Month: March 2020

The Bridge That Never Was, 1802

Saunders’s News-Letter of 31 December 1802 reported that

“[t]here is… a talk of casting a very broad bridge over the river in front of the Four Courts, which shall form an open area equal to the extent of the building; there will afford an opportunity to our architects of showing their genius by making various designs.”

A bridge in front of the new Four Courts certainly made sense from an aesthetic point of view. However, on 16 May 1808, a letter was published in the same read more

The Corridor between the Four Courts and Rear Yard Extension, 1857

The 1836 works to the Four Courts not only included fitting a new Law Library, Rolls Court and Nisi Prius Court into the back of the original building, but also involved the erection of an additional rear building comprising a Solicitors Building (situate where the current Law Library is today), Benchers’ rooms and coffee room and various Chancery offices and courts.

The construction of this rear edifice as a separate building linked to the main Four Courts by a small open passage caused read more

The First Barristers’ Robing Rooms, 1851

From the Dublin Weekly Nation, 14 August 1875, an illustration of the Liberator Daniel O’Connell exiting the original robing room of the Four Courts.

This room’s situation below the Round Hall rendered it vulnerable not only to flooding, but also to incursions by curious members of the public, one of whom was bold enough to publish the following letter of complaint in the Freeman’s Journal of 6 November 1851:

“During Term Time a person anxious for the encouragement read more

The First Law Library, 1850

The 1830 Law Library* formerly situate in the upper airspace of today’s Supreme Court was lit almost wholly from the roof – an elegant arrangement which, on at least one occasion, threatened not only the Bar’s safety but, even worse – its dignity!

As reported in the Dublin Weekly Mail (20 April 1850):

“A most extraordinary scene was presented in the Law Library of the Four Courts when hailstones burst over it. There were sixty or seventy barristers writing in the inside read more

The Gambling Devil, 1836


For young 19th century lawyers not yet able to afford their own carriages, the daily trip to the Four Courts not only posed health and safety risks but also – in circumstances where it was impossible to reach Inns Quay without passing at least one of the numerous gambling dens or ‘hells’ encircling it – devastating threats to their finances.

In Autumn 1836 the Dublin Freeman breathlessly reported that:

“[a] young man who previously held a lucrative situation in read more

Female Lay Litigant Insists on Being Described as a Lady, 1836

Female advocacy did not begin in 1919. Throughout the previous century, there run accounts of skirted lay litigants occasionally creating consternation in the manly precincts of the Four Courts.

As this story from Saunders’ Newsletter of 6 December 1836 shows, they could prove courageous opponents, capable of turning any point – including the approaching season of goodwill – to their advantage!

Mrs Reynolds, a loquacious good humoured woman, addressed the Court… read more

A ‘Seduction’ and its Consequences, 1830

A tragic story from the Pilot, 12 April 1830:

“On Friday a child only about fourteen years old, and small for her age, appeared before the magistrates at College Street Police-office, to charge an unfortunate associate in crime with having taken two shillings from her the previous night. When questioned about her connection with the prisoner, she detailed the following circumstances: – Her father had been a painter, and was dead two years; her mother and a younger sister were living, and read more

Boy Racers on Arran Quay, 1834

The entry of a stray bull into the Round Hall in 1835 proved a one-off event. Livestock, in general, were not attracted to the Four Courts.

Carriages, on the other hand, were an entirely different matter, particularly when driven by intoxicated Dublin youth attracted to the long straight stretch of quay in front of the portico.

An account of one such incident is to be found in the Clonmel Herald of 10 December 1834:

“On Saturday, about three o’clock p.m., two coal porters in the last stage read more

Barrister Kills Solicitor, Becomes Attorney-General, 1814


Regrettable personal differences often arise between Irish barristers and solicitors. Fortunately, not all end as tragically as this dispute reported in the London Courier & Evening Gazette of 19 February 1814:-

“On Saturday evening… a meeting took place on the Strand in Sandymount, between [recently qualified barrister] Counsellor Hatchell and Mr Morley… an eminent attorney. Mr Morley fired first without effect, when his fire was returned by Mr H, and… the ball read more

Barrister-Barrister Shooting, 1815

In addition to shooting solicitors they did not agree with, early Irish barristers also occasionally settled by force of arms disputes between themselves. One example is reported in the Dublin Correspondent, 9 May 1815:

“In consequence of some warm language which passed in the Four Courts yesterday, between Messrs Wallace and O’Gorman, two Gentlemen of the Bar, a meeting took place between them this morning, in Carton Demesne, the former attended by Mr Husband, and the latter read more