Heartbeat of Trinity: A Sketch of College Park

Whether seeking sanctuary away from the studies or a place for a sunny day drink, College Park has long been a haven for staff and students alike in Trinity College. While College Park reserves the status of hallowed ground in the college, what do we actually know about it?

Take a quick trip back in time to the eighteenth century. Trinity was very different place then: the river estuary came up to the edge of the University, along what is now Pearse St. While you would barely recognise the college at this time, we know that even then there was a park here as far back as 1714. This can be made out from Herman Moll’s map of Dublin.

Evolution of College Park 1714 – 1913. (Source: Historical Maps of Dublin and OSI Map Viewer)
Evolution of College Park 1714 – 1913. (Source: Historical Maps of Dublin and OSI Map Viewer)

Travelling though the eighteenth century, which was a period of rapid development in both Dublin and the University, and it can be seen that College Park remains an important landmark in the college. In 1756 we are standing in a University which is starting to look familiar, with Front Square taking shape, and the quays built resulting in reclaimed land between the University and the river. College Park is still there, and has become a well maintained wooded recreational area at the back end of the University with some sports played on it in the form of a bowling green. Forward again to the 1830’s and College Park has been expanded, with wooded walking areas and a clear park space. Cricket was first played in the park at this time. The first mention of cricket being played on College Park is in a poem from the 1820s, with the first recorded mention was in 1868 with a match played between Ireland and an All England Eleven. College Park has been the sacred ground of the DU Cricket team ever since. Forward once more, to the 1930s, and College Park has changed dramatically and resembles what it looks like today. The Museum Building and New Square have been built, the wooded area has now been replaced with a clear space (that would become the rugby pitch), and several new buildings, including Zoology, have been built.

Enough of the history! What is the geography of College Park? Many of the former students of Trinity Geography may remember trudging around with surveying equipment, undertaking the painstaking process of recording the topography of a small section of the edge of the park. New high quality GPS equipment recently obtained by the Geography department makes this a thing of the past, as the whole cricket pitch can be surveyed within the space of a few hours. The results show a (relatively) interesting view of College Park. Unsurprisingly, as a cricket pitch, it is pretty flat. There is a depression, however, located in front of the Pavilion bar in the exact location where the highest densities of students tend to ‘relax and unwind’ on those sunny days after exams. Is this the spot students congregate due to the natural topography? Perhaps not, but next time you are exercising around College Park, you now know where the best place to sprint is.

Since the early eighteenth century College Park has remained as an important part of the Trinity landscape, and continues to survive despite the pressures new building in the University. It has been a special place for all of those who have spent time in Trinity, and will continue to do so for a long time yet.

college park

Authored by Kevin Lougheed, Teaching Fellow, TCD Geography

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