Phoenix Park

Phoenix Park

Phoenix Monument
Type Municipal
Location Dublin, Ireland
Coordinates 53°21′36″N 6°19′30″W / 53.36000°N 6.32500°W / 53.36000; -6.32500
Area 707 hectares (7.07 km2; 2.73 sq mi)
Created 1662 (1662)
Operated by Office of Public Works
Status Open all year

Phoenix Park (Irish: Páirc an Fhionnuisce[1]) is an urban park in Dublin, Ireland, lying 2–4 km west of the city centre, north of the River Liffey. It is 11 km perimeter wall encloses 707 hectares (1,750 acres)it is also one of the largest enclosed recreational spaces within any European capital city.[2][3][4][5] It includes large areas of grassland and tree-lined avenues, and since the 17th century has been home to a herd of wild fallow deer. The English name comes from the Irish fionn uisce meaning "clear water".[6] The Irish Government is lobbying UNESCO to have the park designated as a world heritage site.[7]


Phoenix Park. Outside car (Jaunting car). Postcard, c. 1905

After the Normans conquered Dublin and its hinterland in the 12th century, Hugh Tyrrel, 1st Baron of Castleknock, granted a large area of land, including what now comprises the Phoenix Park, to the Knights Hospitaller. They established an abbey at Kilmainham on the site now occupied by Royal Hospital Kilmainham. The knights lost their lands in 1537 following the Dissolution of the Monasteries under Henry VIII of England. Eighty years later the lands reverted to the ownership of the King's representatives in Ireland. On the restoration of Charles II of England, his Viceroy in Dublin, the Duke of Ormonde, established a royal hunting park on the land in 1662. It contained pheasants and wild deer, making it necessary to enclose the entire area with a wall. The park originally included the demesne of Kilmainham Priory south of the River Liffey, but when the building of the Royal Hospital at Kilmainham commenced in 1680, the park was reduced to its present size, all of which is now north of the river. It was opened to the people of Dublin by the Earl of Chesterfield in 1745.

Deer grazing near the Papal Cross in the Phoenix Park

In 1882, it was the location for two murders. The Chief Secretary for Ireland (the British Cabinet minister with responsibility for Irish affairs), Lord Frederick Cavendish and the Under-Secretary for Ireland (chief civil servant), Thomas Henry Burke, were stabbed to death with surgical knives while walking from Dublin Castle. A small insurgent group called the Invincibles were responsible.[8]

During the Emergency thousands of tons of turf were transported from the bogs to Dublin and stored in high mounds along the main road on the park.[9][10][11]


Deer resting in Phoenix Park

The park is split between three civil parishes: Castleknock to the north-west, Chapelizod to the south and St James' to the north. The last named is mainly centred south of the River Liffey around St James' parish church. The park has its own piece of legislation the Phoenix Park Act, 1925 which includes giving powers to park rangers to remove and arrest of offenders who disobey its bye-laws, which include "No person shall act contrary to public morality in the park".[12][13]

Áras an Uachtaráin

Main article: Áras an Uachtaráin

The residence of the President of Ireland, Áras an Uachtaráin, built in 1754, is located in the park. As the Viceregal Lodge, it was the official residence of the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland until the creation of the Irish Free State in 1922.

Dublin Zoo

Main article: Dublin Zoo

Dublin Zoo is one of Dublin's main attractions. It houses more than 700 animals and tropical birds from around the world and was founded in 1830[14] and opened to the public on 1 September 1831, with animals from the London Society, making it the third oldest zoo in the world. Within a year the zoo housed 123 species.[15]

Papal cross

The Papal Cross was erected at the edge of Fifteen Acres for the visit of Pope John Paul II on 29 September 1979. Over one million people attended an open-air mass in the park at the time. The white cross, which dominates its surroundings, is 35 metres (115 ft) high and was built with steel girders. It was installed with some difficulty: after several attempts, the cross was eventually erected just a fortnight before the Pope arrived.[16]


Wellington Monument in Phoenix Park
Jogging in Phoenix Park near the Wellington Monument

The Wellington Monument is a 62 metres (203 ft) tall obelisk commemorating the victories of the Duke of Wellington. It is the largest obelisk in Europe and would have been even higher if the publicly subscribed funding had not run out. Designed by Robert Smirke, there are four bronze plaques cast from cannons captured at the Battle of Waterloo—three of which have pictorial representations of Wellington's career while the fourth has an inscription at the base of the obelisk.

