Opening Vico Road
Public access to Killiney Hill Park and the Vico Road which we now take for granted is only a relatively recent development. The troubled history of the various attempts of Dalkey Town Commissioners and others to have the route opened up to the public is recorded in many newspaper articles from the time and paints a very poor picture of the landowners who sought to gain significantly from any concessions they were prepared to grant. The lands containing the hill and the slopes leading to White Rock beach and the coast remained in private ownership up until 1889. The original estate formed part of the larger Talbot lands which included Rocheshill, Ballinclea, Rochestown and Scalpwilliam/Mount Malpas. In 1840 Killiney Castle and the lands in its immediate vicinity, which included Killiney Hill Park and the lands which stretched down to the coast, came into the possession of Robert Warren. He was a solicitor and property developer who set about building speculative houses in the area. These included Victoria Castle, Mount Eagle and Mount Mapas. In 1854 he permitted the Dublin & Wicklow Railway Company to extend the railway from Dalkey over his lands on condition that a private railway station, Obelisk Hill Station, be constructed to allow visitors and residents of the houses, which he rented, access to Killiney Hill and White Rock beach. This railway station only survived a few years from July 1854 to 31st December 1857 when it was closed and replaced by a new station which was built on the site of an old military battery at the bottom of Strathmore Road.
Warren’s plans for the development of Killiney Hill were extravagant in the extreme. Plans were drawn up for a new town to be called Queenstown which would be served by Obelisk Hill Station. Fortunately these plans did not materialise and in 1872 Warren’s ownership of the land ended when the property was auctioned by the Landed Estates Court.
An interesting point of note in this photograph is the advertising banner on the wall which runs down to the coast. It reads “To be let for building”. This was clearly intended to be seen by passengers travelling by on the newly constructed railway line. The railway line was still a single track which dates the photograph prior to 1882 when the track was doubled. Newspaper adverts from 1856, soon after the opening of the railway, were also extolling the virtues of these lands for house building purposes. Fortuitously these lands did not sell and survived as they are now today as a public amenity.
One of the four significant land owners in the area after this was Clifford Lloyd who lived in Victoria Castle and whose property extended from Killiney village, where it was accessed via the gate lodge at the top of Victoria Road, now known as Camelot, down to the boundary with Mount Mapas. Lloyd did not allow public access over his property and a sign on the wall of the gate lodge read: PRIVATE NO THOROUGHFARE. The gates, since removed, can be seen in this Lawrence collection photograph from c.1880.
A newspaper article dated 1st October 1888 reports that: ‘a massive gate bars the way from Killiney village around Killiney Hill and that although some residents have privilege of passage the general public are told that there is ‘no thoroughfare’ by the woman in charge of the lodge.’ The article continues that a similar problem exists with another of Lloyds gates on the lower road leading to Killiney and Ballybrack Station. In a report on the proceedings of Dalkey Township Commissioneers in The Freemans Journal of 20th July 1888 John Munroe reports that he has spoken to Mr. Clifford Lloyd and that he ‘would be disposed to give up the lower road to the public on his getting the exclusive use of the upper road and some other concessions from the trustees.’ The Parks Committee were unable to grant about one acre of Victoria hill which Lloyd was demanding along with walls and a tunnel to be built to serve his property. The trustees of Victoria Park resolved that an arrangement be reached with Lloyd by which the lower road, in continuation of Vico Road, to the old railway station at Killiney should be opened to the public.
The park was purchased from Robert Warren Junior for £5,000.00. Victoria Park, now Killiney Hill Park, was first opened to the public by Prince Albert in 1887.
A public road from Dalkey came to a dead end just below the house called Saint Germain which was occupied by a Mr MacDonnell. At this point there was a gate in the wall which enclosed the old Warren estate. Access was strictly controlled and appears to have been restricted to the residents of the houses on the estate and those in the favour of the owner. From newspaper reports from about 1875 up to 1889 much effort was put into reaching agreement with the relevant owners.
The Freeman’s Journal of 19th October 1885 reports on the situation on the Dalkey side of Killiney Hill known as Torca Hill which was in the ownership of Mr. Hercules H. G. MacDonnell.: ‘A public road runs round the Hill which should be maintained at a width of 24 feet. This road has been encroached upon by Mr MacDonnell and at parts, where enclosure walls have been erected, its width has been reduced to 18 and even to 15 feet. The commissioners should insist upon these walls being taken down and if Mr MacDonnell desires to enclose his hill by fences or walls he can do so within limits which will not encroach on the public highway. Portion of the hill has been leased by Mr MacDonnell to Mr Henry Hayes, cabinet manufacturer, of College Green, who resides at Saint Elmo, Vico Road; and adjoining his residence the roadway which as we have said ought to be 24 feet has been encroached upon by a boundary wall for some 100 yards. Mr Henry Williams of St. Germans, Vico Road, has also, we are informed, encroached upon the public road in the same manner; and within the last five months Mr George Smith of Mount Henry has built a wall halfway across the Torca Road. It is monstrous that such proceedings are being tolerated. Mr MacDonnell has furthermore erected across one portion of the Torca Road a gate which is continually locked against the public and the key of which is kept by Mr Henry Hayes. At the opposite side of the hill, near the residence of Dr Jennings, Mr MacDonnell has likewise erected a turnstile upon the Torca Road. We command these highhanded encroachments to the attention of the Dalkey Commissioners. We commend them also to the earnest attention of the public for verily it seems as if there were no Commissioners in Dalkey to assert the rights of the community.’
