Castles, as are their want, are usually found on some commanding piece of land. When the Vikings needed to build a fortress in Ireland they choose the high piece of land on the banks of the river Liffey. Adjacent was a deep black tidal pool which gave them a natural harbor for their famous longships. Although this harbor no longer exists, having become reclaimed land forming the basis of the modern castle gardens, it’s lasting legacy is in the name it gave the city; Black Pool or, in the native Gaelic tongue, Dubh Linn.
James Maltons “Great Courtyard, Dublin Castle. July, 1792”
The Vikings, although defeated in 1014 by Irish King Brian Boru, would survive in Ireland until the arrival of the Normans in the 12th century. The Normans would bring with them what would turn out to be 700 years of direct rule by England over the Irish. The embodiment of this would be a new castle, commissioned by King John, constructed between 1205 and 1230 on the old Viking site. The castle was tasked with the responsibilities of defense, administration and treasury. This castle encompassed what would become known as the upper courtyard.
In 1684 the Castle suffered a great fire which caused a period of reconstruction and building. In 1761 the Bedford Tower on the north of the yard was completed crowning the new courtyard. Now no longer the upper courtyard of the medieval castle but a modern Georgian design; The Great Courtyard that Malton would capture in his print
With Ireland winning independence from the United Kingdom in 1922 the castles central administrative role would cease. Today it functions as a government conference centre and tourist attraction – a highlight of which is of course the Great Courtyard. Although the administrative and defensive rolls with which the castle was tasked by King John are long gone it’s with a nod to history that the Office of the Revenue Commissioners still maintain offices in the castle.