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Merrion Square

Coordinates: 53°20′23″N 6°14′57″W / 53.33972°N 6.24917°W / 53.33972; -6.24917
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Merrion Square
Clockwise from top: Merrion Square North as seen from Merrion Square Park; Rutland Fountain; 1 Merrion Square North, the childhood home of Oscar Wilde
Merrion Square is located in Central Dublin
Merrion Square
Merrion Square
Merrion Square is located in Dublin
Merrion Square
Merrion Square
TypeGeorgian garden square
LocationDublin, Ireland
Coordinates53°20′23″N 6°14′57″W / 53.33972°N 6.24917°W / 53.33972; -6.24917
Area4.73 hectares (11.7 acres)
FounderRichard FitzWilliam, 7th Viscount FitzWilliam
DesignerJohn Smith and Jonathan Barker (1762 layout)
Owned byPrivately (1762-1974)
Dublin City Council (1974 onwards)
Operated byDublin City Council
StatusOpen all year

Merrion Square (Irish: Cearnóg Mhuirfean) is a Georgian garden square on the southside of Dublin city centre.


The square was laid out in 1762 to a plan by John Smyth and Jonathan Barker for the estate of Viscount FitzWilliam. Samuel Sproule later laid out the East side around 1780 and the gardens were created through a competition won by Benjamin Simpson in 1792 with thanks to drawings created by John James Barralet. All of the surrounding houses were largely complete by the beginning of the 19th century.[1][2][3][4][5]

The demand for such Georgian townhouse residences south of the River Liffey had been fuelled by the decision of the then Earl of Kildare (later the Duke of Leinster) to build his Dublin home on the then undeveloped southside. He constructed the largest aristocratic residence in Dublin, Leinster House, second only to Dublin Castle.

Aristocrats, bishops and the wealthy sold their northside townhouses and migrated to the new southside developments.


Soldiers guard the site of the National Memorial to members of the Defence Forces who died in the Service of the State

All the original 18th century properties in Merrion Square have survived to the present day except for Antrim House which was demolished to make way for the National Maternity Hospital in the 1930s.[2] Three sides are lined with Georgian redbrick townhouses; the West side abuts the grounds of Leinster House (seat of the Oireachtas), Government Buildings, the Natural History Museum and the National Gallery. The central railed-off garden is now a public park.

The Wellington Testimonial to commemorate the victories of Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, was originally planned to be located in Merrion Square. However it was built in the Phoenix Park after opposition from the square's residents.[6]


Oscar Wilde Statue

Until about the 1950s, the houses in the square were largely residential, but today most of them are used for office accommodation. The Irish Red Cross, the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland and the Irish Georgian Society have their headquarters on the square. The National Maternity Hospital is on the North terrace.

The poet, novelist, and satirist Oscar Wilde lived at No. 1, poet W. B. Yeats lived at No. 82, and Daniel O'Connell at No. 58, the latter of which is now known as the O'Connell House, home to the Keough Naughton Centre[7] of the University of Notre Dame, an American college. The fashion and interior designer Sybil Connolly lived at No. 71. A number of houses in the square have plaques with historical information on former notable residents, including A.E. (George William Russell) and Sheridan Le Fanu. Despite the square being largely occupied by commercial entities, there are still several residents, including fashion designer Louise Kennedy[8] and tycoon Dermot Desmond.[9]

Until 1972 the British Embassy was based at No 39.[10] However, following the Bloody Sunday shootings in Northern Ireland, a crowd of over 20,000 people converged on the site in protest and the building was burnt to the ground.[11] Currently, the Embassies of France, Korea and Slovakia are based on the south side of the square[12] and the Church of Scientology's National Affairs Office has been housed at No 4 on the north side since October 2016.[13][14]


Merrion Square Park

The earliest plan of the park shows a double line of trees around the perimeter which was later enclosed by railings in the early years of the 19th century. A Jardin Anglaise approach was adopted for the layout of the park with contoured grass areas, informal tree clumps, sunken curved paths and perimeter planting.[15]

Up until 1974 the park was only open to residents in possession of a private key. Now managed by Dublin City Council, the park contains a statue of Oscar Wilde, who resided in No. 1, Merrion Square from 1855 to 1876,[16][17] many other sculptures and a collection of old Dublin lamp standards. Irish-American sculptor Jerome Connor, best known for his work "Nuns of the Battlefield" in Washington D.C., designed the public art piece, "Eire".[18] The park also contains a sculpture of a Joker's Chair in memory of Father Ted star Dermot Morgan.[19]

