There has been an open space here in every map I've seen of the area. In fact, seemingly an open space can be traced back here as far back as the 12th Century.
I had mistakenly assumed that it had been used as a small market area, but it actually was a public open space, named Marlborough Green.
Located in the area between present day Lower Abbey and Talbot Streets, the square shaped gardens and green was bordered on the east by the Old Rope Walk.
Beyond, where once barley fields, windmills, glass houses and huddled hamlets dotted the landscape, now avenues lined with stately mansions, imposing, brick fronted charitable institutions and cluttered back lanes of higgledy hovels and turf fired cabins spread eastwards from the old city.
It developed gradually from a bowling green into a pleasure garden. The Hibernian Journal of 15th October 1703 says;
“The new Bowling Green in Marlborough Street has also a handsome house with two Billiard tables, Card House with Card tables, and a house to shelter the gentlemen when raining”
On the seaward side of Marlborough Green was World’s End Land where the city fathers were already planning the embankment of the river, and the division and allotment of the Liffey’s floodplains. At Hawkin’s Wall south side dwellers queued for the short ferry journey across the Liffey. Stepping out onto Ferry Boat Lane on the north side, a short stroll past the velvet factory brought revellers to the green, overlooked by the Earl of Tyrone’s magnificent new stone house.
So popular was the bowling green and gardens that the crowds of up to 1,200 attended events. On such nights the young people would spill out onto the terrace to dance or to stroll through the moonlit gardens.
And thus the high living Richard Nugent, Lord Delvin, happened upon Captain George Reilly and his young female companion in the music rooms of Marlborough Gardens, on the 30th July 1761. Delvin was challenged to a duel by Reilly, after Delvin acted improperly to the lady in Reilly's company, and refused to apologise for his conduct.
One account of the duel states that, despite a great show of bravado, Delvin did not know that his sword was supposed to be out of its scabbard before being used, and perhaps, as a consequence he was promptly ran through by Reilly. He died of his injuries a week later, on the 6th August, aged just 19.
Fashionable society, more sensitive to scandal than today, was so shocked that it never again frequented the Narlborough bowling green. In time the neglected gardens were swallowed up by the city as it marched eastward.