The Liberties, Dublin

The Liberties
'Na Saoirsí
The Liberties

Location in Ireland

Coordinates: 53°20′32″N 6°20′55″W / 53.342315°N 6.348724°W / 53.342315; -6.348724Coordinates: 53°20′32″N 6°20′55″W / 53.342315°N 6.348724°W / 53.342315; -6.348724
Country Ireland
Province Leinster
County County Dublin
Dublin City Council LEA South West Inner City
Dáil Éireann Constituency Dublin South-Central
EU Parliament Dublin
Time zone WET (UTC+0)
  Summer (DST) IST (WEST) (UTC-1)

The Liberties (Irish: Na Saoirsí or occasionally Na Libirtí) is an area in central Dublin, Ireland, located to the southwest of the inner city. One of Dublin's most historic neighbourhoods, the area is now a centre of enterprise and commercial life in the heart of the city. Today The Liberties is a city neighbourhood of opportunities and innovation, where the heritage of an historic city quarter sits side by side with dynamic media and tech hubs and highly respected medical and education centres. The Liberties Business Area Improvement Initiative is a partnership between Dublin City Council and local businesses and stakeholders to transform the commercial heart of Dublin 8.

The name derives from manorial jurisdictions dating from the arrival of the Anglo-Normans in the 12th century. They were town lands united to the city, but still preserving their own jurisdiction (hence "liberties"). The most important of these liberties were the Liberty of St. Sepulchre, under the Archbishop of Dublin, and the Liberty of Thomas Court and Donore belonging to the Abbey of St. Thomas (later called the Earl of Meath's Liberty).[1] The modern Liberties area lies within the former boundaries of these two jurisdictions, between the river Liffey to the north, St. Patrick's Cathedral to the east, Warrenmount to the south and St. James's Hospital to the west.


Historical location

These two liberties are mentioned in Allen's Register of 1529, but without describing their exact location.[2] After the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII the liberties of Thomas Court and Donore was granted to William Brabazon, ancestor of the Earls of Meath.[1] In 1579 the city of Dublin claimed the abbey to be within the jurisdiction and liberty of the city, but they lost their case. From then on the head of the liberty was the Earl of Meath. The family lent its name to places and streets in the district e.g. the Meath Market, the Meath Hospital and Meath Street. They also named Brabazon Row, Brabazon Street and Ardee Street (they were Barons Ardee since 1616).

In 1728 Charles Brooking published a detailed map, Map of the City and Suburbs of Dublin, which contained a better description of the boundaries of the liberties. The Manor of St. Sepulchre boundaries stretched from Bishop St. to St. Stephen's Green, along Harcourt Street to Donnybrook, across Rathgar to Harold's Cross and back along Clanbrassil Street to Patrick Street.[1] The Earl of Meath's liberty ran west along The Coombe to Ardee St., turning north towards Echlin St. then along James's St. to Meath St., then through various smaller streets to Ash St. and back to the Coombe.[3]

In 1837 the Ordnance Survey started developing their maps, and that of Dublin published in 1840 showed all the liberties, from the smallest (Christ Church Liberty, one acre two roods) to the largest (Earl of Meath's Liberty, 380 acres).[3]


In return for the support of the ruler of the liberty, or to alleviate certain hardships suffered by Englishmen or the church in Ireland, privileges were granted to the rulers of the liberties at various times and by various kings of England. For example, these allowed the liberty of St. Sepulchre to have its own courts of justice (Courts Leet, Courts Baron and a Court of Record, where it was allowed to try all crimes except "forestalling, rape, treasure-trove and arson"), free customs, freedom from certain taxes and services, impose their own fines, have their own coroners, rights of salvage, maintain their own fairs and markets, regulate weights and measures, etc.[1]

These rights and privileges ended in 1840.