The article continues: ‘There is one other matter which ought to be taken up vigorously. Between Sunnyside and St Germans the Vico Road comes to a sudden termination. Thousands of persons must annually promenade this road, for it affords a seaview which is not surpassed or equalled by any other in the neighborhood of Dublin. Yet notwithstanding the attractiveness of the situation it has remained for years a cul-de-sac. A wall 9 feet high blocks the road at St Germans so that anyone who desires to walk from Dalkey to Killiney must make a detour by the old Telegraph Hill and the Obelisk Hill.
The history of this wall does not reflect much credit upon anyone concerned. We refrain at present from stating the facts connected with the erection of the wall, because we might only revive unpleasant memories, and as our sole desire is the public welfare. We are content to point out to the commissioners of Dalkey and Killiney the necessity of approaching the proper persons with the view of having the wall removed. Such a result would well repay all the exertions which we have made concerning the Commons of Dalkey.’
On the 27th of October 1885 the following article went on to state: ‘Mr Clay had made an effort to open the road from Vico to Killiney village which would give the public an opportunity of enjoying a sight of the sea. He wrote with that object to Mr Chippendale Higgin and that gentleman was prepared to open and devote to the public the existing private road on the Telegraph Hill, Dalkey, so far as it lay through his property (applause), the Commissioners of Dalkey undertaking to make the road passable for carriage as well as for pedestrian traffic, to build all necessary boundary walls along each side of the road, so as to preserve his lands from being trespassed upon. The road Mr Higgins offers to give up to the Commissioners for the use of the public extends from Vico road to the North East side of large house on the private road. Mr Clay also waited on Mr Robert Warren and he also was willing to give assistance towards the end in view; and Mr Hercules MacDonnell stated he was always anxious that the Victoria Road should be opened out to Killiney and was willing to assist provided the road was opened from Dalkey to Killiney or Killiney Railway Station for the public. There was only one more owner interested , Mr Lloyd, of Victoria Castle, and he asked for time to consider the proposition. If Mr Lloyd consented the people would have the most beautiful drive and the most beautiful walk in Dalkey.
The Freeman’s Journal of the 17th of November 1885 provides a report of the Dalkey Commissioners meeting of the previous week: ‘The opening of the Vico Road to Killiney- The board at its last meeting was in a state of expectancy that the landlords interested would give their consent. We hope the question has advanced somewhat in the interval. All these gentlemen have informally given conditional assent, except Mr Lloyd, of Victoria Castle, Killiney. So far, though communicated with by Mr Robert Clay, he has neither said ‘yes’ nor ‘no’. There should not be any misunderstanding about this matter. Recently one of our contemporaries attempted to impede the improvement, which would be of great public convenience, by inciting the owners of property in Killiney to resist intrusion upon their present privacy. The zeal of our contemporary was wholly on the side of four gentlemen who are quite competent to guard their own interests, and was at the same time careless for and antagonistic to the important advantages that hundreds of toiling people would gain by the opening of the Vico Road. We hope the selfish advice offered by the Irish Times will not prevail with Mr Higgins, Mr Robert Warren, Mr Hercules MacDonnell or Mr Lloyd. They will remember, we doubt not, that the high wall which blocks the Vico Road is an impediment to the letting of their land. This land is designed for building. It cannot be utilized for that purpose while the Vico Road is kept a cul-de-sac. We are the true friends of the owners as well as of the people when we urge the taking down of the wall and the opening and preparing of this thoroughfare. Vico Road must be opened someday- it is only a question of time -unless the owners are content to keep their land forever almost unproductive. As building ground it would be worth at least £20.00 an acre. The non-production of this income is the penalty which some of the gentlemen we have named are paying for the barren enjoyment of maintaining a 9 feet barrier between the townships of Dalkey and Killiney, and of degrading a commodious thoroughfare into a cul-de-sac.
Mr Lloyd of Victoria Castle who has not yet given any answer to the request for co-operation, lives at the farthest end of the proposed road; but surely he is not going to play an obstructive and obstinate part when the public of both townships ask for his assistance? He should at least state his conditions. We take leave to say that either by him or by way by anyone else the demanding of extravagant conditions would be absurd, and be more irritating than absolute refusal. More than a fortnight has elapsed since Mr Lloyd was written to by Mr Clay. The commissioner ought now formally communicate with him.’
A fund to raise £1,000.00 to include £750.00 for Clifford Lloyd was set up and this eventually proved to be successful.
At the official opening of the new roads serving Killiney Hill on the 3rd of June 1889 a Mr Wigham read the following address to the Viceregal party who were in attendance; ‘Through the liberality and public spirit of the residents of Dalkey and the Dalkey Commissioners the long desired connection between the Vico Road, Dalkey and the road skirting the base of Killiney Hill has been made thus giving access to the Hill by its beautiful seaward side from Dalkey, Kingston and the capital. But more remained to be done. The continuations of this road leading to Killiney Railway Station and Killiney village were still in private hands and the public remained excluded from access by that route to the Vale of Shangannagh, Bray and the County Wicklow. From the outset the committee considered that in order to obtain for the people the full benefit which the opening of the Hill was intended to confer all these roads ought to be thrown open. Negotiations were therefore entered into resulting in the purchase by the committee of all the private rights which stood in the way and accordingly the roads have today been thrown open to the public and the original conception of the committee of the Queens Jubilee Memorials Association has been realized.’
Celebrations which were advertised included two military bands playing on Killiney Hill followed by a Regatta from 12 to 5. Unfortunately poor weather on the day spoiled the plans and the Regatta was postponed. The military bands hastened through their programs and by half past four most of the people had beaten a retreat.