'Dutch Billys'

Re: 'Dutch Billys'

Postby gunter » Tue Dec 07, 2010 2:40 am

Boooooog, I've got stuff on Islandbridge, I'll dig it out tomorrow. I don’t understand the significance of ‘Bailey’ as opposed to ‘Billy’. Peter Walsh explained the term ‘Dutch Billy’ as being a contemporary pet name for William of Orange, that’s always been accepted as far as I know. I don’t know at what point there is documentary evidence for the term being attached to the curvilinear gabled house, but I suspect that Peter Walsh knows and there are encouraging signs that a publication may be imminent.

I fully agree with you that we can trace the development of the ‘Dutch Billy’ in a fairly direct line from the simpler stone-built triangular gabled post-medieval houses that appear to have been the mainstay of Irish townscapes in the 17th century, as depicted by Speed in 1610 and Phillips in the 1680s. That’s fairly logical and matches reasonably well what we see in England and Europe in general, only much plainer and less architecturally ambitious, in line with the slightly frontier aspect of our towns and cities.

A good example of this strong-but-plain Irish street architecture of the 17th century would have been the Archbishop’s Palace on Lawrence Street in Drogheda.

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an extract of Ravell’s map of Drogheda, 1749, showing Lawrence St. with the ‘Lord Primate’s Palace’ adjacent to St. Lawrence’s Gate, with Singleton house on the other side, and elevations of both buildings in the margin

On one level this is a magnificent town mansion of collegiate scale, built by Archbishop Hampton around 1620, but on another level, this building is a world away from the likes of Raynham Hall [posted above] which is its almost exact contemporary. Perhaps it would be dangerous to read too much into the plainness and asymmetry of the Drogheda building, perhaps Hampton, an English cleric, just had conservative taste or wished to project a particular image of old fashioned stability and frugality, albeit with forty plus rooms.

Either way, we can readily see how a double curvilinear gabled mansion [like that one depicted by Francis Place in the 1698 drawing of Dublin from the Wooden Bridge] can be related back to the tradition that produced multi-gabled buildings like the Archbishop’s Palace in Drogheda.

What we need to find is an explanation for is why was it that the brick terraced house tradition here, from the end of the 17th century to the mid 18th century, so completely adopted the 'Dutch' shaped gable as its defining motif at the same time that in England the flat parapet was becoming the only show in town.

We know that what we’re looking at in the decades after 1690 is a clear divergence in the patterns of street-architecture between England and Ireland at a time when the building traditions in both countries had otherwise perhaps never been as closely aligned. The explanation for this dichotomy can only be that the people delivering street-architecture here and in England were coming under the influence of different forces.

As we've discussed before, the strongest force influencing the form of street-architecture in England at this time is undoubtedly the 'Re-building London Regulations' which were presented as a fire code but which were in fact put together by a small coterie of architecturally minded intellectuals with classicism on their minds who used the opportunity of the 1666 fire to kill what they saw as the urban disorder of the gabled tradition and impose a greater classical regime on the street-architecture of London. That stylistic battle had actually been going on in London since the 1630s, but the fire dramatically gave the upper hand to the classicists who dominated the Royal commission and who shamelessly depicted everything except a brick box with a flat parapet as a fire hazard.

By contrast, the strongest force influencing the form of street-architecture in Ireland at this time appears to have been a loyalist celebratory impulse. We know that the impulse to celebrate ‘King Billy’, as the saviour of the whole Anglo-Protestant project in Ireland, existed in spades and we know that it endured in Ireland long after his lacklustre reign had faded from an English consciousness increasingly absorbed with the new political sport of Whig/Tory rivalry. If that loyalist celebratory impulse hadn’t been present, and hadn’t been so focused on the person of ‘King Billy’ then the ‘Dutch’ gabled streetscapes that emerged in Dublin, Cork, Limerick Waterford, Drogheda etc. may not have emerged, or at least may not have had the coherence and sense of common purpose that they did.

That’s probably as far as it went, an impulse acting as a booster rocket to an already existing gabled tradition, itself introduced from England and a cousin of a wider pan-northern-European tradition, which briefly [fifty years or so] took street-architecture here on a different trajectory than the street-architecture of England which, under different influences, was undergoing abrupt retraining in classicism.

Even accepting the role of this loyalist celebratory impulse, this it’s still only a small part of whole ‘Dutch Billy’ story. What clearly developed here was much more than a political whim or a loyalist impulse, it was in many ways the complete package, a fully fledged building tradition with a defined geographic spread, with regional variations, with both aristocratic and vernacular wings, and with significant typological development involving considerable invention and imagination and, perhaps above all, with the appearance of a keen understanding of how great streetscape is made.

This sounds like a eulogy again, but it’s important when we spend so much time discussing individual roof profiles that we don’t lose sight of the overall significance of the ‘Billy’ phenomenon and its place in the record of our cultural achievement.
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Re: 'Dutch Billys'

Postby Boooooog » Thu Dec 09, 2010 5:21 am

On the specifically 'Dutch' appearance of the gables on the Clancarty house, assuming that the Tudor print does in fact depict the mansion we suspect was built in the 1670s or early 80s, how does that fit in with certain origins of the 'Dutch Billy' theories which may have been put forward? . . . . and what is a Gaelic Catholic family doing building a house whose design seems to consciously evoke Protestant Holland?


Thomas Dineley sketched Trinity, Christchurch and St Patrick's in 1682, six years before The Glorious Revolution. In each of them he shows what we would describe as Dutch Billys, in the Trinity and St Patrick's drawings he illustrates curvillinear gables on houses around them. All these landmark buildings are in different parts of the city, so if they are in each picture it's logical to assume they must have been an established style pretty common and evenly distributed across Dublin by that date.

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I hope I am not being pedantic, and I am forgiven for indulging my love of these houses by suggesting that if this architectural style was embraced by William of Orange fans in the city, and seized upon as a pre-existing style of house to represent a love of all things Dutch, would that not reflect in Street names too? S. William St and Boyne St spring to mind but I can't think of many off the top of my head. Yet if these houses were a widespread loyalist statement, wouldn't that be reflected in street names? I'd like to know if people were walking around wearing the latest Dutch styles too? The Statue of King Billy on College Green was very unpopular from the get-go and routinely vandalised, reflecting a politically mixed population. Just because these houses experienced their flowering in his period, I don't think it was necessarily a reflection of the new power in town. It was already an established, vernacular style. I'm not denying that Dutch Billys aren't associated with him, just that the term, is misleading, as well as being wonderfully evocative and colorful.

