Wicklow Archives feature in Centenary Event marking the burning of the Custom House on 25 May 2021

Detail from Wicklow Grand Jury Abstracts of Presentments Book 1818 (WLAA/GJ/AP)
Image: Wicklow County Archives Service

People, Place and Power: Grand Jury Records and Local History

Tuesday 25 May 2021: 2.30pm to 5.00pm                                                                            Zoom Webinar Event – Registration: here                                                                              Presented in association with Local Government Archivists and Records Managers Attendance is Free of Charge and All are Welcome

Beyond 2022 Research Showcase Marking the Centenary of the Custom House Fire (25 May 1921) – Zoom Webinar Events Hosted by the Trinity Long Room Hub Arts and Humanities Research Institute.

The Grand Jury records

In the 18th and 19th centuries, the Grand Jury was ‘most important local body in rural Ireland’. Its records are a unique source for Irish local history, social change and genealogy. While many Grand Jury records were destroyed during the 1916–1923 period, vital collections still survive at local level across Ireland, where they are preserved by Local Archive services.

The showcase will reveal how the Grand Jury’s decisions impacted directly on daily life, enforcing the law at the local level, collecting taxation and deciding where it would be spent. Grand Juries did more than build roads, bridges, courthouses and prisons. They paid for orphaned children to be boarded-out, escorted convicts for transportation, and produced very early and highly detailed maps of their districts.

Professor Virginia Crossman, author of Local Government in Nineteenth-Century Ireland, will discuss the significance of the Grand Jury records for historical research. The showcase will also visit – virtually – the reading rooms of three Local Archive services across the country, in Counties Donegal, Offaly and Wicklow, bringing you into contact with these fascinating records.


  • Professor Virginia Crossman (Emerita, Oxford Brookes)
  • Catherine Wright (Wicklow County Archives & Genealogy Service)
  • Niamh Brennan (Donegal Archives)
  • Lisa Shortall (Offaly Archives)
  • Brian Gurrin and David Brown (Beyond 2022 Project)

Evening Session

‘Burning the Books’: Series Finale of Out of the Ashes Richard Ovenden, Bodley’s Librarian, University of Oxford                                                                                                  Tuesday 25 May 2021 at 7.00pm–8.30pm                                                                            Registration here

The Centenary Research Showcase concludes with Richard Ovenden, Bodley’s Librarian, University of Oxford, author of Burning the Books: A History of Knowledge Under Attack (John Murray, 2020). This event is the series finale in the prestigious three-year Out of the Ashes international lecture series addressing cultural loss worldwide. Following the lecture, Richard Ovenden will be joined in conversation by Helen Shenton, College Librarian and Archivist of Trinity College Dublin.

Deliberate destruction

Richard Ovenden describes the deliberate destruction of knowledge held in libraries and archives from ancient Alexandria to contemporary Sarajevo, from smashed Assyrian tablets in Iraq to the destroyed immigration documents of the United Kingdom’s Windrush generation. He examines both the motivations for these acts—political, religious, and cultural—and the broader themes that shape this history. He also looks at attempts to prevent and mitigate attacks on knowledge, exploring the efforts of librarians and archivists to preserve information, often risking their own lives in the process.

About this showcase

This centenary research showcase from the Beyond 2022: Ireland’s Virtual Record Treasury Research Project has been organized in association with Local Government Archivists and Records Managers and supported by the Government of Ireland, through the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media, under Project Ireland 2040.  Beyond 2022 is an all-island and international collaborative research project working to create a virtual reconstruction of the Public Record Office of Ireland, which was destroyed in the opening engagement of the Civil War on June 30th, 1922.  The ‘Record Treasury’ at the Public Record Office of Ireland stored seven centuries of Irish records dating back to the time of the Normans. Together with our 5 Core Archival Partners and over 40 other Participating Institutions in Ireland, Britain and the USA, we are working to recover what was lost in that terrible fire one hundred years ago.  [Wicklow County Archives is one of the Participating Institutions].

Four Courts blaze

On the centenary of the Four Courts blaze next year (30 June 2022), we will launch the Virtual Record Treasury of Ireland online. Many millions of words from destroyed documents will be linked and reassembled from copies, transcripts and other records scattered among the collections of our archival partners. We will bring together this rich array of replacement items within an immersive 3- D reconstruction of the destroyed building.

Open access

The Virtual Record Treasury of Ireland will be an open-access resource, freely available online to all those interested in Irish history at home and abroad. Many of the most important memory institutions worldwide are joining us in this shared mission to reconstruct Ireland’s lost history.  The Virtual Record Treasury will serve as a living and growing legacy from the Decade of Centenaries.

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