'Dutch Billys'

Dutch Billy architecture in Dublin

Postby Zap » Wed Apr 30, 2003 5:04 pm

I'm curious about how many remaining examples of Dutch Billy architecture remain throughout Dublin city.

I was intrigued the first time I became aware that this architecture style (with its distinctive high front gables) had been so prevalent in Dublin - previously I had only associated such structures with the Netherlands. I have also seen pictures of some of the structures which existed - mainly in the Liberties. This style seemed to be the vernacular style of that area for a large part of its history until the early part of the 20th century when most were cleared.

In that area itself I am now only aware of one such building (on Kevin St.) which seems to have maintained its original architectural style and Dutch Billy gable. In the rest of the city I am only aware of one more such building, on Leeson St.

I'm curious - are there any more of these left?
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Postby J. Seerski » Wed Apr 30, 2003 5:14 pm

Leeson Street one is a fake repro!

There remains several of these buildings at the south-side of Stephen's Green - namely those past Newman House. The Parapets are straight, but the window sequences indicate that the parapet was at one stage of the "Dutch" Billy style.

College Green used to have loads - many have now got new exteriors - Number One shop as an example, but once were Dutch Billy Parapets - the interiors are still intact.

Some still exist on Camden St. - though the parapets were changed to flat-one's in 19th c.


There ya go!
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Postby Zap » Wed Apr 30, 2003 5:21 pm

Thanks a lot Seerski.

I was suspicious of the Leeson St. one - its looked like too good of an example but does look well regardless.

From what you say though, there are very few which have the original exteriors which make them so unique? (I don't think I'll be seeing the interiors of any...........).
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Postby GregF » Wed Apr 30, 2003 5:28 pm

Loads of 'Dutch Gables' on High Street ....Oh I forgot that they are just contrivances fancifully harking back to an era long past...aka pastiche shite.
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Postby Zap » Wed Apr 30, 2003 5:32 pm

Pastiche seems to be a favoured word on this website.

I've seen them and think they don't look that bad - though the car park on the ground floor ruins them and cuts them off from any real interaction with that street and doesn't make them real.
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Postby J. Seerski » Wed Apr 30, 2003 5:33 pm

Ouch!! Such vulgarity!

The one on Kevin Street that you mention is a 19th century replica of a building that was there before. Also, there are plenty of Dutch-style interiors still around in the Gorges St., Camden St., Stephen's Green axis. Also I think there is one or two remaining on Molesworth Street - these especially deserve checking out.
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Postby GregF » Wed Apr 30, 2003 5:40 pm

The best ones (aka pastiche Georgian) are on Gardiner Street ........Underground car park .......Rusticated timber featured gardens with classical cherub statues ......One doorway to the entire building block.......etc etc...
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Postby Zap » Wed Apr 30, 2003 5:42 pm

I know them - they are very poor.
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Postby nono » Wed Apr 30, 2003 8:07 pm

there's a rather fine example at the top of manor st. but like most it has a parapet at the top, the original roof is still clearly visible, and a rather peculiar tower at the rear!
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Postby Zap » Thu May 01, 2003 9:29 am

This house on Manor St. sounds very interesting - I'll have to talk a wander up there soon.

One more question - was this architectural style unqiue to Dublin or does it exist in other parts of the country?
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Postby StephenC » Thu May 01, 2003 10:17 am

I think some people on this site have a fixation with the word 'pastiche'. One would almost think that designing a building in an established style is a bad thing! In fact worse - for some people here it is the ultimate faux pas in architectural terms. What a load of old cobblers! The established styles of architecture - Classical, Art Deco, Modernist whatever - are living styles. Their continued use should be encouraged not avoided.
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Postby Zap » Thu May 01, 2003 10:31 am

I would agree. I think what matters is the quality of materials and design.

For example, Seerski says above that the Dutch Billy style building on Leeson St. is a fake and that the one on Kevin St. is also a replica. These buildings look great from outside. They are replicas which from the outside appear to have used good building material and have stood the test of time. Now at this stage they are the only examples of exterior Dutch Billy style left in the city - even though they don't date from the original building of this style of house in Dublin in the early 18th century, whilst those that were/are Dutch Billy, don't look it from the exterior i.e. don't have the distinctive gable.
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Postby StephenC » Thu May 01, 2003 11:23 am

But why are they 'fakes' or 'replicas' or 'pastiche'? Why not just a Dutch Billy style building built in xxxx year? What makes some buildings the 'genuine article' - the fact that they were built in the period in which the style was most prominent? Surely a building should be judged on its adherence to the architectural principles of a said style.
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Postby James » Thu May 01, 2003 1:34 pm

Quite a fewof these houses survive but most have lost their gables and roofs in favour of Parapets sometime in the last century.

The Leeson St House is grossly offensive to me - probably because I can remember the battles to save the original houses in 1979 (gorgeous things inside), in fact it was one of the reasons that I decided to become an architect.

Manor St has several of these particularly along the stretch accessed from Brunswick St - some stil have remnants of interior fittings.

