A series of conservation projects over the last three years has transformed the historic former graveyard
Lovely buttery Leinster granite and bright French gravel now set off the cluster of gravemarkers along the east side of St Catherine’s Graveyard Park off Thomas Street. The gravel completes a long programme of work to revive this small but historic former graveyard.
Over the last three years, Dublin City Council has undertaken conservation work of the 17thC east boundary wall, the oldest feature in the park, and relocated 11 of the large limestone gravemakers that were all clustered along the east side of the park in the early 1980s, when the former burial ground was acquired by Dublin Corporation and converted into a park. At that time, the graveyard had become serious overgrown and derelict. Many of the large gravemarkers would have lain atop tombs but the decision was taken at that time to relocate these gravemarkers into a cluster, while others were set against the church walls.
Recent archaeological analysis of the graveyard revealed that some of the smaller gravemarkers in the cluster are in their original locations, and would have traditionally stood in the ground facing east. However many of the large stones, some over 2m long, were clearly moved in the 1980s and set into the earth. Over time the area became untidy and overgrown and became a hiding spot for antisocial use.
So it was decided to clear out some of the large stones and set these against walls within the park. The work by specialist contractor Summit Conservation and overseen by Carrig Conservation took place in summer 2020. The partnership of Summit and Carrig was also responsible for the extensive conservation work to the east boundary wall in 2018 and 2019.
The upshot of the relocation of gravemarkers is that these can now be admired and even read. The parish records of St Catherine’s Church reveal details of some of the many parishioners likely to have been buried in the churchyard.
Now the final piece of the puzzle is complete with landscaping of the gravestones’ cluster and the refurbishment of paths through the park. A connecting path has also been reinstated to the rear courtyard of St Catherine’s Church. It’s hoped in time to reinstate the old gateway here (the remains of the gates are still there) and to encourage greater movement between the church and its former graveyard, perhaps through events.
With all the heavy lifting done, attention can now turn to improving planting in the park. The last of spring bulbs planted into the lawns have flowered. This type of pollenator-friendly planting is increasingly seen across the city. It allows more natural meadow areas that can remain unmown for longer. The park also had an extensive yew hedge planted in 2019, yew being a tree traditionally found in graveyards. The large trees and ivy growth in the park also create a haven for wildlife in the area. The enforced closure of the park in 2020 ironically gave nature free reign and its a simple pleasure to sit and listen to the various birdsong around you.
St Catherine’s Graveyard Park also includes a beautiful sculpture, Adult & Child Seat by the artist Jim Flavin (1961 – 2004). The artist specifically chose this spot for his work, commissioned as part of the Dublin Millennium Art Commission in 1988.
The next milestone for St Catherine’s Graveyard Park will be its reopening to the public after its long closure. The aim is to make the park much more accessible to the public with a view to keeping the gates permanently open.