The Phoenix Park, Dublin
Originally created in 1662 by The Duke of Ormond, Ireland’s Lord Lieutenant, as a Royal hunting ground for Charles II. It is the largest enclosed city park in Europe at 1750 acres. Originally stocked with deer, pheasant and partridge, the descendants of this deer herd still roam the Park today.
The Irish name for the park is “Pairc an Fionn Uisce” (Clear Water) and as with many Irish place names they have become Anglicised over time it became The Phoenix Park.
It was The Earl of Chesterfield who was responsible for landscaping the park in the 1740’s and very little of the landscape he created has changed over the past few hundred years. The main road through the park which runs from Castleknock at the northern tip to Parkgate Street close to the city is called Chesterfield Avenue, in his memory. It was he who opened the park to the public in 1770. He insisted that the avenue be lined with three rows of trees on both sides to ensure that if trees had to be felled for any reason the vista of the tree lined avenue would be maintained.
The park is home to many prominent buildings and monuments probably the best known of these is Dublin Zoo, opened in 1830, it is the second oldest zoo after London Zoo. Aras an Uachtarain, formerly The Vice Regal Lodge, is home to The President of Ireland since Douglas Hyde became Ireland’s first President in 1948. Opposite the main entrance to the Aras is Deerfield Residence, the residence of The American Ambassador. The oldest building in the park is Ashtown Castle which dates back to the sixteenth century, this is where the wonderful Phoenix Park Visitor Centre is located. Perhaps the most imposing of all is The Wellington Memorial, which stands at just over 200 feet tall, erected by the citizens of Dublin to honour The Duke of Wellington’s victory at The Battle of Waterloo. The original plans were for a more elaborate obelisk but as is often the case the money ran out. Having said that it is still the tallest obelisk in Europe.
The Phoenix Park accommodates most outdoor sports including soccer, Gaelic games, running, cycling and many more but it is also home to The All-Ireland Polo Club and two cricket clubs, The Phoenix and The Civil Service cricket clubs, not sports you would normally associate with Ireland . These clubs were formed during British Rule in the 1800’s but all are still very much part of the sporting life of the park today. The park also hosted many motor racing events from early in the twentieth century. It was the setting for three Grand Prix in 1929, 1930 and 1931.
Perhaps a little-known fact but one of the park’s most notable residents was Winston Churchill. He lived here as a young child for several years as his father, Lord Randolph Churchill, was First Secretary to the then Lord Lieutenant the Duke of Marlborough.
As I grew up beside the Park, it was our playground, it will always hold fond memories for me.