Ball: A History of the County Dublin

Pdf Ball, Francis Elrington. A history of the County Dublin. Volume 1. Dublin: Alexander Thom & Co. Ltd., 1902.
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Pdf Ball, Francis Elrington. A history of the County Dublin. Volume 2. Dublin: Alexander Thom & Co. Ltd., 1903.
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Pdf Ball, Francis Elrington. A history of the County Dublin. Volume 3. Dublin: Alexander Thom & Co. Ltd., 1905.
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Pdf Ball, Francis Elrington. A history of the County Dublin. Volume 4. Dublin: Alexander Thom & Co. Ltd., 1906.
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Pdf Ball, Francis Elrington. A history of the County Dublin. Volume 5. Dublin: Alexander Thom & Co. Ltd., 1917.
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Francis Erlington Ball (1863 – 1928) wrote his multi-volume A History Of The County Dublin in the first decades of the early 20th century. His huge work is a complete history of the Dublin region from the very earliest times until the late 18th century.

There is a mention in the writings of Ptolemy in the 2nd century AD of a settlement called Elbana on the River Liffey. In the 9th century the Vikings, who had been raiding Ireland since the late 8th century, established a settlement. The name of the city is derived from dubh linn or 'black pool' from the junction of the River Poddle and the River Liffey before it empties into Dublin Bay . The more commonly used Irish name for Dublin is Baile Átha Cliath or "town of the hurdled ford" referring to a ford that once existed in the vicinity of the present day Father Matthew's Bridge.

Ball describes how the territory of south Dublin was once the domain of the Cualann people who also ruled much of Wicklow. The area is described by Ball as 'covered with woods, bogs and stony pastures.' The area featured fortifications known as duns that protected it from foreign invasion. Following the Norman invasion of the 12th century, a series of stone castles and strongholds were built to protect the newly established parishes and cultivated land from the Irish tribes of the Wicklow Mountains . The Norman settlers of the area known as the Pale were often forced to pay taxes to the Gaelic tribes in return for their safety. In outlying areas, Ball describes how 'fields of corn waved where roads and houses are now to be seen.'

Ball describes how the Earl of Pembroke, the Brets and the Loftus and the Archbishop of Dublin, were the principle landowners in the baronies of Rathdown, Dublin and Upper Cross. Much of the area was given over to agriculture. It suffered from Gaelic attack until the late 16th century. By the 18th century country houses appeared as the rich and wealthy escaped the city and gradually planned streets and urban areas were built including the red brick Georgian terraced townhouses that have since become characteristic of the city of Dublin .

After the initial 12th century invasion the lands of Dublin County were divided into manors and worked in the English custom by their new owners, free tenants and serfs notwithstanding ethnic differences between Norman and Gaelic Irish. However rebellions that followed created an almost permanent siege and castles at Tallaght, Tymon, Belgard, Shananagh, Shankill and other places and the fortified villages of Saggart, Rathcoole and Newcastle appeared. Plague and warfare often devastated Dublin and weakened English power. After the 17th century with the Gaelic Irish defeat by Oliver Cromwell and later by King William III of Orange , many of the castles were converted into country residences such as at Old Bawn.

One of the few Old English family dynasties in Ireland to survive with their strongholds intact were the St. Lawrences who had been the dominant aristocratic family on Howth Head since the Norman invasion. They had wisely chosen to convert to Protestantism during the English Reformation, steered a precarious course through the violence of the English Civil War and the Williamite Wars which saw other dynasties meet their ruin. Their medieval castle and estate would be in their hands until the 20th century. The saga of the St. Lawrence dynasty is the subject of the fifth of Ball's volumes.

In the late 18th century the Protestant Ascendancy, the descendents of British aristocratic families who had replaced the defeated Gaelic Irish chieftains as the rulers of Ireland , succeeded in achieving legislative autonomy for the Irish Parliament. The city of Dublin flourished briefly until the aftermath of the 1798 Rebellion and the Act of Union of 1800 saw Irish gentry and parliamentarians attending the British Commons and House of Lords as the kingdoms of Britain and Ireland were amalgamated. Increasing industrialisation of British cities and Belfast at the expense of Dublin saw the city decline dramatically and much of its former Georgian grandeur became derelict. The mansions and townhouses were sold by the rich and wealthy and many especially in the north inner city rapidly became slums inhabited by the Catholic poor.


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