It seems this is the official Merrion Square thread!
The scaffolding that has shrouded Nos. 58-61 Lower Mount Street for just under the past year has recently been removed, bestowing an architectural jewel on the city - one which exhibits on a large scale the traditional craft of brick pointing that has finally refined itself in the capital over the past three years.
The group of four houses, for many years in the occupation of the adjoining National Maternity Hospital, stood in a shamefully neglected condition at the north-eastern corner of Merrion Square for as long as many people can remember. Here they are as depicted in Dublin Civic Trust’s Wasting Assets
survey back in 2000.
And here they are in the photograph submitted as part of the planning application.
Luckily the application for the houses’ refurbishment and modification for use as offices and consulting rooms was lodged in late 2006, before the fall in the property market. A delay of a year or so appears to have ensued, finally resulting in scaffolding being erected on site in June 2009.
The finished result.
What a marvellous vista of restored, mellowed elegance.
More on the details in a moment. We don’t know much about the origins of these curious houses, as the conservation report, compiled by David Slattery, doesn’t tell us. The report states the obvious, namely that these are late Georgian houses. We are not told in what phases they were built, or most critically of all, why the Victorian additions were carried out, for whom, and exactly when. This is the central interest of these houses – they are almost unique in the city in this respect - and one of the principal reasons an historical assessment would be carried out on them: firstly to assess their significance, and secondly, to inform alterations and retentions as appropriate.
The report is also somewhat confused. Here is the 1797 map, showing what appears to be the beginnings of the buildings we have today, but it's hard to be sure. Note the clear gap in the terrace.
The later 1837 map is described in the report as having a “carriage arch and opening”, when this is clearly still a gap in the terrace.
Here it is again, more clearly, in the revised 1847 map, for which no assessment is included in the report. Again, we can see a full blown gap in the terrace, albeit with a smaller structure consuming part of the plot. The fact this is not a carriage arch can be confirmed by the archway depicted at the bottom right of the map with an X, as is standard all over the map.
So as late as 1847, there would appear to have been a gap in the terrace where the modern-day archway is, with only part of that plot covered where the door is now.
Indeed, just looking at the terrace, we can clearly see that the two grand houses to the left were built as a pair, or at least built contemporaneously (the right-hand one has had a stucco cornice added later), while the two far houses were built later and probably at different times to each other.
This is borne out by looking at the terrace head-on and the variations in brickwork. Spot the infill piggy in the middle anyone?!
It would appear the two grand houses and the far right one were built at roughly the same time, while the middle one with archway was inserted, or at least aggrandised from a smaller structure, at a later date.