DARTMOUTH SQUARE AND PUBLIC PARK
Dartmouth Square is a Victorian square near Ranelagh, in D6, Dublin. It is near the Leeson Street bridge over the Grand Canal, between Upper Leeson Street and Ranelagh Road.
Dartmouth Square has a simple layout, including a low granite plinth wall, a pergola and its walkway, and trees which enclose the space. The park boundary is marked by the original wrought iron railings and gates, which are part of the Architectural Conservation Area for the square.
The square was originally part of the Darley Estate. The park was developed as part of the surrounding terraces, and was intended for the sole use of residents on the square.
The park became a financial burden to the residents of the square. It was leased to Loreto Hockey Club in 1926 for use as a hockey pitch for past students. Later, it was used by current students of Loreto College, St. Stephens Green. Differing accounts say that hockey was either played in the square until the 1950s, or that it stopped in the 1930s, when it became harder to maintain. The park began to decline and was overgrown.
In 1987, The Residents Association went to the Lord Mayor, Mrs Carmencita Hederman, which led to the City Manager, Mr Frank Feely, and his office working with the community to make plans for the park a Dublin Millennium Year project. The park was cleaned, a new pergola was erected, paths were realigned and widened, and flower beds were planted. The public park was opened and Dublin City Council opened a ten year lease. The construction and cleanup work was completed in 1988.
The lease expired in 1997, and talks took place between the Dublin City Council and the Darley Estate. The DCC continued to maintain the park.
The square became the subject of controversy in 2005, when it emerged that years previously a lone businessman, Noel O’Gara, bought the freehold on the square for £10,000 from PJ Darley, a descendant of the square’s builders. O’Gara locked the gates on the park in the square in 2006. He tried to operate it as a car park but local residents blocked the gates. After 3 years of dispute with residents and Dublin City Council an agreement was negotiated with Noel O’Gara by a local resident to reopen the square to be used as an amenity again. The local community gathered regularly to clean up the square which was in a state of ruin after years with no maintenance.
In December 2012, the square was sold at auction on instruction of the liquidator of Marble Tile and Granite. A group of local residents bought the square at this auction and donated it back to DCC. Noel O’Gara protested at the sale, though the property was eventually sold to Dublin City Council for €142,000, with a contribution of €32,000 from local residents. The square is now wholly owned by Dublin City Council.