The high price paid in the name of development

Today in Dublin we say goodbye to an institution. After 240 years Greenes bookshop opposite Trinity College in the very centre of the city, is closing. They are moving to a wharehouse distribution centre and changing to on-line sales only.

This shop is legendary in Dublin and has been one of those landmark buildings for as long as it has existed. How many people over the years have said “I’ll meet you off the bus at Greenes”

It had a famous winding staircase lined with books and crazily an open fire. There was also a post office in the ground floor which acted as a meeting place for the local community

Oscar Wilde lived across the road from the shop on the corner of Merrion Square where his statue now stands (actually it sort of reclines) and was a frequent visitor

It is a sad, sad loss to the city and country as a whole and follows close on the heals of the famous Kennys bookshop and gallery which closed for the same reason in Galway last year

Some things are worth more than profit and should not be lost to pure economics

This is a short potted history:-

Goodbye To Greene’s Bookshop of 16 Clare Street, Dublin, Ireland


Greenes is a building that is steeped in more than 240 years of history, having being built in the late 1700’s. The original owners lived and worked here. Many notable authors such as Brendan Behan, W.B. Yeats, Frank O’Connor, Jack B. Yeats and Sammuel Beckett (whose father had an office across the road) have browsed the shelves over the years.

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The Room John Greene Was Laid Out In

This upstairs room has featured in about half a dozen movies and TV documentaries. And it was in this room that old John Greene, the founder, was laid out in 1899. A visitor to this room in the 1940’s would have found members of the staff frying their sausages and breakfast on a pan over the fire!

Greene’s of Clare Street has been a book shop since 1843, prior to this it has been a ladies Hoisery Store. There are many interesting characteristic features of this store including, the Glass canopy, the old wooden bookstands and the intricate ironwork supports. The original lettering has never been changed since the shop opened in 1843.

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The Shop with it’s distinctive Glass Canopy

The Pembrey family has run the business since 1912 when it was taken over by Herbert H. Pembrey, then passed onto his son Herbert Seymour Pembrey, who looked after the business along with his son Eric until the year 2000, when sadly both Eric and Herbert passed away. The family firm is now being run by Eric’s son David.

“…..because of it’s central location, Greene’s has been a handy source for school texts over the years, and generations of Dubliners remember queuing with their book lists in hand…..”

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Local Map

Greene’s Bookshop Ltd. was located in the heart of Georgian Dublin. We are within three minutes walk of Westland Row (Pearse) railway station (suburban & DART services). This station was the first to be built in Ireland (for the line to Dun Laoghaire built by William Dargan in 1831).

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4 Responses to “The high price paid in the name of development”

  1. Diasporational Part Five – James Joyce: Poster Boy for Irish Emigration | silence cunning exile ... maple syrup Says:

    […] I feel the same. I remember the awful shock on a return trip to Dublin when I discovered that my beloved Greene’s Bookshop was no more. I want to go back. I want to be able to walk to eternity on Sandymount strand once more. But I […]

  2. Anonymous Says:

    It is a crying shame that this has happened. With history like that, it should have been taken over by a national heritage organisation. I hope the new owners are sympathetic to the building….

  3. ....... Says:

    This was a wonderful post hun. Pics, detail, and interesting part of something that puts myself in the know a bit more about ur Dublin. Thanks for sharing however on a sad note………i think i just lost my fantasy encounter #5 on my list of things to do in Dublin! *wink

  4. Súile gorma Says:

    Thanks for sharing some of the history of Dublin. I love to hear of places like this book store but I do not like to hear that they are closing their doors. I could get “lost” in a bookstore for hours, no days if they would let me. I see on the map the prime location the store had and wonder what will become of the building.
    I also note the Pearse Street and you state Pearse Railway station, named after Padraig Pearse? Anything else in Dublin named after him or his brother?
    It is just sad that a bookstore had to close, especially one steeped in a long tradition. Does Ireland have those “Chain” bookstores too?
    Again, thanks for sharing, good story, yet sad as things don’t always change for the better…?

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