In the 12th century the lands on the banks of the Liffey first belonged to the Knights Templar. Strongbow erected for them a castle about a mile distant from the Danish wall of old Dublin; and Hugh Tyrrel, first Baron Castleknock, granted them part of the lands which now form Phoenix Park. Here the Templars flourished, for nearly a century and a half, until the process for their suppression was instituted under Edward II, in 1308. Thirty members of the order were imprisoned and examined in Dublin and the order was condemned and suppressed. Their lands and privileges were given to the priory of the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem, who remained in possession until the dissolution of the monasteries in the 16th century.
Until the time of Queen Elizabeth, when Dublin Castle became the centre of English power, the Lord Lieutenants often held court at the manor of Kilmainham. In 1559, the earl of Sussex, on being again appointed Lord Lieutenant, found that the building at Kilmainham had been damaged by a storm, and had to hold court at the palace of St. Sepulchre. The following year Elizabeth ordered that Dublin Castle be upgraded to enable the Lord Lieutenant to reside there, and Kilmainham fell out of favour.
The Manor of Kilmainham formed a liberty outside the jurisdiction of the city of Dublin, with its own rights and privileges. The manor took in parts of James's Street and side-streets and stretched as far as Lucan and Chapelizod. After the Reformation, former lords (or chairmen, as they were later called) of this manor included Lord Cloncurry and Sir Edward Newenham. John "Bully" Egan, from Charleville, County Cork, was chairman from 1790 to 1800. These manorial rights were abolished after the Municipal Corporations (Ireland) Act 1840, and much of the area was included within the city.
The portion still outside the city in the latter part of the nineteenth century was within the township of New Kilmainham, a municipality governed by town commissioners, first under the Towns Improvement (Ireland) Act 1854 and then under an 1868 local act. From 1868, New Kilmainham comprised the townlands of Kilmainham, Goldenbridge North, Inchicore North, Inchicore South, and Butchers Arms. Its total area was 580 acres (230 ha) and the population was 5,391 in 1881 and 6,519 in 1891. In 1900 the township was absorbed into the municipal boundary of Dublin city as the New Kilmainham ward.
The area is best known for Royal Hospital Kilmainham, constructed on the site where the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem had their priory in Dublin. It now houses the Irish Museum of Modern Art. Nearby is Kilmainham Gaol, where the executions of the leaders of the Easter Rising took place.
A tourist map of the area can be viewed here.
- Halsall, Guy. Warfare and Society in the Barbarian West, 450-900 (London: Routledge, 2003), p.156.
- Walter Harris: The History and Antiquities of the City of Dublin
- D'Alton: History of the County Dublin. 1838. p. 301
- "New Kilmainham Township Act 1868 [31 & 32 Vict. c. cx]". The local [and personal] acts passed in the thirty-first and thirty-second years of the reign of Her Majesty Queen Victoria (PDF). Eyre and Spottiswoode. 13 July 1868. pp. 1521–36. Retrieved 29 June 2017.
- "I. Area, houses, and population; Table V: Area, houses, and population of parliamentary divisions, municipal boroughs, and of towns of 2,000 inhabitants and upwards, together with the number of electors in each parliamentary division in 1891". Census of Ireland 1891; Vol.I: Leinster; No.2: Dublin. Command papers. C.6515–I. 1892. p. 73. Retrieved 3 July 2017.
- Dublin Corporation Act 1900 [63 & 64 Vict. c. cclxiv]
- Ó Maitiú, Séamas (2003). Dublin's Suburban Towns, 1834-1930: Governing Clontarf, Drumcondra, Dalkey, Killiney, Kilmainham, Pembroke, Kingstown, Blackrock, Rathmines, and Rathgar. Four Courts Press.