Walking along Cork Street past the former Weir Home for Nurses, now a HSE centre providing mental health services, you’ll spot a lone gravemarker sticking up out of the lawn alongside. A closer inspection of the lawn shows a number of other markers scattered across an area that was once Dublin’s main Quaker burial ground. Here’s a potted history:
The 17th century graveyards of the Huguenot community were the first burial grounds in Dublin that were not associated with a church building. Prior to the opening of the Friends’ Burial Ground at Temple Hill, where the first interment took place in 1860, there were a couple of Quaker burial grounds in the city, including one close to St Stephen’s Green where the Royal College of Surgeons is now sited, and one in Cork Street.
The burial ground at Cork Street was bequeathed in 1697 by Roger Roberts, a Quaker and innkeeper. It was enclosed by a 9ft high wall, which was paid for by 102 subscribers and was open for burials in 1698. In 1727 Friends built their poor house on the adjoining plot. By 1859 a two storey dwelling had been built in the corner of the front garden. The burial ground was closed for interments in 1868 by order of the Privy Council under the Health in Towns Act and sold to Cork Street Fever Hospital to be used as a garden for the adjoining nurses’ home.
There are records in the form of a Notice of Interment pertaining to burials at Cork Street such as of Joshua Fayle, the elder of Meath Street (d. 1773); of a forebear of the Bewley family, Susanna Bewley of Earl Street (d.1779); and Margaret Walpole of the famous Walpole family of Richmond Street (d.1859). Quakers did not use headstone before 1855 and even after that date many did not use them. Quaker rules required grave stones to be of uniform size and simply inscribed with name and dates. According to an unpublished citywide study carried out by Natura Ltd., for the City Council in 2004, there is one upright headstone in place at Cork Street and about a dozen flat stones, some apparently laid retrospectively.
The ground is leased from the Society of Friends and while the HSE has responsibility for its care and upkeep, any member of the Dublin Society of Friends is entitled to enter the burial ground at any time under a clause in the lease.
In the opening years of the 19th century the Society of Friends sold its other burial ground in St Stephen’s Green to the Royal College of Surgeons. They exhumed all of the burials and reburied them in Cork Street – so all Dublin Quakers prior to the 1860s are now buried in Cork Street and this includes the eminent Dr John Rutty, who was one of those relocated from St Stephen’s Green. In the 1790s the Society of Friends acquired many loads of soil from the Grand Canal Company, when it was constructing the circular line through Dolphin’s Barn, and they used this to raise the ground level to increase the lifespan of the burial ground, allowing a fresh layer of burials over the original ones (according to Rob Goodbody, Historic Building Consultant). Internments of Quakers now take place at Temple Hill Cemetary in Blackrock.
The James Weir Home at 104 Cork Street, situated adjacent to the graveyard, is a former nurse’s home was built to designs by William Mansfield Mitchell & Sons, and was funded by James Weir, who bequeathed a sum of money to fund hospital works following his death. The home provided accommodation for up to fifty nurses working at Cork Street Fever Hospital, and was subsequently used as a ward of Saint Brendan’s Hospital. You can find some interesting information on the Weir Home at the Built Dublin blog.
HSE is currently undertaking a study of the burial ground with a view to developing a conservation management plan for the area.
1847 Survey 5”:1 mile showing the burial ground lined with trees