The poet Thomas Tickell owned a house and small estate in Glasnevin and, in 1795, they were sold to the Irish Parliament and given to the Royal Dublin Society for them to establish Ireland’s first botanic gardens. A double line of yew trees, known as “Addison’s Walk” survives from this period. The original function of the gardens was to advance knowledge of plants for agricultural, medicinal and dyeing purposes. The gardens were the first location in Ireland where the infection responsible for the 1845–1847 potato famine was identified. Throughout the famine, research to stop the infection was undertaken at the gardens.
Walter Wade and John Underwood, the first Director and Superintendent respectively, executed the layout of the gardens, but, when Wade died in 1825, they declined for some years. From 1834, Director Ninian Nivan brought new life into the gardens, performing some redesign. This programme of change and development continued with the following Directors into the late 1960s.