by Malhide Historical Society
In an 1844 agreement between Lord Richard Talbot and James Fagan of Bridgefoot Street, Dublin, timber merchant, the Talbots agreed to lease to Fagan the land stretching from the lately built Royal Hotel (later Grand Hotel) hotel almost to the Diamond at a yearly rent of twenty-five pounds ten shillings per Irish acre. Under the agreement James Fagan was to be at liberty to build houses on the lands but he had first to submit the plans for approval by Lord Talbot. This led to the construction by Fagan of the houses on St. James Terrace. The Talbots agreed to build a road, from a fountain which then stood in the centre of the Diamond, to the hotel, enclose part of the area with railings, plant trees and shrubs therein and lay it out as pleasure gardens. When combined with the hotel gardens they extended to four or five acres from St. James’s Terrace, up to and around the hotel. The occupants of the houses were to have free use of the pleasure gardens as were the hotel guests. Other residents of Malahide could apply for a key to use the gardens at a fee of one pound per household or family per year.When the original planting matured the gardens contained elaborate wooded serpentine walks, pergolas, shady bowers and a croquet lawn and there was seating place all around the Park. The pleasure gardens later came to be known as the Band Gardens as police and military bands gave public performances there in the latter half of the 19th century on regatta days and other public occasions. The Dublin & Drogheda Railway occasionally engaged a military band to play on weekday afternoons and laid on a special train from and to Amiens Street. A former Malahide resident painted an idyllic picture of her memories of the Park as a 10 year old girl in about 1908: “There were three tennis courts and two croquet courts. Thick laurel and chestnut bushes made lovely “houses” for children to play about in. There were also numerous “weeping” elms which were very easy to climb and made lovely green “tents”; sweet smelling lilac and showers of laburnam bushes, as well as veronica and escalonia and lauristinus, and four or five arbutus bushes which produced the most realistic “dolls’” oranges. The middle of the park sank into a shallow dell where the trees were thicker and taller and the grass seldom cut, except before the annual Fingal Show; which made the Park a particularly happy playground - as long as the children were inside the park railings and kept away from the tennis courts they were looked on as “safe’ and allowed to run as wild as the space permitted. In the spring there were sheets of bluebells under the sycamores at the Terrace end of the square.” The gardens are now, of course, the location of Malahide Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club.