An almost 300-year-old portion of Dublin's original sea wall will be displayed alongside other artefacts in a recently restored Victorian electricity substation at Dublin Port, including pipes used by dockworkers to carry political and labour union branding.
During the restoration of the substation located at the port's entrance on Alexandra Road in Dublin, the brickwork from the 1720s was discovered.
The nearby East Wall got its name from the sea wall built in the 18th century, which is accessible via a glass-bottom floor.
Before Dublin Port applied to have it designated as a protected structure and spent €3 million restoring, renovating, and extending the small rectangular building, which is now one of the smallest museums in Dublin, the structure was set to be demolished in 2016.
The building, according to James Kelleher, head of special projects at Dublin Port, had been essentially “defying gravity” due to the volume of trucks that rumbled past its entrance every day and the fact that it was constructed over a former sea wall.
It was about to collapse in 2017, he claimed. Its side wall had a significant structural crack in it. We discovered that the 300-year-old east wall, which was located directly below it and created a fault line within the structure of the building, was the cause of that.
“The building was literally leaning by a couple of inches to the east, so you had to hold it up first; it was defying gravity. Then, when the new works began, you had to put in its internal structural skeleton, excavate the old wall, and then come up with a meaningful design that displayed the historic wall in an effective way.”
The sea wall, however, was not the only treasure found during the restoration process.
Additionally, there were 19th-century clay pipes with logos showing support for the Charles Stewart Parnell republican movement and labour unions that would have been used by dock workers.
They are considered to be a few of Ireland's earliest examples of political merchandise.
The pipes, according to Marta Lopez of the Dublin Port Archive, tell the tale of the common dockworker.
“They have historical significance for society. These are the remnants of the people who worked here; their names may not have appeared in records or newspapers”, she said.
“Parnell, the pioneer of the home rule movement, is on one of the pipes. Since the badges are on the side rather than the middle, they are almost invisible, allowing the wearer to choose when to reveal their political affiliation.”
It is intended to bring a new cultural amenity to the East Wall neighbourhood of north Dublin and will be used for small-scale events like lectures, poetry readings, and theatrical productions.