The park in the square was called "Archbishop Ryan Park", after Dermot Ryan, the Catholic archbishop who transferred ownership to the city. In 2009, Dermot Ryan was criticised in the Murphy Report; in January 2010, Dublin City Council sought public views on renaming the Park.[20] In September 2010, the City Council voted to rename the park as Merrion Square Park.[21]

The park was also used by the St John Ambulance Brigade for annual events such as review and first aid competitions. The organisation was founded in 1903 by Sir John Lumsden K.B.E., M.D. During this time Dr Lumsden was living nearby at 4 Fitzwilliam Place. He was the chief medical officer at the Guinness brewery and practised at Mercer's Hospital.

During the First World War, both St. John Ambulance and the British Red Cross Society worked together in a joint effort as part of the war effort. This ensured services did not overlap with each other. Both organisations were a familiar sight among Irish people but particularly at Merrion Square where St. John Ambulance operated for almost 50 years. The headquarters of St. John Ambulance was situated at 40 Merrion Square during WWI later moving to 14 Merrion Square. Today they are located at Lumsden House, 29 Upper Leeson Street, Dublin 4 (see St John Ambulance archive for further info).

Notable residents[edit]

The Joker's Chair, built in memory of comedian Dermot Morgan

Merrion Square was a fashionable address for politicians, lawyers, doctors and writers.
Notable residents include;

See also[edit]



  1. ^ "CO. DUBLIN, DUBLIN, MERRION SQUARE Dictionary of Irish Architects -". www.dia.ie. Retrieved 26 July 2023.
  2. ^ a b Bennett 2005, p. 168.
  3. ^ "BARKER, JONATHAN - Dictionary of Irish Architects". www.dia.ie. Retrieved 26 July 2023.
  4. ^ Beaumont, Daniel. "Sproule, Samuel - Dictionary of Irish Biography". www.dib.ie. Retrieved 26 July 2023.
  5. ^ "CO. DUBLIN, DUBLIN, MERRION SQUARE, GARDENS Dictionary of Irish Architects -". www.dia.ie. Retrieved 26 July 2023.
  6. ^ Garnett, P. F. (June–August 1952). "The Wellington Testimonial". Dublin Historical Record. 13 (2): 48–61. JSTOR 30105448.
  7. ^ "Merrion Square". O'Callaghan Collection. 9 April 2020. Archived from the original on 9 April 2020. Retrieved 9 April 2020.
  8. ^ "Designer Louise Kennedy: 'I'd just love to style strong, elegant Angelina' – Herald.ie". herald.ie. Retrieved 23 April 2018.
  9. ^ "Ghost town: south Dublin's Georgian core in need of new life". irishtimes.com. Retrieved 23 April 2018.
  10. ^ Ireland, Eugene Fodor, Robert C. Fisher, D. McKay., 1968, page 92
  11. ^ "1972: British embassy in Dublin destroyed". BBC News. 2 February 1972.
  12. ^ New French Embassy Opens in Merrion SquareThe Irish Times, 24 April 2015
  13. ^ "Official Church of Scientology Ireland website".
  14. ^ Courtney, Daire (28 September 2016). "Church of Scientology to open national affairs office in Merrion Square". Irish Independent.
  15. ^ "Merrion Square Park – Dublin City Council". 22 May 2018.
  16. ^ Sarah, Smith (2012). "Sculpting Irishness: a discussion of Dublin's commemorative statues of Oscar Wilde and Phil Lynott". Sculpture Journal. 21. Retrieved 16 June 2017.
  17. ^ "Oscar Wilde Memorial Sculpture". Dublin City Council. Archived from the original on 16 May 2018. Retrieved 19 May 2017.
  18. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2 May 2013. Retrieved 27 May 2013.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  19. ^ Bennett 2005, p. 169.
  20. ^ McGarry, Patsy (12 January 2010). "Councillor denies call to rename Archbishop Ryan Park". The Irish Times. Archived from the original on 19 October 2012. Retrieved 12 January 2010.
  21. ^ "City park to be renamed Merrion Square Park". The Irish Times. 9 September 2010. Archived from the original on 22 October 2012. Retrieved 31 October 2010.
  22. ^ At 12 Merrion Square, North: The Treble Almanack ... (1832), p. 17.
  23. ^ "Dublin Hospital Gazette". 15 June 1858. p. 192.


External links[edit]

Media related to Merrion Square at Wikimedia Commons