which they passed. In some of the streets, notably Cumberland Street and Waterford Street, numbers of men were stationed on the roofs of houses, and stripped off slates and tiles for the purpose of throwing them into the street at passing constables. In one case in Waterford Street seven men were discovered on the roof of a house.

This disturbance was spread over the entire district, and the serious feature of it was the readiness of the occupants of the various tenement houses to shelter escaping rioters, and to join with them in attacking the police from the upper stories of many houses. Some baton charges were made, but as a rule these were useless, as the crowds fled before the police and took refuge in houses which were open to receive them (Report of the Dublin Disturbances Commission, 1914).

Gardiner Street Church

May 3rd 2007 marked the 175th anniversary of the first Mass in Gardiner St Church in 1832.

Thus it was one of the first churches to be built in Dublin after Catholic Emancipation. The church in Hardwicke St had opened in 1821 but by 1829 had become too small for the congregations.

The Jesuits had been in the Hardwicke Street area since the 1730s, on the site now occupied by the Sacred Heart statue and had opened a school there which eventually moved into Belvedere College in 1841. The first Mass was celebrated by Archbishop Murray, who presented a chalice which is still used.

Over the years the church has been best known for its devotional life in the heart of Dublin. The Novena of Grace each 4-12 March, the Sacred Heart Novena in preparation for the feast, the sodalities of men and women, the choirs, the Bona Mors (Happy Death) confraternity, all nourished the faith of the people. The First Friday Holy Hour was a full house each month with Fr ‘Pom’ O’Mara SJ.

Many well-known people of faith were associated with the church among them Matt Talbot, a recovered alcoholic, whose cause is in process for beatification. He prayed in the church each day at the 5.30 a.m. Mass, and in fact died on his way to the next Mass in Dominic St Church in Granby Lane on June 7, 1925. John Henry Cardinal Newman celebrated Mass here when he lived in Dorset St in 1854; his cause is also in process for beatification. We can surmise that Bl Dom Columba Marmion visited the church when he was Professor at Clonliffe College.

The church is also the resting place of Fr John Sullivan whose cause for canonisation is in process in Rome. His tomb draws a daily stream of devotees, as does the monthly Mass in his memory. Fr John worked for a short time in the church in 1907.

Through local St Vincent de Paul and other societies attached to the sodalities, the church has made a big contribution to the life of the area at a time of great social deprivation. The Boys’ and Girls’ Clubs as well as the Altar Servers’ Club looked after the young people of the area.

In 1974 the church became a parish church, with areas carved off from St Agatha’s. North William St and other local parishes, and thus is now more committed than ever to the people of the area.

Gardiner Street Gospel Choir

In May 2000, the Sunday Gospel Choir Mass was introduced. This style of Mass is an attempt to find a contemporary way of celebrating faith and Mass in a context suitable to today. The church has also been host to Liam Lawton, the well-known Irish liturgical musical composer in concert, and to Our Lady’s Choral Society.

Recently a series of Evie Hone stained glass windows were transferred from University Hall.

The stained glass of St Francis Xavier and the Holy Family by James Earley also found their home in the church.

The work of the Religious Sisters of Charity in Gardiner Street Primary School, Temple St Hospital, the Social Service Centre and other places in the locality has always been a big part of the life of the church and the parish.

We salute the people who built the church, Fr Esmonde SJ, the then Superior, and the hundreds of Jesuit priests and brothers who gave their services gladly to the people for whom Gardiner St was a home of faith and prayer. We salute also the lay people whose volunteer services have always been highly appreciated by the Jesuits and their congregations, ‘For the greater glory of God’, the motto of St Ignatius Loyola above the high altar.

The daily programme for the 50th International Eucharistic Congress from 11th until 16th June 2012 took place in the Royal Dublin Society (RDS). Statio Orbis, the Liturgy on the final day of the 50th International Eucharistic Congress, was celebrated in Croke Park, Dublin on Sunday 17th June 2012. However, Gardiner Street Church played a key role in the 50th International Eucharist and played host to many thousands of international visitors.

