Down by the Secret Garden – Blessington Basin
On the south side, the secret garden was always the Iveagh Gardens. But in recent years music, comedy and food festivals have meant that that garden isn’t so secret anymore. So these days to find the city’s true secret garden, you have to head north side. Up O’Connell St, then North Frederick, cross Dorset and on up Blessington until you come to the black wrought iron gates. In you go. And you’re there.
The Blessington Basin, a perfect little gem of a walled park with seats and walkways around the edges of what the locals call ‘the duck pond’. The park is surrounded on all sides by quiet residential areas and the couple of old doors in the walls further enhance the secluded magical feeling. And those lucky enough to live on Geraldine St and Primrose Avenue, which back onto the park, enjoy stunning views.
Originally constructed as the Royal George Reservoir in 1810, fed by the Royal Canal from Lough Owel, it continued to supply water to the north side of the city until around 1885. Right up until the 1970s the reservoir also provided water to two of the city distilleries, Jameson and Powers. Dublin Corporation subsequently took over the basin and turned it into a public park – albeit one with a ‘private’ feel.
But the passing of the years was not kind to the park. “The ravages of time and sporadic acts of vandalism have taken their toll on the former reservoir…” the Dublin Tribune reported in 1990. “Much of the embankment along the water’s edge is subsiding. Iron railings are leaning dangerously close to the water… seating alongside the sides of the reservoir is regularly vandalised… a bricked up toilet provides an unattractive addition…” the paper added.
We all grew up feeding bread to the ducks
As Dublin played host to European City of Culture in 1991, the Goethe Institute paid for Dieter Magnus, a German “urban repair specialist”, to come up with a new design. But as Gerry Crowley tells us in his history ‘Basin At The Broadstone’, Magnus’ design met with resistance from the locals who cooled on the idea of German generosity. However, it did spur the local residents and businesses on into a flurry of fundraising activity. With added funds from the Corporation and with work provided by FAS trainee schemes and corporate donations of materials, renovations finally went ahead. President Mary Robinson and Lord Mayor John Gormley officially opened the Blessington Basin we see today in late 1994. The secret garden was back in business....continues