We have just started our Local History module and as part of our research we have been out and about visiting archives and libraries. We are keen to engage with the urban landscape and as we have visited some sites of historical importance. On Monday 6 of June we were lucky to gain access to the Huguenot Cemetery on Merrion Row. The cemetery is not usually open to the public and our visit was made possible by Karen and June from St Brigid’s Parish in Stillorgan. Karen and June have done a lot of work mapping the cemetery in their local parish,and they are active local history researchers and genealogists. They have a wealth of information, which they shared with us, about researching in parish records and cemeteries.
The Huguenots were a group of French Protestant refugees who fled religious persecution and settled in Ireland in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth-centuries. It is estimated that in the early eighteenth-century they made up as much as 5% of the population of Dublin. Their presence is imprinted on the streets of the capital and in the urban landscape for instance D’Olier street takes the name of a prominent Huguenot goldsmith. The Huguenots brought skills, such as weaving, and developed commerce in Dublin. One family, La Touche, were heavily involved in banking and were founding members of the Bank of Ireland.
The Huguenot Cemetery was opened in 1693 and burials took place on the grounds until 1901. Generations of some families, like the one above, were buried in the cemetery during the two hundred years that the graveyard was active in burials. While it is estimated that approximately 600 people were interred in the cemetery, there are only a few headstones remaining (as can be seen in the picture below).
One of really helpful tools that Karen and June showed related to reading headstones. Some of the remaining headstones are so old that the inscriptions have worn away and Karen showed us how to pour water on the headstones to read the inscriptions. Although some people rub grace on the inscription Karen told us that this is bad for the headstone and to avoid doing it.
We would like to thanks Karen and June for a fantastic morning (we were also blessed with beautiful weather!) and for teaching us so much. We would also urge you to visit their website at St Brigid’s and view the work they have done in mapping their own graveyard. You can find it here.