Dublin Castle - Who is in Charge?

Dublin Castle - Who is in Charge?

Postby Devin » Mon Dec 14, 2009 11:01 am

Well the OPW. But who is responsible for the day-to-day maintenance and presentation of the place? Who is managing it as one of the city's foremost tourist products?



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There are currently 18 unremoved planning site notices (all for minor works) attached to the various entrances around the Castle, all of them past their public display period and some dating back to 2006. They were sitting there all through the peak season this year, and previous years, with hundreds of tourists going in and out every day and taking photographs. There are three here at the main Palace Street entrance.




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Two at the Cork Hill/Castle Street entrance.




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Two at the moat entrance on Castle Street.




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Two at the top of Castle Steps.




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Two more at the bottom of the steps.




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Four more just opposite at the Ship Street gate.




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And three here further up Ship Street.

Does anybody care?



Other than the Chester Beatty conversion, nothing of note was done at the Castle all through the boom years. The last major renovation was at the time of Ireland's presidency of the EU in 1990, which in hindsight is seen to have been very destructive of later layers of the Castle's fabric and history and contrary to good conservation practice.

The 2001 plan to create a new entrance into the Castle on South Great George's Street on axis with Exchequer Street - thereby opening up the whole south retail quarter to the amenity of the Castle - proved beyond us.

What is the vision for Dublin Castle in the next decade or two? Is there one?

If anyone else has opinions on the general dowdiness of the Castle, or otherwise, please comment.
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Re: Dublin Castle - Who is in Charge?

Postby missarchi » Mon Dec 14, 2009 11:28 am

maybe they didn't go for the full blown service;)
Those where the days when you needed to pay someone to ensure they didn't disappear by "accident"
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Re: Dublin Castle - Who is in Charge?

Postby Yixian » Mon Dec 14, 2009 12:17 pm

Are many events held in the castle grounds? Seems like a decent venue for summer activities - outdoor theatre and the like.
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Re: Dublin Castle - Who is in Charge?

Postby StephenC » Mon Dec 14, 2009 12:27 pm

My biggest gripe is the main gates from Palace Street. Its such a shabby entrance and yet its the main route in for most visitors. The gates need repair and painting, the stonework cleaned and the entrance should be lit. Removing the cheap tacky signage would also help. And of course as I have said elsewhere...does the city really need these parking spaces! Surely Palace Street would be better fully pedestrianised.

Another gripe....parking in the tarmac clad Lower Yard. What a fitting setting for the Chapel Royal.
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Re: Dublin Castle - Who is in Charge?

Postby GrahamH » Mon Dec 14, 2009 11:32 pm

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Ah Dublin Castle: the seat of medieval alien power for nearly 500 years, a half-built ruinous shambles for nearly another 100 years, a glittering palace of pretension for the blink of an eye in the late 18th century, a sham of a court for another half century, and an embarrassing spectacle of a slow, agonising death, crawling with its moulded jellies and bentwood chairs towards the finishing line of 1922. Only to start over and endure yet another century of systematic neglect, abuse, misuse, tragedy, fleeting admirable interventions against a roaring tide of persistent apathy and decay, and an overriding sense that this was, and is, a place that does not deserve our attention. An unloved remnant from our colonial past, where, as much as the raw bitterness and antipathy has long dissipated, the legacy of indifference lives on in the incoherent, ill-defined and poorly presented historic site - one of the few in our capital of true international significance - that is presented to us and the Office of Public Works today.

Thankfully, this is set to change. There is a strong feeling within the OPW at present that Dublin Castle needs major attention, on its own merits, as well as on account of the Presidential inauguration in late 2011 and Ireland’s hosting of the European Presidency in the first half of 2013. Most encouragingly, it is the former – the significance of the site and the present condition thereof – that is deemed to be the most pressing issue, and it is to that end that most efforts will be directed over the next two years – for the first time in the complex's modern-day history. Of course, it couldn’t come at a worse time, but we shall see what can be achieved.

Devin is spot on regarding the entrances to the Castle – one of my bugbears for a number of years. Indeed, were I to list them all, we’d be here week (hence the reason for never starting a Castle thread lol). But given the new administration now taken residence in the Castle, I suspect it will be a matter of weeks rather than years before we see results on legacy issues such as these. Other areas in need of serious attention include the removal of parking in the Lower Yard – a space of breathtaking scale, antiquity and royal grandeur when devoid of vehicles – the creation of a proper entrance inside the Palace Street gate with seating, signage and visitor information, the improvement of the route towards the gardens, an entirely new role for the beleaguered Record Tower hosting a museum on the Castle's history and full public access to roof level, the Chapel Royal reopened, aesthetic tweaking of the gracious Upper Yard, and of course the poor aul State Apartments.

