A Brief History

Grangegorman is in the North Inner City, just over 1km from the City Centre. It has a long history in serving the people of Dublin since the establishment of the Houses of Industry for the poor in the 1770’s.  In 1810 the Governors of the House decided to build a separate institution to house mentally ill patients.

The Richmond Asylum was opened to patients in 1814 and was designed by Francis Johnston, the foremost architect of the day. This building, now known as the Lower House, was built as a large quadrangle but only its southern range remains standing today.

The Richmond General Penitentiary was built nearby, also to the designs of Francis Johnston. The building was completed in 1816, five years before the first national penitentiary in England was opened at Millbank. In plan it was an extended semi-octagonal shape measuring 630 feet by 312 feet. The prison was divided in two halves segregating the sexes. Each half was further divided into three distinct wedge-shaped portions. Over time this ceased to be a prison and became part of the asylum. Only the front range and central spine remain today.

Throughout the 19th century the site evolved and grew to become a large regional mental hospital occupying over 30 hectares of land. Additional buildings were constructed stretching to the west of the original establishment. Francis Johnston left his practice to a nephew, W Murray, whose practice and descendants continued to work on the site throughout the 19th century. Fortunately much of the early work of this practice was donated to the national collections and is available in the Irish Architectural Archives.

At its peak the hospital served over 2000 patients. In the 20th century changes in care of the mentally ill had moved away from large institutions, which resulted in the gradual decanting and downsizing of institutions such as St. Brendan’s Hospital. When it finally closed its doors in May 2013 there were less than 60 patients in the old hospital. Its replacement, the new state of the art Phoenix Care Centre has 54 beds.

Brief History

1773 – House of Industry, Brunswick St. N (demolished)

1806 – Bedford Asylum (demolished)

1814 – Richmond Asylum (Francis Johnston House) F Johnston (S range only remains)

1816 – Richmond Penitentiary (Clocktower) F Johnston (partial)

1836 – Church of Ireland G Wilkinson

1849 – St Laurence’s Church W G Murray

1850 – Fever Hospital W G Murray

1854 – District Asylum (North House) W G Murray

1925 – Grangegorman District Mental Hospital

1960 – St. Brendan’s Psychiatric Hospital

2013 – St. Brendan’s Hospital closes. All Patients and staff move to the Phoenix Care Centre

Grangegorman is the oldest public psychiatric hospital in Ireland (St. Patrick’s is the oldest private hospital).

Patient Populations

1896 – 2,375 patients

1965 – 1,628 patients

1984 – Government Document (Planning for the Future)

1985 – 985 Patients < Resettlement Programme

2005 – Steady reduction on phased basis to under 100 patients

  Further Reading

Joseph Reynolds, “Grangegorman: Psychiatric Care in Dublin since 1815”, Institute of Public Administration, 1992. Eoin O’Brien, Lorna Browne and Kevin O’Malley (eds) “The House of Industry Hospitals”, Dublin 1988. Many original building plans are available in the Murray Collection of the National Architectural Archives (www.iarc.ie).