1st January 1837
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Excerpt from Lewis' Topographical Dictionary of Ireland for the metropolis of Dublin (pub. 1837). For more snapshots of pre-famine local history for Dublin city parishes, see below.


The associations for the relief and protection of orphans and destitute children are numerous.

  • The Foundling Hospital, a very extensive establishment in James-street, for the reception of infants of this description from all parts of Ireland, for many years afforded an asylum to 2000 deserted children within its walls, and to nearly 5000 who were kept at nurse in the country till of age to be admitted into the central establishment; these children were clothed, maintained, educated, and apprenticed from the funds of the hospital, which were assisted by annual parliamentary grants of from #20,000 to #30,000. The internal departments were wholly closed by order of government on the 31st of March, 1835, and all the children who are not apprenticed, amounting to 2541, are at present settled with nurses in the country. There are also about 2800 apprentices serving their time as servants and to trades, who are still under the superintendence of the governors. The buildings, which are very extensive, contain schoolrooms for both sexes, dormitories, a chapel, and accommodations for several resident officers, and attached to it is a large garden, in the cultivation of which the older inmates assist.

In addition to the Blue Coat, Royal Hibernian, and Royal Marine Institutions, already noticed under the heads of their respective public establishments, the following are peculiarly worthy of notice :-

  • The Female Orphan House was commenced in 1790 by Mrs. Edw. Tighe and Mrs Este, and, owing in a great measure to the advocacy of the celebrated Dean Kirwan, who preached a succession of sermons for its support, was opened in the present buildings on the North Circular Road, which contain ample accommodations for 160 children and a large episcopal chapel. The candidates for admission must be destitute both of father and mother, and between the age of five and ten; the inmates receive an education suited to fit them for the higher class of domestic servants. Its funds are aided by a parliamentary grant equal to the sum voluntarily contributed.
  • The Freemasons' Orphan School, under the patronage of the Grand Lodge of Ireland, provides for the orphan daughters of deceased members of the Society.
  • Pleasants' Asylum, Camden-street, opened in 1818 by means of a bequest of the late T. Pleasants, Esq., receives 20 Protestant female orphans, who are maintained and educated till they arrive at years of maturity, when they are entitled to a respectable portion on marrying a Protestant, approved of by the trustees.
  • The special objects of the Protestant Orphan Society, founded in 1828, and the Protestant Orphan Union, formed subsequently, appear from their names; the latter owes its origin to the ravages of the cholera, which also gave rise to three other societies for the reception of children of every religious persuasion, who had been deprived of their parents by that dreadful scourge.

Most of the places of worship in Dublin have boarding-schools attached to them for boys or girls, or both, into which orphans are admitted in preference.

  • In this department of charitable institutions may be included the Asylum for the Deaf and Dumb at Claremont, near Glasnevin, which, from small beginnings, is now adapted to the reception of more than 100 inmates, who are wholly maintained, clothed, and instructed; the boys, after school hours, are occupied in gardening, farming, and other mechanical works; and the girls in needlework, housewifery, laundry work, and in the management of the dairy; a printing-press has been purchased for the instruction of some of the boys in that business, and for the printing of lessons adapted to the use of the pupils. The building contains separate schoolrooms for male and female pupils : attached to it arc about 19 acres of land. This institution is wholly supported by subscription and private benefactions; it has various branch establishments in different parts of the country.


The House of Industry was established by an act of parliament in 1773, for the indiscriminate reception of paupers from every part; but it has since been limited to destitute paupers of the county and city, and to the relief of certain classes of diseases. The establishment occupies 11 acres, on which are two squares of buildings; one for the aged and infirm, the other for the insane, together with detached infirmaries for fever, chronic, medical, and surgical cases, and a dispensary. The total number of aged and impotent poor that have been admitted is 426,175, of whom 1874 are now in the institution. It is under the superintendence of a resident governor and seven visitors appointed by the lord-lieutenant and is maintained by an annual grant of public money.

Simpson's Hospital, in Great Britain-street, for blind and gouty men, was opened in 1781, by means of a bequest of a citizen of that name, who had himself laboured under a complication of these complaints. It is a large plain building, with a small plot of ground in the rear for the accommodation of the inmates : its interior is divided into 24 wards, containing about 70 beds, but the number supported is about 50. The annual income of the hospital averages £2700.

The Hospital for Incurables was opened in Fleet-street, in 1744, by a musical society, the members of which applied the profits of concerts to this benevolent purpose. In 1790, by means of a bequest of £4000 by Theobald Wolfe, Esq., the institution was removed into its present building near Donnybrook, originally erected for an infirmary for small-pox patients. The governors were incorporated in 1800. The house, a substantial plain building, can accommodate 70 patients; the ground belonging to it, 14 acres, is let so advantageously, as to leave the institution rent-free.

