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History of Clareville and Claremont in Glasnevin

Clare Villa
When Glasnevin Cemetery opened in 1832, the manager of the cemetery was provided with a residence on land owned by the Cemetery Trust across the road from the burial ground. The manager, from County Clare, called the house "Clare Villa."  The housename was taken by Dublin Corporation officials to be a place-name (well, it was printed on the Ordnance Survey Map) and applied it to the housing development as "Clareville."

Tony Gregory TD thought a better idea would be to extend the fairly new name of the adjoining  "Claremont" estate to the new Clareville development and got permission to canvass for this change of name. The new residents were divided: Clareville Grove and Clareville Court retained those names, but Clareville Lawns succumbed to Tony's plea and voted to change the name to "Claremont Lawns." This explains some of the mixup of names in the locality, and I will proceed to clarify other mixups later in this blog.

Clare Villa, the house from which Dublin Corporation derived the name Clareville, was situated on the lands of Violet Hill Great.The lands of Violet Hill Great and, next to them, Violet Hill Little, stretched from here northwards to the river Tolka.

The lands on which the houses of Clareville Grove, Claremont Lawns and Clareville Court are built were known as Slutsend or Westfarm.

The houses of Claremont Court, Claremont Crescent and Claremont Grove, to the north and west of Clareville Estate, (and which predate Clareville Estate) were built partly on the lands of Slutsend (Westfarm) and partly on the lands of Violet Hill.

Disappearance and Transferrance of Ancient Names
With these housing developments, the ancient names of Slutsend and Westfarm disappear from the map.

This loss of ancient names is regrettable, but, I suppose, no one would want to live in Slutsend!

Other local names survived but were violently dragged to new locations. Violet Hill moved northwards across the Tolka to the present Violet Hill Estate, while the name Claremont was dragged in the opposite direction - southwards across the Tolka, leaving, however, to complete the City Council's predilection for creating postal confusion, Claremont Avenue behind.

Names in the locality that were retained in some form include Ballybogan which lay to the north and south of the present Ballybogan Road and Finglas Wood more or less as before. Prospect and Prospect House became Glasnevin Cemetery, as well as Prospect Avenue, Prospect Road and Prospect Cottages on Botanic Road. Workers, when the cemetery was opened, needed to be housed near their employments, and Prospect Cottages were built to house the gravediggers and other cemetery personell.

Saint Clare
Saint Clare's Home sits on the site of the historic Claremont House, situate, indeed, within the lands originally known as Claremont.

Saint Clare is a misnomer. When Brian Friel wrote Translations he pointed to some strange renaming of Irish placenames up in Donegal. Saint Clare is a similar misnaming: a creation of the language shift, but not attributable to the Ordnance Survey.

Although there is widespread devotion to this Saint Clare in Ireland, and many miracles attributed to her, she is merely a mistranslation of the name Claremont. To English-speaing Dubliners, this seemed to mean "The Mount of Saint Clare," as if the original were French, not Irish. In fact the Irish term was "Clár Móna," meaning "Plateau of Peat." The area was a bog on a plateau overlooking the Tolka River.

Bogland and Rich Land

Adjoining the the bog plateau of Claremont, there was land of rich soil. This area was known as "Cré Mór," i.e., "Big" or "Great" "Soil." This area of great  soil retains its traditional name, "Cremore" in English, though not commensurate with the original.

Slutsend is a more ancient misnomer.

"Slut" is the Scandinavian word "Sleut," meaning "End," and is attributable to the Danes of medieval Dublin. Again, they got it wrong! And when the population of Dublin turned to the English language, Dublin wit ensured that the word "Sleut" was juxtapositioned with its English translation.

Well, the Irish word the Danish Dubliners translated as "Sleut" was probably "Críoch" or "Críocha," meaning "Territory." This was marshy wasteland. It was part of the territory of the Gaels living in what is now Phibsborough (historically oak woods) and Cabra, inhabited farmland. The "Territory" was a rather useless addendum to their homelands, useless except for hunting for fowl and small wild animals.

An alternative meaning  to the Irish word "Críoch," depending on context, is "End," rather than "Territory." So the Scandinavian Dubliners got it wrong, and the later Dubliners confounded the error.

The Grave-diggers Football Club
Glasnevin Association Football Club, one of the oldest Football Clubs in Ireland, was largely comprised of grave-diggers, and became known as "The Diggers."

The land of Clareville was owned by the Cemetery Committee, but was too shallow to be viable for graves. The Diggers were allowed to use these lands as their home ground, and they happily played on these grounds up to the time of the Second World War.

The Plots
Dublin Corporation responded to the Emergency caused by the War by taking possession of idle land for the purpose of providing vegetable plots to the citizens. The Diggers ground was taken from them and The Plots estabblished.

Closing the Plots
Around 1960, land on the outscirts of the city was becoming valuable as building land.

