Friday, September 10, 2010

The Cabbage Garden

Our first stop on this tour of lesser known Dublin is the “Cabbage Garden”. Following the throngs of tourists to St Patrick’s Cathedral’s side entrance, past the graveyard adjoining the Cathedral, past Marsh’s Library and across Kevin Street you will see the post office on the corner of that street and Cathedral Lane.


Walk along the lane between the post office and the housing scheme on the right and you will see railings and a gate in the distance.

Through this gate is the “Cabbage Garden”, a little-known and sadly neglected corner of Dublin. Dublin City Council optimistically describes the place as having the following facilities:

  • 5-a-side all weather football pitch
  • Floral Schemes
  • Historical
  • Leisure Walks.

Factually correct, but the reality is quite different. A shocking amount of destruction has been wrought on this historic burial ground. 

There are two versions of how the Cabbage Garden got its name. One suggests that it is a corruption of “Capuchin Garden”. This is unlikely, as this order was established near St. Audoen’s Church some distance away. This discounted theory is perpetuated on the plaque mounted at the front of the housing scheme which states the park was developed “on the site of the disused Capuchin and Huguenot Cemeteries”.
The second, more likely, derivation of the name is that the land was actually used for cabbage-growing. When Oliver Cromwell arrived in Dublin in 1649, stabling his horses in the nave of St Patrick’s Cathedral, he stayed in a house approximately where the Lord Edward public house stands today. The house was demolished in 1812 by the Wide Street Commissioners. He arranged for this ground nearby to be rented from its owner, a Mr. Philip Fernley, so that cabbages could be grown to supply his troops with food. This detail is contained in the Minute Book of the Dean and Chapter of St. Patrick’s. The idea that Cromwell's forces went to the trouble of renting a patch of land from a native landowner is quite bizarre when one considers his actions elsewhere in Ireland.

In 1666 the grounds were acquired for the burial of citizens of the parish of St. Nicholas Without, as the graveyard adjoining the Cathedral could no longer accommodate interments.

In 1681 the French Huguenots approached the Archbishop of Dublin with a view to securing burial rights for the deceased members of their congregation. This was granted in the form of a strip of land at the north of the current park (to the right as one enters)

The Huguenot plot was used for burials until 1858. One of the most famous burials in the Huguenot plot is that of the La Touche family, founders of the bank that later became the Bank of Ireland. The memorial stone is unfortunately missing, but a Dublin Historical Record from 1988 states the location of the family plot as being inside this gate on the north-east corner, in a railed-in-space. The enclosure (now without railings) in the middle-right of the picture above would seem to correspond to this location.

This area is still a burial ground as no remains have ever been removed. 


Alas there is an all too obvious parallel between the sorry state of this burial ground today and the state of the Irish banking system, part of which the La Touche family pioneered.

The tombstones, having been removed from their original positions, are now lined up against the Eastern boundary wall and have been extensively vandalised over the years. It is easy to identify new examples of destruction of 18th and 19th  Century stonework and carving.

It’s all the more upsetting when you think that these memorials were paid for by families, to mark the final resting-places of their loved ones, back in the days when there was real poverty in the city.  Although the Dublin Corporation made sure to note the burial plots when they moved the memorials in 1938, there is nothing onsite to assist in the location of any of the burial plots. 

The unusual red stone memorial below is only recently destroyed.

This one, to Henry Medcalfe of "The Poddle" from 1818 is mentioned in numerous historical accounts of the Cabbage Garden. How long more will it survive?

"Passengers as you pass by
As you are now so once was I
As I am now so shall you be
Think of God and follow me"

Note the white spirals of fossilised whelk shells in the stone itself.

This stone dates from 1772. Erected by a Mr. Davis, weaver. Note the unusual skull and crossbones motif.

This picture I find particularly moving. Who was buried under this stone? You can just about make out that the inscription once listed the names of his or her children. Who were they? We'll never know. This breakage is very recent.

Given the destruction of this sacred site, the prayer used in the dedication of this burial ground when it opened in 1766 is particularly poignant:

"Accept we beseech Thee the small offering which we this day presumed to dedicate to the honour of Thy Holy Name, preserve it from all human violations and barbarism that the bones of Thy servants which be gathered here may lie quiet and undisturbed.”

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