Discoveries at the Four Courts Bookstalls, 1796-1886

The Four Courts, 1885, by Walter Frederick Osborne, via Irish Art Digital Archive. Can you spot the bookstalls? A zoom in may help, or alternatively there is a larger version of the image at the link above.

From the Freeman’s Journal, 19 February 1921:

TREASURE HUNTERS HAUNTS

Reminiscences of Dublin’s Old Book Stores

(By M. M. O’H.)

The old bookshops of Dublin! What a vista of pleasant thoughts they create.  What delightful experiences of eager prowlings round their shelves, of unexpected ‘finds,’ of surprising bargains, of staunch friends acquired at trifling cost, of jostlings with ardent book-hunters – poets and prosewriters, judges, doctors, artists, musicians, a formidable read more

The Lion, the Unicorn, the Harp and the Little Knobule, 1931-2023

Every bit of the Four Courts has a story and the sculptures over the entrances into the grassed courtyards on either side of the portico are no exception.

Originally depicted with some artistic licence in early illustrations of the Four Courts, the 19th century camera (which never lies) show these sculptures as in fact depicting a lion and a unicorn surrounding a harp surmounted by a crown – the British crown, in fact, with read more

Revolving Doors Require No Hands, 1954

It’s often said that the Four Courts is not a place for children, but sometimes their presence there is necessary, as in the case of 11-year-old Joseph Moloney who turned up in the Four Courts in May 1924 to give evidence in his claim against Mayo County Council. Moloney had found an unlocked box of gelignite belonging to the Council’s building contractor in a field near Barrett’s Forge, Irishtown, Foxford in March 1953. He then lit the tail of one piece of gelignite, held read more

Portico Problems, 1786-1925

A side-on comparison of the porticos of Gandon’s Four Courts (above, via Google Streetview) and the former Irish Houses of Parliament (below, image by Patrick Byrne, via National Gallery of Ireland). The portico of the Four Courts was originally intended, like that of the Parliament Building, to project over the entirety of the pavement in front. For reasons set out below, this never happened.

From the Evening Herald, 5 March 1925:

“A Chara – may one hope, from two lines in your most interesting article on the Four Courts, that Gandon’s original plan for the portico may at long last be executed and the renewed pile be adorned by the grand and noble entrance he designed.

‘The question of the Central Hall and its surroundings is under consideration.’

Your article appropriately appeared on the 3rd of March – the very date on which the foundation stone of the read more

Relocating the Encumbered Estates Court, 1850-60

The exterior of 14 Henrietta Street, former home of the Encumbered Estates Court, as it appeared some years ago, via Google Streetview. Now refurbished, it currently enjoys a new existence as a museum of Georgian and Dublin tenement life.

From the Freeman’s Journal, 5 February 1850:

“ENCUMBERED ESTATES COURT

By one of those blunders peculiar to English government in Ireland the machinery of a vast revolution was set up for the sale of property, and no provision whatever made for the court which was to work the machine.  The Commissioners were cast loose on the city, without a place actually to hold a court, file petitions, or transact the various business connected with the operations of the commission.  One day read more

The Mysterious Folding Doors of the Supreme Court, 1937-73

From the Evening Echo, 8 January 1973, this wonderful article about the Irish Supreme Court and its former Chief Justices:

For a whole decade – 1923-1932 – the Four Courts building was not in use and the Courts sat in the room in Dublin Castle which now comprise the State Apartments.

When the repaired Four Courts were opened the Supreme Court looked elegant as befitted the highest tribunal in the land. Directly opposite the Bench, in line with the approach from the Quay through read more

The Square Hall Scandal, 1947

From the Evening Herald, 9 August 1947:

“STRANGE AFFAIR AT FOUR COURTS

In the interior of the famous building on Inns Quay there is a corridor leading to the law library. The Library is strictly reserved for the gentlemen of the law, but in the corridor their clients are graciously permitted to hold converse with the wearers of wig and gown.   Even when they are not attired in working costume, it is always easy to distinguish the barristers by the nonchalant grace with which read more

A Day in the Four Courts, 1890

From Irish Society (Dublin), 8 November 1890:

“‘A DAY IN THE FOUR COURTS

BY A M’LUD

For those who cannot spare time for a corporeal visit to the Temple of Justice, let them come with me now in spirit, and I will be their guide, philosopher, and friend in an imaginary personally-conducted tour through the noble pile of buildings in Inns Quay, which forms the material home and domicile of Irish law.

Let us be at the courts by a quarter to eleven of the clock, and read more

The Four Courts as a Sightseeing Destination, 1816-1919

The interior of the Four Courts might not be the first thing to come to mind when thinking of a tourist destination, but once upon a time it was unmissable for sightseers visiting Dublin. J & W Gregory’s ‘Picture of Dublin’ (1816) describes the ‘new’ Courts of Justice as ‘one grand pile of excellent architecture’ and the read more

The Dome(s) of the Four Courts, 1785-2020

The original Record Office designed for the Four Courts site by Thomas Cooley did not include a dome, but Cooley’s early death in 1784 coincided with an official decision to expand his design to include the Irish Four Courts, previously situate at Christchurch. His successor James Gandon achieved this by incorporating a central hall at the front of Cooley’s partly built pile, and crowning it with not one but two domes, one on top of the other, with a void between containing a large read more