The Pill Lane Fishwives, 1835

From Saunders’ Newsletter, October 1835:

“SIR – I beg, through the medium of your valuable Paper, to again call the attention of the Commissioners of the Paving Board to the intolerable nuisance, which has been so long suffered to continue in Pill Lane. Nearly from the corner of Arran Street to that of Charles Street, stands of putrid fish, tripes &c., are in the street, and on the flagging, to the great annoyance of passengers, particularly during the law term, when many barristers and solicitors, residing at the north side of the city, are hourly going through Mary’s Abbey and Pill Lane to the Four Courts and frequently insulted by those fish women.

A highly respectable professional gentleman residing in Mountjoy Square, yesterday looked into the act of parliament, which he states, gives full power and authority to the Paving Board to have the nuisance abated, and, should it not be immediately attended to, he purposes waiting on Lord Morpeth, and pointing out to him the clause in the act, but I trust the highly respectable Commissioners of the Paving Board will render his taking that step unnecessary, by forthwith compelling their officers to do their duty.

I remain, Sir, your obedient servant,


Local customary rights to sell fish made it difficult to get the stalls off the eastern end of Pill Lane, immediately behind the original Four Courts. The problem was eventually resolved by incorporating most of Pill Lane into an enlarged Four Courts complex and building a fish market.

The Dublin Almanac of the next decade shows no less than eight Senior Counsel alone residing in Mountjoy Square with the same number residing in adjoining streets such as Gardiner Street, Rutland Street, North Great George’s Street and Summerhill. This area of Dublin was the most popular area of residence for the legal profession until the late 19th century.

I wonder if the ‘highly respectable professional gentleman’ of Mountjoy Square might have been the letter-writer himself?

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Author: Ruth Cannon BL

Irish barrister sharing the history of the Four Courts, Dublin, Ireland, and other Irish courts.

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