Cork Street Fever Hospital

200 year old hospital began life as a philanthropic endeavour to deal with the disease and epidemics that ravaged the 18thC and 19thC city


Life, Love The Liberties

The Cork Street Fever Hospital was built between 1801 and 1804 by Henry, Mullins & McMahon to designs by Samuel Johnston.  The hospital was the initiative of a group of prominent citizens of the city, including the brewer Arthur Guinness, financier John David La Touche, the Quaker businessman Samuel Bewley and others to provide a treatment facility and ‘house of recovery’ in what was then one of the most destitute areas of Dublin, ravaged by disease and poor hygiene.

Following the thinking of the time, the hospital was laid out as three connected pavilions, in an attempt to avoid the spread of disease in poor quality air.  The front block contained the convalescent wards and officers’ apartments, and also the kitchen, scullery, storeroom, and mortuary accommodation. An additional, larger building was added in 1814, by which time the hospital contained 240 beds.  The hospital complex grew in later years, including the development of the nearby James Weir Home for Nurses on the north side of Cork Street. The Fever Hospital dealt with many of the cholera and typhus epidemics that ravaged the 19thC city, including those relating to the Great Famine. During 1847 – the height of the famine – nearly 12,000 cases applied during a period of about ten months, although “amongst the poor at their own houses, .. vast numbers remained there, who either could not be accommodated in hospital, or who never thought of applying”.

It continued to operate until 1953 when Cherry Orchard Hospital opened and was converted into a nursing home.

Today, the complex retains much of its original form and character, and provides a focal point on the streetscape of Cork Street. The premises hosts a variety of HSE day services and training facilities.

Here’s an interesting website on the former Fever Hospital on Cork Street, now known as Bru Chaoimhin, hosting a wealth of information on the first 50 years of the hospital’s existence.

You can also read a great blog post of its early 20thC neighbour, the Weir Home for Nurses, from the Built Dublin blog.

Sources: NIAH Buildings of Ireland Inventory and Wikipedia.

Bru Chaoimhin today
Cork Street Fever Hospital, 1840s
A secret garden? The grounds of Bru Chaoimhin (credit Catherine Cleary)

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