1st January 1837
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A snapshot of pre-famine local history, as described in the "Topographical Dictionary of Ireland" by Samuel Lewis, 1837.

KINGSTOWN, formerly DUNLEARY, a sea-port and market-town, in the parish of MONKSTOWN, half-barony of RATHDOWN, county of DUBLIN, and province of LEINSTER, 5 miles (E. S. E.) from Dublin ; containing 5736 inhabitants.

This town, which is situated on the southern shore of the bay of Dublin, derived its former name Dunleary, signifying " the fort of Leary," from Laeghaire or Leary, son of " Nial of the nine hostages," monarch of Ireland, who reigned from the year 429 to 458, and had his residence at this place.

Its present appellation, Kingstown, was given to It by permission of his late Majesty Geo. IV., on his embarkation at this port for England after his visit to Ireland, in 1821; in commemoration of which a handsome obelisk of granite, with an appropriate inscription and surmounted by a crown of the same material, was erected.

Previously to the construction of the present magnificent harbour, Dunleary was merely a small village inhabited only by a few fishermen; but since the completion of that important undertaking it has become an extensive and flourishing place of fashionable resort, and the immediate neighbourhood is thickly studded with elegant villas and handsome residences of the wealthy citizens of Dublin.

The bay of Dublin had, from time immemorial, been regarded as extremely dangerous for shipping, from a bar of moveable sand which obstructed the entrance into the harbour, and rendered the western passage to the port impracticable during certain periods of the tide ; and from the vast rocks that project along the eastern shore to the small town of Dunleary. The frequent wrecks that occurred, and the great loss of life and property, had powerfully shown the want of an asylum harbour for the protection of vessels during adverse winds ; and application from the Dublin merchants had been made to Capt. Toucher, a gentleman of great nautical skill and experience, who resided among them, to select a proper station for that purpose. The loss of His Majesty's packet, the Prince of Wales, and of the Roehdale transport between Dublin and Dunleary, on the 17th Nov., 1807, when 380 persons perished, prompted fresh efforts to obtain this desirable object, and the merchants of Dublin and the Rathdown association again applied to Capt. Toucher, who selected the port of Dunleary as the fittest for the purpose, from its commanding a sufficient depth of water, soundness of bottom, and other requisites for the anchorage of large vessels ; but nothing further was done at that time. A petition, signed by all the magistrates and gentry on the southern shore of the bay, was, in 1809, presented to the Duke of Richmond, then Lord-Lieutenant ; and a small pier, 500 feet in length, was constructed to the east of the Chicken rocks, which, though accessible only at particular periods of the tide, contributed much to the preservation of life and property.

The great want of accommodation for the port of Dublin and the channel trade, induced the citizens to make further efforts to obtain the sanction of the legislature for the construction of an asylum harbour more adequate to the safety of vessels frequenting the Irish channel, and bound to other ports; and in 1815 an act was passed for " the erection of an asylum harbour and place of refuge at Dunleary. "

Commissioners were appointed to carry the provisions of this act into effect, in which they were greatly assisted by the exertions and experience of Capt. Toucher ; surveys were made and the works were commenced in 1816, under the direction and after the design of the late Mr. Rennie : the first stone of the eastern pier was laid by Earl Whitworth, Lord-Lieutenant, and the work was successfully prose. cuted under the superintendence of Mr. Rennie, till his decease in 1817 : the pier is 3500 feet in length.

Though at first it was thought to be of itself sufficient to afford the requisite security, it was found necessary, for the protection of vessels from the north-west winds, to construct a western pier, which was commenced in 1820, and has been extended to a length of 4950 feet from the shore. The piers, by an angular deviation from a right line, incline towards each other, leaving at the mouth of the harbour a distance of 850 feet, and enclose an area of 251 statute acres, affording anchorage in a depth of water varying from 27 to 15 feet at low spring tides. The foundation is laid at a depth of 20 feet at low water, and for 14 feet from the bottom the piers are formed of fine Runcorn sandstone, in blocks of 50 cubic feet perfectly square ; and from 6 feet below water mark to the coping, of granite of excellent quality found in the neighbourhood. They are 310 feet broad at the base, and 53 feet on the summit ; towards the harbour they are faced with a perpendicular wall of heavy rubblestone, and towards the sea with huge blocks of granite sloping towards the top in an angle of 10 or 12 degrees.

A quay, 40 feet wide, is continued along the piers, protected on the sea side by a strong parapet nine feet high. The extreme points of the piers, which had been left unfinished for the decision of the Lords of the Admiralty with respect to the breadth of the entrance, are to be faced in their present position.

A spacious wharf, 500 feet in length, has been erected along the breast of the harbour, opposite the entrance, where merchant vessels of any burthen may deliver or receive their cargoes at all times of the tide.

At the extremity of the eastern pier is a revolving light, which becomes eclipsed every two minutes.

The old pier, which is now enclosed within the present harbour, affords good shelter for small vessels.

More than half a million sterling has been already expended upon the construction of this noble harbour, and it is calculated that, to render it complete, about £200,000 more will be requisite. The materials for the piers, wharf, and quays, are granite of remarkably compact texture, brought from the quarries of Dalkey hill, about two miles distant, by means of railroads laid down for the purpose ; the number of men daily employed was about 600 on the average.

The Royal Harbour of Kingstown is now exclusively the station for the Holyhead and Liverpool mail packets ; and from the great accommodation it affords to steam-vessels of every class, and the protection and security to all vessels navigating the Irish channel, it has fully realized all the benefits contemplated in its construction.

The number of vessels that entered, during the year 1835, was 2000, of the aggregate burden of 244,282 tons, exclusively of 57 men of war and cruisers, and of the regular post-office steam-packets from Holyhead and Liverpool, of which there are six employed daily in conveying the mails

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