- News stories
- Events calendar
- NCBI News Magazine
- NCBI News Autumn 2010
- NCBI News Autumn 2011
- NCBI News Autumn 2012
- NCBI News Spring 2011
- NCBI News Spring 2012
- NCBI News Spring 2013
- NCBI News Summer 2010
- Against all odds
- Blind Football Comes to UCD
- Changes afoot in urban design
- Days of Wine and Roses - Summer holiday memories
- Events calendar for 2010
- Income Protection Benefit and what is a Disability?
- Irish Blind Golfers win Celtic Cup
- Mrs Quin’s - Off to a Good Start in 2010
- NCBI Downloadable Audio Books
- NCBI audio book club wins inaugural competition
- News Snippets
- Our History - Drumcondra Hospital, its origins and progress
- Sightlines: VISPA Vision Week
- Upcoming Irish Blindsports events
- VISPA Vision Week 2010
- World Blind Union celebrates 25 years of achievement
- World Glaucoma Day
- NCBI News Summer 2012
- NCBI News Winter 2010
- NCBI News Winter 2011
- Public Policy and Campaigns
- Home >
- News >
- NCBI News Magazine >
- NCBI News Summer 2010 >
- Our History - Drumcondra Hospital, its origins and progress
You are here
In this article Frank Callery records the history of NCBI’s head office on Whitworth Road, Drumcondra, formerly the Drumcondra Hospital 1816-1973. A fuller account of the history will shortly be posted on the NCBI website: www.ncbi.ie.
NCBI’s head office at Whitworth Road, Drumcondra has been a landmark on the north side of Dublin for 193 years and has a very chequered history. Its origins reside in the expansion of the parishes of St. Mary’s and St. Thomas on the north side of Dublin in the late 1770s. In 1793 the new area to the North and East of the river Liffey centred on Drumcondra Lane (as Dorset Street was then called), and the boundary of the Royal Canal — commenced three years earlier in 1790 to link the River Liffey and the River Shannon at Cloondara, Co. Longford — was designated the new parish of St. George. As the administrative jurisdiction was parish-based (Church of Ireland) the first requirement was the building of a parish church. Lord Mountjoy donated a plot of ground on the north bank of the Royal Canal as a site for the parish church and graveyard. This site was on the extreme of the parish and was considered inconvenient. Lord Mountjoy gave another site, nearer the city, for what was to become Saint George’s Church, designed by Francis Johnston and opened in 1814 at the junction of Hardwick Street and Temple Street. Part of the original canal bank site was used for the parish graveyard.
In Dublin at this time there was a medical dispensary in Coles Lane (Moore Street) which served the parishes of St. Mary, St. Thomas and the new St. George. This proved inadequate for the population and in January 1801 a parish dispensary was opened in Dorset Street, followed in 1802 by a hospital on the North Circular Road, at George’s Place. There was no fever hospital in Dublin, the first one being built in Cork Street and not opened until 1804. The new hospital on the NCR became known as St. George’s Dispensary and House of Recovery but its 17 beds proved inadequate for the growing population and the larger Drumcondra Hospital was built on the canal bank site originally intended for the parish church. It was commenced in 1816 and opened on May 1st 1818 as The Withworth Fever Hospital.
The hospital went through many phases and in 1842, fever being less prevalent in the metropolis, people with general medical conditions were admitted. The hospital was generally in debt and there are records of stock being sold to meet expenses and for many years it had periods of closure.
The threatened outbreak of cholera in 1848 forestalled the closure of the hospital. On September 11th the committee received a letter from the secretary of the Lord Lieutenant asking whether they could, if required, take in cholera patients. This was accepted (Dr. Tweedy dissenting). In the following year the Board of Guardians of the North Dublin Union was in negotiations for the hospital but these broke off and the guardians erected Cholera Sheds further up on the Whitworth Road, in the vicinity of the present tennis club. These sheds could accommodate 594 patients, 264 males and 330 females. They opened on May 31st 1847 and closed on July 1st 1848 having treated 3,047 male and 3,074 female patients of whom 474 died. On October 9th 1847 there were 644 patients in the sheds. As a consequence, the Drumcondra hospital was empty during 1849 and 1850 — the Matron only being retained.
In 1859 a supply of water was secured from the Royal Canal at a charge of £2 per week. When the North Wall branch of the Midland and General Western Railway was being constructed, the pipe was carried under the new line and the railway company made application for rent. The hospital committee pointed out to the directors that 19 of its workers had been patients in the hospital during the year, some of them suffering from sever injuries from accidents and a large number were attended to externally. The result was a donation of five guineas. For some years bazaars in aid of the hospital fund were held in the Rotunda.
Up to the mid 1860s the drainage and surroundings of the hospital were insanitary. The water and outfall from the workhouse sheds at the top of Whitworth Road flowed through the open ditch in front of the grounds and the hospital drains emptied into a cess pit at the side. In 1863 the ditch was piped and covered but the cess pit remained until 1892 when a sewer was constructed down the Whitworth Road. An open flood pipe from the hospital was carried to it. In 1877 the return building was erected at a cost of £285 from the designs of F. B. Clarendon, a member of the hospital committee.
The name of the hospital was changed from Whitworth to Drumcondra in 1893. In doing this the committee had a double motive: the old name being similar to that of another hospital (the Whithworth Hospital in North Brunswick Street) letters and even patients sometimes went astray; they thought that the territorial name would excite local interest and support — the fields which surrounded the isolated fever hospital having being covered with houses and converted into an attractive suburb. In 1899 the sum of £1,500 was received from the executors of the late James Weir, and important structural improvement were carried out from the plans of Mr. C. H. Ashworth. The Annex was lifted and raised two stories; a well-equipped and lighted operating theatre, a private ward and an excellent bathroom and lavatories were built.
As a result of the many gifts received the committee were able to modernise the hospital buildings and make important alterations and additions including improving the grounds and enclosing them by substantial walls.
In 1904 James Connolly’s eldest daughter Mona died here. James Joyce’s father John Stanislaus Joyce died in the hospital in 1931 and it is highly possible that James Joyce received treatment for his eye condition, from Mr. R. J. Montgomery ophthalmic surgeon in the ophthalmological department, during his youth. The men from the Richmond Institute for the Industrious Blind in O’Connell Street, Dublin were also treated here for many years. The hospital continued as a locally supported hospital until 1973 when agreements were concluded between the Drumcondra hospital and the Rotunda Hospital for it to become a 31-bed post-partum annex to the Rotunda maternity hospital. This arrangement lasted until 1986 when the Drumcondra Hospital was bought from the Rotunda authorities by NCBI as a new head office, on its removal from 10 Lower Hatch Street.
A full account of the history of the building and its associations with the blind of Ireland will shortly be posted on the NCBI website.