Gardiner Family

The Gardiner Family, Dublin, Mountjoy, County Tyrone

Origins of the Gardiners

The north-side of Dublin, with its elegant streets and squares, is perhaps the best surviving monument to the Gardiner Family, which was primarily responsible for the creation of this sector of the Georgian city. The origins of the Gardiners remain obscure, the first of the name to come to prominence in the early eighteenth century being Luke Gardiner. Gardiner’s parentage remains unknown, and it does not appear that he came of any very prominent family. Madden recounted a story that Gardiner had risen from menial status in the service of a Mr White of Leixlip Castle. Madden, who was in the habit of interviewing contemporaries of his subjects and therefore may have been well informed, also described Gardiner as a ‘sturdy parvenu of Irish descent’. The implication is that Gardiner was of native and possibly Catholic stock, and if this were true, it would help explain the liberal attitude of descendants to the cause of relieving Catholics from the penal laws. On the other hand, the surname Gardiner is usually considered to be of English or Scottish origin and in Ireland is a name of low frequency associated principally with Antrim and Dublin. The main cache of surviving Gardiner papers is in the National Library of Ireland, but unfortunately is composed mainly of title deeds with little correspondence, which might have provided fuller personal details of family members, if not more clues concerning origins. Attention has been drawn to Gardiner property transactions relating to lands in Kilkenny in 1677-88 and 1742, which raise the possibility that the family had a longstanding connection with that county. Mention should also be made of the fact that arms were registered by Ulster’s Office in 1683 to a William Gardiner of Dublin, which bear close resemblance to the arms later used by the Gardiners (blazon: ‘Or, a griffin passant azure, on a chief sable three pheons’ heads argent’). There is a Prerogative Will probated in 1690 relating to a William Gardiner, resident in Chester in England, but formerly of Dublin. It has not yet proven possible to establish whether these two Williams are the same individual and if there is a relationship with our Gardiner Family. The question of the origins of the Gardiners therefore remains obscure, in the case of Luke Gardiner one suspects perhaps deliberately so, and it might be conjectured that a reason other than poor background, for example, illegitimacy, could provide an explanation for suppression of such key information as names of parents.

Luke Gardiner the Elder

The foundations of the Gardiners’ wealth and status in Ireland were laid by the first Luke Gardiner, so-called to distinguish him from his grandson of the same name with whom he has sometimes been confused. Luke the first appeared in Dublin City as a banker in the first decade of the eighteenth century, being a member of the partnership Gardiner and Hill. Luke married Anne Stewart, grand-daughter both of William Stewart, 1st Viscount Mountjoy, and Murrough Boyle, 1st Viscount Blessington, connections which were to prove of crucial importance in the family’s rise. Luke and Anne’s children were Charles, Sackville, Henrietta and Mary. Luke Gardiner was also involved in urban development in Dublin from an early stage, at first buying land on the south-side near Sir John Rogerson’s Quay in 1712. He then turned his attention to the north-side, progressively purchasing parts of the former Estate of Mary’s Abbey. The lands were laid out in streets for development, including most notably Henrietta Street, dating probably from the 1720s (and not necessarily named after Luke Gardiner’s abovementioned daughter). This street remains striking today, and Luke Gardiner’s own house may be seen at number 10. Gardiner also carried out developments in Dorset Street and Great Britain Street, now Parnell Street, and constructed a private residence in the Phoenix Park. Gardiner’s greatest achievement was to lay the basis for Dublin’s premier street, called first Gardiner’s Mall, subsequently known as Sackville Street and now of course O’Connell Street. Having retired from the banking business about 1739, Luke Gardiner was appointed a Privy Councillor and Deputy Vice-Treasurer of Ireland. Gardiner continued to develop his north-side Dublin estate and died in 1755, a man of considerable reputation and wealth. Dated 5 November 1755, his will is a lengthy document. Having provided for a modest funeral not to exceed £50 in cost, Gardiner proceeded to bequeath his substantial properties in Dublin via nominated trustees. Luke’s eldest son and successor Charles is mentioned prominently as might be expected, but a rider to the will discussed below tends to indicate that he was something of a black sheep.