Historical developments

Many places in The Liberties still have connections with a turbulent past in which political upheaval or dire poverty were the order of the day. In the 17th century, parts of them became wealthy districts, when the weaving crafts of the immigrant Huguenots had a ready market around the present day Meath Street Market, and a healthy export trade.[4]

17th and 18th centuries

In the late 17th century development started in order to house the weavers who were moving into the area. Woolen manufacture was set up by settlers from England, while many Huguenots took up silk weaving, using skills they had acquired in their home country, France. They constructed their own traditional style of house, Dutch Billies, with gables that faced the street.[5] Thousands of weavers became employed in the Coombe, Pimlico, Spitalfields and Weavers' Square.[6]

However, English woolen manufacturers felt threatened by the Irish industry, and heavy duties were imposed on Irish wool exports. The Navigation Act was passed to prevent the Irish from exporting to the whole colonial market, then in 1699 the English government passed the Wool Act which prevented export to any country whatsoever, which effectively put an end to the industry in the Liberties.[7]

A weavers' hall was built by the Weavers' Guild in the Lower Coombe in 1682. In 1745 a new hall was provided, financed by the Huguenot, David Digges La Touche. In 1750 the Guild erected a statue of George II on the front of their hall "as a mark of their sincere loyalty". The hall was demolished in 1965.

In the eighteenth century a revival took place by importing Spanish wool into Ireland, which was helped from 1775 by the Royal Dublin Society, but the events of 1798 and 1803, in which many weavers in the Liberties took part, and the economic decline that set in after the Act of Union, prevented any further growth in this industry in the Liberties.

Similarly, the successful growth of the silk and poplin industries, which was supported by the Royal Dublin Society in the second half of the 18th century, was hindered by an act passed by the Irish government in 1786, which prevented the society from supporting any house where Irish silk goods were sold. When war was declared against France under Napoleon and raw materials were difficult to obtain, the silk weavers suffered greatly.[6] The final blow came in the 1820s when the British government did away with the tariffs imposed upon imported silk products.[4]

From this time on fate of the Liberties was sealed and most of the once-prosperous houses became poverty-stricken tenements housing the unemployed and destitute.

19th century

The Tenter House was erected in 1815 in Cork Street, financed by Thomas Pleasants. Before this the poor weavers of the Liberties had either to suspend work in rainy weather or use the alehouse fire and thus were (as Wright expresses it) "exposed to great distress, and not unfrequently reduced either to the hospital or the gaol."[8] The Tenter House was a brick building 275 feet long, 3 stories high, and with a central cupola. It had a form of central heating powered by four furnaces, and provided a place for weavers to stretch their material in bad weather.[6]

Part of the area was redeveloped into affordable housing and parkland by the Iveagh Trust, the Dublin Artisans Dwellings Company and the City Council in the early to mid twentieth century. The appalling slums, dire poverty and hazardous dereliction have now been wiped away, and only a few scattered pockets remain to be demolished.

The Ordnance Survey recorded the following areas within the county of the city of Dublin in the 1830s:

Area of Dublin liberties in 1837–43[9]
Liberty Civil parishes Area
Donore St Catherine's (part); St Luke's (part) 377.875 acres (152.921 ha)
Thomas Court St Catherine's (part) 92.625 acres (37.484 ha)
St Sepulchre's St Nicholas Without (part); St Peter's (part) 9.025 acres (3.652 ha)
St Patrick's Liberty of St Patrick's 183.14375 acres (74.11565 ha)
Christchurch Liberty of Christchurch 1.61875 acres (0.65508 ha)


The Liberties is a hub of both Irish and international culture, with a range of attractions for all. The wider area of Dublin 8 is home to five of Ireland's top 20 visitor attractions, with the Guinness Storehouse alone accounting for 1.2 million annual visits.

The Arts

The Liberties is a focus of much of Dublin's art and design. Thomas Street is home to the country's largest art college, National College of Art and Design. The College was founded in 1746 as a private drawing school, and has become a national institution educating over 1,500 day and evening students. As a constituent college of University College Dublin, NCAD degrees and awards are validated by UCD.

