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Dublin Port Mapped for First Time in New Conservation Project

Dublin Port Company (DPC) has mapped its rich natural, industrial and cultural heritage in a new Conservation Strategy, launched this week by Minister of State Malcolm Noonan, T.D. 

The ambitious document maps the layers of Dublin Port, which include findings on the floor of Dublin Bay, discoveries underground from archaeological digs and the industrial history of the built environment still standing on the Dublin Port estate. This is the first time Dublin Port’s heritage has been mapped on this scale in its 300-year history. 

A key pillar of the Strategy is Port-City Integration, the framework through which all aspects of Dublin’s maritime heritage, from structures as significant as the Great South Wall to the historic photographs, maps and drawings of the priceless Port Archive, can be preserved and celebrated.  

This broader vision for Dublin Port as a landscape of living heritage involves promotion of a range of initiatives across cultural heritage practice, the historic built environment, architectural quality, community outreach and climate change action to ensure Dublin Port remains safe and is increasingly accessible to the public. 

“The story of Dublin Port is one that is crucial to our economy, but also to our social history. The Conservation Strategy allows us all to come to a richer understanding of the maritime and industrial heritage beneath our feet and all around us

Malcolm Noonan T.D.

Heritage of Dublin Port

Contained within the strategy lies a meticulously crafted timeline sourced from the Port Archive. This chronicle traces the evolution of the Port, spanning from its inception in the 1600s to its contemporary existence. Through this visual journey, readers are invited to delve into the historical narrative of how the North and South Lotts, along with the current expanse of Dublin Port, gradually emerged from reclaimed land over centuries.

The timeline serves as a contextual backdrop, illuminating the pivotal role that port activities have historically played in shaping the urban fabric of the city. Anchored in the principles of Baukultur, a style of German architecture as articulated in the Davos Declaration, the strategy advocates for a culture-centric approach to the sustainable development of the built environment. At its core, this approach seeks to foster a vibrant tapestry of industrial heritage within Dublin Port, celebrating both the mundane and the remarkable.

Encompassing a broad spectrum, the Conservation Strategy extends its purview to encompass statutorily-protected monuments within the Port estate, as well as those cataloged in the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage. Noteworthy landmarks, such as the former Odlums Flour Mills, stand as testaments to the rich tapestry of Ireland’s economic, natural, and social history. By safeguarding this diverse heritage landscape, the strategy endeavours to deepen public appreciation and understanding of the nation’s multifaceted heritage.

Hidden Treasures

Across the centuries, numerous heritage structures within Dublin Port have endured, serving as living testaments to bygone eras and offering invaluable insights for future study. Among these treasures, the project team recently unearthed and meticulously documented an 1826 patent slip nestled within the Alexandra Basin. Subsequently, the slip was carefully salvaged, with samples of its stones entrusted to the care of the Dublin Port Company (DPC).

One of the strategy’s core endeavours is to bring these hidden gems to the public eye. One such endeavour involves the restoration and accessibility of the original Graving Dock No. 1, currently nestled beneath the ground adjacent to DPC’s esteemed performance venue, The Pumphouse. Plans are underway to excavate this historic site as part of the ambitious Alexandra Basin Redevelopment (ABR) Project.

As revealed by the strategy and historical records, over 300 documented shipwrecks within Dublin Bay. While 18 of these maritime relics have been definitively located, the remainder lie dormant beneath the ocean’s surface, awaiting discovery.

Among these submerged treasures lies the ‘Millstone Wreck,’ unearthed by DPC during dredging operations. Dating back to the 18th century, this ship’s timbers and cargo, comprising millstones taken from Old Red Sandstone quarries along Waterford Harbour, have been meticulously examined and preserved as part of the Conservation Strategy. Tragically, the vessel met its demise at the hands of a ferocious storm at the Dublin Bar, preventing the delivery of its cargo to cities along the east coast. Today, ongoing dredging efforts and strategically placed breakwaters serve to mitigate the accumulation of sand along the Bar, safeguarding against navigational hazards that could imperil modern vessels.

Opening up to the Public

Barry O’Connell, Chief Executive of Dublin Port Company, said “The story of Dublin Port is one that is crucial to our economy, but also to our social history. The Conservation Strategy allows us all to come to a richer understanding of the maritime and industrial heritage beneath our feet and all around us. This can serve as a roadmap for future planners, both inside and outside the Port, to help make the area a welcoming destination for the public.”

Lar Joye, Port Heritage Director at Dublin Port Company, said “This comprehensive document highlights the diversity of the Port’s built environment and the responsibility of our stewardship. At Dublin Port Company, we’ve already begun putting Port-City Integration into practice with the establishment of The Diving Bell Museum in 2015, the restoration of The Substation into an exhibition space in 2023 and the development of active travel routes along the Tolka Estuary for the first time, set to open this summer to pedestrians and cyclists.”

This commitment to Port-City Integration is to inform DPC’s Masterplan 2040, which includes the nearly complete ABR Project and the ongoing MP2 Project, as well as its third and final Masterplan Project, 3FM, to be submitted for planning later this year. 

The Conservation Strategy was launched by Minister of State for Nature, Heritage and Electoral Reform, Malcolm Noonan, T.D., alongside representatives from DPC and the wider project team, which includes Shaffrey Architects, the Archaeological Diving Company (ADCO), MOLA Architecture and heritage conservation specialists Southgate Associates.  

Speaking at the launch, Minister of State, Malcolm Noonan, T.D., said “Preserving and maintaining aspects of our national heritage is not a passive endeavour, and this strategy helps push forward a proactive, meaningful framework through which Dublin’s heritage as a port city can be celebrated. 

“It is great to see Dublin Port Company leading the way in this field, and there is great potential for other semi-state bodies to follow suit.” 

(Source: Dublin Port Company)


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