A Short History of the Village of Malahide


There is no certainty about the origin of the name Malahide which has been variously spelt in the past as Mallahide, Malahyde and Mallahyde. The most commonly quoted Irish names are “Mullach Íde”which translates as the Hill or Sandhill of Íde, an old Irish saint or “Mullac h-Ide” the hill or sandhill of the Hydes who were a Norman family that settled in the Donabate area on the other side of Malahide Estuary.

Down through the centuries Malahide remained a small village centred on Old Street, Strand Street and the Back Strand, dependant on agricultural work around the Manor or Castle of Malahide and the Talbots family and on fishing and some trade, principally with Chester and Bristol. The Civil Survey of 1654-56 stated:

"In ye town of Mallahide about 20 thatcht houses, one sea water mill. Also a stone thatcht house with two small thatcht houses in possession of Thomas Jones. Also an orchard and garden with a fishing harbour and a conny warren".

The rich land was intensively tilled to supply cereals, vegetables and hay to the nearby Dublin market and there was relatively little grazing. The ancient townland name of Yellow Walls suggests that flax may also have been grown to supply a cottage linen spinning and weaving industry. Richard Talbot sought to alleviate the poverty among his tenantry by establishing a major cotton enterprise at Yellow Walls in 1782 and this led to significant growth in population engaged in related trades in that area. However, the cotton mill appears to have folded before the Act of Union in 1800. Agriculture and a small fishing industry, but including significant oyster beds, provided some employment but it is likely there was considerable poverty in the first half of the 19th century, though less so than in other parts of Fingal. Most families had their own moderately good thatched cottage or cabin with a garden where they grew vegetables, particularly potatoes. Around this time, probably under the influence of the Talbots, the road layout was altered.

Layout of village

The Diamond was planned, with a fountain in the centre, and the three main roads – New Street, Church Road and Dublin Road - re-aligned so as to radiate from there. The Mall leading to the Grand Hotel was added later. The modern road to Swords was laid out, replacing the track along the estuary. In 1792, Richard W. Talbot granted a lease for the first of the four houses that form the present-day Diamond. Subsequent development took place around this new village centre.

Population and growth

The village population was around 1,000 in the early 19th century increasing to 1,223 by 1831. The census of that year recorded 217 habitable houses and 237 families mostly living by fishing. Catholics outnumbered Protestants by 4:1. Several proper schools were established in the 1830s. By 1841 the population had fallen back to 664. With the coming of the railway in 1844, it became a fashionable residential area for ‘castle’ officials and Dublin businessmen and attracted city day trippers during the summer and later in the century golfers. Nevertheless after the worst of the famine the population had fallen further to 594 in 1851. Minor industries such as salt harvesting, sawmilling, a steam bakery, a silk ribbon factory and a gasworks were established but faded with the exception of the gasworks which survived well into the 20th century. In the 1840s coal was being imported to the extent of about 20,000 tons annually whilst exports comprised grain, meal and flour. It had a constabulary police and a coast-guard station. By 1901 the population had risen to just 1739 but fell again to 1676 according to the 1911 census.

Modern Malahide

Developers recognised its potential in the 1960s and the following forty years saw the ‘village’ grow at a rapid pace with many new housing estates. It has become a desirable residential area, being adjacent to Dublin Airport and well served with a great community spirit, transport links, dining, shopping and recreational amenities, pleasant beaches and good boating facilities and a consequent substantial premium on house prices. The population per the 2011 census was 15,846. Malahide Castle and Gardens have been renovated and conserved and are open to the public daily with guided tours and recreational facilities. 

Portion of the lease, dated 1792, for what was probably the first house at the newly laid out Diamond in the village centre.