Patrick’s Park – a resting place surrounded by history

One of the lovely city parks, beside St Patrick’s Cathedral in the heart of the Liberties, should be on your list for a visit.

Anna Santos, the manager of the Tram Cafe. Photo: Mary Phelan

St Patrick’s Park, in the Liberties, Dublin, is a delightful place in the centre of the city to while away some time.  It is popular with tourists and locals alike, and many pass through there on their way to visit St Patrick’s Cathedral.

At every corner, there is an interesting building and part of history staring back at you.  St Patrick’s Cathedral is on one side, and the Liberties College, which was built by the Guinness family, on the other, as were the red brick buildings called the Iveagh Trust, built in the early 1900s, as affordable housing for people in the area, and are as sturdy today as they were the day they were built.

The park was once a large slum and market area, and when the Iveagh Trust decided, in 1906, to turn the area into a park, they accommodated the traders who had been plying their wares there by building the Iveagh market on Francis Street. This was a much more suitable and comfortable place for them, with a roof and facilities they did not have before. The market had a ‘wet’ section for fish, meat, etc, and the ‘dry’ market sold clothes. The rules of the market included the fact that any clothes that were sold there had to be disinfected. However, the story of the market is for another story, as sadly the building is in a legal dispute.

There is a market in St Patrick’s Park these days, but of a very different kind, that sells anything from books to jewellery and is open every Sunday from 11am to 4pm.  There is often live music there too.

Plaques of some famous Irish writers are on display in the Literary Parade, on the east side of the park, some of which include Jonathan Swift, James Joyce, and Samuel Beckett.

Also in the park is a sculpture called the “The Liberty Bell”, which represents the fact that the park is situated in one of the liberties of the city.  It is believed that St Patrick baptised the first pagans in the park, and water from the river Poddle was used in the baptismal ceremony.

There is also a rewilding area in the park – in place of the old flower beds – to help restore ecosystems and to encourage bees to pollinate.

In summer, it is a popular place for people to stop and have picnics, and for people working in the area to bring their lunch. Children are also catered for.

People enjoying a coffee and a chat at the Tram Cafe. Photo: Mary Phelan

Last but not least, there is a lovely coffee shop called The Tram Cafe, with tables and chairs outside.  It is open daily from 10 to 4pm, depending on the weather, and the manager, Anna Santos, who is Brazilian, tells me that their ham and cheese toasties, as well as their coffee from Columbia, are really good, and keenly priced too. And judging from the amount of people waiting for coffee, it must be good!

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