The character of the area has changed in the last 100 years, from a district centred on a large estate, and later small village, to a modern, rather dispersed, mixed-use suburb. Much of the old village is gone and where there were once fields full of crops, and wild woodlands of all sorts, there are now housing estates, an athletics stadium, a shopping complex, industrial parks and busy roads leading to Dublin Airport. Morton Stadium was until recently the home to the newest League of Ireland club—Sporting Fingal however the club was disbanded in 2011 when problems emerged with their ability to raise sponsorship. The Trinity College Library has a depository at Santry which holds three million books.
Santry is an anglicisation of the Irish placename Shean Triabh (pronounced Shan-treev) which literally means "Old tribe". Although nobody can be quite sure, the book of Leccan refers to a tribe called the Almanii who inhabited the area, who might have been the source of the name.
During the Viking invasions a number of peaceful Norse farmers moved into the North Dublin area, which proved to be excellent farmland. These Norsemen were famous for their agricultural prowess, crafts and fishing skills. They also brought new pastimes and strange Scandinavian phrases which are thought to survive to today further away from the city.
After this time people began to refer to the area north of the River Tolka, including from Santry and north to Swords, Lusk, and beyond as "Fingal", which translates as "fair-haired foreigner". The name was confined to songs, poems, folk memory and some antiquarian titles until a re-organization of local government in the 1990s set up Fingal and Fingal County Council.
In the 12th century, the neighborhood of Santry was plundered by Murcadh Ua Maeleachlain, King of Meath, in revenge for the death of his son at the hands of Mac Gilla Mocholmog, chief of Fingal, who then established his base in Santry.
In 1581 the lands and title of Santry were awarded to William Nugent who then lost it after falling out of favour with the Crown because of his religion. In 1620 the lands of Santry were confiscated from Nugent's aristocratic but Catholic offspring, the Barnewalls. The Protestant Barry family (originally from Cork) took charge of the estate and tenants and became the Lords of Santry where they remained in title for three or four generations. King Charles II made James Barry, then only a knight, Baron Barry of Santry (for services rendered).
Santry was the scene of violence in the early months of the Irish Rebellion of 1641, when a punitive expedition of Parliamentarians led by Sir Charles Coote mistakenly massacred a group of local farm labourers, who were sleeping in the fields there. Coote had assumed they were rebels preparing to attack Dublin.
During the Williamite war in Ireland, in 1690, the Catholic King James stationed his Jacobite army just to the west of Santry, near Balcurris (now within Ballymun) before setting out to oppose William of Orange at the battle of the Boyne.
In the Irish Rebellion of 1798 United Irishmen from all over Fingal marched south towards Dublin city but were met by a company of local Yeomanry (government militia) from Santry village and were massacred. The bloodshed was so bad in this action that the area at the Northern gateway to Santry Demesne (now near the Little Venice Restaurant) was known as "Bloody Hollows" for several years after. Later a Royal Irish Constabulary station was located on the site of the present-day restaurant.