We had a packed house for our August Mondays at the Mess lecture. Dr Ciarán Wallace from the Centre for Contemporary Irish History, Trinity College Dublin, spoke about the Garden Cemetery Movement and Goldenbridge’s place as the first Garden Cemetery in Ireland. The Garden Cemetery movement was a worldwide phenomenon beginning with Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris in 1804, soon spreading to England and then Ireland in 1829 with the opening of Goldenbridge Cemetery.
Garden Cemeteries emphasised orderliness and security. Typical features included a lodge with a keeper, a ledger with burial records, a numbered a lettered grid system (to make it easier to find burial plots), and long pathways with attractive vistas. The purpose of the Garden Cemetery was to contribute to the betterment of society. Usually situated a few miles outside the city centre to escape the unhygienic nature of early nineteenth-century city life, the garden cemetery was intended as a tranquil place in which to take a decorous Sunday stroll.
Part of their purpose was for the middle classes to show the working classes how to behave in a civilised manner. The rising middle classes could display their upwardly mobile status by erecting fancy monuments to their departed family members, thus providing art and architectural benefits. Another interesting development was the ‘Celebrity’ burial. Remains were often moved from less salubrious burial sites to more prominent positions within the cemetery to attract business.
Although philanthropic in nature, Garden Cemeteries were also intended to make a profit. John Philpott Curran’s remains were moved from Paddington Cemetery to Glasnevin Cemetery some 30 years following his death and Daniel O’Connell was moved from his original resting place in the O’Connell Circle to the specially constructed O’Connell tomb. Father James Harold is one of Goldenbridge’s more interesting inhabitants. The Wicklow-born priest led a well-travelled life and had an anti-authoritarian streak. Arrested for being a United Irishman sympathiser in 1798, he was transported first to Australia and later to the notorious Norfolk Island. Harold eventually made his way to Philadelphia via South America, but managed to ruffle the feathers of the Bishop of Philadelphia, and subsequently found himself back in Ireland where he served out his days in various Dublin parishes. There are many curious characters buried in Goldenbridge Cemetery, and you can find out more about them on our guided tour.