Temple Bar's cobbled streets are the place to go to fill your basket with fresh fare at the Saturday Farmer's Market in Meeting House Square, catch an arty flick at the Irish Film Institute or pick up an original piece of jewellery or clothing at any one of Temple Bar's quirky shops. Those of a nocturnal nature will also enjoy the area's array of pubs, clubs and late night haunts.
In medieval (Anglo-Norman) times, the name of the district was St. Andrews Parish. It was a suburb, located outside the city walls. But the area fell into disuse beginning in the 14th century because it was exposed to attacks by the native Irish.
The land was redeveloped again in the 17th century, to create gardens for the houses of wealthy English families. At that time the shoreline of the River Liffey ran further inland of where it lies today, along the line formed by Essex Street, Temple Bar and Fleet Street. Marshy land to the river side of this line was progressively walled in and reclaimed, allowing houses to be built upon what had been the shoreline; but unusually, the reclaimed land was not quayed, so that the back yards of the houses ran down to the water's edge. (Not until 1812 were these back yards replaced by Wellington Quay.) The fronts of the houses then constituted a new street. The first mention of Temple Bar as the name of this street is in Bernard de Gomme's Map of Dublin from 1673, which shows the reclaimed land and new buildings. Other street names given nearby are Dammas Street (now Dame Street) and Dirty Lane (now Temple Lane South).
It is generally thought that the street known as Temple Bar got its name from the Temple family, whose progenitor Sir William Temple built a house and gardens there in the early 1600s. Temple had moved to Ireland in 1599 with the expeditionary force of the Earl of Essex, for whom he served as secretary. (He had previously been secretary of Sir Philip Sydney until the latter was killed in battle.) After Essex was beheaded for treason in 1601, Temple "retired into private life", but he was then solicited to become provost of Trinity College, serving from 1609 until his death in 1627 at age 72. William Temple's son John became the "Master of the Rolls in Ireland" and was the author of a famous pamphlet excoriating the native Irish population for an uprising in 1641. John's son William Temple became a famous English statesman.
Despite this grand lineage, however, the name of Temple Bar street seems to have been more directly borrowed from the storied Temple Bar district in London, where the main toll-gate into London was located dating back to medieval times.
London's Temple Bar is adjoined by Essex Street to the west and Fleet Street to the east, and streets of the same names occupy similar positions in relation to Dublin's Temple Bar. It seems almost certain therefore that Dublin's Temple Bar was named firstly in imitation of the historic Temple precinct in London. However, a secondary and equally plausible reason for using the name Temple Bar in Dublin would be a reference to one of the area's most prominent families, in a sort of pun or play on words. Or as it has been put more succinctly, Temple Bar 'does honour to London and the landlord in nicely-gauged proportions'.
Fishamble Street near Temple Bar was the location of the first performance of Handel's Messiah on 13 April 1742. An annual performance of the Messiah is held on the same date at the same location. A republican revolutionary group, the Society of the United Irishmen, was formed at a meeting in a tavern in Eustace Street in 1791.
In the 18th century Temple Bar was the centre of prostitution in Dublin. During the 19th century, the area slowly declined in popularity, and in the 20th century, it suffered from urban decay, with many derelict buildings.
In the 1980s, the state-owned transport company Córas Iompair Éireann (C.I.É.) proposed to buy up and demolish property in the area and build a bus terminus in its place. While that was in the planning stages, the purchased buildings were let out at low rents, which attracted small shops, artists and galleries to the area. Protests by An Taisce, residents and traders led to the cancellation of the bus station project, and then Taoiseach Charles Haughey was responsible for securing funding, and, in 1991, the government set up a not-for-profit company called Temple Bar Properties to oversee the regeneration of the area as Dublin's cultural quarter.