A Brief History of Portobello

For only being a small suburb in Dublin, Portobello has a very long and rich history; it has played an important role in various political events, as well as been the home to many well-known Irish artists, politicians, and writers. While the area has been around since the 17th century, it was not named until the 18th century. On the map, you can see where Portobello is located on the southside of Dublin.

This suburb has been around for a long time, which is why explaining a bit of its history is important. That being said, here are some things you should know about Portobello:

  • In the 17th and 18th century, less happened. Parts of the Battle of Rathmines were fought  here in 1649 and later, Portobello became one of the liberties of Dublin, meaning it was English land ruled by a mesne lord.
  • In the 19th century, Portobello became a quickly expanding suburb; therefore, lots of change occurred:
    • In 1807, a hotel was opened on the harbor, but it was later taken over in 1858 by Catholic nuns who turned it into an asylum for blind girls. And then once again taken over by a buyer in 1868 who returned it to a hotel.
    • Between 1810 and 1815, the Portobello Barracks were built.
    • A public observatory was built.
    • A great amount of renaming streets occurred. Streets received bad reputations for reasons, such as prostitutes inhabiting there, so they were renamed.
    • In 1839, the Portobello Gardens were opened, which promoted entertainment within the community. Bands would play, lamps lit up the gardens, large shows of dancers and acrobats would perform and the public were able to attend.
    • In 1871, the tram system was introduced. Transportation began to change from horses to tram.
  • In the 20th century, there was a great amount of development, as well as sadness within the community. Many political events took place and this resulted in many deaths. See our other post for more information of those events ().
    • Portobello became known as “Little Jerusalem” because most of the Jewish community is Dublin lived here.
    • A large amount of development took place: the Synge Street School grew, Old Camden Street disappeared, Camden Court Hotel was built, apartments and offices were built, the Hilton Hotel moved in, and the community began to flourish.

This is only a summary of the history of Portobello. It is a suburb that has seen much change over the centuries because of its close proximity to the city centre, canal, and Camden Street. More and more people are beginning to move there due its accelerated development within the 20th century. It is now home to various hotels, restaurants, pubs, and communities that continue to build on to their mini village.


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