Ireland’s Oldest Pub
The Brazen Head is Irelands oldest pub. In fact there has been a hostelry here since 1198. The present building was built in 1754 as a coaching inn. However The Brazen Head appears in documents as far back as 1653. An advertisement from the 1750’s reads “Christopher Quinn of The Brazen Head in Bridge Street has fitted said house with neat accommodations and commodious cellars for said business”
The Brazen Head is located on Bridge Street. This is the area from where the original settlement that was to become Dublin got its name. The Irish name for Dublin is Baile Atha Cliath – (pronounced: Ball-ya-Awha-Clia) which means “The Town of the Ford of the Reed Hurdles”. Beside the pub is the Father Matthew Bridge crosses the river Liffey. It was at this very spot that the original crossing of the river was located. Here reed matting was positioned on the river bed which enabled travellers to cross safely at low tide.
Robert Emmet 1778 - 1803
It was here that the United Irishmen planned their revolution and Robert Emmet used the pub to plan The Rising of 1798. A prime location for plotting against Bristish Rule, the Brazen Head was close to Dublin Castle the seat of English power in Ireland and the United Irishmen's main target for attack. Its proximity to the quay, the churches and the law courts also made it a hub for gossip and an ideal place for strangers to pass on their intelligence in secret. Emmet stayed at the premises in a room overlooking the main door so he could see possible enemies approach. His rebellion failed. On 20th September 1803, Robert Emmet was hanged and beheaded in nearby Thomas Street. Found guilty of high treason after leading an unsuccessful revolution against British Rule. Emmet was the last to receive this medievil sentence from a British court in Ireland. Ironically the Hangman used to also drink in The Brazen Head. As a result Emmet’s ghost may well haunt the pub.
Michael Collins 1890-1922
Emmet was not the only revolutionary to seek refuge in the Brazen Head from the authorities. The United Irishmen of 1916 and the leaders of the War of Independence, including Michael Collins, gathered here for meetings to plan the revolution. The Brazen Head was almost destroyed during the Easter Rising of 1916 and again during the Civil War of 1922. On both occasions there was fierce fighting in the area just across the river as The Four Courts at troops located at the corner outside the pub. In 1916 the rebel garrison at the Four Courts was led by Commandant Edward ‘Ned’ Daly. Commandant Daly was one of the leaders of The Rising to be subsequently executed at Kilmainham Jail. During the bloody Civil War Free State troops fired from the same positions outside the pub on the Anti Treaty fighters holding the Four Courts. The Four Courts were consumed by flames and many historical documents were destroyed. Inside the pub, displayed on the walls, there is a unique collection of photographs dating from this turbulent period in history.
Jonathan Swift, Brendan Behan, James Joyce,
As Dean of Saint Patrick's Church, Swift would have passed the pub every day. He writes in his letters “Here only, at the sign of the Brazen Head, are to be sold places and pensions : beware of counterfeits, and take care of mistaking the door “. There is also strong literary connections, in particular Irish poet Brendan Behan and novelist James Joyce often frequented the pub. Joyce even mentions in his acclaimed Ulysses when the vagrant Corley tells Stephen Dedalus and Bloom that at the Brazen Head one can get a “decant enough do for a bob”.
There is a real sense of history throughout The Brazen Head which has to be experienced to be fully appreciated. We look forward to welcoming you to The Brazen Head where you can raise your glass and shout a resounding “Slainte ! “ as you do.