Well this is it. While most of the above is to be welcomed, there are a lot of elements of concern.
Take, for example, the approach to public realm improvement now being undertaken as part of the QBC. This is hardly an illustrious start. If ever you saw engineer-led ‘design’, this is it – ranks of galvanised electrical cabinets mounted against the historic curtilage of pretty much the only historic public building on James’s Street! If you went out of your way to make a bags of this, you couldn’t achieve better.
The length of the thoroughfare is also to be treated to the skeletal proportions of faux heritage lampposts, endorsed through part-funding by Fáilte Ireland. Proudly declared as “The Cuffe Street Post”, as flatteringly showcased by our model of Palace Street, Thomas Street will soon be lined with over fifty gawky, badly detailed, skinny posts with thin features. If this is the best that can be done, we’d be better off with some decent contemporary catalogue jobs.
But at least the paving is encouraging. Very heartening to see crisp concrete slabs being deployed with no finicky detailing.
No. 29 appears to be an unstoppable disaster unfolding before our eyes. Tragically, this important building is not a Protected Structure (another to add to the above list), in spite of incorporating extensive early fabric.
One of the most intact Victorian merchant premises left in the city, it is a substantial c.1885 rebuilding of an earlier house that is famously depicted by James Malton in the 1790s as having an overhanging eaves roof. A single-room deep building is shown on Rocque’s map of 1756 - more than likely the same building as Malton's.
This almost certainly accounts for the reason why, today, No. 29 has the most extraordinarily deep plan to its front rooms, and ridiculously small rooms to the rear.
It’s like a ballroom up there.
By contrast, the back rooms are miniscule, comically dominated by the enormous angled chimneystack that is shared by the front and back rooms.
This stack would originally have served the pair of square houses, indeed, if not all four houses, show above on Rocque’s map above. An extraordinary survivor. We can only presume that much of the wall fabric also dates from this time, with the late Victorian rebuilding stitched in about it. A subtle kink in the St. Catherine’s Lane elevation also accords with this ancient memory of former plot divisions.
A skinny rear room looking out to the back. Only about eight feet wide!
No. 29 also has the most marvellous cornice sprawling way out onto the ceiling in its principal reception room on the first floor. Clearly the rebuilders weren’t going to be outdone in the comedy stakes by that chimneystack; the cornice has notions beyond any reasonable expectations. An unforgettable, ridiculously lovely, Dublin merchant thing.
The stairwell, unusually and helpfully, has separate access from St. Catherine’s Lane, rather than consuming retail frontage on the main street.
It has evocative views overlooking the austere side elevation of St. Catherine's from its useful laneway windows.
The top floor front room was originally two rooms, with the shadows of former cornices still evident. Again, pretty much everything is intact up here. The little fireplace on the outside wall is catered for by the charming dinky stack on the outward elevation.
Also worthy of note is the picturesque highly steeply pitched roof. As far as Victorian roofs go, they don’t get better than this. Shame I don’t have a rear shot.
Many well meaning people have viewed this property over the past five years, which was for sale with multiple agents on behalf of the Brabazon family. It eventually sold in the past few weeks – I’d imagine for little more than €220,000 – and is now very suddenly a major construction site, with a pavement licence issued to a company registered down the road in Bow Lane, Kilmainham.
(an unusually seductive conservation shade on its hoarding!)
Vast plumes of lime plaster were quite literally filling the breadth of Thomas Street yesterday, as acres of historic material was shovelled into the rubbish chute. One can draw one’s own conclusions. As mentioned, this is - yet another - non-Protected Structure. Not that it makes the slightest bit of difference. A similar building a few doors down has been gutted for the past two years, and DCC won’t budge on it.
Next up, Frawley’s.