Now this is a big ASSUME, but assume the term "Dutch Billy" is contemporary with the period. What if the term "Dutch Billy" originally did not refer to Dutch Billy himself, but came from at least a decade earlier, as the buildings themselves do, predating his arrival on the Irish stage? I suggest this merely as food for thought, but perhaps Dutch Billy, as I mentioned in my previous post, was a colloquial term, phonetically similar to Billy, such as, in the Irish of the period, Bailean; residence, or Baile, place, piece of land, belonging to one family, group or individual. Denoting simply something that looked Dutch, argot for The Dutch House. Fusing an English and an Irish word as in Ringsend.

In Scot's Gaelic, Baidealach
, means abounding in towers and pillars. From Baideal meaning a pillar, fortress, tower or battlement. Consider bailey/billy in the sense of a shape evoking towers. Likely the early examples were set apart from the densley packed houses of a mainly late medieval town, perhaps with a front court evoking the bailey of a castle, fantastical buildings set apart from the shadows and squalor of the narrow medieval streets.

It is appropriate they are associated with William of Orange, they boomed from his time and the association would be foolish to deny, but they were here before him and so, maybe, was the term.
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Re: 'Dutch Billys'

Postby gunter » Mon Dec 20, 2010 12:13 am

For lots of reasons Boooooog, I think a Gaelic derivation for ‘Billy’ is unlikely, and we know that ‘Baile’ was already absorbed into common speech as the ‘town’ half of numerous place names, having simply become anglicized as ‘Bally’, either as a suffix {e.g. Stradbally - Straid-Baile - street town] or more commonly as a prefix [e.g. Ballymena – An Baile Meánach – the middle town].

On the other matter, I think we’re mostly on the same page, certainly in respect of there having been an existing gabled tradition here out of which the ‘Dutch Billy’ phase evolved. I think however that there is a distinction to be made between the gabled tradition, pre 1690 and post 1690, and it would seem likely that the events of 1690 probably have significance in that distinction.

The examples that Dineley illustrates in the 1680s can probably be better characterized as ‘Holborn’ shaped gables [a term apparently coined by the English architectural historian, Summerson on foot of two particularly early examples constructed in the High Holborn area of London circa 1610]. Other terms for the same thing include ‘Artisan Mannerist’ and ‘Flemish’. These earlier 17th century gables were often capped by a small classical pediment but their defining feature was a complex double curved or scrolled profile.

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another Hollar engraving, this time of Covent Garden with lots of ‘Holborn’ gables fronting King Street to the right and Henrietta Street to the left. Its interesting that these gabled houses were built at the same time [1630s], and by some of the same builders, as the classical terraces designed by Inigo Jones in the foreground

The epicentre of that earlier, complex, multi-curved and scrolled gable treatment was probably Flanders and the great cloth trading cities like Antwerp and Arras. From there, this architectural influence crossed the channel to add layers of rich ornamentation onto the evolving Tudor/Stuart tradition in England which was shaking off its creaky half-timbered heritage. Across all sectors of secular building from palaces, manor houses to merchant houses, decorative ornamental gables in brick and stone began to appear wherever architectural showing off was required.

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two extracts from Gerrit Berckhyde’s late 17th century painting of the Great Square in Haarlem showing some of the first curvilinear gabled houses to encroach on the dominance of stepped gables in one of Holland’s secondary cities

The Dutch, whether through a Calvinist rejection of florid ornamentation or not, developed a more serious and sober gable profile to their merchant houses that typically employed a classical pediment or ‘fronton’ flanked by simple sweeping curves creating that evocative silhouette that became instantly recognisable as a ‘Dutch’ signature, even though actual Dutch street-architecture then went on to add back in great dollops of icing sugar to that elegant and frugal formula.

What began to be built in great numbers in Dublin and elsewhere in the decades after 1690 were houses that incorporated this evocative ‘Dutch’ silhouette, but with the rationalization that the gable curves were invariably true quadrants rather than the tall elongated sweeps that would be more common in the Dutch tradition. What I think this tells us is that it was the idea of a ‘Dutch’ elevation that transferred, rather than a strand of the actual tradition.

Which brings us back to Potsdam. In theory the development of the ‘Dutch Quarter’ in Potsdam, between 1734 and 1742 at the instigation of the Prussian monarch Frederick-William I, should have been the most clear cut example of deliberate direct transplantation of Dutch street-architecture outside the Netherlands, being an entire district of four city blocks comprising some 134 houses built apparently, in part at least, by Dutch craftsmen under the direction of an invited Dutch artisan/architect specifically to entice a Dutch craft colony to settle in Brandenburg.

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aerial views of the west end of Mittel Strasse in Potsdam’s ‘Dutch Quarter’
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note the end house on the tapered site with the roof ridge splicing into two giving twin gables at the rear, like we saw at front at the corner houses on New Row South

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street level view of the same houses

In reality however the ‘Hollandisches Viertel’ in Potsdam, though a magnificent piece of townscape, could not be mistaken for a district of an actual Dutch town any more than the contemporary Molesworth estate development here would have been, because although the dominant imagery in both cases is deliberately Dutch, the proportions and detail are largely local. Again it was the idea of building ‘Dutch’ houses that I think was manifest in Potsdam, not an offshoot of the tradition of building Dutch houses, if that makes any sense.
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Re: 'Dutch Billys'

Postby Boooooog » Sun Dec 26, 2010 6:36 pm

Merry Christmas all.

As usual Gunter, good point and well put. Those Berckhyde pictures are fantastic, what a dreamscape of a street.

Are there any examples of these proto-Billys left in the country? Indeed, is it possible with all the alterations usually associated with surviving Billys to know which ones are the oldest?
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Re: 'Dutch Billys'

Postby gunter » Tue Dec 28, 2010 11:20 pm

Boooooog, as it happens, the Dublin Civic Trust, in addition to everything else they’re doing, are believed to be beavering away on a typological study of gabled houses at the moment precisely for the purpose of finding the answers to those kinds of questions and anyone with an interest in the subject is being encouraged to chip in their tuppence worth.

gunter has personally put in six-pence worth and is watching closely to make sure that ‘narrow-plot-twin-Billys’ make it through to the final draft.

