The Phoenix Park Magazine Fort is strategically sited on St Thomas Hill, off the Military Road, and close to the Islandbridge Gate. It was built in 1734 to store gun powder and ammunition for British Government Forces. One third of the British Army was stationed in Ireland and was regularly rotated around the Empire. The Fort was raided on two occasions: Easter Monday 1916 and the 23rd of December 1939, writes HARRY WARREN.


On a fine spring Day, I was strolling near the Magazine Fort in Dublin’s Phoenix Park. Children playing football kicked their ball near me and with a quick instep kick I happily returned the ball back. It brought to mind a historic raid on the Fort that involved of all things, a game of football, but more of that anon.

Dating back to the 18th century, the Duke of Dorset directed that a new powder magazine (a munitions fort) be provided for Dublin. There was a need to store gunpowder as some years earlier the original gunpowder tower in Dublin Castle went on fire, sparking fears that an explosion could take out half the city.

The Phoenix Lodge built in 1611, standing on top of St. Thomas Hill (The Phoenix Park took its name from the lodge) was demolished so that the new Royal Magazine Fort with its five feet thick walls and surrounding dry moat could be built on the same spot.

The new fort was designed by the architect John Corneille and it was constructed in 1734 to 1736 for storing munitions for the Crown in Ireland. The building included two ‘magazines’ for the storage of gunpowder, a bakery, laundry, carriage houses along with soldiers and family’s accommodation as well as the officers’ quarters.
The fort was never properly utilised for this purpose and early on, was seen as a symbol of British occupation. It was a large fort supporting soldiers, officers and their families all living and working in the buildings within its walls
In 1737 Jonathan Swift, Dean of St Patrick’s Cathedral, (Satirist and author of Gulliver’s Travels) satirised the fort, suggesting that there was nothing worthwhile to defend in an impoverished Dublin at that time anyway so why waste time building it.

He wrote: “Now here’s a proof of Irish sense, here Irish wit is seen, when nothing’s left that’s worth defending, we build a Magazine!”

In 1801, a barracks was added to the fort to accommodate troops. And in 1830, an older and larger earthwork fort that stood nearby was demolished. The Magazine fort was a British garrison until 1922 when it was handed over to the National Army (1922-1924) after the Anglo-Irish Treaty.

Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own