The Brazen Head, Dublin, Established 1198.
Dating back to 1198, the Brazen Head is the oldest pub in Dublin with a palpable sense of history within its walls. The pub is often known as the oldest pub in Ireland, this title however, is actually more correctly held by Sean’s Bar in Athlone, which dates back to 900AD.
The Brazen Head is located on Bridge Street in the heart of Dublin, which was of course, founded by the Vikings in 841AD. The Brazen Head stands on the site of the original Viking settlement. Beside the pub, the Father Matthew Bridge crosses the River Liffey. It was at this very spot that the original Viking crossing of the river (which today divides Dublin city North from Dublin city South) was located. Here, the Vikings positioned reed matting on the riverbed in order to provide a safe crossing at low tide. The Gaelic name for Dublin ‘Baile Átha Cliath’ translates into ‘The Town of the Ford of the Reed Hurdles’ which clearly indicates its Viking origins. An Inn close to the bridge was essential because in those days, when people travelled by coach, teams of horses could be changed while the weary travellers refreshed themselves with the food and drink that the Brazen Head is still well known for to this day.
The name ‘Brazen Head’ relates to a 13th century legend of a bronze or brass head mounted on marble that could predict the future. The head reputedly would answer any question put to it. The only problem was that the head could only answer with “Yes” or “No”, so questions put to it had to be very carefully phrased!
Steeped in history, it was in the Brazen Head that the rebels of the United Irishmen planned their insurrection against British rule. Robert Emmet used the pub to plan the rising of 1803. Emmet stayed at the premises in a room overlooking the main door so he could view any enemy approach. His rebellion failed and he was hanged in nearby Thomas Street. We sourced and sold Robert Emmet’s death mask to the Brazen Head in 2019. The death mask now proudly hangs on the premises where it attracts much interest from patrons. Ironically, the Hangman who executed Emmet also drank in The Brazen Head.
It was from the corner outside the Brazen Head, overlooking the River Liffey that in the early hours of 28th June 1922, Free State troops using heavy artillery opened fire on Anti Treaty forces holding the Four Courts across the river. This ignited the Irish Civil War which lasted for a year and deeply divided Ireland. In the conflict, the Four Courts was consumed by flames and many documents representing hundreds of years of history were destroyed.
Inside the pub, displayed on its timeworn walls, there is a unique collection of photographs, posters and prints dating from this turbulent period of Irish history. The pub enjoys strong literary connections to great Irish writers such as Brendan Behan, Jonathan Swift and James Joyce. In his classical work ‘Ulysses’, James Joyce referred to the Brazen Head’s hospitality when he wrote “you got a decent enough do in the Brazen Head for a bob.”
The Brazen Head remains popular today with locals and tourists alike because it has managed to retain the true ‘old’ pub atmosphere as well as being a premier food and drink establishment. The craic is always mighty here, with live music every night of the week. A great pint of Guinness can be enjoyed here and the pub is located within a stones throw of the St James’s Gate Guinness brewery.