April 1916

Easter Rising 1916

The Royal Irish Academy

Ruined buildings in Dublin after the Sinn Fein rebellion, April-May 1916 by Thomas Westropp, photographed 17-18 May, 1916

The Artist
Antiquarian and civil engineer, Thomas Johnson Westropp, MRIA (1860-1922), obtained his MA degree in Trinity College Dublin in 1882 and qualified as a civil engineer in 1885. He worked only briefly at his profession, however, and from 1887 he produced over 300 publications on antiquarian topics. The bulk of his papers, including two large volumes of field notes and seven books of sketches, are in the Royal Irish Academy. His extensive photographic collection is divided between the National Museum of Ireland, the National Photographic Archive, TCD, the RSAI and other archives. Clare County Library, Ennis, also has a Westropp collection. 

The RIA's Westropp photographic collection comprises forty photographs, documenting key buildings, monuments and streets in Dublin in the aftermath of the 1916 Easter Rising. Westropp donated these photographs to the Royal Irish Academy in June 1916, just weeks after the events of the Rising unfolded.

Westropp’s approach to documenting the destruction is representative of his training and of the accuracy and care with which he approached his work. Of this, Siobhan Fitzpatrick [RIA Librarian], states that the photographs 'demonstrate the intrepid nature of [Westropp’s] recording of landscapes and buildings. Throughout his life he recorded buildings in Ireland as seen through the prism of an antiquarian scholar. His training as an engineer ensured that he recorded dimensions and other details with a high level of accuracy. His images of Dublin in ruins may be seen in the context of this lifelong study of buildings in various states of disrepair or even ruin.'

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A number of photographs in the collection document specific sites from different vantage points. There are photographs of Sackville Street (now O’Connell Street) and the GPO from different angles and street levels...
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...including aerial views taken from the top of Nelson's Pillar (which was blown up in 1966).

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In order to photograph the ruined buildings in Dublin city centre, Westropp would have had to acquire a British Army pass.
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The City
Westropp’s collection captures the destruction of Dublin’s architectural landscape following a week of fighting, artillery fire and bombardment between Irish rebels and British forces. Photos show the damage caused to a number of iconic Dublin buildings...

...including the General Post Office (GPO), which was the rebel headquarters.
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The Linenhall Barracks on Constitution Hill was set on fire after being captured by Volunteers under the command of Edward 'Ned' Daly. It was subsequently demolished.
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The People
When we look beyond the buildings, the rubble, the dust, we get a sense of what it might have been like to stand amongst the chaotic aftermath: photos in the collection depict the clean up operation, the onlookers, the workers, the British soldiers standing guard, and life getting back to “normal” as people walk past the ruins.

Onlookers on the corner of Middle Abbey Street, immediately after the fall of the corner house on 17 May
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A British soldier stands guard at the ruins of the Hotel Metropole on Sackville Street; only its chimneys remain standing.
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Horses and carts are used to clear rubble away from the ruins of the Royal Hibernian Academy on Middle Abbey Street.
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Royal Irish Academy
Credits: Story

Exhibit created by Mr Konstantin Ermolin, Library Assistant, Royal Irish Academy and Ms Amy Hughes, Assistant Librarian, Royal Irish Academy

Additional text by Ms Siobhan Fitzpatrick, Librarian, Royal Irish Academy and Dr. Sharon Webb, Programme Knowledge Transfer Manager, Digital Repository of Ireland, Royal Irish Academy

To view all 40 images in the collection, please go to the Digital Repository of Ireland website


Fitzgerald, M. A. (2000). Thomas Johnson Westropp, 1860-1922 : An Irish antiquary. Dublin: Dept. of Archaeology, UCD.

Irwin, L. (2009). Westropp, Thomas Johnson. In Dictionary of Irish Biography. (Vol. 6, pp. 861-862). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Webb, S. (2015, Nov 19). Documenting Destruction: The Westropp Photographic Collection and the 1916 Rising. Retrieved from http://dri.ie/dri-blog-westropp-collection-and-1916-rising

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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