The Tivoli car park on Francis Street has in recent years become a local attraction for its impressive display of street art. It operates independently from the theatre and houses Dublin Graffiti Hall of Fame. The graffiti is the product of an annual All City Tivoli Jam, organised by Olan, the owner of Dublin's All City Records.

Francis Street is now considered Ireland's "Arts & Antiques Quarter", attracting both national and international buyers to its various stores. These stores include oriental rug sales, antique fireplace restoration, auction rooms, sewing supplies, galleries, high quality antiques, and charity furniture sales.

The Liberties and the wider area is home to a number of art galleries, some of national importance. The Irish Museum of Modern Art, situated in Dublin 8, is Ireland's leading national institution for the collection and presentation of modern and contemporary art. IMMA is housed in the 17th-century Royal Hospital Kilmainham – a striking location for displaying modern art. Modelled on Les Invalides in Paris, it is arranged around a courtyard and the interior has long corridors running along series of modest interlocking rooms. The original stables have been restored, extended and converted into artists' studios, and the museum runs an artist-in-residence programme.

Mother's Tankstation is one of Dublin's leading private art galleries. It focuses on facilitating innovative, challenging and engaging contemporary visual arts practice, hosting regular public exhibitions. Mother's Tankstation is located on Watling Street in The Liberties.

Other art galleries in the Liberties include NCAD, Basic Space, Pallas Projects, Cross Gallery, and the Jam Art Factory.


Thomas House, Thomas Street

The Liberties has a vibrant nightlife, and hosts regular performances in theatres, bars, and music venues. Regular performances are held in these venues, serving local, citywide, and national populations.

Home to five bars, Vicar Street is one of the finest events venues in the city and country. Located on Thomas Street, the venue has capacity for 1,500 people, promoting intimacy in its stand-up comedy, drama performances, and music concerts. Vicar Street has been honoured with a range of awards, including Irish Music Venue of the Year in 2008, 2009 and 2014.

One of Dublin's premier alternative music bar and venue, The Thomas House is situated on Thomas Street. This bar specialises in punk, rock and reggae music, and is often a host to live performances.

The Tivoli Theater, located on Francis Street, is one of Dublin's premier theatre and entertainment venues. The theater can accommodate 450 patrons, while the venue, often used to host club nights, has a standing capacity of 1,000.


Historically, The Liberties is one of Dublin's key shopping and market areas. The area retains its thriving market culture, providing a unique offer to both locals and tourists. Of key significance are the Liberty Market on Meath Street, the fruit and vegetable markets during weekends on Thomas Street and Meath Street, and the street vendors located throughout the area. There are future plans for further market areas, such as the redevelopment of the Iveagh Market on Francis Street. Newmarket, to the south of the area, hosts Dublin Food Co-op, as well as several other market events.

Food and drink

Butchers in The Liberties

The Liberties is currently undergoing a renaissance as a centre for craft distilling and brewing in Dublin. Historic Newmarket and Meath Street continue to reflect the strong tradition of quality independent food production, market activity, and retailing in the area.

The Liberties is the home of the iconic Guinness brewery. The storehouse, Ireland's main visitor attraction, brings in 1.2 million annual visitors. Guinness have recently invested €130 million in the development of Brewhouse No. 4 on Victoria Quay.

Teelings Whiskey have opened their new distillery and visitor centre in Newmarket, boasting the first new Irish whiskey distillery to develop in Dublin since the 19th century.

Significant investment has also been made in The Liberties by Dublin Whiskey Company, Alltech, Galway Bay Brewery, 5 Lamps Brewery and others. The Beer Market, the only bar in Ireland which serves only beer, opened on Cornmarket in April 2015.

The Liberties Festival

The Liberties Festival is one of Ireland's oldest festivals. From modest beginnings in 1970 it has grown to become a highlight of the summer in Dublin with a series of family-friendly, sporting and community events, and an exciting multi-cultural and arts programme encompassing visual art, film, dance, comedy, literature and music. The Liberties Festival makes great use of the pleasant terraced streets, bustling shopping districts, open spaces, and the historical and contemporary buildings of The Liberties area. Most of the events held during the festival are free. The Liberties Festival is a SICCDA project and receives generous support from sponsors and partners who include Diageo Ireland and DCC, and the local community.