The Old Men's Asylum, in Russell-place, North Circular Road, was instituted in 1810 for 24 reduced old men of good character.

St. Patrick's Asylum for Old Men, in Rains-ford-street, maintains 17 inmates, the majority of whom are upwards of 80 years of age each.

The literary teachers, carpenters, printers, and vintners have each an asylum or fund for the relief of decayed members of their respective bodies.

The Scottish Society of St. Andrew is formed for the relief of distressed natives of that country while in Dublin. 

The Richmond National Institution for the Industrious Blind, in Sackville-street, affords instruction to 40 male inmates in weaving, basket-making, netting, and some other similar kinds of handicraft, and has a sale-room for the disposal of the manufactured articles.

The Molyneux Asylum for blind females was opened in 1815, on a similar principle, in the former family mansion of Sir Capel Molyneux in Peter-street, which had been for some years employed as a circus for equestrian exhibitions. Attached to it is an Episcopal chapel.

There are several asylums for destitute aged women, mostly attached to some of the places of worship.

There are two places for the reception of females of virtuous character during the pressure of temporary want of employment, one in Baggot-street, under the superintendence of Protestant ladies; the other in Stanhope-street, under that of a R. C. nunnery.


The Magdalen Asylum in Leeson-street was founded by Lady Denny in 1766; the house is adapted for the reception of 60 inmates, and the average number in the asylum is 50; after a probation of three years they are either restored to their families, or provided with the means of honest subsistence; they are employed during the time of their continuance in the asylum in profitable industry, and receive one-fourth of their earnings during their residence, and the remainder on their leaving the house: the institution has received considerable benefactions from the Latouche family.

The Lock Penitentiary was opened in 1794 by Mr. John Walker, as a penitentiary for the special reception and employment of females discharged from the Lock Hospital; there are generally about 30 in the asylum, who are employed in needlework and other female occupations.

The Dublin Female Penitentiary, in the North Circular Road, was opened in 1813: the house is large and commodious; there are about 35 females on the establishment.

The Asylum in Upper Baggot-street affords shelter to 30 inmates. Each of these has a Protestant Episcopalian place of worship attached to it.

The R. C. asylums of a similar character are situated respectively in

  • Townsend-street, containing 41 penitents and super-intended by the Sisters of Charity;
  • in Mecklenburgh-street, which receives 35;
  • in Dominick-street, late Bow-street, where 34 are sheltered;
  • in Marlborough-street, late James's-street, which supports 45;
  • besides St. Mary's Asylum, Drumcondra-road, in which the average number is 30.

The origin of several of these institutions was attended with circumstances of peculiar interest.

house of shelter for the temporary reception of females discharged from prison is on the Circular-road, Harcourt-street. The Lock Hospital has a department in which 12 females, who had been patients, are employed in washing for the establishment, under the superintendence of a matron, and are entirely supported in the house.


The Mendicity Association, formed in 1818, has for its object the suppression of street-begging, by supplying relief to destitute paupers, chiefly by means of employment. A large building on Ussher's Island, formerly the town residence of the Earl of Moira, and having a large space of ground attached to it, is fitted up for the purposes of the institution. The paupers are provided with food and apartments to work in, but not with lodging, and are divided into seven classes;

  • first, those able to work at profitable employment, who receive full wages for their work;
  • 2ndly, those whose earnings are not adequate to their entire support, who receive wages at a lower rate;
  • 3rdly, those unable to perform full work;
  • 4thly, the infirm;
  • 5thly, children above six years of age, who are educated and instructed in useful employments;
  • and lastly, children under six years of age, who are taken care of while their parents are at work:
  • A dispensary is attached to the building and the sick are visited at their own lodgings. The institution is under the superintendence of 60 gentlemen elected annually.

The Sick and Indigent Roomkeepers' Society, formed in 1790, gives temporary relief in money to the destitute poor at their own lodgings. At a general meeting held at the Royal Exchange, once a month, the amount of the relief to be given during the ensuing month is fixed, which is distributed by four committees for the Barrack, Workhouse, Rotundo, and Stephen's Green divisions of the city, which sit weekly.

The Strangers' Friend Society, formed in the same year as the preceding institution, has similar objects and is conducted on the same principle of temporary domestic relief.

The Benevolent Strangers' Friend Society, of like character, is of later formation.

The Charitable Association, formed in 1806, is designed for the relief of distressed persons of every description, except street beggars : relief is administered at the dwellings of the pauper. A loan fund is attached to the institution.

SOURCE: A Topographical Dictionary of Ireland by Samuel Lewis (pub 1837)

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