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The Liberties

What’s important?

The Liberties lay outside the medieval City Walls. Answerable to many ‘masters’ – they were placed under the ‘protection’ of saints – Kevin, Bride or Bridget and Patrick. Kevin Street for example contains the remains of St. Sepulchre’s, the palace of the archbishops, built soon after the foundation of St. Patrick’s Cathedral1, which in its day was the largest cathedral in medieval Ireland and lay well beyond the City Walls. The clusters of specialist “streets” such as Winetavern Street, Cook St, Fishamble Street near Christ Church and the Cornmarket, near St. Audoen’s1, reveal a long tradition centred on markets, trade, industry and innovation in the area.I

The Streets

High Street ‘the vital link between the Liberties and the modern commercial heart of the city’
Thomas Street ‘The commercial heart of the Liberties, a market street retaining a rich and evocative 19th century streetscape’
James’s Street ‘Dominated by the Guinness brewery complex with its stern Victorian frontages of administrative buildings’
Meath Street ‘with its lively markets and on street traders ‘
Francis Street ‘a centre for antiques, contemporary design and art galleries’

The Gateways

‘Where Nicholas Street turns into Patrick Street stood the main southern gateway of the medieval town,
St. Nicholas’s. The walled area, even when enlarged in the thirteenth and early fourteenth century, was remarkably small (about 44 acres) and beyond the defences stretched suburbs in every direction. Nevertheless many of the later monasteries, as well as St. Patrick’s Cathedral, had their own walled enclosures, whilst in the fifteenth century several ‘extramural’ gateways were provided so as to close off access to the town at night and in times of danger. These gateways were a substitute for an outer town wall to protect the suburbs, of the kind that was built for many continental towns.’II

Cornmarket today


To the north west, towards Thomas Street, lay the northern section of the defensive town wall. The great western gateway, known as Newgate, featured two three storey towers and contained the town prison’s ,defensive ditch, which measured about 40 feet wide and up to 19 feet deep… a mainly unbuilt plot of ground known as Cornmarket was where the annual fair lasted for a fortnight each summer. Here merchants from elsewhere in Ireland and from abroad would gather to buy and sell, to haggle and strike bargains, to quarrel and seek justice. By an interesting coincidence part of this plot was later occupied by the Iveagh Markets. This part of town has always had a long tradition of markets and the retail of agricultural produce, a tradition that continues to this day.III

  1. Dublin Civic Trust Thomas Street Improving the Public Face of an Historic City Centre Street

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