St. Stephen's Green
This 22-acre park at the top of Grafton Street is a sanctuary from the hustle and bustle of the city's streets. Take time out to explore the tree lined walks, shrubbery and colourful flowerbeds around the lake. On weekends the railings of St Stephen's Green become an al fresco art gallery as local artists set up shop to display and sell their work. While lunchtime concerts are performed in the park during the summer months.
The name St Stephen’s Green originates from a church called St Stephen’s in that area in the thirteenth century. Attached to the church was a leper hospital. Around this time the area was a marshy piece of common ground, which extended as far as the River Dodder and was used by the citizens of the city for grazing livestock.
In 1663 the City Assembly decided that the plot of ground could be used to generate income for the city and a central area of twenty-seven acres was marked out which would define the park boundary, with the remaining ground being let out into ninety building lots. Rent generated was to be used to build walls and paving around the Green. Each tenant also had to plant six sycamore trees near the wall, in order to establish some privacy within the park. In 1670 the first paid gardeners were employed to tend to the park.
The Centre of Fashionable Display
The Green became a particularly fashionable place during the eighteenth century, owing mainly to the opening of Grafton Street in 1708 and Dawson Street in 1723, and the construction of desirable properties in and around this area. The Beaux Walk situated along the northern perimeter of the park became a popular location for high society to promenade. Lewis’ Dublin Guide of 1787 describes the Beaux Walk as being a scene of elegance and taste. Other walks found in the park included the French Walk found along the western perimeter of the park, and Monk’s Walk and Leeson’s Walk located along the eastern and southern boundaries of the park respectively.
A Private Affair
By the nineteenth century the condition of the park had deteriorated to such an extent that the perimeter wall was broken, and many trees were to be found in bad condition around the park. In 1814 commissioners representing the local householders were handed control of the park. They replaced the broken wall with ornate Victorian railings and set about planting more trees and shrubs in the park. New walks were also constructed to replace the formal paths previously found in the park. However with these improvements, the Green then became a private park accessible only to those who rented keys to the park from the Commission, despite the 1635 law which decreed that the park was available for use by all citizens. This move was widely resented by the public.