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The oldest public monument on James’s Street is the Fountain which played an interesting part in the history of the Parish of St James. The Fountain, designed by Francis Sandys, was erected in 1790 by the Duke of Rutland who was Lord Lieutenant of Ireland between 1784 and 1787.
A feature of the application of the Penal Laws was that Catholics were not permitted to maintain their own graveyards in Dublin. However, burials were facilitated in the graveyard beside the Church of Ireland premises on the north side of James Street, adjacent to the Fountain. This church, also called St. James’s had been built in the 1700’s on a site of 1.5 acres.
Catholics and Protestants were interred in this graveyard until the opening in 1829 of a new graveyard at Goldenbridge. This cemetery was soon found to be too small and in due course Glasnevin Cemetery was opened and became the main cemetery for Dublin City. This church finally closed in 1963 when the parish was united with St Catherine’s.
One of the traditions practiced by Catholics who lived in James’s Street parish was the habit of carrying a corpse three times around the Fountain while reciting the burial prayers before interment in the graveyard. This was in response to the prohibition on Catholic prayers in the churchyard.