Collins Barracks, Dublin

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Collins Barracks, Dublin
Dún Uí Choileáin, Baile Átha Cliath
Collins Barracks Museum courtyard west.jpg
The main barracks square of Collins Barracks
Collins Barracks, Dublin is located in Central Dublin
Collins Barracks, Dublin
Collins Barracks, Dublin
Location within Dublin
Coordinates53°20′54″N 6°17′09″W / 53.34837°N 6.28581°W / 53.34837; -6.28581Coordinates: 53°20′54″N 6°17′09″W / 53.34837°N 6.28581°W / 53.34837; -6.28581
Site information
OperatorRepublic of Ireland Irish Army
Site history
Built forWar Office
In use1702—1997

Collins Barracks (Irish: Dún Uí Choileáin) is a former military barracks in the Arbour Hill area of Dublin, Ireland. The buildings now house the National Museum of Ireland – Decorative Arts and History.

Previously housing both British Armed Forces and Irish Army garrisons through three centuries, the barracks were the oldest continuously occupied example in the world. Built in 1702, and further extended in the late 18th century and 19th century, the complex's main buildings are neo-classical in style. Originally called simply The Barracks, and later The Royal Barracks, the name was changed in 1922 by the Irish Free State to "Collins Barracks", in honour of Michael Collins, who had been killed earlier that year. Since 1997 the barracks have been home to collections of the National Museum of Ireland (for Decorative Arts and History exhibits), and the original structures have seen some award winning redevelopment and conservation work to support this new role.


18th century to 1920s – British garrison[edit]

Save for the Royal Hospital Kilmainham, the barracks is the earliest public building in Dublin, and was built from 1701 by the then Surveyor General under Queen Anne, Thomas de Burgh.[1] (Burgh was also the architect of the famous library building at Trinity College Dublin.)[2]

Built on a site originally intended for a mansion of the Duke of Ormonde, the complex has several large squares, each open on the south side. The largest square (Clarke's Square) has arcaded colonnades on the east and west sides, and the main buildings are faced with granite.[3]

The oldest inhabited barracks in Europe[4] (and once one of the largest), it was originally known simply as the Barracks and later the Royal Barracks.[3]

Wolfe Tone, one of the main leaders of the 1798 rebellion was held prisoner, court-martialled and convicted of treason at the Barracks.[5]

Through the 19th century, up to 1,500 troops of various Regiments of Foot (and up to two troops of horse) were stationed at the barracks. However, by the 1880s conditions of accommodation were dangerously inadequate, and they were strongly criticised following an investigation by Commissioners of the War Office as levels of disease increased.[6]

During the 1916 Easter Rising, the 10th Battalion of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers and other forces were deployed from the Royal Barracks[7] to fight the insurgent Irish Citizen Army and Irish Volunteers who occupied strongly held positions close by on Usher's Island (under Seán Heuston), the Four Courts (under Ned Daly), and the GPO (under Pádraig Pearse).[8]

1920s to 1990s – Irish garrison[edit]

Bronze relief and plaque commemorating General Richard Mulcahy at Collins Barracks.

Under the Anglo-Irish Treaty (which marked the end of the Irish War of Independence), the complex was handed over to troops of the Irish Free State in December 1922. It was almost immediately named Collins Barracks after Michael Collins, the first commander-in-chief of the Free State, who had been killed that year. The barracks housed forces of the Free State Army through the Irish Civil War and for 70 years was home to units of the Eastern Command of the Irish Defence Forces. The 5th Infantry Battalion marched out of the barracks for the last time in 1997.[9]

1997 to present – National Museum of Ireland[edit]

Entrance to the National Museum of Ireland, Collins Barracks.

As part of de-militarisation, the barracks underwent considerable redevelopment – including the conversion and linking of two sides of Clarke Square with glass faced structures. This work was awarded the country's premier award for architectural conservation, the Silver Medal for Conservation, by Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland (RIAI).[10]

Home to the Decorative Arts and History section of the National Museum, the museum also has galleries dedicated to exhibits on military history. However, the main focus of the galleries is on arts, craft and wares, including exhibits on: Irish coins and currency, silverware, furniture, folklife and costumes, ceramics, glassware, etc.[1]