One important strand of any in-depth study of gabled house typologies is going to be the wider context, particularly in terms of Britain and mainland Europe.

With that in mind, places like Covent Garden are especially interesting because they represent the interface between the emerging academic classicism of an architectural elite who enjoyed court patronage and the artisan mannerism of the more merchant classes and also because the development and evolution of Covent Garden has been pretty thoroughly recorded in maps, prints and paintings over the years.

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that Hollar print of Covent Garden dating to circa 1637 again

Some doubt has been cast on the accuracy of the Hollar print, because a number of important details of the Church have been slightly misrepresented [the portico has Tuscan columns, not Ionic and the windows are round headed not square], so there is a suspicion that the houses depicted may be a notional rather than a literal representation. Add into the mix that Hollar was apparently based in richly gabled Antwerp at the time that this print was produced and it becomes difficult to be certain if the terraces of King St. and Henrietta St., as depicted, can be considered an accurate representation of 1630s London streetscape. On the other hand, Hollar brought a high level of precision to his celebrated 1658 ‘Bird’s Eye View of the West End’ and this engraving [which I can’t find a high resolution copy of] also appears to show King St. and Henrietta St., together with much of the recently developed adjoining townscape, as gabled fronted, much of it in the ‘Holborn’ tradition.

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one of the scenes from the well known broadsheet by John Dunstall depicting the lamentations brought about by the Great Plague in 1665

The next good representation of Covent Garden is probably the Dunstall image, although it may be even less concerned with architectural accuracy. Nonetheless what is depicted by Dunstall is likely to be representative of contemporary fashionable London street-architecture, if not perhaps a literal representation of the houses flanking Covent Garden. Its interesting that the pairs of houses depicted flanking the church are very close to what became the standard Dutch Billy formula over here with shared central chimney stacks, cruciform roofs and string courses, except that here the gables are of that scrolled ‘Holborn’ type.

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Covent Garden painted by Balthasar Nebot in 1737 [with later copies]

When Balthasar Nebot painted the square again in 1737, it had undergone considerable rebuilding. The last three bays of the original Inigo Jones designed north-west arcaded range [and possibly also the first plot on King Street] had been redeveloped as a large mansion for an ex admiral relative of the original developer and the design is attributed to Thomas Archer and built about 1715.

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the Archer house, no. 43 King Street, in the ‘80s and recently

This house, which survives with an altered top storey and some inexplicable meddling with fake painted-on pilasters between the original grand Corinthian pilasters, originally had a sort of curvilinear gable/parapet feature and possibly an interesting roof configuration, but the more interesting structure from a gabled point of view is probably the five-bay house flanking the church where Dunstall drew the pair of gabled houses.

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an extract from Hogarth’s ‘Morning’

Hogarth shows the same houses in his painting of the following year [1738] entitled ‘Morning’ and in this more angled view the five-bay flanker is clearly depicted as having the simple eaves and ‘M’-shaped roof profile we that saw over in Spittalfields a while back. Although the building was clearly intended to front onto the ‘Piazza’ at Covent Garden, being on a corner site and with this particular roof profile, the house can only have presented twin gables [triangular, close-coupled] to King Street, where the rest of the streetscape, as the earlier prints show, was originally gabled. The Nebot/Hogarth house may not fit either of the earlier representations [Hollar: 5 bay hipped roof; and Dunstall: 6 bay pair of Holborns], but it might be consistent with the kinds of houses appearing in the streetscapes that William Morgam’s panorama of London of 1681-2 depicts, particularly in areas not required to be completely redeveloped after the fire.

In England, these ‘M’-shaped roofs can be traced right back to the half-timber tradition where the twin gabled profile was often exploited as a feature of the elevation, as at no. 9 High Petergate in York, or the old Custom House in Bristol.

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It is certainly tempting to see a direct connection between these English 17th century, and earlier, twin-gabled structures, coming as they do from a very broad geographic base, and the apparent popularity of ‘twin-Billys’ here in the first half of the 18th century, but on the other hand, there appears to be a noticeable hiatus between the two traditions and the similarity of approach may simply derive from the practice of artisan craftsmen resolving similar head-room challenges in similar ways.
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Re: 'Dutch Billys'

Postby gunter » Fri Dec 31, 2010 1:18 am

What connects Covent Garden with the Bull Ring in Wexford?

Strangely they appear to be the only two urban squares in Britain and Ireland which have an authentic association with the word ‘Piazza’.

The origins of the use of the term in Wexford are a little obscure, but a colloquial version of the word seems to have been applied at an early date to the arcaded ground floor of the old Tholsel located on the south side of the Bull Ring. Images of this late 17th century building don’t appear to survive, but some descriptions of it include that, in addition to the open arcade, it had a prominent clock mounted either on the façade or on a roof cupola. Unfortunately, the building was rebuilt in very frugal fashion in 1796 incorporating a fish market in the rebuilt arcaded ground floor.

Covent Garden we know was conceived as an Italianate Piazza, but again the term ‘Piazza’ seems to have attached itself to the arcaded ranges on the north and east sides of the square rather than the actual square itself.

As noted in the last post, the ‘Holborn’ gabled flanker buildings on either side of St. Paul’s Covent Garden, as depicted by Dunstall in 1665, are unlikely to have existed in the depicted form, but if they had there would be an interesting parallel with the houses on the north and possibly also the east side of the Wexford Bull Ring.

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a postcard of the north side of the Bull Ring from circa 1910

The information we have on these houses, which were demolished in the 1930s or 40s is a bit sparse, but surviving images hint at houses consciously designed to form a rare urban set-piece.

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more images of the same houses which would have presided over the events of 1798 which the 1905 Pikeman memorial commerates
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Clearly the houses had been heavily altered by the time they were photographed early in the 20th century, but enough detail remained to hint at their original design. The little half round features preserved in the 19th century render probably indicate the location and width of the original attic storey windows and although the gable profiles could be Victorian, they don’t look particularly recent in the photographs and they way well be essentially original with just the loss of capping pediments resulting is a slight hipping of the roof ridges.