A beautiful little one at 88 capel Street was demolished illegaly behind a retained facade only about two years ago (needless to say the City Council did nothing about it).

Smithfield had three very intact houses until about four years ago - complete with much of their interiors.

42 Manor St was originally (around 1700 a three storey hip roofed house (probably not unlike King James Mint in Capel St - it then acquired a pair of gables on the front facade chich seem to have survived until the late 18th early 19th centuries. Its in prety good condition internally and retains quite a lot of its oiginal fittings.

My favorite is a very simple side entrance houe on Montpelier Hill which is an 18th century re-facading of an early to mid 17th century building (possibly military - eg: barracks, armoury or garrison outpost). Most of the interior is a mish mash of 18th and 19th century work but the 17th century form is still very apparent.

The 1916 'surrender house' so much in the news at present is a stripped out and re-facaded Dutch Billy.

Diffeneys Menswear was until about five years ago intact internally from first floor up and must have been externally re-facaded sometime in the 1950's - 60's.

I suspect that most of the 'ornate 'gabled houses which survive (eg: Molesworth St)were either substantially 'tarted up' or partially rebuilt in the 19th century, the pattern of gable fronted building in Dublin - from contemporary paintings and prints and old photographs seem to have been very 'basic' in configuration - simple triangles with granite copings. Still they're a bit of fun.
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Postby Zap » Thu May 01, 2003 1:47 pm

From the sounds of all of this, no original 17th century gable seems to exist any more, apart from the ones on Molesworth St.

If the house on Leeson St. was only built after the 1970's I am surprised at what a good quality replica it is. I don't understand though why a group of people would tear down Georgian structures to build it though.

I think it would be fantastic if the 1916 Surrender House were incorporated into the new development planned for the area, whilst being refacaded back to its original Dutch Billy appearance. I think it would look something completely different in Moore St.

I would love to see some more of these gables restored as I find the style very interesting...................but alas, its not likely.
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Postby Rory W » Thu May 01, 2003 2:41 pm

There is one original in exceedingly tatty state on Market Street, just off Newmarket in the Coombe. Its next to the eircom depot - see it now before it gets swept away!
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Postby Zap » Thu May 01, 2003 2:47 pm

I live right around the corner from it! - its on Mill St. Its scheduled as a national monument according to An Taisce's site. I'm not sure about the grading of buildings but would think National Monmument status has to be pretty high. But it is in a terrible state. Eircom own it and are quite happy to see it waste away - though I read that a lot of its interiors are in storage for the day it may be restored - which I certainly hope it in - within the context of the complete redevelopment of Mill St.

That street and Newmarket itself is a mess at the moment full of warehouses and, in a city with such amazingly high property prices, a huge record storage facility (surely this shoudl be out in the suburbs somewhere - can those paper records be that valuable!).
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Postby J. Seerski » Thu May 01, 2003 3:22 pm

Fake/replica - the fact is they do not come from the era that those hoses were synonymous with - the late 17th/early 18th century. The Leeson Street one is from the early 1990s!!!!!!!

The dutch billy gable was the style typically employed by the Hugenot and Williamite families - very political!!!!
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Postby DARA H » Sat May 03, 2003 2:48 pm

I remember that i was in the National gallery recently & i was intrigued to see a painting of a gathering of militia i think - around 1798 in Dublin in one of the squares and there were a few Dutch gable type houses in the backround. I thought they looked strange as they are a bit of an oddity nowadays. Maybe old paintings (& prints) would be the best way to research their past existence in Ireland.
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Postby GrahamH » Sat May 03, 2003 5:21 pm

Yep, the Volunteers on College Green, probably the best painting conveying what an area of Dublin was originally like.

Surprised nobodys mentioned the Rubrics in Trinity, dating from 1700 with their extremly convincing 1890 dutch gables, and overall the oldest structure on the Trinity campus.

I don't think there are any standard 17th century townhouseinteriors left in the city, aside from a few staircases that have survived subsequent alterations.
Standard features included corner fireplaces, lower ceilings than the later Georgians and simple cornicing.
Oh,and the obligatory green or buff coloured panelling of course (yuck)
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Postby notjim » Sun May 04, 2003 5:09 pm

There is a house with a dutch style gable on talbot street, its part of a furniture shop, i don't know anything else about it.
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Re: Dutch Billy architecture in Dublin

Postby ConK » Fri Dec 30, 2005 3:55 pm

10 Mill street is part of an application from Osprey Property(Eircom) to turn their large holding on Mill Street into Apartments. Part of the application mentions removing the existing flat roof from Nr. 10 and putting a slate roof back on it. There was a conservation report conducted by the Dublin Civic Trust - who no longer exist I think - but the website remains. .

I'm surpised to see 10 Mill Street in Red brick. I thought Red Brick only got popular in Victorian times.

Also on the way up to see it I came accross this other Meteor sponsored Dutch Billy.