As with most garrison towns in Ireland,[11] prostitution proliferated in areas surrounding barracks' as the impoverished inhabitants of cities and towns would gravitate towards the soldiers who received a steady income. Barrack Street (renamed Benburb Street in 1890),[12] which ran directly in front of the site, became associated with this sex work due to its close proximity to the Royal Barracks. The area was comparable to the Monto whose activities reached a zenith during the 1860s–1950s period and whose profits were also aided by the enormous number of British Army garrisons in the city over the centuries.[13] In 1837, 130 years after the barracks had been established, Barrack Street was described by a visitor as consisting of "a line of brothels and low public-houses" and "filled with the most abandoned crew of rogues and prostitutes which even all Dublin, with its unhappy pre-eminence in that species of population, can produce".[14] In the late nineteenth century the street was chosen as the location for the first Dublin Corporation housing scheme,[15] due to the cheaper cost of purchasing land in areas with long standing social problems. The street remained a slum for most of the twentieth century, composed of overcrowded tenements[16] and even after the transition of barracks to museum in 1997 the area remained a noted red light district.[17] In May 1997, as many as 100 women were reported to be still working as prostitutes on Benburb Street.[18]

Film location[edit]

The barracks has featured in a number of film and television productions, notably Michael Collins. The rear of the barracks is often used as a period street setting for productions such as Ripper Street, Penny Dreadful and the RTÉ 1916 Rising mini-series Rebellion.[19]


  1. ^ a b "Archiseek entry on Collins Barracks". Retrieved 2 August 2011.
  2. ^ "Trinity College Library, University of Dublin Ireland". Architecture Revived. Retrieved 26 May 2019.
  3. ^ a b "History & Architecture of Collins Barracks". National Museum of Ireland. Retrieved 26 May 2019.
  4. ^ "Collins Barracks – World's "longest serving barracks"". Archived from the original on 2 September 2006. Retrieved 2 August 2011.
  5. ^ "Speech of Theobold Wolf Tone, To the Court-Martial, assembled to pass sentence on his life in Memoirs of William Sampson" (2nd ed.). 1817. Retrieved 8 April 2007.
  6. ^ "Abstract from 1888 report into the Prevelance [sic] of enteric fever in the Royal Barracks, Dublin". Southampton University. Archived from the original on 27 September 2007. Retrieved 2 August 2011.
  7. ^ "Australian soldiers in the Easter Rising 1916 (Accounts and notes of forces deployed from Royal Barracks in 1916)". Journal of the Australian War Memorial. Retrieved 2 August 2011.
  8. ^ "Patrick Pearse". Century Ireland. RTÉ/Boston College. Retrieved 1 March 2017.
  9. ^ "2004 address by Minister for Arts/Tourism at launch of 'Guide to Irish Military Heritage' exhibition at Collins Barracks". Military Heritage of Ireland Trust. Archived from the original on 15 September 2008. Retrieved 2 August 2011.
  10. ^ "Award for conversion of barracks into museum". The Irish Times. 22 November 2002. Retrieved 26 May 2019.
  11. ^ Peakman, Julie (7 July 2016). "Prostitution in Ireland". History Today. Retrieved 14 April 2022.
  12. ^ Clerkin, Paul (2001). Dublin street names. Dublin: Gill & Macmillan. pp. 13–14. ISBN 0717132048.
  13. ^ Armstrong, Maggie (14 June 2011). "The Bloomsday world tourists never get to hear about". Irish Independent. Retrieved 14 April 2022.
  14. ^ The United Service Journal and Naval and Military Magazine: 1837 Part I. London: William Clowes and Sons. 1837. p. 125.
  15. ^ "An unflattering account of Benburb Street (1837)". Come Here To Me!. 13 August 2013. Retrieved 14 April 2022.
  16. ^ Kelly, Olivia (8 February 2019). "A century of housing: How the State built Ireland's homes". The Irish Times. Retrieved 14 April 2022.
  17. ^ Healy, Mel (2 July 2014). "Benburb Street #1: the old red-light district". Moss Reid's Places. Retrieved 14 April 2022.
  18. ^ Balls, Richard (5 March 1997). "Prostitutes working near museum cause concern over planned public opening". The Irish Times. Retrieved 14 April 2022.
  19. ^ Rebellion at IMDb

Further reading[edit]

  • Short Histories of Irish Barracks by Patrick Denis O'Donnell, in An Cosantóir (Journal of the Irish Defence Forces), 1969–1973.
  • Wolfe Tone's Provost Prison, by Patrick Denis O'Donnell, in The Irish Sword, no. 42, Volume XI, Military History Society of Ireland, Dublin, 1973.
  • Dublin's Collins Barracks over the years, by Patrick Denis O'Donnell, in Hollybough, December 1994.
  • Dublin Barracks – A Brief History of Collins Barracks, by Mairéad Dunlevy, National Museum of Ireland, 2002.
  • The Barracks and Posts of Ireland – 21: Collins Barracks, Dublin, part 3, pages 48–52, by Patrick Denis O'Donnell in An Cosantoir, Dublin, February 1973.
  • The Barracks and Posts of Ireland – 22: Royal or Collins Barracks, part 4, the eighteenth century, pages 266–276, by Patrick Denis O'Donnell in An Cosantoir, Dublin, August 1973.

External links[edit]