Ambition and Realisation of Land Reclamation Projects in North East Dublin City from the Late Seventeenth Century

Red line: 1717 proposal for land reclamation and lot distribution by Thomas Bolton for the North Strand, Dublin. 

Black line: 1847 Ordnance Survey map with the Custom House (bottom left).

The purpose of land reclamation was twofold, it provided land to facilitate the city’s rapid expansion eastwards while also addressing the problem of Dublin’s silted harbour that restricted marine traffic entering the Liffey estuary to the heart of the commercial city. The single most ambitious land reclamation scheme to date has been that of two hundred and sixty six plots, or an area of approximately 690 acres, in the North Strand as drawn up for the City of Dublin in 1717. The layout map outlining this scheme details plots of various sizes, their granted proprietors, infrastructure and local landmarks. 

Sheriff Street is the dividing line between two separate areas of distinguishable geometries. The ‘front foot lots’ to the south is a grid, two blocks deep and five blocks long, of narrow lots fronting the river. The first row of blocks fronting the river are referred to as ‘front foot lots’ and the second row referred to as ‘back foot lots’. The grid of streets containing the ten blocks are named to represent figures or groups within the City Assembly e.g. Mayor Street, Sheriff Street, Guild Street and Commons Street.

The much larger ‘acre lots’, situated north of Sheriff Street, are divided up on a separate grid system. The text on each lot refers to its own lot number, the proprietor, the size of the lot in acres, roods and perches and its associated foot lot number.1 The lot sizes vary from one acre and two roods to three acres and two roods.

There are 132 foot lots and 134 acre lots. Each person granted an acre lot also received a foot lot, the grantees were all members of the city assembly. The two extra acre lots are described as ‘Citty lotts’. One city lot fronts onto, what was named, Market Road while the other fronts on to Church Road suggesting the civic ambitions for the city lots, however, neither a market or church were realised on these particular sites. 

Despite the ambition displayed in this early map little development took place until the late nineteenth century. Primary sources found for the conveyance of land verify that the 1717 plot layouts still provided the framework for development up to the mid nineteenth century. The 1847 Ordnance Survey map shows the prevalence of the 1717 grid patterns in the small amount of development that had occurred in the intervening century.

1 A rood is a unit of land measurement equal to approximately one quarter of an acre. A perch is approximately a quarter of a rood.

Rosaleen Crushell, Dublin 2010

Published in Building Material: Mapping (Online Edition) 2010