Beggars Bush: A Perambulation through the Disciplines of History, Geography, Archaeology, Literature, Philology, Natural History, Botany, Biography & Beggary

Sticky: Dublin, Donnybrook Beggars boush 1573

Current location and earliest record

The name is now used for the area around the redundant Beggars Bush barracks, in use from 1827 for training and as the final station before embarkation for troops going to the Crimea, Flanders and the Empire. In 1929 the barracks area was taken over for housing and the headquarters of the Geological Survey of Ireland, the National Print Museum and Labour Court. There is also modern pub called Ryan’s Beggars Bush.

The earliest record of the name in Dublin is 1573 “at the wood called Beggars boush by Bagotrath” in Fiant 2341 in the Calendar of Fiants of reign of Henry VIII 1510-47 through to Queen Elizabeth 1558-1603. The Irish form Tor an Bhacaigh would have followed the English/Anglicised form Beggars Bush.

Lack of other records make it difficult to make many other positive statements. At that date Baggotrath Castle would have been a prominent landmark in the countryside south east of the city. As the record refers to both it appears to exclude the possibility that the place name Beggars Bush was an Anglicisation of Baggotrath. The reference to “a wood called” also shows that the place name did not necessarily refer to an individual bush.

The marginal location is consistent with the origin from derogatory explanation from the phrase “to go by beggars bush”, meaning to go to ruin. Although many histories suggest it was a “rendezvous of beggers” there is no evidence for these restrospective romantic explanations.

It is one of the earliest records of the place name, and the first outside England, though there is another at Philipstown, County Offaly, in 1597. There is insufficient evidence to argue that it is a frontier site, such as Philipstown, or the later sites at Charles River, Virginia, and Albany, South Africa, though the setting is similar. The English settlement of Ireland was not secure and even within the Pale the majority of “Old English” were Roman Catholic.

Records and the migration of the place name

The records from maps and prints show the name migrating around an area east of the modern location. These can most conveniently be found in the Archaeological Assessment, prepared by CRDS Archaeological and Historical Consultants in connection with the redevelopment of the Lansdowne Road stadium. This includes reproductions of almost all the original map and print sources, though the text history is unreliable.

A map of the Baggotrath Estate dated 1692, when it formed part of Pembroke Estates in Dublin, shows the road following the line of eastern part of the modern Lansdowne Road marked Road from Beggars Bush to Irishtown and Shelbourne Road marked Road from Beggars Bush to folly. Early maps of Dublin, (Philips, 1685, and de Gomme, 1673), show Shelbourne Road as the high water mark, with the area from there to Ringsend being marsh & mudflats around the mouth of the River Dodder. Ringsend is on a long and narrow spit of land running out into Dublin Bay from Irishtown. The area of the barracks is on rising ground. A 1731 Survey by Cullen showed buildings at the junction of the two roads marked Beggars Bush. Rocque’s Exact survey of the city and suburbs of Dublin (1756) shows a road roughly on the line of Shelbourne Road at the junction with Bath Avenue as Beggars Bush, with cultivated fields to the south-east, but no buildings.  Some reclamation has begun as the land to the north in the area now Grand Canal Docks is shown as fields, but the area east of Beggars Bush has only three fields cutting into an area of marsh, which transitions to mud. This map also shows Baggott & Rath Castle about four fields away to the south west. Rocque also shows another Beggars Bush, at Lucan, west of the city.

In 1773 Sandwich Street is recorded as Road from Beggars’-bush, but by 1793 it is called The Folly. This derogatory name is often found near Beggars Bush, though it probably has a different local origin here, for which see Dublin, Donneybrook, Baggotrath.

Sir Bernard de Gomme’s map was probably prepared by Andrew Yarranton, the civil engineer, who visited Dublin and drew up plans for the development of a new harbour and fortifications in this area. Like many of his plans these were not put into effect. Yarranton used the phrase “We are almost as Beggars-bush, and we cannot tell how to help our selves” in his book England’s Improvement by Sea and Land to outdo the Dutch without fighting (1677). This may have been prompted by his visit to Dublin, though the phrase was widely used.

In 1792 The Dublin Chronicle (31st May 1792) recorded:

“The marsh between Beggarsbush and Ringsend, through which the river Dodder passes in its way to Ringsend-bridge, which contains almost sixty acres, we hear is taken by Mr. Vavasour from Lord Fitzwilliam, on a lease of one hundred and fifty years, at the rent of £90 per annum. This tract, which is every tide inundated by the tide and Dodder, the taker, it is said, intends immediately to reclaim by a complete double embankment of the Dodder, which, thus confined to a determined channel, will then form an handsome canal through it; a circumstance that will not only ornament an unsightly spot, but materially improve the salubrity of the air at Irishtown, Ring-send, &c”.

These plans were put into effect.

Taylor’s Map of the Environs of Dublin (1816) shows the words Beggars Bush north of Lansdowne Road, crossing Shelbourne Road and extending north and east. This shows the area towards Ringsend by then been drained but not built on, other than the buildings at this crossroads. The barracks were built and named in 1827 in the block west of Shelbourne Road. Larcom’s Map of the County of the City of Dublin (1837) shows several buildings at the same junction as Taylor but not the name. In contrast the 1st Edition Ordnance Survey (1837) shows far fewer buildings, but uses the name for a townland of 116 acres, extending north to Bath Avenue, crossed by the railway and also shows Beggars Bush Barracks, to the north-east. Shelbourne Road is called Beggarsbush Road. The name is repeated in the same location on the 1849 OS map, and used by Thom’s Directory (1845-55). By the 1875 OS map, when the north-eastern quarter had been built on, the name has migrated north of Bath Avenue, to open land, and south of Lansdowne Road across the Botanic Gardens and across Shelbourne Road. It is repeated in both locations on the 1897 and 1907 OS maps.


Transcript of Taifid chartlainneArchival Records Placenames Database of Ireland, Card 2- 57117_2 <> accessed 08.01.11.

Archaeological Impact Assessment, Environmental Resources Management Ireland Ltd, for Lansdowne Road Stadium Development Company Ltd, 2006 Annex I)


Translation and notes courtesy of Seán McGlinchey

Placenames Database of Ireland

Posted: March 13th, 2011 | Filed under: Places | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | No Comments »

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