History


Explore a detailed history of the Irish National War Memorial Gardens through the links below.


The First World War

War was declared in 1914, and lasted four years. Many Irish men and women joined the British army, for both nationalist and unionist reasons, while others did not. New volunteer divisions were formed in order to cope with the influx of new soldiers. Find out where Irish soldiers were sent, what the role of Irish women was, how many Irish died during the First World War, and what happened to their regiments after independence was negotiated in late 1921.

Read More

The Books of Remembrance and Harry Clarke

In 1919, just after the Treaty of Versailles was signed, a large meeting was convened in Phoenix Park, and it was decided to establish a war memorial to those Irish lost in the conflict. The first part of this project was to be the Books of Remembrance, which listed the name of every soldier lost, and which were illustrated by the acclaimed artist Harry Clarke. Find out how the books were produced, why Harry Clarke was so well regarded in this period, what his complex illustrations mean, and where you can consult the books today.

Read More

The Idea for a Memorial and Sir Edwin Lutyens

A Committee had been formed, and funds raised, by 1923, but the form that a permanent war memorial would take remained undecided. Different ideas and locations were proposed. It was 1930 before the present site was chosen, and Sir Edwin Lutyens became involved as landscape architect. Find out what schemes were abandoned, why the issue became so controversial, how the Irish government eventually settled the matter, and why Lutyens was chosen for the task.

Read More

The Building of the Gardens

Work began on the physical Gardens in 1931, employing a mixture of ex-soldiers from both the British Army and the Irish National Army. Manual tools only were employed, to ensure the maximum amount of labour available. Read descriptions from the time of what the site looked like before, and find out who were the chief architects, engineers, and supervisors on the project, as well as where the materials were sourced and why.

Read More

The Second World War

The Second World War delayed the official opening of the Gardens, and they also raised the new issue of whether Irish people who had died fighting in this war should also be commemorated within the memorial. This was a complex issue, as Ireland had remained officially neutral. Find out when the Gardens finally did open, what decision was reached on commemorating the Second World War, and the role of de Valera in these matters.

Read More

Restoration

Although the Gardens were officially complete in 1938, the Memorial Committee continued to improve them, and sought designs from Lutyens for a bridge, for railings, and for interior decoration ideas for the Bookrooms. In the late 1960s, however, circumstances meant that Committee activity lapsed, and the Gardens fell into serious disrepair. Find out how the Committee reconvened in the 1980s, how they spearheaded the restoration of the Gardens with the Office of Public Works, and how the Gardens were finally formally opened to the public in 1988.

Read More

Download

A walking trail of the Gardens based on the First World War.

Download

An illustrated brochure guide to the Gardens.


Bibliography

  • Boydell, Lt. Col., ‘The Irish National War Memorial: its meaning and purpose’ in British Legion Annual (Dublin, 1941), pp. 15-51

  • Costigan, Lucy / Cullen, Michael. Strangest Genius: the Stained Glass of Harry Clarke (History Press Ireland, 2010)

  • D’Arcy, Fergus. Remembering the War Dead (2007)

  • Dungan, Myles. Irish Voices from the Great War (Merrion Press, 2014)

  • Geurst, Jeroen. Cemeteries of the Great War by Sir Edward Lutyens (2013)
  • Gordon Bowe, Nicola. Harry Clarke: The Life and Work (History Press Ireland, 2012)

  • Helmers, Marguerite. Harry Clarke’s War: Illustrations for Ireland’s Memorial Records 1914-1918 (Irish Academic Press, 2016)

  • Johnson, Nuala C. Ireland, the Great War, and the Geography of Remembrance (2003)
  • Skelton, T.J. / Gliddon, G. Lutyens and the Great War (2008)


Pedestrian Gate

Temple

The plaque on the floor reads: “We have found safety with all things undying / The winds, and morning, tears of men and mirth / The deep night, and birds singing, and clouds flying / And sleep, and freedom, and the autumnal earth.”

Public Carpark

Pedestrian Gate

North Terrace

Eight holly trees originally stood as ‘generals’ on the North Terrace overlooking serried ranks of flowering cherries or ‘foot soldiers’.

Rose Garden

The sunken rose gardens have central lily ponds as focal points and are encircled by yew hedges.

Rose Garden

The sunken rose gardens have central lily ponds as focal points and are encircled by yew hedges.

Bookroom

The four granite bookrooms, representing the four provinces of Ireland, contain the books of remembrance as well as the Ginchy Cross.

Bookroom

The four granite bookrooms, representing the four provinces of Ireland, contain the books of remembrance as well as the Ginchy Cross.

Bookroom

The four granite bookrooms, representing the four provinces of Ireland, contain the books of remembrance as well as the Ginchy Cross.

Bookroom

The four granite bookrooms, representing the four provinces of Ireland, contain the books of remembrance as well as the Ginchy Cross.

Fountain

The obelisks at the centre of the broad-based fountains symbolise candles.

Fountain

The obelisks at the centre of the broad-based fountains symbolise candles.

War Stone

Weighing seven and a half tons, this is identical to First World War Stones found across the world, and resembles an altar.

Central Lawn

The lawn enclosed by a high dry limestone wall with granite piers.

Great Cross

On the cope of the wall at the cross is inscribed the words “To the memory of the 49,400 Irishmen who gave their lives in the Great War, 1914-18”.

Pedestrian Gate