Clontarf as a Resort (c 1770-1860)
Lord Charlemont controlled the turnpike at Fairview, as his estate was in Marino, where he built the still surviving Casino as a house in which to spend his leisure hours, in beautiful surroundings. However he had very high tolls, much higher than in other areas of Dublin. He persisted in charging these until 1788, when toll roads were taken out of the hands of landowners all over the country and toll road committees were set up. Charlemont was a trustee of the initial toll road committee, ensuring (in theory at least) that it would be well run so all the money that was necessary would be spent in the right way
to improve the road infrastructure. Fish carts went for free, to encourage sea trade, but farm carts and brewers’ drays were charged. Carriages with six wheels were charged a shilling, with reducing tolls, until a chaise or chair got through for threepence. By 1791, however, the tolls were not yielding enough income to mend the roads, so the trustees were allowed to appoint surveyors to maintain the roads and milestones.
By 1853 the toll rates for other routes had been reduced, so then it cost a four-wheel carriage with two horses four pence to pass the bridge at Ballybough; for a carriage with one horse the cost would be tuppence and for a jaunting car it would be one penny. However this cost was still a big disincentive to development. The tolls were finally abolished in 1858, as they had been a major obstacle to development on the north side of Dublin city.
Coach design improved between 1780 and 1800, which enabled richer citizens to move further and further from their place of work.
In 1712 the Corporation decided to reclaim land ‘east of the North Strand, clear to Clontarf strand’. The area was divided into sections and raffled among citizens. Because of this lottery system, the land is still called the North Lotts. These lands are clearly marked on Rocque’s map. Five years later there were ambitious plans to fill in the bay, from Annesley Bridge and
the Tolka to Castle Avenue, build a dam north to south, a canal for the river and allotments to the west. Under these proposals, the East Wall Road would bisect the area east to west. Thankfully, these proposals never got the go-ahead. We should be grateful, as the map that went with the plan shows the whole area to the south of the coast at Clontarf as far east as Castle Avenue as being reclaimed. This would mean that this part of Clontarf would no longer be on the coast, looking out over the sea, but it would have been built up instead.
In 1831 a state-supported system of primary education was established in Ireland, almost 40 years before its introduction in Britain. Still, the majority of upper and middle-class children received their first education at home from resident governesses or visiting tutors. Clontarf had in 1834 a population of 1,717 Roman Catholics, 703 Churchmen (which was how those of the Church of Ireland were classified), 35 Presbyterians and four other Dissenters.
Griffith’s valuation had been completed around 1850 to form a basis for local taxation. It worked fine for the first 10 years, but by 1860 it was about 15% below the real letting value of land and by the 1870s, it was 25-30% below. This was due to an increase in agricultural and, consequently, all prosperity.
The Dublin Builder opined in 1859 that: ‘While the southern suburbs of Dublin are rapidly spreading and becoming populous, there is if possible a retrograde movement in the north’. However, it still felt that ‘if the south side has its advantages over the north, the latter has its likewise in return.’ Unfortunately it didn’t specify what they were.
‘We, like many others, had hoped that the abolition of the old turnpike would have effected a perfect revolution, but it has resulted otherwise.’ As in many of the Dublin Builder articles, this was an exaggeration, as there was small-scale development already happening in Clontarf. But luckily for Clontarf, the editor thought that JEV Vernon had seen the errors of his ways by 1862, and he allowed development to begin in earnest after this. By September 1863, the editor was writing ‘every encouragement to building speculators is now being afforded by the lord of the soil and by his efficient agent’.
In 1849 a Captain McCormick was paid £5 for keeping Clontarf Road watered to keep the dust down during the summer (tarmacadam hadn’t been invented at that stage). He got half his pay at the beginning, the other half at the end of season.
In the 1850s the Mail Boat service, which had been going from Howth to England, moved its base in Ireland to Dun Laoghaire, so subsequent traffic through town to Howth declined a certain amount. The Raheny turnpike, where the toll was collected, and which was located where the Howth Road joins the coast, was soon declared defunct.