Earlier today I paid a visit to the historic Collins Barracks In Dublin which is now home to the Decorative Arts & History department of the National Museums of Ireland. It’s a location as steeped in culture as it is in beauty and a highly recommended stop the next time you are in Dublin’s Fair City.
In 1697 the Irish Parliament voted to develop a network of barracks connecting the 6 main Irish Garrisons. This network of barracks was very different to the way British troops were housed in England. In essence the need for such an extensive and advanced barracks network evolved from the concern regarding the risk of on going rebellion in Ireland.
Often referred to as the oldest inhabited barracks in the world Collins Barracks was constructed in 1706 at a estimated cost of £120,000. The construction took 6 years to complete. However the barracks was to receive many expansion projects down through the years. These project were aimed at re-enforcing the military might of the British empire in Dublin and also at attempting to improve basic living conditions for the soldiers garrisoned there.
After the Crimean War (1853-56) a campaign began to improve barrack conditions and sanitation. A report in 1861 criticised the Royal Barracks (Collins Barracks), condemning guard rooms, sleeping quarters and a lack of water latrines. Over the coming years the War Office began to improve standards of living form all soliders with basic improvements on food and living conditions. As such the Royal Barracks received particular attention and by 1889 had over £10,000 demolition, sanitary and improvements compared to only £1,200 on all other Dublin Barrack’s.
The first unit to occupy the Royal Barracks was in 1707, Col. Pierce’s Foot, which were followed by another 13 units. The last units were 2nd South Lancashire Regiment and 2nd Battalion Wiltshire Regiment 1917 – 1922.
On 01 February 1922 Michael Collins, Commander in Chief Irish Free State, wrote to the Commander in Chief of the British Forces that the Provisional Government would take over all barrack’s. The last barracks to be handed over was the Royal Barracks on 17 December 1922 as General Sir Neville Macready took the salute of his troops from the 2nd Battalion Wiltshire Regiment.
The Commander in Chief, General Richard Mulcahy, accompanied by General McMahon, took the first review of troops of the Free State Army as they entered the Royal Barracks. It was then renamed to commemorate one of Irish history’s most significant soldiers, Commander in Chief Michael Collins, who had been killed in Co. Cork the previous August. #newrymanlost