However I don't believe the everybody in Dublin in 1650/1700 lived in houses as grand as these. Is there a record of the vernaclular house for that period?
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Re: Dutch Billy architecture in Dublin

Postby trace » Sun Jan 01, 2006 4:22 pm

The Dublin Civic Trust http://www.dublincivictrust.ie/ remains extremely active, even if their News & Events page hasn't been updated for a long time.
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'Dutch Billys'

Postby gunter » Sun Mar 23, 2008 9:12 pm

Our dwindling stock of gabled houses is a topic that has come up on various threads, 'Dublin Vistas', 'Thomas St./James's St.' etc., but I think, as an endangered species, this forgotten remnant of our built heritage deserves a thread of it's own.

The explosion in the construction of curvilinear gabled houses throughout Dublin, and across most of the other urban centres of Ireland, in the last decades of the 17th century, and which continued to be the dominant urban style in residential architecture into the 1740s, deserves a closer look.

The best published references that I know of are: the 'Dutch Billys' article by Peter walsh in the 1973 'Liberties of Dublin' ed. Elgy Gillespie, and pgs. 29 -61 of McCullough's 'Dublin, an Urban History'. Maurice Craig 'Dublin 1660 - 1860' just about acknowledges the presence of gabled houses but his passion was for the classical Georgian city.

So completely have the gabled streets of Dublin been lost, or masked, that the tendency has been to regard the dimly remembered curvilinear gabled houses as some kind of neanderthal off-shoot in the evolutionary process that shortly afterwards delivered the presumed perfection of 'Georgian' Dublin. Part of this may have been down to the agressive marketing of Luke Gardiner and his circle, who, in a very short space of time, managed to persuade upwardly mobile Dubliners that, not only were they living in the wrong part of town, but they were also living in the wrong design of house.

One of the ironies of the 'Dutch Billy' is that, by about 1730, the style was so ubiquitous and so well developed, that it must have constituted something very close to a national architectural style. Dispite having huge loyalist Williamite conatations, curvilinear gabled houses appear to be an Irish phenomenon, were fasionable in Dublin in the years before there was any consciousness of Dutch Billy himself, and most amazingly, the 'Dutch Billy' does not seem to exist in England at all. You can scan the backgrounds of all the Hogarth prints and Canneletto paintings of London you like, there are no Dutch gabled houses there!

McCullough points to the obvious trading links with Europe, and Holland in particular, as the likely source of the
initial outbreak, and Dutch architects were evident on the ground in Dublin in the period, but that can only be part of the story. On very few occassions, before or since, have Dublin and London taken such divergent routes.

The fact that the pivotal battle of the era took place in Ireland, and the fact that it ushered in an unprecedented period of stability, prosperity and growth, may go towards explaining the extraordinary degree to which Loyalist Ireland took William of Orange to their hearts, perhaps up to and including the desire to live in houses that honoured his memory in bricks and mortar. In England, where William was probably more regarded as just another king, and where Holland was more directly perceived as a fierce trading rival, no particular desire may have emerged to go Dutch in house design.

Whatever about the origins of the style, what developed here was a full blown architectural movement with a complex language and a real urban vitality that none of Luke Gardiner's sober 'Georgian' street would ever equal, in my opinion. To compare a complex 'Dutch Billy' corner with the half hearted efforts of the Georgians is to compare a piece of sculpture with a photocopy. The development of the close twin or 'Siamese' gabled house, as a response to the common urban phenominon of the wedge shaped corner site, may even have been a Dublin invention.

The loss that Dublin suffered in going over to the Luke Gardiner led English Palladian model, and turning it's back on it's indigenous urban tradition, is not just about the near irradication of the whole record of an architectural style, it's also about the substitution of a slightly superficial, segregated and imported model, for a truely urban, mixed use and socially integrated model.

I don't want to keep dumping on Luke Gardiner, given that he has attained such iconic status as the developer that all other developers are supposed to look up to, but his legacy is decidedly mixed at best. If we use the anology of red squirrels and grey squirrels. Imagine Dublin as a little wooded glade alive with happy little native red squirrels buzzing about in sylvan harmony. Then a man walks into the clearing with a sack of foreign ravenous grey squirrels and proceeds to dump them out. I'm just suggesting that, in that analogy, that man is Luke Gardiner, and he is an ugly man, and he smells.

I'll stick up as many pictures as I can over the next while to try and illustrate the points I've made here, but the primary concern has to be to safeguard the few houses that remain, albeit in their altered Georgian form.

Image

This stretch of James's Street opposite the Fountain contains at least two originally gabled houses, the pink house was a simple small curvilinear gabled house and it's neighbour to the right, dispite it's minute size, was a twin gabled house, which I think illustrates the real consciousness of the urban rhythm that the sequence of gables were capable of creating.

Image

No. 10 Mill Street now and as illustrated in the 19th century below.

Image
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Re: 'Dutch Billys'

Postby tommyt » Mon Mar 24, 2008 11:23 pm

aren't we forgetting the pastiche apartments around back lane/cornmarket and the single building at 18 lwr leeson st that seems a bit bizarre-I have never ascertained if it is meant to be a replica of an original building on site or a folly? The only extant gable fronted buildings in D2 I can think of off the top of my head are on Molesworth st and Ely Place
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