Places of interest

The Liberties and the surrounding area has many landmarks and monuments dating back hundreds of years, even to medieval times. One of the most notable of these is Christ Church Cathedral, the elder of the capital's two medieval cathedrals, the other being St Patrick's Cathedral, also located on the boundary of The Liberties. A tourist map for The Liberties can be viewed here.

Christ Church Cathedral

Christ Church is officially claimed as the seat (cathedral) of both the Church of Ireland and Roman Catholic archbishops of Dublin. In practice, it has been the cathedral of only the Church of Ireland's Archbishop of Dublin, since the English Reformation. As Christchurch receives no regular state support, while it welcomes all guests and has a chapel for those who simply wish to pray, there are fees for sightseeing, which can also be paid in combination with the purchase of a ticket for the neighbouring Dublinia exhibition. There is a gift shop with souvenirs, recordings of cathedral music groups and publications. Today Christchurch is one of Dublin's top tourist attractions.

Saint Patrick's Cathedral

Saint Patrick's Cathedral, founded in 1191, is the largest church in Ireland and Dublin's second Church of Ireland cathedral. Today Saint Patrick's is the location for a number of public national ceremonies, including Ireland's Remembrance Day, and graduation ceremonies for students of Dublin Institute of Technology. The Cathedral is now one of Ireland's most popular visitor attractions. Next to the Cathedral is an urban park, popular with both locals and visitors.

Guinness Storehouse

St. James's Gate and the Guinness Storehouse makes up Ireland's most popular tourist destination, with 1.2 million annual visits. The Storehouse covers seven floors surrounding a glass atrium, shaped in the form of a pint of Guinness. The top floor houses the Gravity Bar, where visitors can enjoy spectacular views of the Liberties and Dublin City.

John's Lane Church

John's Lane Augustinian Church, located on Thomas Street, was designed by Edward Welby Pugin and opened in 1874. The twelve statues in the tower niches are the work of sculptor James Pearse, the father of Irish patriots Patrick and William Pearse. The church steeple is the highest in the city, standing at over 200 feet (61.0 m).

Teeling Whiskey Distillery

In summer 2015, Teeling Whiskey opened a state-of-the-art whiskey distillery and visitor centre in Newmarket. This is the first new Irish whiskey distillery to develop in Dublin since the 19th century. Guided tours and whiskey tasting are now offered to visitors and the facility, with merchandising available to purchase.


The Liberties is now at the heart of The Dubline – a €3 million capital investment by Fáilte Ireland in an exciting discovery trail through Dublin's City Centre. With the focus of this Project on the stretch which runs from College Green to Kilmainham the journey aims to immerse the visitor in the story of the areas. Dubline signage directs visitors throughout the Liberties on their path to the Guinness Storehouse and beyond.



The Liberties is well connected by road, with a number of primary routes serving the area. The Liffey Quays border The Liberties to the north, while Patrick Street provides the eastern boundary. Cork Street runs through the south of the area, while Thomas Street forms the main thoroughfare through the Liberties.

Dublin Bus run extensive services throughout the Liberties, with Real Time Passenger Information available at a number of stops.

Rail and tram

While there is no rail station within the Liberties, Heuston Station, one of Ireland's primary transport hubs, is located just to the north. Lines serving Heuston are mainly regional routes. Luas, Dublin Bus, and DublinBikes can be used to get to the Liberties from Heuston Station.

Luas is Dublin's tram system which gives you a frequent and reliable service throughout Dublin. The fare paid is based on the number of zones being travelled. There are two Luas lines – the Red Line and the Green Line.

The Luas Red Line runs from Tallaght to The Point and from Saggart to Connolly. Stops on this line within the Liberties include Rialto, Fatima and James's. There are also park & ride facilities on the Red Line..