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These rooms are without question one of the glories of Dublin, yet their potential is unrealised in terms of decoration, furnishing and presentation. Let’s just show the good bits for now…

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The layers from all periods are what make the State Apartments and Dublin Castle as a whole so interesting, whether it be fragments of late medieval basements, Georgian public splendour, the Regency pomp of the Throne Room, or robust Edwardian refurbishments carried out for the swath of royal visits in the early 20th century.

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Let’s hope the scales of Justice finally tilt back in the Castle’s favour for rather different reasons to that of a century ago...
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Re: Dublin Castle - Who is in Charge?

Postby fergalr » Mon Dec 14, 2009 11:33 pm

This could turn into a thread of epic length. I adore the castle and its precincts but it strikes me how "by the way" the two main entrances are. A visitor could easily miss the lower entrance off Dame st and it's not impossible to miss the entrance to the Upper Yard, either.

EDIT: Imagine my surprise that GrahamH has already begun contributing his Dublin: A Celebration-level photos :)
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Re: Dublin Castle - Who is in Charge?

Postby fergalr » Mon Dec 14, 2009 11:37 pm

GrahamH wrote:
Thankfully, this is set to change. There is a strong feeling within the OPW at present that Dublin Castle needs major attention, on its own merits, as well as on account of the Presidential inauguration in late 2011 and Ireland’s hosting of the European Presidency in the first half of 2013. Most encouragingly, it is the former – the significance of the site and the present condition


We're getting another go of the EU Presidency? Surely that's done with Van Rompuy Pumpy in Brussels.
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Re: Dublin Castle - Who is in Charge?

Postby missarchi » Tue Dec 15, 2009 2:58 am

An Irish lawmaker who made an expletive-ridden outburst in parliament has triggered a review of rules there, after it emerged that the f-word is not on a list of banned terms, a spokeswoman said today...
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Re: Dublin Castle - Who is in Charge?

Postby Global Citizen » Tue Dec 15, 2009 5:21 pm

GrahamH wrote:...and Ireland’s hosting of the European Presidency in the first half of 2013. ...


I thought all EU summit meetings took place in Brussels now regardless of what member state holds the presidency.

Just wondering.
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Re: Dublin Castle - Who is in Charge?

Postby TLM » Tue Dec 15, 2009 6:26 pm

Great news that there are some improvement plans for the castle back on the cards - I hope they re-consider an entrance off George's Street.
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Re: Dublin Castle - Who is in Charge?

Postby Global Citizen » Tue Dec 15, 2009 7:18 pm

Yixian wrote:Are many events held in the castle grounds? Seems like a decent venue for summer activities - outdoor theatre and the like.


Now and then there are some decent exhibitions, Here are some sand sculptures on display during the summer.
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Re: Dublin Castle - Who is in Charge?

Postby Yixian » Tue Dec 15, 2009 8:00 pm

^ That's pretty amazing.

A regular summer season of outdoor opera/theatre would be nice. Perhaps the city could develop something like a "Castle Festival" running in say... July, with a lineup of plays, music, maybe comedy, sculpture like above, even a wine & food fair?
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Re: Dublin Castle - Who is in Charge?

Postby kinsella » Tue Dec 15, 2009 10:38 pm

If only the castle didn't have that 3rd floor add-on.
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Re: Dublin Castle - Who is in Charge?

Postby johnglas » Wed Dec 16, 2009 10:40 pm

Fascinating stuff, all; Graham's quite right about the State apartments (State, not 'royal') - they should be used and shown off, for the treasure chest that they are. So, they're a Brit legacy; so what?
I've always thought that the weakest elements were: parking in the lower yard and the awful tarmac surface; the terribly trendy, arty stuff on the rear lawn and surroundings; the 'shut-off' feel of the govt offices at Ship (?) St - a fine, plain range of buildings; and last (but not at all least), the awful paint-jobs on the 'back' of the State appts - isn't it about timr that these were permanently faced (or does that go against modern conservation convention)? In which case, ignore it.
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Re: Dublin Castle - Who is in Charge?