A second notable monument is the "Phoenix Column" (shown in the header photograph above), a Corinthian column carved from Portland Stone located centrally on Chesterfield Avenue, the main thoroughfare of the park, at the junction of Acres Road and the Phoenix, the main entrance to Áras an Uachtaráin.[17] A contemporary account described it in the following terms:

"About the centre of the park is a fluted column thirty feet high, with a phoenix on the capital, which was erected by the Earl of Chesterfield during his viceregality."[18] (1747)

Deerfield Residence

Deerfield Residence is the official residence of the United States Ambassador to Ireland

The Deerfield Residence (previously the Chief Secretary's Lodge), originally built in 1776 was the former residence of the Chief Secretary for Ireland and before that was the Park Bailiff's lodge. It has been the official residence of the United States Ambassador to Ireland since February 1927, and was until the early 1960s the Embassy of the United States in Dublin.[19]

Phoenix Park Visitor Centre and Ashtown Castle

The oldest building in the park is Ashtown Castle, a restored medieval tower house dating from the 15th century. Restoration began in 1989 and it is located beside the visitor centre which houses interpretive displays on the 5,500 years of park and area history.

People's Gardens

The gardens, located close to the Parkgate Street entrance, comprise an area of 9 hectares (22 acres), and were re-opened in 1864. These gardens were initially established in 1840 as the Promenade Grounds. They display Victorian horticulture, including ornamental lakes, children's playground, picnic area and bedding schemes. A statue is in the gardens dedicated to executed Easter Rising leader Seán Heuston. There is a plaque in honour of the Irish sculptor Jerome Connor on Infirmary Road, overlooking the gardens which he frequently visited. The opening hours are 8.00am till dusk. Closing times vary during the year.

Magazine Fort

Main article: Magazine Fort
Magazine Fort in the south-east of the park

The Magazine Fort in the south east of the park marks the location where Phoenix Lodge was built by Sir Edward Fisher in 1611. In 1734 the house was demolished when the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, Lionel Sackville, 1st Duke of Dorset directed that a powder magazine be provided for Dublin. An additional wing was added to the fort in 1801 for troops. It was the scene of the Christmas Raid in 1939.

The magazine fort has been satirically immortalised in a jingle by Jonathan Swift who wrote:

"Now's here's a proof of Irish sense,
Here Irish wit is seen,
When nothing's left that's worth defence,
We build a Magazine."

Other places of interest

Furry Glen, sunset, 3 January 2015
A lake in Dublin's Phoenix Park


Phoenix Park in the summer

There are 351 identified plant species in the park; three of these are rare and protected. The park has retained almost all of its old grasslands and woodlands and also has rare examples of wetlands.[24] Deer were introduced into the park in the 1660s; the current 400–450 fallow deer descend from the original herd.[25] 30% of the park is covered by trees, mainly broadleaf.

A birdwatch survey in 2007–08 found 72 species of bird including common buzzard, Eurasian sparrowhawk, common kestrel and Eurasian jay. The great spotted woodpecker, Ireland's newest breeding bird, has been seen in the park several times.[26]

The park also holds several brooks, tributaries of the River Liffey.