Strolling through some of Dublin streets at the begining of the 18th century, an English visitor to the city would have been met by a streetscape more remincent of Amsterdam than London. The streets would have been full of large, redbrick, gabled-fronted houses, familiar to anyone who has ever visited the Netherlands. These distinctive buildings were known as Dutch Billies and by the early 18th century they had  come to dominate the city’s skyline.  This makes their absence from the modern city streetscape all the more startling. Their fall from grace began in the mid to late 18th century with the arrival of a new architectural form, championed by large and wealthy developers such Luke Gardiner. This new ‘Georgian’ style of building, which is so synonymous with the modern city, rapidly replaced the earlier Dutch Billies as these were no longer deemed fashionable or desirable. However, they did not completely disappear and many still survive in the city, although often hidden behind ostensibly Georgian facades.

Charles Gardiner

Born about 1720, Charles is probably the least outstanding of the Gardiners, and it was said of him that he ‘was more interested in playing the flute than in urban development’. Luke Gardiner’s will contains a rider stating that he had been informed that his son Charles was ‘indebted to several persons’, and ordering therefore that such debts should be charged to his estate, ‘not exceeding ten thousand pounds in the whole’. Luke’s grandson and Charles’s son, Luke the younger, seems in fact to be the heir most favoured in the will, and it would appear that Gardiner’s intention was to limit his eldest son’s capacity to damage the estate. Although he was thus apparently of spendthrift disposition, Charles was unable to circumvent the posthumous controls placed on him by his father, or perhaps he moderated his behaviour, and the family fortune and estates remained intact. Development of the Dublin Estate continued, including commencement of the New Gardens, later called Rutland Square, and now Parnell Square.

Charles married Florinda, daughter of Robert Norman of Lagore, County Meath, with whom he had children Luke, William, Robert, Anne, Florinda and Mary. The will of Charles Gardiner is dated 28 October 1765 and is a much shorter document than that of his father. Charles appointed his wife Florinda sole executrix, and his son Luke was the chief beneficiary of his estate, with provision also for his wife Florinda and other children. The comparative brevity of Charles’s will is undoubtedly explained by the fact that the bulk of the Gardiner Estate had been tied up in trust, and as noted, his father Luke had perhaps taken even more precautions than usual to keep the family estates intact. Charles died on 15 November 1769, was buried in St Thomas’s Church in Marlborough Street, Dublin, and was succeeded by his eldest son Luke.

Luke Gardiner, Viscount Mountjoy

Luke Gardiner the second was born on 7 February 1745. He attended Eton from 1759-62, and was admitted to Cambridge in the latter year, graduating BA in 1766 and MA in 1769. In the company of his younger brother William (who had an illustrious career in the British Army, rising to the rank of Lieutenant-General), Luke Gardiner embarked on a grand tour during the years 1770-72, visiting Florence, Venice and Rome. Luke Gardiner became a noted connoisseur and patron of art, his commissions including works by Francis Cotes, Gavin Hamilton and Sir Joshua Reynolds. Gardiner married on 3 July 1773 Elizabeth, daughter of Sir William Montgomery Bart of Magbiehill in Scotland. Elizabeth was famously portrayed with her sisters Barbara and Anne in Reynolds’s ‘Three Ladies Adorning a Tree of Hymen’, a work commissioned by Gardiner. Less felicitously, Elizabeth was the inspiration for the naming of Dublin’s Montgomery Street, later a part of the infamous red-light district ‘Monto Town’ and since renamed as Foley Street.

Gardiner was elected MP for Co Dublin in 1773 and served continuously until 1789. Although generally a supporter of government, he displayed a marked degree of liberalism, distinguishing himself in particular by his efforts to relieve Roman Catholics from the effects of the Penal Laws. The first of two Catholic relief acts which bear Gardiner’s name was passed in 1778, enabling Catholics to lease land for a period up to 999 years and to inherit on the same terms as Protestants. In a letter to Burke dated 11 August 1778, Gardiner explained that he had accepted limitations to this act in order to secure its acceptance by the Irish Parliament, with the intention that the balance of the Popery Laws ‘might remain for the business of a future session’. This gradualist strategy was pursued with Gardiner’s second act of 1782, which allowed Catholics to acquire land and removed restrictions on Catholic clergy and conditions of worship. Gardiner was appointed a member of the Irish Privy Council in 1780, and he was also active in the Irish Volunteers, being a colonel in the Dublin Company.

