The western suburb of medieval Dublin: its first century

The western suburb of medieval Dublin: its first century

By Cathal Duddy

Irish Geography, Vol. 34:2 (2001)

Abstract: Situated to the west of the walled city, the western suburb of medieval Dublin was in its embryonic stages of development during the last decades of the twelfth and throughout the thirteenth century. The first signs of westward expansion were the laying out of burgage plots in the area immediately outside the western mural-gate, a response to growing pressure on space within the walled city. This new portal suburb experienced subdivision of plots soon afterwards.

In contrast to the organic or piecemeal development of the portal suburb close to the city walls, an altogether more deliberate, systematic rural-to-urban colonization was envisioned for the whole western area perhaps as far as Kilmainham. The first move toward this planned development of a western suburb was to found St Thomas’s Priory in this western area in 1177.

Development was characterised by the granting of long narrow burgage plots on both sides of the central artery that ran westwards through the western area forming a linear suburb, the creation of parishes encompassing the newly laid-out plots and the appearance of urban traders who held these plots. Using a primary documentary source, the paper outlines the layout and character of the western suburb in this early developmental stage, and attempts to clarify the role of St Thomas’ in this development.

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