Postby GrahamH » Thu Dec 17, 2009 12:09 am

Broad agreement there, johnglas. Most people don't seem to get the reason these blocks were painted; namely that this rear portion of the Castle never received architectural treatment. In that sense, I like it. And generally speaking international visitors love it; they recognise its tongue-in-cheek intent. The Irish don't. I'd definitely be open to change, but other solutions would be prohibitively expensive, and with no net gain other than architectural, I can't see works happening here anytime this century.

kinsella wrote:If only the castle didn't have that 3rd floor add-on.


Yes, the story of the additional storey at Dublin Castle is a curious one. It is not entirely clear why it was carried out, given it significantly degraded the architectural integrity of the Upper Yard, given it was a protracted, piecemeal project spanning nearly three decades, and that in one instance, provided redundant, uninhabitable space over one of the ceremonial rooms. Almost certainly however, the reason for the addition was the removal of the troublesome former dormer windows, some of which dated to the late 1680s and must have been a nightmare to maintain. This is the earliest known depiction of modern-day Dublin Castle, drafted by Surveyor General William Robinson in the late 1680s (of which more in due course).

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Typical of the late 17th century, the Robinson Block as it is known, featured a tall chocolate box mansard punctuated by dormer windows, as seen at Dr. Steven’s Hospital and originally at the Royal Hospital Kilmainham. Note the heavy, old-fashioned modillion cornice also.

By the time the Upper Yard was complete in 1761, a low-scale quadrangle of pretty, Continental palatial scale and form had organically emerged, punctuated with grandiose chimneystacks and dormer windows at roof level. James Malton’s view of the Upper Yard from 1799 is accurate in its depiction of a coherent but disjointed square, comprised of elements dating as far back as the 1680s on the very extreme left, a range of the 1710s in the middle, and already out-moded architecture of the old heavy style on the right, dating to the 1740s and 1750s.

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Nonetheless, the Upper Yard exhibited a pleasing harmony and sense of architectural completeness at this point, with a modest unpretentious charm to boot. Here it is a little earlier in 1753, depicted by Joseph Tudor, showing the diversity in range styles.

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The Bedford Tower hadn’t even been built at this point, being based on drafted drawings, hence its rather naive conjectural detailing.

Bizarrely, it was very early on, in the 1790s, that the first attic storey appeared at the Castle, located just out of shot to the left, topping out the north-eastern range corner. This occurred as part of a rebuild of this block caused by differential settlement of the building, which had been built 50 years previously straddling the medieval moat and the former Powder Tower foundations.

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As can be seen, this storey quickly spread across the Cross Block (above left) and Drawing Room Block (middle) in the early 19th century, instigated by the new architect to the Board of Works Francis Johnston, followed by the other ranges in the 1810s and 1820s.

These two images below, apparently both by Brocas from c. 1820, show the Drawing Room Block has having been topped out by this point (extreme left), but the other ranges have yet to be remodeled, with dormers still evident.

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The last of the ranges to be topped up feature attic storeys of high quality machine-made brick which had emerged by the 1820s. Beautiful precision lines of flush lime pointing were possible for the first time. No need for deceptive tuck pointing.

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Johnston’s attic windows were deliberately mean to be subservient to the windows below; they are not square as one might expect. Clearly he wanted the attics to read as an addition – sympathetic, but independent.

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The last of the attics to go up must have looked horrendous in their all-orange glow, above the russet-toned, weathered handmade brick facings below. Even today they stand out where the 18th century brick has been vigorously restored, in pink, 1980s-style.

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The attic storeys were highly destructive of the original Castle design. They transformed pretty Carolean ranges into ugly, cumbersome brick barns. A late 19th century view here of a gawky Cross Block perched precariously atop the hill of the Lower Yard.

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Re: Dublin Castle - Who is in Charge?

Postby GrahamH » Thu Dec 17, 2009 12:19 am

More invasive was the effect on the two focal points of the Upper Yard: the entrance to the State Apartments and the Bedford Tower. In the case of the former, the Entrance Front portico had to be crudely built up by Johnston in order the match the height of the flanking new attics, absorbing a once-proud, pointed declaration into a blocky lumpen mass tottering on visually inadequate stilts.

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(the rebuilding of attics and blocks in the 20th century, as seen above, is another day's work)

The impact on the Bedford Tower was much worse, being the only decent piece of architecture in the entire Castle complex - depended on to inject a modicum of swagger into proceedings in the Upper Yard. Here is the original plan by Surveyor General Arthur Jones Nevill (though it was built in a much more refined, better proportioned manner). The carefully contrived relationship between the gates, the central building and the flanking ranges were critical to the success of the composition.

