The Strawberry Beds  were just that, extending on both sides of the Liffey from Chapelizod to Lucan where strawberries for the capital were cultivated in the 18th and early 19th century, until the development of a  train network to the 'sunny south-east'.   Natural strawberries do not keep more than a couple of days; they are easily bruised, particularly in the bumpy transport before asphalt roads and pneumatic tyres.  A French diplomat, Charles Coquebert, in May, 1791, took the low road through the Beds on route to Galway.  Of the Beds he wrote of the declivity facing south, possibly suitable for vines, is covered with strawberry plants, peas, cabbages, etc.  A wooden bridge leads to Hermitage.  This deep valley sheltered by fine woods is used by the inhabitants of Dublin for pleasure trips and though very different in character from the seacoast it is no less beautiful than the more popular resorts at Clontarf, Howth, Blackrock and Dalkey
However, the first successful production of home-grown strawberries took place at Leixlip, possibly in or near the gardens of the Black Castle, Mill Lane. The event was recorded in the Dublin Newsletter, August 9th to 12th, 1740: “In Mr. James Ussher’s Garden at Leixlip there is this Season brought to Perfection a Chili Strawberry, under the Management of John Charters, Gardener, which is four Inches round. The late Dr. Marmaduke Coghill first imported these Plants, but we are told they were not brought to Perfection till this Year.”  Marmaduke Coghill was a friend, business colleague and executor of the will of the late Speaker William Conolly of Castletown and landlord of Leixlip. James Ussher was probably a descendant of John Ussher, to whom John Whyte, who sold the manor of Leixlip to Conolly, was heavily indebted and who granted a mortgage to Whyte on the manorial mill at Leixlip. Coghill’s Dublin residence was All Hallows, Drumcondra.  A French spy, operating in Chile, South America, spotted the fine strawberries there and brought samples to France in 1714. [Newspaper report kindly notified to me by Thomas J Byrne, Artane, 18/1/2006].

John Colgan.