The corner house was the third of three matching curvilinear gabled houses on North Main Street and that elevation treatment then returned around the corner onto the Bull Ring where the house featured another matching one and a half gables on this elevation. To complete the composition the adjoining house to the east would originally have needed an answering half gable before it in turn returned around the next corner over a passageway to where originally three further houses existed on the east side of the square. These latter three houses were demolished to make way for the new Victorian market structure in the 1870s.

One or two of the early windows seen in photographs of the right-hand house may be original and in their original position, but the others must have been re-positioned when the roof configuration was altered and the suspected other half of the shared gable was removed. All the windows in the left-hand house [corner house with N. Main St.] appear to have been widened.

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O.S. map from 1883 showing the Bull Ring and the new Victorian market house on the east. I’ve marked no. 54 North Main Street which is the third of the original three gabled houses and which survives today with an altered roof and behind an altered façade

A trawl through lease records have not so far proven especially illuminating in this case, but what is clear is that a number of the houses standing on the ‘Flesh Market’ [Bull Ring] by the second decade of the 18th century fit this lease description; ‘large brick and slate house’.

A Charles Smith, grocer, leased one of the Flesh Market houses [formerly in the occupation of a Mathew Kerselough] from a Benjamin Betts, gent., in Jan 1719, for five hundred years in addition to the term of stated lives. An adjoining house was let in 1725 by Joseph Chambers of Taylorstowne, gent., to an Inn Keeper, William Collister, and the house adjoining that was occupied at the time by a Robert Curran. Three further houses ‘lying and being near the Flesh Market’ were repossessed by the Borough of Wexford bailiffs in August 1725 on foot of debts owing to Benjamin Betts by John Carr, merchant, and their nine hundred year leases sold to a Hygats Boyd for thirty three pounds and fifteen shillings.

Although I’d be reasonably confident that these various details relate to the gabled houses that we see in the early 20th century photographs, and their former neighbours on the east side of the Bull Ring, none of these details give us the date of construction of any of the houses. However the absence of any of the common reference to ‘newly built’ or ‘improvements’ might suggest that the main phase of redevelopment of this medieval block was perhaps at least ten or fifteen years earlier than these cluster of Registry of Deeds records i.e. slightly before the enactment of the 1707 Act requiring the registration of memorial extracts of wills and property transactions.

One interesting detail in the lease description of Chamber’s house refers to ’two small yards on each side of the staircase and the long yard leading down to the river Slane’ implying that the house was built with a central projecting return containing the stairwell. This wouldn’t be a standard layout for a gabled house in Dublin, but there is growing evidence that projecting stairwell returns featured in some provincial variations, and I think I may have previously posted an example which survives [albeit with many alterations] in Clonmel. There were at least two examples of Billys with central returns on West Street in Drogheda, but in these cases the returns didn’t appear to house the stairwells.

In a remarkable piece of early 20th century street-architecture, a large new general store [now ‘Boots’]was inserted into North Main Street by adapting the original gabled design of no. 54 and joining it to a matching rebuilding of no. 55 next door, which had previously been a wide, two-bay, late Georgian. Unfortunately within a few years of this contemporary reinterpretation of the gabled tradition, the two adjoining gabled house up to the corner of the Bull Ring were demolished and the genius behind this piece of infill was effectively lost.

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the very fine 1920s ‘Boots’ store on North Main Street incorporates [at the right-hand side] the substantially intact fabric of the third gabled house seen in the earlier photographs

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a 1930s aerial view of the Bull Ring from the east showing a gap at the corner of the Bull Ring where the two gabled houses south of the present ‘Boots’ store have been demolished

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a recent rear view of no. 54 showing that it retains the massive central chimney stack and rear return with the characteristic ‘Billy’ step-in still evident in the gable of the main back wall

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the Bull Ring postcard again with the probable outline of the missing pieces of gable and original attic storey windows dotted in

In a welcome departure from the usual obscurity surrounding gabled houses, there is a little bronze plaque on the wall opposite the Bull Ring outlining that several of the adjacent houses were originally ‘Flemish’ and that the guts of a couple of these old houses survive, concealed by later alterations.
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Re: 'Dutch Billys'

Postby gunter » Sun Jan 02, 2011 3:47 am

This is the text of that bronze plaque in Wexford:

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And below is a late 19th century image of the Fish Market building of 1796 which replaced the 17th century Tholsel. The steeply pitched gable wall of the earlier building [or an adjoining corner house] is evident above the roof of the right-hand wing.

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the Fish Market shortly before demolition

After the Fish Market building was demolished, a decorative screen wall incorporating a blind arcade and ornamental gables was constructed on the site in time for the 1798 centenary, this screen wall picked up on the 'Flemish' architectural heritage of the Bull Ring houses opposite, as noted in the text in the plaque.

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an early 20th century postcard image of the Bull Ring showing the 1898 screen wall

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Another postcard image from the 1920s or 30s showing the screen wall in the distance and the 'Boots' building on the left with a gap beyond it where the other two gabled houses had been demolished on the corner of the Bull Ring. Note that one of the houses opposite was gabled also, as also seen in the aerial view posted earlier.

There is quite an active local historical society in Wexford and there are some fine publications on the subject by Nicholas Furlong and others . . . . . from which pages some of these images are plundered.
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Re: 'Dutch Billys'

Postby GrahamH » Wed Jan 05, 2011 2:22 am

A marvellous exposition as ever. gunter, both in London and Wexford. To return last year's comment - do you know the meaning of a holiday? ;)

The mock-up arrangement for the Bull Ring looks spot on, with possibly three windows at first floor level. Indeed, I wonder if the rendered platbands are a practical device for accommodating original platbands. What a magnificent enclosure it would have made. Also, standing on Main Street today, one cannot fail to be impressed how the fabric of No. 54 was blended seamlessly into the new department store as late as the 1920s. It really demonstrates the importance of never underestimating the practicalities employed in traditional construction and modification, nor the long-held instinct to acknowledge context.

Have you seen the 1830s or 1840s map of the Bull Ring, gunter? Surely it tells us something of the scale of the enclosure and the nature of the returns?

In the case of twin-gabled houses, I think you're right to point out the apparent hiatus between the idiom in Britian and in Ireland. We must remember this was simply an immensely practical way of roofing a deep house with comfortable head height, whose resulting modest architectural pretension gives more weight to inherited traditions in carpentry as the principal driver, rather than design aspirations. Certainly though, the 'M House' shows us how acceptable it was to have gables expressing themselves on a fashionable house fronting a major street, allbeit in an existing - if quickly evolving - gabled environment.
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Re: 'Dutch Billys'

Postby gunter » Wed Jan 05, 2011 3:07 am

The 1840 Town Map is a bit less informative than I'd hoped.