In July and August 2006, the then Minister for Health, Mary Harney, issued three orders exempting two new community nursing units, to be built at St. Mary's Hospital in the park, from the usual legally required planning permission, despite the Phoenix Park being a designated and protected national monument. The Department of Health said the decision was made because of what it called the department's "emergency response to the accident and emergency crisis at the time", although the nursing units, in use since 2008, are mainly for geriatric care.[27]

In a 2009 conservative management plan for the park, the Office of Public Works (a Department of Finance agency) commented, "...the erection, without the necessity of resorting to normal planning procedures, of two major developments in St. Mary's Hospital illustrates the vulnerability of the Phoenix Park to internal development, which impacts significantly on the essential character of the park and its unique value as a historic designed landscape." In a section entitled Pressures and Threats on the Park, subsection Planning Issues, the document expressed concern that, "Without appropriate planning designation, there is a risk that development can take place which is not in line with the co-ordinated vision of this Plan." The document warned of similar risks to the integrity of the park such as "uncoordinated building and construction...and the current condition of certain historic buildings such as the Magazine Fort, the farm buildings below St. Mary's Hospital and Mountjoy House in the Ordnance Survey Complex."[17]


Motor racing

Automatic lighting gas street lamps line the main avenue of the Phoenix Park

Motor racing first took place in the Phoenix Park in 1903 when the Irish Gordon Bennett Race Speed Trials were held on the main straight for both cars and motorcycles. This was followed in 1929 by the Irish International Grand Prix; the first of three Irish motor racing grands prix.[28] Racing took place between 1932 until the beginning of the Second World War in 1939 and was revived again in 1949 with a sprint on the Oldtown circuit[29] followed the next year by a full racing meeting again and has been used virtually continuously until today. Over the years seven different circuits have been used, two of which are named after the famous Ferrari World Champion racing driver Mike Hawthorn.

Phoenix Park Motor Races

After the Grand Prix events, Motor racing continued at the park though the 1980s and 1990s and up to 2012, with many events broadcast live on RTÉ. It featured many drivers including Eddie Jordan, Eddie Irvine and Tommy Byrne. However, it has been announced that the Phoenix Park Motor Races are once again set to go ahead during 2016, on the 30 & 31 July. This is expected to attract huge crowds as being a free entry event no tickets are required.

Great Ireland Run

The Great Ireland Run, a 10 km running competition, has been held annually each April in Phoenix Park since 2003. It includes races for professional runners and the public and the 2010 edition attracted over 11,000 participants.[30][31] Athletes such as Sonia O'Sullivan and Catherina McKiernan are among the race's past winners.


Music concerts have been performed in the park by such acts as Coldplay, Duran Duran, Robbie Williams, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Ian Brown, Justice, Kanye West, Arcade Fire, Tom Waits, Snow Patrol, Florence and the Machine, Swedish House Mafia, Snoop Dogg, Tinie Tempah, Calvin Harris and the Stone Roses.

Phoenix Park free festivals

Ubi Dwyer organised one-day free events between 1977 and 1980.[32] As 'International Times' reported "The Hollow in the Phoenix Park spun and danced to the rhythms of the World Peace Band, Free Booze, the Mod Quad Band, Frazzle, Speed, Stryder, Axis, Tudd, Skates to name but a few. The whole thing was organised by gentle Ubi Dwyer who was formerly involved in the Windsor affair of rock and the rest in England. Certainly the Irish version was pleasantly good-humoured even if the amplification was too much for squares. A few chappies near the bandstand almost whipped themselves to death with their long hair as they responded to the bio-rhythms of the scene."[33] U2 played at the 1978 festival.[34]

Phoenix Cricket Club

Phoenix Cricket Club, the oldest cricket club in Ireland, founded in 1830, by John Parnell, the father of Charles Stewart Parnell is located in the park. During the 1930s, 1940s and 1970s, it was the dominant club in Leinster cricket.

View From Phoenix Park

The park is featured prominently in James Joyce's novel Finnegans Wake and tangentially in Ulysses.

In general, Dublin postal districts on the Northside are odd numbers, while Southside codes are even. One exception is the Phoenix Park, which is on the Northside but forms part of an even-numbered district (Dublin 8).

