Golden Hill granite quarry

- the most important quarry up to the 1820s

Golden Hill quarry lies 800m north-west of the church in Manor Kibride village.  (National Grid Reference O 023 171, OS map 1:50,000, sheet 56).

 

Golden Hill is located on the Kilbride Estate, for which little documentary evidence survives, so it is not possible to determine when quarrying commenced at Golden Hill, or who operated the early quarries there.

 

The first documentary evidence is for 1796, when George Ponsonby, (Barrister and MP in Dublin and then leader of the Whig party in the London Parliament until his death in 1817), assembled a small estate.  Within weeks of securing his lease, Ponsonby sublet the Golden Hill granite quarry to Daniel Doyle, of the famous quarrying family.

 

Golden Hill & Kilbride quarries, 1838
Golden Hill & Kilbride quarries, 1838

The house beside the quarry, ‘Kilbride Lodge’ (later renamed 'Glen Heste') may have originally been built by the Tassie family and became the home of the Doyle family when Daniel took over the lease in 1796.  

 

Later, Michael Doyle (1776 - 1843) the famous stonemason, who is buried nearby at Kilbride graveyard, worked this quarry up to the mid 1820s, before transferring to Ballyknockan.

Nearby is Kilbride quarry (circled at the bottom of the map), which was worked on an occasional basis up to about 1837 and most likely provided granite for columns. 

Golden Hill and Kilbride quarries used a common set of work sheds, including a cutting shed, forge and tool sheds - identifiable on the map.

 

To the south of the main quarry at Golden Hill there is evidence of even earlier hillside-quarries (identified by the long ellipse) which indicates that Golden Hill was worked before the 1780s.

George Wilkinson, the first person to record and test all of the Irish building-granites, noted in 1845 that “Golden Hill and Kilbride” were the sources of the granite used in the Four Courts, which was constructed from 1786 to 1796.

The period from about 1780 to the first decade of the 1800s marked the period of greatest activity at Golden Hill quarry.  This was a period of great confidence in Ireland, marked by the existence of an independent national parliament from 1782 to 1800, often referred to as 'Grattan’s Parliament’.  Almost 100 years later, the ‘Dublin Builder’ (a building-trade journal) commented:-

“During the short-lived national legislature of 1782-1800 some of our most remarkable buildings and public institutions were erected, and local and native stone found no inconsiderable part of their formation.  In the neighbourhood of Dublin several dozen of stone quarries were worked, and stone suitable to almost every description of buildings was to be had

The earliest Dublin building with stone attributed to Golden Hill is the Provost's House at Trinity College, where work started in 1759.  The final account prepared in 1765 identifies the stone in the facade as Ardbraccan stone and the stone in the sides, the back, cellars, the entrance gateway and the stables as 'Golden Hill stone'.  

 

Dublin buildings built of Wicklow granite


 Golden Hill was also the source of the granite used in the following Dublin buildings:-

  • the Custom House, built 1781 to 1791, used granite for its northern facade 
  • the House of Lord’s entrance and the great screen wall at the Irish Parliament building, College Green, built circa 1785
  • The Four Courts, built 1786 to 1796
  • Daly's Club, (Dublin's first gentleman's club) at 3 & 4 College Green, built 1789 -1791
  • the King’s Inns, built 1795 to 1816
  • Nelson’s Pillar, 1808 to 1809
  • General Post Office, built 1814 - 1818 (William Tassie of Threecastles quarry added the portico)

 

The Custom House, Four Courts and King's Inns have a close association with the architect, James Gandon (1743–1823).  He arrived in Dublin in 1781 to supervise the construction of the Custom House, which initiated the golden age of building associated with the independent Irish Parliament.

The end of quarrying at Golden Hill

At Golden Hill quarry the effects of the Rebellion in 1798 followed by the Act of Union in 1800 were severe:-

  • The Irish and British parliaments, currencies and exchequers were amalgamated, and this brought an end the era of construction of public buildings funded from the Irish public purse
  • The area around Blessington suffered greatly, almost all of the houses in Blessington were burned, many of the larger local houses were destroyed, many of the ruling class left - some never to return - and the rebels remained active in the hills near the quarries until 1804
  • George Ponsonby moved to London where his career as an MP continued.  His departure brought to an end the influential role of the Ponsonby family in the construction of Public  Buildings in Dublin

Subsequent to the Union, the Napoleonic Wars continued until 1814, to be followed by a severe economic depression.  This further reduced the demand for building granite from Golden Hill.

 

George Ponsonby died in 1817 and there followed a number of years of uncertainty over the future of his estate and its leases.  It was eventually sold to the Moore family in 1824, who set about creating a gentrified estate, totally incompatible with quarrying.  Moores most likely did not renew the lease on Golden Hill granite quarry when they took over the estate, so quarrying moved to a new quarry at Ballyknockan.





 

Revised and new information added on 20/8/2012.