A contemporary, Rev John Scott, described Gardiner’s bearing in parliament in the following terms: ‘Mr Gardiner’s voice is good, clear, strong and deep, and his action though perhaps too theatrical has often both grace and strength. His language is plain, simple and flowing . . . His matter is commonly very good, for he is a man of learning . . .’ Scott noted also that Gardiner had been for a long time the ‘devoted servant of administration, labouring with incessant assiduity for the attainment of a peerage’. Gardiner’s ambition was realised when the title of his Stewart ancestors was revived in his person, and in 1789 he was created Baron Mountjoy of Mountjoy, Co Tyrone, and subsequently in 1795 Viscount Mountjoy. Luke Gardiner continued building development in Dublin, his finest achievement being Mountjoy Square, commenced in 1772. The Gardiner development scheme proceeded by issuing building leases for single or multiple sites to builders and speculators. A degree of building uniformity was achieved by inserting covenants in the leases controlling height, brickwork, windows and doors. The tone of the area was also preserved by forbidding residents to engage in trades such tallow-chandler, soap-boiler, sugar-boiler, baker, distiller, butcher and so on. These provisions did not entirely remove scope for a pleasing variety still to be observed in the surviving building stock on the north-side of Dublin City.

Gardiner’s principal residences in Dublin were 10 Henrietta Street and Mountjoy House in the Phoenix Park. The Henrietta Street house is currently occupied by the Daughters of Charity and has been carefully restored in recent years, while the Phoenix Park residence has long been in state ownership and is currently part of the headquarters of the Ordnance Survey. The already substantial family landholdings were greatly augmented when Gardiner successfully claimed title to the County Tyrone estate of the late Earl of Blessington, by virtue of his relationship though his grandmother Anne Stewart. The rival and ultimately unsuccessful claimant to the estate was George Forbes, Sixth Earl of Granard, and documents relating to the ‘mighty lawsuit’ with the Gardiners survive in the Granard Papers. Much of the campaigning in the case was conducted by Granard’s wife, Selina, and his mother-in-law, the Countess Dowager of Moira, who alleged among other things that Anne Stewart was illegitimate. The County Tyrone estates, comprising over 30,000 acres in Newtownstewart, Rash and Mountjoy Forest, contained two residences of quite modest size, Rash House and The Cottage. Given his wealth, status and interest in architecture, it is surprising that Gardiner never constructed a large country residence in Co Tyrone, although it was reported in 1791 that he was ‘about building’ a great house near Omagh.

The hopes and expectations which underlay reforms such as the gradual removal of Penal Laws were not to be realised, and continuing Catholic disaffection was one of the principal reasons for the slide into repression and rebellion in the late 1790s. Although a person of his rank and age clearly need not have done so, Gardiner entered the field in command of a regiment of the County Dublin Militia during the 1798 Rebellion, indicating that his liberalism did not preclude a stern sense of duty and support for the established order in time of danger. On 5 June 1798 Gardiner was slain by the rebels at the Battle of New Ross, although it is not clear whether he was killed as he fought or dispatched after capture, there being a suggestion as well that he had ridden out in an effort to persuade the insurgents to withdraw. The irony of the circumstances of Gardiner’s death was not lost on his brother-in-law, the more hardline John Beresford, who lamented that his ‘dear friend’ had been ‘cut off by those villains whose cause he was the first great advocate for’.

The body of Luke Gardiner, Viscount Mountjoy, was brought back to Dublin and interred in the family burial place in St Thomas’s Church. Luke Gardiner and his wife Elizabeth had two sons, Luke who died young and Charles John, as well as six daughters, Florinda, Louisa, Harriet, Emily, Caroline and Elizabeth. Gardiner’s wife Elizabeth died in 1783 and he married secondly on 20 October 1793 Margaret, daughter of Hector Wallis of Spring Mount, Queen’s County, with whom he had a son again named Luke, who also died young, and a daughter Margaret. Mountjoy’s will is dated 19 January 1798, and again is a detailed testament reminiscent of that of his grandfather and namesake. Unlike his father and grandfather, Luke appears to have been in good health when he drafted his will, and was undoubtedly aware that his military involvement might lead to death, as indeed it did within that year of rebellion. Luke directed that his funeral expenses should not exceed £100 sterling, and directed that his estate be administered by nominated trustees. Having first provided for his ‘dear wife’ Margaret and their children, Luke directed that the bulk of the family’s estates should pass to his eldest surviving son, Charles John, then still a minor but who duly succeeded to his father’s title and estates after his death.

