A history of
The area we now know as Temple Bar first came into being when the Vikings arrived in Dublin in 795, settling and building fortifications. It wasn’t until 1673 that the name first appeared on a map of the city, either named after Sir William Temple, the English diplomat whose family home and gardens were located there in the early 17th century, or after Temple Bar in London. Over the next century it became established as a centre of commerce and trade, with a new customs house built in 1707, followed by a number of businesses and warehouses. Unfortunately, the boom eventually fizzled and Temple Bar descended from its once-prominent status, historic buildings falling into disrepair and the area becoming run down.
This decline continued through the 19th century and into the 20th. Matters came to a head when plans were made to raze the area and build a bus station, prompting a revitalised pride in the local population. The Irish Transport Authority acquired properties over time and started letting spaces out as they built their portfolio. With rents low and Temple Bar a not particularly attractive place to live, young creatives moved into the area and ultimately formed an alliance with local residents to oppose the construction plans. Political opposition followed, led by Taoiseach Charles Haughey, who saw himself as a champion of the arts and culture and wanted Ireland to have a Left Bank equivalent, something that would compete with the centre of Paris.
Merchants Arch (Credit National Library of Ireland)
Buildings were re-purchased from the Irish Transport Authority and any business that fitted its criteria was encouraged to move there. This meant, for the first time, Dublin’s city centre had a concentration of bars, hotels, restaurants, cultural centres and cinemas in a single space and the area became synonymous with creativity. It is now the location of a number of cultural institutions, including the Irish Photography Centre (incorporating the Dublin Institute of Photography, the National Photographic Archive and the Gallery of Photography), the Ark Children’s Cultural Centre, the Irish Film Institute, incorporating the Irish Film Archive, the Button Factory, Graphic Studio Gallery, Temple Bar Gallery and Studios, the Project Arts Centre, the Gaiety School of Acting, the New Theatre, IBAT College Dublin, Trinity College, as well as financial institutions The Bank of Ireland and the Irish Stock Exchange.
In 2003, the Temple Bar Company was established and assumed the role of managing and maintaining the public spaces in Temple Bar, maintaining its cultural identity amongst increased commercialisation and initiating and curating a series of successful events. These include Temple Bar TradFest, Dublin’s largest festival of Irish music and culture, which contributes over €4million to the local economy and is attended by over 25,000 people every year; Festival of Politics, the city’s only event dedicated to political debate; Latvian Culture Day, celebrating ethnic diversity in Ireland in tandem with the local community; a number of markets across the year and summer events including family fun days, music days and outdoor arts exhibitions. The company also produces TV shows such as Ireland In Music and TradFest; The Dublin Castle Sessions.