The seven towers in Ballymun were built between 1966 and 1969. In the 1960s planners and architects thought the best way to house many people very quickly was to build high towers with as many flats in them as possible
This video is designed as a resource for primary and post-primary students up to Junior Certificate.
The Seven Towers, Ballymun
Looking at Ballymun today, it is hard to imagine that in the 1950s it was a small village of a few cottages at the junction of Santry Avenue and Ballymun Road. All around it was farmland with just a few large houses in between.
Apart from an area of houses called the Wadelai estate which had been built in the late 1950s it remained like this until the 1960s. In that time many people lived in the city centre in old run-down buildings called tenements. Before this, tenements were the big houses of the rich. When their wealthy owners moved into the more fashionable areas, the houses were divided into smaller units and poor people moved in. Often two families shared one room or families lived on the landing (children from these families were called ‘lobby-reared’). There were also no bathrooms and not enough toilets for all the people.
By 1963 many of these tenements had become too dangerous to live in but their tenants could not afford to buy their own house so the government decided to build new blocks of flats for them in Ballymun.
In the 1960s planners and architects thought that the best way to house many people very quickly was to build high towers with as many flats in them as possible so between 1966 and 1969 Ballymun Towers were built on the outskirts of the city. There were seven of them. Each was fifteen storeys tall and there were ninety flats to each tower and six to each floor. That’s an awful lot of flats. Apart from the towers the government also built some smaller blocks of flats and some houses in the area.
The towers were named after the seven leaders of the Easter Rising of 1916 – in 1966, 50 years had passed since the Rising! Their names were Thomas Clarke, Seán McDermott, Thomas McDonagh, Patrick Pearse, Eamonn Ceannt, James Connolly and Joseph Plunkett. All of these leaders were executed in Kilmainham Jail.
When the first families moved into their new flats in 1966, they were delighted. They had a couple of bedrooms, running hot water, central heating, flush toilets and lifts, luxuries they had never had before. All went well at first, but soon they also discovered that they had nowhere to shop, the lifts kept breaking down, the heating could not be lowered and the promised public swimming pool, meeting places and play areas were never built because the government had run out of money. Ballymun seemed to be miles away from the city centre.
People were unhappy and those who could afford to move did. During the 1980s things got worse: many people had no jobs and there were problems with stolen cars and drugs. Many of the flats stood empty because nobody wanted to live in Ballymun anymore.
Eventually it was decided that Ballymun needed a complete renewal but this time Dublin City Council who ran the place wanted to do the planning together with the people living in Ballymun. There were many meetings and discussions and a new plan was drawn up. The towers were to be knocked down and new houses and much smaller apartment blocks were to be built as well as all the facilities which had been planned but never happened in the 1960s.
In 2004 Pearse Tower was the first of the seven towers to be pulled down. Lots of families have moved into their new homes which they had helped to design and now for the first time have a front and a back garden where the children can play.