See also

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Phoenix Park.

Further reading


  1. "Phoenix Park". Retrieved 26 May 2011.
  2. "phoenix park official website".
  3. "About – Phoenix Park". Office of Public Works. Retrieved 2 January 2010.
  4. "Phoenix Park". Ordnance Survey Ireland. Retrieved 22 January 2012.
  5. Richmond Park in London, England is larger in area at 955 hectares (2,360 acres) but is a suburban royal park.
  6. Joyce, Weston St. John (1921). The Neighbourhood of Dublin (PDF). Dublin: M H Gill & Son. p. 416.
  7. "Secret history of the Phoenix Park". Irish Independent. 19 January 2012.
  8. Roundell, Julia (July–December 1906). The Nineteenth Century and After: Volume 60. London: Spottiswoode & Co. pp. 559–575. From A Diary at Dublin Castle during the Phoenix Park Trial
  9. "A farewell to the old sod". Irish Independent. 9 March 2012. Retrieved 12 June 2012.
  10. Corcoran, Tony (2009). The Goodness of Guinness: A Loving History of the Brewery, It's People, and ... New York: Skyhorse Publishing Inc. p. 83. ISBN 9781602396531.
  11. Gill-Cummins, Maureen (2012). "Early Days: The Kildare Scheme and the Turf Camps". Taken from Scéal na Móna, Vol. 13, no. 60, December 2006, p70-72. Bord na Móna. Retrieved 12 June 2012.
  12. "Phoenix Park Bye Laws". Office of Public Works. Retrieved 22 January 2012.
  13. "Phoenix Park Act". Office of Public Works. Retrieved 22 January 2012.
  14. "About the Zoo – Zoo History". Dublin Zoo. Retrieved 10 May 2009.
  15. Kilfeather, Siobhán Marie (2005). Dublin: a cultural history. Oxford University Press. pp. 115–116. ISBN 0-19-518201-4.
  16. "Sights of the Park". Office of Public Works. Retrieved 12 August 2010.
  17. 1 2 "The Phoenix Park: Conservative Management Plan: Consultation Draft March 2009" (PDF). Office of Public Works. March 2009. Retrieved 12 August 2010.
  18. An Accurate Observer, "Reminiscences of Half a Century", published in London (1838)
  19. "Ambassador's residence". Embassy of the United States: Dublin – Ireland. Retrieved 27 September 2010.
  20. "Ordnance Survey Ireland: A Brief History". Ordnance Survey Ireland. Retrieved 24 July 2011.
  21. "McKee Barracks". Dublin City Public Libraries. Retrieved 24 July 2011.
  22. "Ratra House – A Brief History". Civil Defence Ireland. Retrieved 22 January 2012.
  23. "Train services to start using Phoenix Park tunnel next week". The Irish Times. Retrieved 2016-11-15.
  24. "Nature & Biodiversity". Office of Public Works. Retrieved 15 July 2009.
  25. "Fauna". Office of Public Works. Retrieved 15 July 2009.
  26. "The Birds of Phoenix Park County Dublin Birdwatch Ireland March 2008" (PDF).
  27. "Harney exempted Phoenix Park plan". The Irish Times. 5 May 2009. Retrieved 11 August 2010.
  28. The Event. Retrieved 7 March 2007.
  29. Phoenix Park race tracks. Retrieved 7 March 2007.
  30. "Great day for a run as 11,000 take over park". Irish Independent. 19 April 2010. Retrieved 25 April 2010.
  31. "Race History". Great Ireland Run. Retrieved 25 April 2010.
  32. International Times, 1 Jan 1980 - 'UBI DWYER has started a "Legalise it" campaign in Ireland'
  33. International Times, 1 Aug 1977 - 'Ubi Tunes Up His Shillelagh'
  34. Memories of Ubi Dwyer - 'The Phoenix Free Festival' by Gareth Byrne
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