Then and Now: Trinity College Gates

View of a Dublin street, containing a large number of pedestrians and several carriages. The gates of Trinity College are visible to the right and the Bank of Ireland Building is at the front and centre of the image.
Corner of College Green and Grafton Street, c1895, from The Illustrated Dictionary of Dublin.

This view of the corner of College Green in Dublin comes from The Illustrated Dictionary of Dublin, a guidebook by Strangways and Cosgrave, and dates to around 1895. To the of the picture is the front entrance to Trinity College, and in among the throng of pedestrians and omnibuses you can also see a few students in cap and gown!

The book’s authors are enthusiastic about this part of town and its various historical and architectural features, particularly the many nearby works of public art:

The modern College-green has been adorned by a fine statue of Grattan, by Foley (A. M. Sullivan handed over £300 subscribed to compensate him for political imprisonment, and so started the fund for this statue), and the two excellent figures of Burke and Goldsmith, which stand in front of the University. Within recent years great improvements have been made in the buildings in this part of the city, and some of the present buildings will bear comparison with those of any city in the Empire.

Burke (left) and Goldsmith (right) can be seen in the above photograph, as well as in this Google Maps image from 2017. They’re much clearer, however, in this beautiful historic photo from the collection of the National Library of Ireland – dating, probably, to around 1900 – and a modern companion photograph, which was taken in 1990, as part of the Laurence Photographic Project.

The shot from 1990, of course, is now a historical document in itself – although I personally remember a time when the porticos had that blackened, just-out-of-the-photocopier look! The façade was first restored in 1992, when a large grant allowed “the grime of centuries” to be removed.

Google Street view from the same location.

Here is a fascinating discussion of Oliver Goldsmith’s time at Trinity College – which was not exactly a barrel of laughs for him – and the possible meanings of the statue.

Further changes may be on the way for the Trinity front entrance. The lawn has lately made the news as the possible site of a new wildflower meadow, as part of the university’s push to encourage biodiversity across its green spaces. A poll has been launched in order to find out the public’s views on whether to keep the current lawn, or convert it to provide food and habitat space for insects and other wildlife.

Got strong feelings on biodiversity – or really want to keep the lawn as it is? Have your say here!


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