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There's no clear rear line to the houses on the east side of the bull Ring, or even divisions to tell us if there were two or three houses, so it's impossible to pick out the outline of any original returns.

The biggest apparent discrepancy in the Town Map is that it doesn't show the passageway between the northern range and the eastern range as built over, even though the photographs depict the over-passageway structure here as apparently contemporary with the adjoining gabled houses [with a slightly altered roof profile].

There is an earlier map of Wexford town that records the main sites associated with the 1798 rising in the town and I think it depicts the passageway as an archway through buildings, but I'll have to try to get another look at it to be sure.

I agree that a three-bay arrangement at first floor level would have been more usual, but I'm not sure that it existed in this case. This may have been dictated by the 'shared' gable, if in fact we're right about this. If there was indeed the level of planning that we suspect went into this streetscape, they may have realized from the start that the shared gable could not have accommodated a central window and therefore decided to omit central windows from the rest of the scheme.

We need to find out who was behind this development, it can't have just been a random collection of gentlemen, there must have been a guiding hand.

We'll have to do more digging, I think.
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Re: 'Dutch Billys'

Postby StephenC » Wed Jan 05, 2011 1:20 pm

Sorry lads, I know, I know...I'm a complete interloper on this topic. I'm amazed at the level of research posted on these pages though.

I came across these images over the Christmas and thought I might post them for interest. Not Dutch Billies as such but certainly stunning examples of the decorative gable style common to the Hanseatic area of northern Europe. The town is Luneburg, to the south of Hamburg, a stunning small heritage town. A must see if you get to Hamburg.

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Comparisons with Smithfield or Newmarket eh?

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Interestingly, notice a lot of windows are actually uPVC. Its quite common in Germany. The Town Hall is the piece de resistance of the town but strangely I don't have a photo (bar one with my fat mug in it!)
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Re: 'Dutch Billys'

Postby gunter » Sun Jan 09, 2011 2:34 am

A stunning townscape, Stephen. Its an interesting footnote that Lord Clancarty, dispossessed owner of that great Dutch gabled 1670s house on College Green discussed earlier, ended up in exile in a small town on the outskirts of Hamburg . . . . it would be nice to think that the familiarity of the local street-architecture may have given him some comfort.

That merchant house tradition, particularly in the Hanseatic cities where grandeur was always tempered with an underlying sobriety, is a absolute high point in the history of urbanism, no question.

Even where the individual merchant houses may display a slightly gawky provincialism, they still effortlessly demonstrate the value of working within an evolving tradition, as opposed to the highhanded rejection of tradition in the quest for something new.

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an extract of Speed’s map of Limerick [1610] showing gable fronted merchant houses on Mary Street

Imagine if we’d persevered with the tradition of the merchant house, which we also shared, today the likes of our local Londis and Centra premises might compete with each other for trade on the basis of the quality of their architecture and not just the square-footage of their illuminated signs.

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a section of the W.S.C. elevation to D’Olier Street

The Wide Street Commissioners must take some of the heat for killing the tradition of individualism in street-architecture with their Neo-Classical disdain for commerce . . . .

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some urban in-fill advice from a 1975 RIAI publication; ‘Dublin, a city in Crisis’

but it was the good old Modern Movement, with its disdain for the street, that probably did the real damage, and some would say is still doing it.
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Re: 'Dutch Billys'

Postby gunter » Tue Jan 25, 2011 1:15 am

We saw that country mansions with triple ‘Dutch’ gables had been popular in the England in the 1620s and 30s and that this typology apparently then vanished from the fashionable architectural scene by about mid century. One of the more surprising aspects of the Dutch Billy tradition here is the re-emergence of this triple Dutch gabled house type in Ireland fifty years later..

We could probably try to stitch the two traditions together using the stepping stones of related later 17th century forecourt houses like Richhill and Springhill in Ulster, or the Clancarty House on College Green, but essentially these two architectural episodes are probably better considered as separate and unconnected.

What is clear is that late in the 17th century, or very early in the 18th century, triple Dutch gables began to appear in Ireland on civic buildings [e.g. the Market House in Kinsale] and new private houses, in considerable numbers. Occasionally triple gables appear on the facades of stately country mansions, like Palace Anne [1715] in Co. Cork, or Turvey near Donabate in County Dublin, but seemingly much more frequently they appear on medium sized, semi-rural, houses like Spawell in Templeogue [c 1730] and Riversdale [c. 1726] in Kilmainham.

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the market house, Kinsale, and Palace Anne, both in Co. Cork

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Turvey House in Donabate and Ardee House from the Coombe in the Liberties

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Riversdale [‘Shakespeare House’] in Kilmainham and Spawell House in Templeogue

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a triple gabled house on the quays in Waterford, by Van der Hagen [1736]

Within the expanding urban areas of Dublin, surviving images of at least two vista-terminating [probable] triple gabled mansions, that of the Lord High Chancellor [c. 1705] on Lazy Hill [Townsend Street] facing north down Moss Street to the Liffey, and Ardee House [c. 1719] on Crooked Staff facing east down the Coombe in the Liberties, indicate that the triple gabled composition may have been regarded as an especially prestigious architectural treatment at the beginning of the ‘Dutch Billy’ period and it seems that the type subsequently filtered down from this position on the status ladder to the more modest examples cited above, before ultimately making the leap to terraced street-architecture by the late 1720s or early 1730s.

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Images of the mansion on Lazers Hill [Townsend Street] from Brooking’s panorama of Dublin from the north [1728] and from Rocque’s map [1756].

A lease record dating to 1710 indicates that the Lazers Hill mansion and the adjoining streetscape were developed by a property consortium that included John Hansard, Joshua Dawson and William Hawkins. The mansion was reportedly the dwelling of the Lord High Chancellor and the property included a coach house, brew-house, several gardens including one planted with fruit trees and another featuring a ‘cold bath’ and also a ‘large summer house all wainscoted’ etc. etc.

