This year – 2012, is the 350th anniversary of the opening of the Phoenix Park to the general public. The park was opened, for the first time in 1747 by the 4th Earl of Chesterfield, Philip Dormer Stanhope.
According to some observers, the Phoenix Park which covers 1752 acres is like a small Kingdom. It is the largest public park in Europe and larger than New York’s Central Park.
To give readers a sense of scale; one could place 993 Wembley football pitches into the size of the area covered by the Phoenix Park, or park 236,335 private cars in that space, or build 64,456 110sq metre semi-detached houses on that site. It’s big.
The Phoenix Park has over 500 acres of woodland, 22km of roads, 14km of Cycle lanes, and 30km of Footpaths – all surrounded by an 11km perimeter wall. There are 10 million car journeys per year, made into and through the park. Typically, 250 major public events, and 2300 sporting events would be held annually in the park. Visitor numbers to the park are significant. For example, the 2011 annual Bloom Garden Festival alone drew 90,000 people and Dublin Zoological Gardens see approximately 900,000 visitors annually, through their turn styles.
Nature is abundant in the Phoenix Park with pride of place going to the historic, 450 strong Fallow Deer Herd, whose lineage traces all the way back to 1662 when the area was a Royal Deer Park. In addition, wild habitat is provided for: foxes, badgers, rabbits, squirrels, rare bats and more than forty species of birds. Of course Dublin Zoological Gardens, which is home to over seven hundred animals and birds, is also part of the park.
History would be a key word when one thinks of the Phoenix Park. Throughout its lifetime the park has hosted many distinguished and some quite notorious individuals. Monarchs have visited the park. Great states people have lived in or visited the park. Great entertainers have performed in the park and skilled sports people have wowed crowds with performances in the park, and the list goes on.
The Phoenix Park has military and police links as well. Irish Army Headquarters is located within the park near to Parkgate Street. In earlier centuries, during the time of the Viceroys, the park was a venue for regular mass military reviews and drilling exercises. One such exercise merited special mention in the Illustrated London News of 1844. The present day Irish Police Headquarters (Ceanncheathrú An Gardha Síochána) is located on the North Road of the park.
Beautiful architecture abounds within the Phoenix Park with large buildings such as: Áras an Uachtaráin (the residence of the President of Ireland) and Deerfield House (the residence of the American Ambassador) being the more prominent. However, for architectural enthusiasts, there are dozens more examples of earlier century fine architecture located around the park in the form of Gate Lodges, School Houses, Zoo Buildings, Kiosks and Sports Pavilions etc.,
During the era of the Viceroy’s society believed in building monuments to record achievement and as symbols of power. There are some fine examples of a number of such monuments within the Phoenix Park. Sadly, by virtue of past political differences leading to acts of destruction, not all the original fine monuments and pieces of sculpted art work which once adorned the park, have survived.
Finally, within the grounds of the Phoenix Park and along the banks of the nearby river Liffey, from the 1800s onward, archaeologists began to unearth skeletal remains and artifacts. Some of the artifacts were later dated to between 3,000 and 3,500BC and believed to have belonged to the ancient people who once had farmed the land which now forms the parks fifteen acres. Human remains found along the banks of the nearby river Liffey were dated to the time of the Vikings circa 841/842, a time when the building of Dubhlinn (meaning: black pool) was taking place. Dubhlinn being the forerunner of today’s Dublin City.
Without question, the Phoenix Park is a must see for visitors coming to Dublin.
Have you ever visited the Phoenix Park? If so, what were your impressions? Do you have any special story to tell about experiences you may have had within the Phoenix Park?
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