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Such trifling matters were disregarded by the notoriously pragmatic 19th century. The ghastly atticed result, 1845.

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This was probably carried out by Jacob Owen around 1830.

Another view from the turn of the 20th century, with ravishing cast-iron porte-cochère tacked onto the Entrance Block opposite.

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The Bedford Tower again in 1966, featuring the mixumgatherum of buildings behind the blind Fortitude Gate as demolished in the 1980s.

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In glorious technicolour here in 1961, when the Upper Yard was a tarmaced civil servants’ car park.

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And a fabulous all-colour view from 1979. Again note the cumbersome nature of the attic storey.

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The Yard still a car park of course. Note the extraordinary ghostly pencilled-in effect of the chimneys in the distance. These were in fact just painted grey.

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If you zoom in, you can still observe the scars of window lintel alterations carried out by Jacob Owen in the 19th century (compare with the Tudor print). These scars disappeared in the 1980s restoration.

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The late 1980s saw an inspired move, with the removal of the attic storey and the reinstatement of the original roof profile. Because of the nature of the attic addition, not a single scar remains from its removal. Remarkable. Modern steel sections support the new roof inside.

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Re: Dublin Castle - Who is in Charge?

Postby GrahamH » Thu Dec 17, 2009 12:23 am

It also rather conveniently conceals a multitude of services. Alas the chimneys are makey-uppy. .

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This was one of the most important and effective restorative gestures ever made on an historic building in Ireland, yet is almost entirely unknown. The impact on the architectural integrity of the Upper Yard could not be more significant.

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Dublin’s foremost fairytale composition returns.

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Re: Dublin Castle - Who is in Charge?

Postby kinsella » Thu Dec 17, 2009 1:41 am

Thanks Graham.

I know that Dublin Castle comes in for a lot of criticism by some, but without that third floor the Castle (upper yard) is a building of some grace, elegance and, as you say, charm.
What a shame!
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Re: Dublin Castle - Who is in Charge?

Postby gunter » Thu Dec 17, 2009 1:55 am

Fantastic dissertation from Graham, as always.

Brooking does show that the uniform design intention was there from at least early in the 18th century, if not the very start with Robinson.

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Brookings view of the Castle in 1728 showing the emerging transformation from medieval fortress to collegiate quadrangle.

You notice looking around the Upper Yard the transition from using local calp limestone on the ground floor arcades to granite in the later Bedford block. It would be an interesting exercise to pin-point the first Dublin building where Granite replaced limestone as the facing material. Burgh was a sound Limestone man, I suspect Cassells is the culprit, but I'm not sure.

The cross-block between the upper and lower yards was completely rebuilt after a fire around 1960-61 and one of those great Cushman photographs shows the view from the Lower Yard just as rebuilding was starting.

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Before the High St., Winetavern Street, and Wood Quay excavations, this was the first large scale archaeological excavation in Dublin, as far as I know.

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I love the 'treasury' buildings in the Lower Yard, but as johnglas says the ambience of the Lower Yard is distroyed by the car parking.
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Re: Dublin Castle - Who is in Charge?

Postby GrahamH » Thu Dec 17, 2009 2:18 am

Absolutely - the Treasury Block is one of the best buildings in Dublin, and was startlingly modern for its time. Built 1712-1717 by Burgh, it predates the first glimmers of Henrietta Street by over a decade. Even 30 years later, it is still ahead of that age. Top marks to John Cahill of the OPW for a truly outstanding conservation job on it in the 1990s. Both in research and execution it was top-notch. The windows need a lick of paint now. And more of that greeny buff please! There's great corner chimneystacks inside.

gunter, Robinson did draw up designs for the Upper Yard, only we don't know what they were of. Eddie McParland has unearthed two elevation drawings in the British Library - one is the Robinson Block drawing posted earlier and the other is a vague sketch of what is presumed to be an Entrance Front that was never built. There are no known elevations for all of the other Upper Yard ranges, but Robinson did draw out a basic plan of buildings forming a quad. Thomas Burgh just picked up where Robinson left off with his solitary arcaded block, mirroring it on the other side (though only building the arcade before halting) and the Cross Block and opposing western range as shown by Brooking. Robinson is generally treated unfairly when it comes to the Castle. Whereas what he did execute was remarkably unambitious, it was nonetheless dignified, and we simply don't know that else he proposed for the rest of the Yard.