Leaving stand-alone mansions aside for the moment, the place to explore triple gables in the streetscape would appear to be Molesworth Street and I’ll try and post up some more stuff on that front later.
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Re: 'Dutch Billys'

Postby gunter » Tue Jan 25, 2011 1:36 am

For people who harbour lingering doubts about the whole notion that Turvey House was originally gabled, it might be worth taking a look at the contemporary local C of I church about half a mile east in Donabate village.

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Re: 'Dutch Billys'

Postby GrahamH » Wed Jan 26, 2011 12:46 am

:)

A nice round-up there gunter. The Lazers Hill mansion appears to have had a particularly well embellished facade, possibly with paired pilasters to the ends and pairings to the central bay. An interestingly modest use of fenestration. Possibly grandly scaled windows in compensation for more plentiful, smaller opes.

We also have this extraordinary mansion, apparently 'St. Michael's House' in Finglas - now demolished I believe. Finglas has and had a number of mansions, but I can't find much on it - nor its marvellous 1930s, I mean 1730s, doorcase!

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There seems to be little doubt it had three gables originally.

Its contemporaneous survivor, Gofton Hall, looks like it almost certainly had its attic storey built up in an ambitious re-ordering in the 19th century.

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Molesworth Street is definitely where it's at - a shame Brooking just misses out on the drama.
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Re: 'Dutch Billys'

Postby mcclinton » Tue Mar 01, 2011 4:49 pm

Hi Guys, I've been enjoying this thread over the last few weeks and finally registered. I've been interested in gabled structures for years, but have never systematically studied them here in Dublin. The photos, drawings and theories posted on this thread are fantastic, and spot on, in my humble opinion. I have a few photos lurking in my iPhoto files that you'd be interested in. I'll have to figure out how to get them onto the thread properly.
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Re: 'Dutch Billys'

Postby gunter » Wed Mar 23, 2011 12:29 pm

In your own time there mcclinton.

Baldonnell House is another three storey, five-bay, on the outskirts of Dublin with lots of idiosyncrasies to chew over.

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The curvilinear gable is probably a 19th century add-on, and it certainly looks that way from the inside where there is no acknowledgement of the gable in the internal roof/ceiling configuration, and also on the rear elevation where there is no hint of there ever having been a corresponding gable. On the other hand, the roof itself looks like a 19th century replacement of a presumably steeper earlier roof and the proportions of the gable are particularly close to what a vernacular Billy profile would have been.

A zig-zag indented brick course as a kicker to the eaves can be a 17th/early 18th century feature, but it can also be Victorian. Big external chimney stacks can also be early features. The stairs has been renewed to such an extent that I wouldn't fancy having to draw any conclusions about it, and the house also features some well proportioned rooms, panelled throughout in plywood.

The house, it's out buildings, walled gardens and orchards is on the South Dublin County Council register of Protected Structures and the owners are a family of serious enthusiasts.

I imagine each have their hands full.
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Re: 'Dutch Billys'

Postby gunter » Tue Apr 19, 2011 3:48 pm

Just returning to the subject of triple gabled houses, this is an early 20th century sketch of a particularly charming example that stood on the south side of the main road in Glasnevin.

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The location of the door and the chimney stack suggest that this house had a particularly unusual floor plan. Nevertheless, the clear popularity of the triple gabled composition in the design of modestly prosperous houses on the outskirts of Dublin, in the early decades of the 18th century, is becoming evident.
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Re: 'Dutch Billys'

Postby gunter » Sun May 08, 2011 10:58 pm

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The eighteenth-century Dublin town house
Form, function and finance
Christine Casey, editor

Review by Sean O'Reilly, Irish Arts Review [Spring 2011]

'There can be few things more satisfying than a book that brings erudition and insight to the cherished and familiar, and honours its subject by tempering heart-felt applause with sober reflection and honest evaluation. Without resorting to a story-writer’s tricks, where character and plot can so easily stand in for a good solid critique of the real subject, this book does all this and more for its theme, the Dublin town house of the 18th century. Like a good collection of short stories by Raymond Chandler, it layers narratives along an ostensibly straightforward theme (here, the town house); includes speculation & intrigue (the finances of development), style & class (residents and usage); and boasts some exceptional moments that lift it above even the best of the rest of the genre, notably a particularly intriguing content and a fine production … yet this volume still possesses an exceptional uniformity which can only be the result of masterly oversight by its editor, Christine Casey … And what else makes it so special? It’s that rare combination of scope and depth, with the town house “in the round” … so this book is also an important reminder of the health of the discipline in Ireland and beyond … a touch of class, [this book] provided a hugely engaging experience, and just the kind of thing to fascinate a Marlowe'.


_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _


Well, that was short and sweet . . . . . very sweet

I think we may have had a brief go at this when it came out first, before Christmas, but would anyone have any objection if we go through it in a bit more depth in the coming weeks?

I should say at the outset that there is fascinating new material in this publication, and a least three of the articles, those by Niall McCullough, Brendan Twomey and Robin Usher, address somewhat the contribution of the gabled tradition to the story of 18th century Dublin, but you're still left largely having to read between the lines to appreciate this contribution in what is, essentially, yet another carry-on-regardless Georgian eulogy.
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Re: 'Dutch Billys'

Postby gunter » Tue May 17, 2011 11:39 pm

Before we get stuck into 'The Eighteenth Century Dublin Town House’, just a couple more points on those, five-bay, modest country houses on the outskirts of Dublin.

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Baldonnell House on the left . . . . . . . and the façade of the Granary in Navan on the right

The gable front on Baldonnell House may not be authentic, but that configuration of a pedimented curvilinear gable as a centre piece of a broad, otherwise ‘Georgian’, façade, did occur in the early-to-mid 18th century building record [as we saw before at the Granary in Navan] and it may even have been quite widespread before a change in taste resulted in it being cropped off, or trimmed back to look more like a classical pediment.

A house in the same category was ‘Whitehall’ in Rathfarnham which, according to Ball, was built about 1742 by a Major Hall who also built the nearby conical barn that still survives. A 1900s photograph in Weston St. John Joyce’s ‘The Neighbourhood of Dublin’ shows the barn with the rear of the house, complete with a cruciform roof, just visible behind.

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the rear of the house can be seen to the left of the conical barn with another smaller outbuilding, also with a cruciform roof, in between.

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This is the print of the front of Whitehall dating to 1795 and reproduced in Ball’s ‘History of County Dublin’, this time with the barn just visible in the trees to the left.

