Tenement Life 1

Most Dubliners lived in overcrowded tenements

A hundred years ago Dublin was smaller than Belfast. Most people were poorly-housed, poorly paid or chronically unemployed, and the city had the highest infant mortality rate in Europe.

The story of tenement life is depicted in these photographs from our Darkest Dublin Collection. They were taken on what was once the grandest street in Dublin, Henrietta Street. In the census of 1911 we learn that in the 15 houses on Henrietta Street, there were 835 people. In one house alone there were over a hundred inhabitants.

Tenement Life 2

Throughout the first half of the century, nearly a third of Dublin’s population lived in overcrowded tenements. The tenement system had its origins in the middle of the 19th Century, when Dublin saw an influx of people from the countryside in the wake of the Famine. Many fine Georgian residences were converted to house far more people than they were originally designed to accommodate. In 1913 John Cooke presented his pictorial account of the city’s slums to the Dublin Housing Inquiry. The photographs now form part of the archive of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland. They represent a grim and highly vivid account of the slum conditions at that time.

With thanks to the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland.

Watch an interview with Sean Garland about Tenement Dublin in the 1930s: