The people, places and things that make Dublin special.
‘Ah, if these walls could speak…’ The clichéd but always heart-felt phrase we’ll forever use to reference intriguing historical sites, with the underlying assumption being that we will never learn these forgotten tales. In the case of Richmond Barracks in Inchicore, however, the people who lived, worked and were schooled here over the last two centuries will be given a voice.
From military accommodation to a prison, then social housing and a school, Richmond Barracks has had several incarnations, all of them played out to the backdrop of some of the nation’s most turbulent times. Of the original barracks, three buildings remain standing and these have now been restored as part of the 1916 commemorations.
The official opening of Richmond Barracks’ restoration project was held on May 2016, which has seen the buildings restored to their former glory as well as the reinstatement of a reproduction of the unique Cupola which formed part of the original gymnasium building.
A brief history: The barracks were built in 1810 and almost all British regiments spent time there before departing for WW1, the Crimean and Boer wars. A housing project called Keogh’s Square existed here, which then became a slum, and from 1929 until 2006/7, the site played home to St. Michael’s CBS School. But it’s that 1916 link that is foremost to the mind in this centenary year. With the exception of James Connolly, all the signatories of the Proclamation were held here and court-martialled in the gymnasium before being taken to Killmainham Gaol to be executed.
“Visitors will be invited to step back in time to experience the varied and interesting history of Richmond,” says Martin McDonagh, the restoration’s project manager. “The interpretation will seek to tell a personal story which visitors can relate to: what were the conditions like for the rebels imprisoned in Richmond? What was it like to rear a family in Keogh’s Square? What was it like to go to school in St. Michaels CBS?”
Classrooms and tenement housing are being reconstructed, while the gymnasium focuses primarily on the 1916 Rising and offers an audio-visual experience with visuals that give a rich insight as to the turmoil of the time. Female contributions to the Rising are certainly not overlooked. Tales of the 77 women who were arrested and held at Richmond Barracks are detailed via a series of panels, and the recently completed Commemoration Quilt commemorating their efforts will go on permanent display here.
The vision, says Martin McDonagh, is to “present the untold stories, which are missing from Dublin’s present cultural landscape, such as the role of women, both historic and contemporary, as well as the history of working class Dublin.” To that end, Richmond Barracks promises all of that and more.