Just visible behind the tree on the right you can make out how the curvilinear gable steps down to a lower flat parapet, or simple eaves, on either side. The curvilinear gable does look improbably wide and flattened in this print and, in contrast, the entrance door looks improbably tall.

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A seemingly more accurate 20th century drawing shows the house again although at this time the gable has been reduced to a simple triangle. In this later drawing, the gable windows are shown clustered tightly together which would have given the original curvilinear gable a much more compact profile and one that would have been much more in line with the proportions that we’re used to, as at Baldonnell and Navan above.
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Re: 'Dutch Billys'

Postby gunter » Tue May 24, 2011 12:03 am

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The 18th Century Dublin Town House

The Forward, by Mary Daly, is sharp and concise, as you’d expect, but it does immediately throw up that old word association that continues to bedevil and obscure Dublin’s distinctive architectural record from the first half of the eighteenth century.

Before we even get to page one proper of a book purporting to tell the story of ‘The Eighteenth Century Dublin Town House’, we encounter phrases like: ‘This book succeeds splendidly in making Georgian Dublin interesting and relevant for a new generation of readers . . . ’.

‘Eighteenth century Dublin’ and ‘Georgian Dublin’ are not the same thing.

Devising terminology may be an broad brush exercise at best and labelling architectural epochs for the reigning monarch is just asking for trouble, nevertheless in the English architectural record, the broad term ‘Georgian architecture’ and the reigns of four successive Kings, George [from 1714 to 1830] just happens to form a near perfect fit.

This is not the case however in Ireland.

If ‘Georgian Architecture’ is defined by the Neo-Palladianism most obviously promoted by the compelling images contained in Vitruvius Britannicus [first volume published in 1715 - in the second year of George I] and is understood to be a term used to distinguish that architecture from; a the preceding ‘English Baroque’ architecture of the great public building programmes under Wren, Hawksmoor and Archer etc. and; b the preceding domestic architectural formula characterized by the steeply pitched dominant roofs of the ‘Queen Ann’ phase, itself a successor to the ‘Artisan Mannerist’ gables of the 17th century, then what was being built in Dublin in the first half of the eighteenth century was not ‘Georgian’, or at least it was only very occasionally ‘Georgian’.

There’s not going to be any future in us picking this point up every time we encounter it, we’d getting nothing else done for a start, and we’d all lose the will to live. Let’s just say that this book, no more than our architectural history culture in general, is riddled with the notion that the terms 18th century and Georgian are interchangeable, and no matter how hard we tug on the wheel, it may take us some time to turn this tanker around.

Moving on to the Introduction, this is written by a Toby Barnard who is no mug and is apparently a duel citizen of both British and Irish Academia.

The Introduction is in two sections. Section I is bubble wrap, but Section II contains a couple of interesting observations:

‘The proud but humiliated Irish, it has sometimes been argued, asserted themselves through architectural braggadocio. This was expressed more obviously in the scale of the public buildings – the Parliament House and later the Customs [sic] House and Law Courts – than in urban residences’.

OK, I think ‘the proud but humiliated Irish’ [this must be the Catholics] no longer owned property at this stage, perhaps T.B. is thinking of the proud and triumphant Irish [the Protestants]. These are the lads that we’ve noted before were clearly out and about and asserting themselves with a touch of architectural swagger. Either way, it is the next point that is probably of more relevance:

‘Just as the Irish resisted constitutional subjugation to Britain, so they selected architectural forms and decorative idioms that had not always been mediated through their nearest neighbour and entrusted commissions to those who had arrived directly from continental Europe’.

This could be quite a challenging statement, but the footnotes suggest that it is aimed at explaining the fabled Irish attachment to Rococo plasterwork rather than anything connected with curvilinear gabled streetscapes. Nevertheless, it is a crumb from the top table and we’ll take it and give it a chew.

In adopting the ‘Dutch’ gable, the Irish propertied classes certainly selected an architectural form that was not destined to remain current in the realm of their nearest neighbour, but, as Peter Walsh has pointed out, it was an Anglo version of a Dutch gable that we appear to have adopted and to that extent it seems unlikely that the tradition here was influenced to any great degree by input ‘directly from continental Europe’ however tempting it might be to hand this one to the Huguenots.

Just how conscious the Irish propertied classes were that their chosen architectural expression [in the first half of the 18th century] had become set on a dramatically divergent path from current British architectural expression, is the big question that this book doesn’t begin to ask, let alone answer.

‘Fashion, as has been noted already, although a vital factor in explaining changes in the look and uses of the houses, remains an imponderable’, T.B. concedes, lowering expectation for the remaining two hundred and eighty odd pages.
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Re: 'Dutch Billys'

Postby gunter » Thu Jun 02, 2011 12:53 am

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Essay no. 1 is by Niall McCullough and is entitled simply; ‘The Dublin House’.

This essay concentrates on the ordinary terraced houses of the city and explores the variety of typologies found in the building record. These are compared and contrasted and a particular light shone on the more off-standard, site specific, solutions devised for trickier locations like corner plots or the junctions between estates. Illustrated examples demonstrate that frequently there was a gulf in urban ambition in Dublin where one corner plot might be developed to the absolute maximum with full elevations addressing both streets, often facilitated by fiendishly complex internal planning, while another corner plot might terminate with nothing more ambitious than a blank flanking wall.

As always with McCullough the threads of the story are expertly interwoven and well illustrated with decent photographs, including the obligatory misidentified shot just to keep everyone on their toes.

Nobody since Maurice Craig has done more than McCullough to reveal and celebrate the architectural development of the city. In addition to setting out, in considerable clarity, many aspects of the development of the city, ‘Dublin, an Urban History’ left nobody in any doubt about the extent of the gabled tradition in Dublin in the early 18th century where before there was probably a lingering perception in many quarters that gabled houses were just some odd quirk in the Georgian record.

If there is a criticism to be made of this essay it is that McCullough doesn’t really expand on those memorable turns of phrase that lit up ‘an Urban History’;

‘In purely stylistic terms, the image of riotously gabled houses form a part of folk-memory in Dublin’

– and;

‘Dinely’s drawings of the city show Holborn gables in the 1670s, Place shows curvilinear ones – more obviously redolent of the Dutch phase of influence, and perhaps by then imbued with a political cachet in loyal Dublin’.