Being such a central area of the city, the Liberties allows for a pleasant cycle to/from any area of the City Centre, and biking is highly encouraged. Dublin Bikes terminals within the Liberties include High Street, Francis Street, John Street West, Oliver Bond Street, James Street, Market Street South, and St. James's Hospital. Bicycle lanes are present throughout the Liberties, while rails are placed at strategic locations.


The Liberties is a city neighbourhood of opportunities and innovation, where the heritage of an historic city quarter sits side by side with dynamic media and tech hubs and highly respected medical and education centres.

The Digital Hub

The Digital Hub is a vibrant cluster of digital content and technology enterprises, located on a state-of-the-art campus in the heart of The Liberties. Set up by the Government of Ireland in 2003, The Digital Hub is now home to 100 Irish and International business employing 650 people. The campus is expanding, with building refurbishments currently creating new office space. The Digital Hub is Ireland's largest cluster of technology, internet and digital media companies.

Guinness Enterprise Centre

The Guinness Enterprise Centre is a world-class enterprise centre for ambitious and innovative start-up companies, combining the very best in support services and facilities, networking and business opportunities. The Centre opened its doors in 2000 with 77 units and the capacity to accommodate up to 400 people.


Historically Guinness has been one of the key employers in The Liberties, and is today the main draw for visitors to the area. Having just invested €130 million in the development of Brewhouse No. 4 on Victoria Quay, Guinness is one of the main economic drivers within The Liberties.

James's Hospital

Now undergoing an ambitious transformation of its campus, St. James's Hospital is one of the country's largest medical centres and a long-established feature of The Liberties. Innovative public health programmes, major new development such as the National Children's Hospital and the proposed National Maternity Hospital, and opportunities for support businesses, now see the hospital at the centre of a new Life Sciences Quarter in the heart of the city. Today St. James's is home to Ireland's largest teaching hospital, with over 30 million visits per year. 4,000+ staff currently work here. This figure is expected to rise significantly by 2020.

Liberties Business Area Improvement Initiative

The Liberties Business Area Improvement Initiative is a partnership between Dublin City Council and local businesses and stakeholders to transform the commercial heart of Dublin 8 through public and private sector investment, to create a more vibrant and attractive city neighbourhood. The website for the Initiative and for The Liberties area is



In 2006 it was suggested that the National College of Art and Design on Thomas Street be moved to UCD. This provoked controversy with locals and students alike being against such a move. However NCAD passed a resolution that the college would remain.[11] In September 2008, after many years of restorative work, the old Thomas Street Fire Station which is adjacent to the college was unveiled as a new wing of the existing campus.


The Liberties is a documentary film about the area produced, filmed and directed by Shane Hogan and Tom Burke of Areaman Productions in 2008/09. In its long 78-minute form 'The Liberties' includes 15 short films featuring local butchers, green grocers, boxing clubs, stonemasons, street traders, evangelists, animators, tailors and local residents, including Oscar-winning actor, Brenda Fricker.

Notable residents

See also



  1. 1 2 3 4 Commissioners appointed to inquire into the municipal corporations in Ireland, 1836
  2. Allen's Register. Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland, 1952. p. 302
  3. 1 2 Bennett 1992
  4. 1 2 J. J. Webb: Industrial Dublin since 1698 & The silk industry in Dublin; two essays. Maunsel, Dublin. 1913
  5. Bennett 1992, p.44
  6. 1 2 3 M'Gregor 1821
  7. Lecky, W. E. H. (1879). "VII: Ireland 1700–1780". History of England in the Eighteenth Century. 2. New York: Appelton. p. 230.
  8. Wright, George Newenham (1825). An historical guide to the city of Dublin, illustrated by engravings, and a plan of the city. Baldwin, Cradock, and Joy. p. 188. Retrieved 18 July 2012.
  9. "Index to the townland survey of the County of Dublin". Hodges & Smith. 1843. pp. Ancient County of the City of Dublin. Retrieved 26 November 2015.
  10. Digital Skills Academy Digital Biscuit.
  11. "News Archive (Summer 2006)". National College of Art and Design.
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