As for the rebuilding of the Cross Block, the amount of demolition that occured at the Castle in the 20th century is simply staggering, and much greater than what is commonly perceived. Standing in the middle of the Upper Yard today, a third of all buildings that surround you are entirely reproduction. Taking account of facade retentions also, we approach the two thirds mark.
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Re: Dublin Castle - Who is in Charge?

Postby gunter » Thu Dec 17, 2009 3:05 am

GrahamH wrote:. . . . . the amount of demolition that occured at the Castle in the 20th century is simply staggering, and much greater than what is commonly perceived. Standing in the middle of the Upper Yard today, a third of all buildings that surround you are entirely reproduction. Taking account of facade retentions also, we approach the two thirds mark.


Staggering yes, but not that radically different than we might find is the case with many comparable building complexes across Europe.

Admitedly there was also some tarting-up as well as just reconstruction, such as the opening up of the 'dummy' Gate of Mars to match the real Gate of Justice, to use Craig's notation, but this arguably adds to, rather than detracts from, the ensemble.

I take your point about the heaviness of the entrance portico to the state apartments. Even without the added height of the attic storey, half-filled-in porticos never work, look at the Abbey portico :rolleyes:

On the 'Treasury' building conservation programme, why were some of the windows at the back restored as original design flush-mounted and others restored as 'Georgian', do we know? Do we know if the original roof detail was a projecting cornice, like Steeven's Hospital? Wonder why Brooking didn't depict this range along with the other prominent facades of the city :confused:
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Re: Dublin Castle - Who is in Charge?

Postby GrahamH » Sun Dec 20, 2009 12:45 am

Well the Upper Yard was being built as part of the same building programme as the Treasury Building, 1712-1717 (halting for a year in 1715), so they were contemporaneous. In that respect, it made sense for Brooking to depict the primary feature of the Castle: the Upper Yard.

The Treasury Building always had a parapet roof. It is essentially a smaller, brick version of Burgh's Library in Trinity which was being built at the same time (he was one busy man that decade). It is clear that both mansard and parapet roofs were simultaneously fashionable at this point in public building, but considered suitable for different types of structure. Dr Steevens' Hospital was built with a mansard, by Burgh, a decade after the Castle works were first drafted, while mansards were also closely associated with quadrangles - whether they be collegiate, military, or royal residences. Therefore with Robinson's precedent, as much as Burgh may have baulked at it forcing his hand in designing the new Castle, continuing with a mansard roof in the Upper Yard was still more than acceptable as an architectural typology for a hybrid palatial, residential and administrative complex.
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Re: Dublin Castle - Who is in Charge?

Postby gunter » Sun Dec 20, 2009 2:11 am

GrahamH wrote:. . . . Dr Steevens' Hospital was built with a mansard, by Burgh, a decade after the Castle works were first drafted . . . . .


Don't think Steevens had that mansard until the 19th century make-over, Graham. Surely the roof structure of the other three ranges originally matched the profile of the front range?

I checked Brooking again and yes he did depict the old Custom House with a mansard, sorry for the misinformation there.

Are you sure about the parapet being the original detail to the Treasury building? If it's construction was simultaneous with the upper yard [which appears to have projecting eaves in the Malton view], that would be odd and, as you say, in pre-dating Henrietta St. by so long, pretty remarkable.

Mansard roofs abound on buildings of this period in England, but I find it hard to establish for sure that this was the original detail in many cases. For sure the Mansard was present in the English building record, as here appropriately enough on the 'French Hospital' in London, a Huguenot foundation of circa 1688, but, the old Custom House aside, I don't think it ever really took off over here.

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Some modest early 18th century London houses that feature Mansard roof as [possibly] the original design of roof structure. The first two examples are located in the Spittalfield area which is an area associated with the same Huguenot weavers tradition that existed in our Weavers' Square, Chamber Street area, . . . . until we allowed it to be almost completely demolished about sixty years ago.
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Re: Dublin Castle - Who is in Charge?

Postby Devin » Mon Dec 28, 2009 3:08 am

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During a presidential inauguration, 1938.
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Re: Dublin Castle - Who is in Charge?

Postby StephenC » Mon Dec 28, 2009 12:29 pm

Shame we got rid of the Household Cavalry. The green motorbikes just dont have the same panache
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