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A Road Map To A Piece Of History

Over the centuries, the streetscape of Dublin has changed dramatically and many of the city's quirkily-named highways and byways have long since disappeared.

Christchurch Cathedral was at one time surrounded by narrow lanes and alleyways that came right up to the walls of the cathedral. One of these passages, which led to Christ Church yard on the western side of Fishamble Street, was known to the locals as 'Hell'.

It had an arch over which there was a large image of the devil carved in oak. Hell contained many inns and taverns and its fame spread way beyond the confines of Dublin.

One unusual place name in the Dublin of old was that of Mullinahack which comes from the Irish 'Muileann an chaca' and means the mill of excrement or the dung mill. Mullinahack was the name of the area roughly bounded now by John Street and St Augustine Street. From the end of the 12th Century onwards there were several mills in the area that appear to have been powered by the Glib river. Some of these mills belonged to the hospital of St John of Jerusalem and some were in the possession of Christchurch. Some of the waste from the mills, along with human waste from inside the city walls, was dumped there by the cartload leading to the foul smells in the area.

Another name in the area with similar connotations was Dunghill Lane, which is now called Island Street just behind Usher's Island. At the end of Dunghill was Dirty Lane, now known as Bridgefoot Street. Later on, in the 16th Century, two public privvies were constructed in the area, but this merely compounded the odour problem.

Richard Stanihurst writing in Hollinshed's Chronicles in 1577 mentions Giglottes Hill but doesn't describe its location. Harris, writing in 1776, says that the name 'Giglotte' refers to a wanton woman and that the place "took its name from being the resort of such".

Keyzar's Lane or de Keyzar's Lane which led from Cook Street up to the Cornmarket was popularly known as "Kiss-Arse" Lane. Keyzar's Lane was a very steep and slippery thoroughfare and it is believed to have got its nickname from the amount of people who fell on their rear ends while walking down the hill. Gilbert said that it was described in 1587 as "steepe and slipperie, in which otherwhiles, they that make more haste than good speed clinke their backs to the stones".

Cut-throat Lane and Murdering Lane were two adjoining streets in Mount-Brown. The name Cut-throat Lane, which was in existence as far back as 1488, was changed to Roundhead Row in 1876 and Murdering Lane was changed to Cromwell's Quarter.

The writings of Charles Dickens had an influence on some of our street names in the mid- 19th Century. A cul-de-sac in Dublin's Monto district was named after Nicholas Nickleby and Pickwick Place on Great Strand Street after The Pickwick Papers.

Other unusual names include Moggy's Alley in Temple Bar, Hand-kerchief Alley off Francis Street and Goulding's Ride off Grafton Street.