Buy-to-let slums

Dublin’s early 20th century tenements were investment properties that would be described as buy-to-let investments in the modern climate.
At least they were from the point of view of the owners.
Many people made their money from rents collected from tenants. Such incomes were often shared as gifts with others: a bride’s dowry could be the collective rent of two houses filled with people.
Almost a quarter of Dubliners lived in one-room family flats, 100 years ago.
Those flats were concentrated in the area inside the ring of canals north and south of the city.
Not many new builds took place in the 19th century, following closure of the Irish Parliament and the transfer of society and influence to London.
The well-to-do who remained moved to the suburbs beyond the canals to Rathmines and Drumcondra and Inchicore.
Many were influenced in their choice of destination by the new tram lines emanating from the city centre.
The old Georgian houses had been built for one family and its servants.
But each housed many more as time passed and prosperity dimmed.
Large family rooms were sub-divided into smaller units, each housing a family of its own.
In a time of poverty and famine, poor rural people moved to the city swelling the population.
Some of the houses had so many one-family rooms occupied they were like small towns in themselves. The shared hallway being the Main Street.
Little or no maintenance was carried out to the structure of the houses by landlords.
DSC00086On September 2, 1913, numbers 66 and 67 Church Street suddenly collapsed into the street taking their occupants with them. Seven were killed.
They tumbled down at 9 pm, when darkness had fallen.
A pall of smoke and dust lay over all for 24 hours afterwards making it hard to see who was dead or injured, or, who could be rescued.
The situation was unchanged even in daylight.  Rescue efforts were hampered by a lack of certainty of how many were inside the buildings when they came down.
The funerals of the seven victims brought Dublin city to a standstill.
Elsewhere, an  official enquiry found that: in one place, 36 people were living and cooking on an open fire in a room measuring 32x13ft in 1913 when the houses in Church Street collapsed.

Extract from a forthcoming book on Dublin: A Little Book of Dublin by Brendan Nolan