Dublin in the 16th Century

1504
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Excerpt from Lewis' Topographical Dictionary of Ireland for the metropolis of Dublin (pub. 1837). For more snapshots of pre-famine local history for Dublin city parishes, see below.

In 1504, the mayor and citizens contributed their share to the victory gained by the Earl of Kildare, lord-deputy, over the Irish and degenerate English of Connaught, at Knocktow, near Galway.

A few years after, the revival of the controversy between the Earls of Kildare and Ormonde again subjected the citizens to ecclesiastical censures.

  • The two Earls had a meeting in St. Patrick's cathedral, for the ostensible purpose of compromising their feud; the citizens attended the former as his guard, and on some cause of complaint between them and the Earl of Ormonde's soldiers, they let fly a volley of arrows, some of which struck the images in the rood-loft.
  • In atonement for this sacrilegious violation of the building, the mayor was sentenced to walk barefoot before the host on Corpus Christi day yearly, a ceremony which was kept up till the Reformation.

During the early period of the reign of Hen. VIII., the people of Dublin gave several instances of loyalty and courage.

  • In 1513 they attended the lord-deputy in a hosting against O'Carroll, which terminated without any remarkable action, in consequence of the death of their leader.
  • In 1516 they routed the O'Tooles of the mountains, slew their chief, and sent his head a present to the mayor: a second expedition, however, was less successful; the O'Tooles drove them back with loss.
  • Afterwards, in 1521, they performed good service under the Earl of Surrey against O'Moore, in Leix, and O'Connor in Meath.

The Rebellion of Silken Thomas

But the most remarkable event connected with the city, during the reign of Hen. VIII arose out of the rebellion of Lord Thomas Fitzgerald, commonly called the Silken Knight, from the fantastical fringes with which the helmets of his followers were decorated.

  • This young nobleman had been appointed lord-deputy in the absence of his father, the Earl of Kildare, who was summoned to appear before Henry, to answer some charges brought against him, as chief governor of Ireland; 
  • and on a false report that his father had been imprisoned and put to death in London, he proceeded, without making further inquiry into the truth of the allegation, at the head of his armed followers, to St. Mary's Abbey, where the council was sitting, threw down the sword of state, and notwithstanding the paternal remonstrances of the primate, Archbishop Cromer, bade defiance to the king and declared himself his open enemy.
  • After ravaging Fingal, where he seized and put to death Alan, then archbishop of Dublin, the enemy of his family, he laid siege to the castle, but after several ineffectual attempts to carry it by storm he surrendered to Lord Leonard Grey, and was ultimately sent to England, where he was executed with five of his uncles, who not only had taken no part in the insurrection, but had been active in dissuading him from engaging in it.
  • In recompense for the citizens' gallant defence, the king granted them the dissolved monastery of All Hallows, without Dames Gate, confirmed a grant of £49. 6. 8. made by Rich. II., and released them from an annual rent of £20.

In 1547, the Byrnes and O'Tooles, presuming on the weakness of the government during the minority of Edw. VI., made frequent inroads into the neighbourhood of Dublin, to the great annoyance of the inhabitants.

  • The close vicinity of the mountains and the difficulties of the passes through which they were accessible, rendered the defence of the suburbs difficult, and retaliation hazardous; but at length, Sir Anthony St. Leger, lord-deputy, with a body of the standing army, and a considerable number of the city militia, made a successful inroad into their fastnesses, defeated them in a great battle, killed their chief, and brought sixteen of the Fitzgeralds prisoners to Dublin, where they were all executed as traitors.

In 1552, the mayor, at the head of the armed citizens, being joined with the townsmen of Drogheda, marched against the O'Reillys of Cavan, whom they put down; but, on their return, the victory was likely to be sullied by a dispute between the two commanders, as to the honour of leading the vanguard; which was at last terminated in favour of the mayor of Dublin, by an order confirming his right of leading the van when going out, and the rear when returning home.

In the first year of Queen Mary's reign, the citizens marched out against the Cavanaghs, who with a large army were devastating the southern part of the county of Dublin, and whom they routed, killing many and compelling the remainder to shut themselves up in Powerscourt castle, whence, having been at length forced to surrender at discretion, after an obstinate resistance, they were taken to Dublin, and 74 of them executed, the rest were pardoned.

Queen Elizabeth, in the beginning of her reign, caused the castle to be fitted up as a residence for the lord-lieutenant, who, previously to this arrangement, had resided at Thomas Court. In 1579, the public records were arranged in Birmingham tower, Dublin Castle; and three years afterwards the courts of law were transferred from the castle to St. Mary's Abbey, which occupied nearly the site of the buildings in which they are now held on the north side of the river.

In 1586, the king's exchequer, then held without the eastern gate on the ground now called Exchequer-street, was plundered by a party of Irish from the mountains.

The year 1591 is memorable for the foundation of Trinity College.

In 1599, the Earl of Essex arrived in Dublin at the head of a large army, and after his removal, Sir Charles Blount, afterwards Lord Mountjoy, who had been appointed to succeed him in the command of the army raised against the Earl of Tyrone, landed there with 6000 men: but his operations gave rise to no circumstances peculiarly affecting the city.

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