Charles John Gardiner, Earl of Blessington

Charles John Gardiner was born on 19 July 1782 and having succeeded his father as Viscount Mountjoy, he was created Earl of Blessington in 1816. What the earlier thrifty Gardiners built up, a later generation of spendthrifts inevitably dissipated. The Earl of Blessington’s relationships and family life were rather more complicated than those of his predecessors. With his first wife Mary Campbell he had a daughter Harriet Anne born in 1812 and a son Luke Wellington who died aged 9 in 1823. The couple also produced two children before their marriage, namely, a son Charles John born in 1810 and a daughter Emily Rosalie born in 1811. Blessington married secondly in 1818 Margaret or Marguerite Power, a celebrated beauty and later a successful author who was born in County Tipperary in 1789, with whom he had no issue.

Blessington and his Countess Margaret were friends of Byron and prominent socialites, and both unfortunately had a tendency to amass debts as a result of high living. The Earl of Blessington died on 25 May 1829 and like his forebears was interred in St Thomas’s Church in Dublin. As noted, Blessington’s only legitimate son had predeceased him, and all his peerage titles became extinct, by which time also his estates were seriously encumbered with debt. Blessington’s will is a short but interesting document, much contemporary scandal being caused by an unusual provision whereby he had made his daughter Harriet Anne’s inheritance conditional on her marrying Alfred Count D’Orsay, the celebrated dandy and intimate of both the Earl and Countess. The marriage between the Count and Harriet Anne had in fact taken place in 1827, and while the couple soon separated, D’Orsay now had a call on the diminishing resources of the estate. More positively, Blessington at least had the good grace to acknowledge his natural children in his will. Madden also recorded that like his father Blessington supported the cause of Catholic relief, furthermore that his County Tyrone tenants were of the view that ‘a better landlord, a kinder man to the poor, never existed’.

Unfortunately the Earl appears to have lacked his father’s prudence in the matter of managing his estates, while his kindness possessed a no doubt entirely unintended destructive edge. The Blessington Estate was administered by trustees after the Earl’s death, and an Act of Parliament to that effect was passed in 1846. The Estate was further crippled by a bitter law-suit between Charles John Gardiner and other relatives of the late Earl on the one hand, and the Countess of Blessington and Count D’Orsay on the other. The Countess died in 1849 while D’Orsay lived on until 1852. Sale rentals of the Blessington estate in 1846 and 1848 show its great extent, and in addition to the North Dublin City and County holdings, and smaller County Kilkenny holdings, it included about 32,000 acres in County Tyrone, comprising the Manors of Newtownstewart and Rash, and the Demesne of Mountjoy Forest.


The whole of the Gardiner-Blessington estate was obviously not disposed of in the 1840s sales, for a substantial portion of 5,500 acres remained under the administration of the Court of Chancery in 1876. The Landed Estates Court conveyed a portion of the estate, consisting mainly of Dublin properties together with 18 town-lands in County Tyrone, to Charles Spencer Cowper in 1877. Cowper, son of the 5th Earl Cowper, had married Harriet Anne Gardiner in 1852, the same year in which Count D’Orsay died. Cowper, who appears rather as Harriet Anne’s saviour, was undoubtedly trying to maintain the estate as a going concern, and his action probably helped it to survive, albeit as a more nebulous entity than before. Gardiner Estate on the north-side of Dublin City suffered, as compared with the better managed Fitzwilliam/Pembroke Estate on the south-side. However, it should be stressed again that there is still much attractive architecture to be seen in the north-side quarter. Street names such as Gardiner Street, Mountjoy Square and Blessington Street help to remind us of the family whose members oversaw the construction of the greater portion of north Georgian Dublin, and who it would be fair to say are perhaps not as well remembered today as they should be.

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