The Plots were closed on the pretext that the Colorado Beetle had been found there. Instead of re-opening after the lands were supposedly cleaned, The Plots were moved to Corporation-owned lands in Violet Hill, but were never suported in that location and soon afterwards closed down forever. My recollection is  weak as to the dates of this.

The Diggers' Football Club second eviction
When they lost their tenancy on the lands of Slutsend (now Clareville), the Diggers obtained a tenancy of waste land in the grounds of St Clare's Hospital (the real Claremont). They drained, reclaimed and levelled the land and built a fine football pitch.

When Tolka Rovers Football Club canvassed for a home ground for themselves, and enlisted the support of Jim Tunney TD, the tenancy of the Diggers in their new pitch was terminated and the grounds given to Tolka Rovers. (The Diggers are alive and well and now use one of the pitches in Albert College Park as their home ground).

Building Proposals
After the adjoining Claremont Court estate was built, the Cemetery Committee thought of capitalising on their land at Slutsend.

A contract for sale was signed with a developer, on condition that Planning Permission be obtained to build houses on the land.

Planning permission was refused on the grounds that the land was needed to provide active open space. While there was plenty of passive open space in the vicinity: railway and canal lands, cemetery and botanic gardens, there were no playing fields or knockabout areas, and, in fact, the area of Cabra/ Phibsborough/ Glasnevin/ Drumcondra was the least well served area of Dublin as regards active open space.

Corporation Acquisition
Having refused Planning Permission and having the public duty to provide the active open space so critically required, Dublin Corporation was placed under pressure to purchsase the land themselves.

They did  so, but proceeded to develop plans for public housing on the site. Not only that, but their proposal was for greater housing density than the private proposal and low quality layout and design out of character with the Glasnevin area.

The site was on track to become a deprived area and the setting for anti-social behaviour, besides denying the citizens the last opportunity for an active recreational area.

Finglas Road Action Group
The Residents Associations of Glasnevin and Phibsborough came together, in 1981, to form a Joint Action Group to demand active open space and the optimum development of the Finglas Road area. The Action Group settled on the name "Finglas Road Action Group," which continues in action to  this day.

Battle lines were drawn between the Action Group and the Corporation. Heavy lobbying took place. Town Planners, Architects and Solicitors were brought on board. Legal proceedings were threatened: can the Corporation refuse to apply to their own housing development conditions that they formally applied to a proposed private development?

Alice Glenn of Fine Gael and Bertie Ahern of Fianna Fáil guided the Action Group (and the Corpo) away from confrontation into negotiation.

The Optimal Plan
Eventually a plan was agreed that satisfied all sides. The area would be developed as a Park-land, ringed around by houses of good quality design. The development would include sheltered housing  for elderly and infirm.

When the new residents moved in, representatives from both the houses and the sheltered accommodation were co-opted onto the Finglas Road Action Group and all worked for the further improvement of the Finglas Road area.

When the scheme was later extended to include lands originally retained for a possible new road, the Action Group proposed an extension of the sheltered housing and the provision of a Day-care Centre. A retired architect, living in the sheltered accommodation, made a significant and imaginative contribution to the design of the new development.

Local Management Committee
A local committee was set up by the City Council to take responsibility for the day to day running of the Centre. The Centre belongs to the City Council, but the medical services are provided by (originally the Eastern Health Board and now) the HSE. The kitchen is inspected by the City Council's health inspector and operates to the highest standards of both hygiene and  nutrition.

The local committee comprises representatives of the community, of the parish, of the Eastern Health Board, of an Garda Siochana and of the City Council.

For legal reasons and insurance purposes, the local committee decided to incorporate as a Company Limited by Guarantee: Clareville Centre Limited. The centre is run by the company and receives monetary support from the HSE, and, of course, the premises from Dublin City Council.

Having a local committee taking responsibility gives the venture more flexibility than centres have that are directly run by the Health Board. For example, fund-raising is engaged to raise funds for useful services, such as purchasing and maintaining a wheel-chair friendly minibus that collects many clients every day to come to lunch in the centre and  participate in the entertainment and services provided. The minibus is also used to bring clients on a weekly  shopping-trip to the supermarket at Clearwater (an adaptation of "Finglas," which means "Fresh Stream"), and other miscellaneous outings.

Feather in City Council's cap
The City Council were very pleased with what was achieved in Clareville. Consultation with local residents had resulted in an optimal development rather than, as they had originally conceived, a blocking of progress. They learned the value of consultation with local residents before action, and how schemes can be  improved by satisfying all interests.

Visitors come from  other countries - from as near as Northern Ireland to as far away as South Korea - to view the Day-care Centre and the overall development. Articles about Clareville Centre have appeared, for example, in German magazines.

For a while, it appeared that the development would be a model for future developments in Dublin, but changing times meant cut-backs rather than further progress.

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