Journal Volume 3 2000

Greystones in Cartographic Sources: the Wicklow County Maps(continued/3)

Greystones and Delgany parishes are covered by the sheets 120 and 121 produced in 1855. Like the Ordnance Survey Letters, the geology is written up in a series of 'memoirs' which convey an interesting account of the local topography and underlying land usage in those years.

Although the information is long superseded, the "geological memoirs" and occasional illustrations by the great Irish artist George Victor Du Noyer provide fascinating insights on the area, with the odd nugget of local history such as the location of old quarries, roads and curious geological features. As this essay is to do with the subject of maps, the interesting topic of who is the founder of Greystones must be battled out between the local historians, but maps do show, in dramatic form, the nub of the controversy. In 1838 there was no appreciable village of Greystones nor anything to suggest a full fledged coastal town would rise on the barren shoreline, yet by 1888 the date of the next 6 Inch Ordnance Survey revision, modern Greystones had arrived.

Greystones on the Map

A founding father for the community (by default) could be William Brabazon, 11th Earl of Meath. He could not bear the thoughts of a railway crossing over his beloved vistas of Killruddery and so would not give the Railway Company a way leave there. Instead he gave a free passage by the inaccessible foot of Bray Head (not much of a sacrifice on his part really, for the cliff was only available to goats). Out of this diversion the rail route passed by the "Grey Stones", and the rest as they say, is social history. Thanks to the foresight of Mr Dargan, "the Railway King", who recognised the location as a splendid residential one, and the provision of a small harbour pier by the Board of Works, County Wicklow's last fully-fledged town came into being.

The Ordnance Survey revision map of 1888 shows the small Victorian town in great detail. By that year Greystones was a fashionable "watering place", having given up the notion of being a completely residential upper class enclave as was its original purpose. It now had two fine hotels and numerous residential "villas". Infrastructures such as schools and churches had also been built to serve the many Dublin based professional and middle class families who made up the bulk of the towns permanent residents, and whose breadwinners were regular commuters to the city on the DW&WR steam railway. This is a historical curve that is now repeating itself in Greystones but on a much wider scale.

As the 20th century progressed, the line between maps and actual photographic images with map like characteristics became finely drawn. Modern technology has mapped Greystones in different aspects for a variety of reasons. Indeed, this diversity would make a separate subject in itself, which will no doubt receive attention from a future generation of geographers.

Sources consulted for this appraisal
  • Map of the newly made County of Wicklow or Ferns 1597. P. R. O. Kew MPF 69
  • Down Survey; Egerton Mss 1758 Microfilm Barony of Rathdown. Nat Library Irl.
  • The Gentleman and Citizens Almanac of Ireland 1794-1800 Private Cell.
  • Taylor 's and Skinners Maps of the roads of Ireland 1778 Sheet 140
  • Map of the said County of Wicklow etc. Jacob Nevill. 1760. T.C.D., Old Papyrus case 5 no
  • A Paper Landscape The Ordnance Survey in 19th Century Ireland. J. Andrews 1979
  • A Survey of some Wicklow Maps P. Power, Chapt 18 Wicklow History and Society 1994


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