OPW starts to transport Abbey Theatre facade stones to Phoenix Park from Killiney back garden

Then-city architect intervened after fire at theatre in 1951, preserving stones in Killiney garden for future reconstruction

The Office of Public Works (OPW) has started the process of transporting stones that used to form the facade of the Abbey Theatre but have lain undisturbed in a garden in Killiney, Co Dublin, for more than six decades.

The stones, which formed the external facade of the original Abbey Theatre, were scheduled for removal after a fire destroyed the building in 1951.

Ten years later, the city architect of the day, Dáithí Hanly, happened to be passing on the day of the site clearance and intervened.

He instructed the demolition team to number each stone and carefully place them in a specific way in his back garden in Killiney, so that future generations could precisely reconstruct the facade as it had been before.


Mr Hanly died in 2003, and his wife Joan is now passing custody of the stones over to the OPW for safekeeping.

Minister of State with responsibility for the OPW Patrick O’Donovan said: “It is a huge honour for my department to be entrusted with these stunning, remarkable pieces of our history.

“Our conservation teams are excited to start the delicate process of removing the stones from the Hanlys’ back garden and transporting them to our secure depot in the Phoenix Park.

“Once there, they will be carefully cleaned, catalogued and stored until such time as the Abbey Theatre team wish to reinstate them.”

Abbey Theatre executive director Mark O’Brien said: “We are delighted that the remarkable generosity and vision of the Hanlys in saving and being the custodians of the original stones of the Abbey Theatre is being marked at this time.

“We would like to thank the team at the OPW who have shown the same spirit of generosity in taking these items of such national importance into their care.

“As we look forward to the development of a new building and infrastructure for Ireland’s national theatre, it is fitting that it will have the resource of its own history available for its future.”

Rosemary Collier, head of heritage and capital works at the OPW, said the care given to the preservation of the stones by the Hanly family was “remarkable”.

“Their role in ensuring that an important part of Ireland’s built heritage will survive for future generations is a vital story of forethought, dedication and generosity,” she added.

  • Sign up for push alerts and have the best news, analysis and comment delivered directly to your phone
  • Find The Irish Times on WhatsApp and stay up to date
  • Our In The News podcast is now published daily – Find the latest episode here
Colin Gleeson

Colin Gleeson

Colin Gleeson is an Irish Times reporter