To a large extent in this essay the story of the 18th century town house is left to be told by the typological studies which are detailed and extensive, but we have to be extraordinarily careful with typological studies that we don’t start to give equal weight in the story to each variation found, no matter how occasionally, and thereby create the impression perhaps that there were a myriad of plan forms and house typologies bursting out all over Dublin throughout the 18th century, when in fact there were really only two primary typologies;

a] The terraced ‘Dutch Billy’, planned with front and back rooms [the latter having a rear closet return] with the stairwell located at the rear and to one side.

b] The terraced ‘Georgian’ planned with front and back rooms with the stairwell located at the rear and to one side.

In reality, these two, closely related, house types completely dominated their respective halves of the 18th century and this fact is somewhat lost in a deluge of information on the other intriguing, but far less common, variations.

What I think is revealed in an exploration of 18th century Dublin house typologies is not so much that there was enormous variety, but that there was extraordinary consistency, and that the intriguing variations in plan form, as charted by McCullough, nearly all belong to the experimental phase in the uncertain years between the abandonment of the gabled tradition and the re-emergence of almost exactly the same basic floor plan a little later on, at which point it becomes the absolute standard template for the vast majority of the houses built to line the streets and squares of the Georgian city, but now without the corner fireplaces and closet returns [and the gabled elevations] of the earlier standard ‘Billy’.

That many Dublin property owners went to extraordinary lengths in the later 18th century to transform a ‘Billy’ into a ‘Georgian’, and in the process mess with the heads of anyone attempting to carry out a typological study, is a fact that is only beginning to become apparent.

Take South Frederick Street for example;

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Above is a 1950s aerial view from the east showing the street when it was still intact, and below; the street as depicted on Rocque’s map in 1757. The houses on South Frederick Street were virtually all identical in size and design and it is probable that the elevations were also uniformly gabled, before being altered to flat parapets in a widely varied programme of Georgian modernisation.

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This is McCullough’s photograph of a house being demolished on the west side of South Frederick Street in 1983.

In all probability, this house started out as a standard Dutch Billy, just like at least 34 of the other 36 houses on the street. What I think we’re looking at in the unusual configuration, revealed in section by the demolition, is the tamperings of a later 18th century owner of the house [and its neighbour beyond] who has decided to modernise the front half of the houses, i.e. the bit visible from the street, eliminating the front gable, replicating Georgian fenestration, and taking out the front half of the shared corner chimney stack in favour of building a completely new flat chimney stack to serve the remodelled front rooms, but leaving the roof and the rear half of the house untouched.

Even if the right hand chimney stack had become truncated somewhat over the years, it would still be hard to believe that the guy who built the right hand chimney also built the left hand chimney. I think a later alteration is a more plausible explanation. We know that precisely this scale of alteration occurred in an effort to modernise no-longer-fashionable gabled houses, we have a surviving example just around the corner at no. 20 Molesworth Street.

The fact that the new flat chimney stack is at least two meters higher than it needed to be is probably precisely so that the expensive modernisation would be visible from the street, an action which slightly misses the point about the non-importance of roofscape in the new style regime.
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Re: 'Dutch Billys'

Postby Boooooog » Sat Jun 25, 2011 5:29 am

I was wandering through Setanta Place marvelling at how gloomy that canyon of a street is even on a sunny day, lamenting the sheer vandalism that occurred on that block, when looking up as in a vision of the past I saw clear skies and gabled rears of the houses on the East side of South Fredrick St. Cheered me right up. Kinda.

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Re: 'Dutch Billys'

Postby gunter » Sun Jun 26, 2011 1:41 am

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I thought we'd lost Boooooog, and yes this is one of the few locations left in Dublin where you can still get a feel for our lost gabled streetscapes.

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no. 27 South Frederick St. with its 'Georgianized' facade, and the doorway of no. 24, the design of which was probably originally common to most houses on the street

The trouble that the owners of no. 27 went to to Georgianize their house never fails to raise a smile. When everyone else was content just to dump the front gable and squeeze in a pair of windows into the attic storey under a flat parapet, and maybe replace the original old-fashioned door, these guys went the extra mile and replaced the whole cruciform roof with a pair of little lateral roofs. Even the tiny gable on the return had to go.
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Re: 'Dutch Billys'

Postby Boooooog » Mon Jun 27, 2011 12:06 am

You will never lose me Gunter, we had a baby on new years eve and she's not too interested in Billys at present. I was trying to get a documentary produced on this great subject but was turned down because it was considered too niche for our broadcasters. I will persist.
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Re: 'Dutch Billys'

Postby gunter » Wed Jun 29, 2011 2:50 pm

I don’t know how it could be ‘too niche’ Boooooog, did you point out all the cooking and gardening programmes on the air these days. Who, in their right mind, sits down to watch that stuff? . . . . or have I answered my own question

Congrats on your recent reproduction. I had a look at that big red brick house in Harold’s Cross, posted a while back.

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Everything about the house is chunky, the door surround, the window cills and even the brick itself is a larger unit than we’re familial with. Obviously the house has had a serious Victorian make-over, but those later 19th century alterations stand out on their own and don’t explain the oddly clumsy features which appear to well pre-date any Victorian intervention.

In dividing the house into two, the lower flights of stairs have been taken out and replaced by a pair of mean stairs, but the hall retains a panelled timber partition on one side, with a nice shouldered door case.

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view from entrance door with panelled hall partition on the right

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internal details that look consistent with a 1740s sort of date

I agree with you that the window arrangement, no matter how Victorianized, is still strongly indicative of a façade that was originally triple gabled. We have growing evidence that that particular typology was very popular in the early to mid 18th century in exactly this kind of location.

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The very fact that the original roof structure was so comprehensibly replaced by a new high Victorian affair [print above], in advance of the subsequent extensions that might have otherwise been thought to have prompted it, is itself a good indication that the original roof structure was perhaps more outdated than a standard Georgian roof might have been considered.

According to local history records, the house, which was subsequently an orphanage, was the birthplace in 1803 of the Quaker Richard Allen. Allen was a prominent, and subsequently London-based, slavery abolitionist, human rights activist, and noted traveller to exotic places. I’ll dig around a bit and see if following the Allen family back in the records yields anything like a construction date for the house.

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The little vernacular terrace adjoining the big house to the south could have a gabled heritage too, it is certainly [twin/triple?] gabled to the rear.
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