Clerys

Clerys

Postby GrahamH » Thu Oct 19, 2006 5:22 am

Clerys Department Store on O’Connell Street in Dublin is a fascinating institution, by virtue of its chequered history and the magnificent building it now occupies.

Image

The Clerys we know today is a conflicting paradigm of old and new; the building in structure is thoroughly modern but in architecture looks to the past, while its cool, minimalist retail interior, though contemporary, does its best to highlight and complement the original neoclassical detail still prevalent throughout the store.


Clerys has its origins in McSwiney Delaney & Company’s ‘Palatial Mart’ or ‘New Mart’, a large, sumptuously ornamented Victorian department or ‘monster’ store built in the centre of Sackville Street in 1853, opening in May just in time for the Dublin International Exhibition of the same year. When one considers the dearth of commercial development taking place in the inner city in early Victorian times, and that the majority of the city’s imposing 19th century buildings date from the late 1860s and 1870s, this was a building of enormous impact; even relative to subsequent buildings it was simply huge in scale.
Amongst the first department stores in the Europe, and easily one of the very first purpose-built anywhere, it’s hard to imagine it did not cause ripples on a national if not wider level.

Image

The monster store however is not nearly as large as is first suggested, given the Imperial Hotel occupied the building’s upper floors, if not initially then certainly later on, so the store benefited significantly from the imposing scale the hotel lent the overall building. It was accessed at street level via the grand side doorcase to the extreme right of the building. There was an earlier Imperial Hotel on the eastern side of the street dating from 1837, and referred to be William M Thackeray in 1842 as being “ornamented by a cook who could dress a dinner by the side of M. Borel or M. Soyer. Would there were more such artists in this ill-fated country!”
Given the Palatial Mart replaced five draper shops on the same site, this original hotel was perhaps elsewhere on the street, though it too could have been upstairs.

The above famous watercolour was painted by Michael Angelo Hayes, brother in law of the store’s chairman Peter Paul McSwiney. This is significant, as up to this point all depictions of Sackville Street faced the GPO and Pillar across the road - the single focal point of the street until the Palatial Mart was built. Humourously, in one version of the painting a man is apparently depicted holding a promotional sign pointing to the store.

The imposing facade is believed to have been designed by William Caldbeck, an amateur architect of the mid-19th century, who (probably by no coincidence) also designed Brown Thomas’s original façade on Grafton Street (M&S) a couple of years previously: as it happens, another exercise in repeating pilasters and rooftop urns.

Image


The Palatial Mart’s enormous plate glass windows were an extraordinary innovation for their time, highlighted by the fact that the upstairs casements still make use of traditional smaller plate/cylinder panes. The balconies, arches and applied sculpture made this a truly Victorian building on what had been heretofore a rigidly classical street.

Image


It dominated Sackville Street for half a century, rivalling the GPO across the road, until the construction of the Bread Company building at the entrance to the street c.1901.

Image


Previously the tall Palatial Mart façade had pierced the low skyline of the street with its parapet of imposing urns, and its trademark gable chimney stacks could be seen from various parts of the inner city.


With the economic downturn of the late 19th century the owners were forced to sell the store, at which point M. J. Clery entered the frame, acquiring the premises in 1883. The Clery name remained ever since, while the Imperial Hotel presumably continued trading up until 1916 (not least considering Jim Larkin was famously smuggled in disguise into what was William Martin Murphy’s hotel in 1913, and delivered a speech from one of the balconies).
The Rising marked the end of the road for the hotel, and the loss of one of Europe’s earliest department store buildings.

The events of Easter 1916 left Clerys and the Imperial Hotel, as with much of the Lower street, in ruins, with little other than the imposing façade left standing – an extraordinary sight with its masonry substructure burnt and blasted to a crisp.

Image


Image

In the above picture it can be appreciated the truly enormous scale of the display windows, towering above the crowds on the street.

Along with all damaged buildings on the street including surviving facades, the great front of Clerys was pulled down in the aftermath, and the long six year process of putting the business back together began. In contemporaneous Dáil proceedings it is noted that it took many years to get certain reconstructions initiated, with the last commercial building to be finished being the current Ulster Bank premises near Eden Quay as late as 1923. Some were much faster such as the terrace next door to Clerys, largely completed by 1918, and Eason’s across the road in 1919.
GrahamH
Old Master
 
Posts: 4590
Joined: Tue Oct 15, 2002 11:24 am
Location: Ireland

Re: Clerys

Postby GrahamH » Thu Oct 19, 2006 5:28 am

The new look Clerys was unveiled to the public in The Irish Builder in 1918, with a sketch of a distinguished modern neoclassical building, combining both the structurally expressive forms of modernism emanating from the influential Chicago School and the more established classical idiom still favoured this side of the Atlantic.

Image

A fact easily overlooked with this proposal is that the company greatly increased the street frontage of the former store in order to realise this grand new facade, acquiring the sites of all neighbouring former Wide Streets Commission buildings to the junction with Sackville Place.

The design was the work of Ashlin & Coleman Architects, one of the largest practices in the country at the time, however it is thought the building was largely designed by London architect Robert Atkinson who had worked on Selfridges and came to Dublin to work as an assistant in the Ashlin & Coleman practice. Also responsible for the new Gresham Hotel further up the street designed c.1925, he was strongly versed in the Chicago School having worked in America for a number of years. It is interesting that in spite of the progress in the US, an almost identical ten year old neoclassical plan was rehashed for Clerys as used for Selfridges in 1908.

Indeed the original 1921 model commissioned for the building is suggestive of an even more conservative plan initially than that eventually executed.

Image

Now housed in the Irish Architectural Archive having been donated by Clerys in 2003, the model shows a building that appears even more traditional in character, with Portland stone infill panels between the windows at each storey juncture, and what appear to be stained timber windows throughout.

The design pretty much speaks for itself: a large, monumentally scaled neoclassical building executed in Portland stone, with a marching procession of fluted Ionic columns and sturdy pilasters forming the upper floors as its principal feature.

Image

Pairs of pilasters frame the outermost bays in a pavilion-like fashion, with matching sturdy piers to the ground floor and miniature pediments at parapet level. It could be argued that the compact length of the façade is somewhat compromised by the procession of columns being curtailed so abruptly by the intrusion of the inner pavilion pilaster, reducing the colonnade to a mere three elements. This effect has recently been heightened by the concealment of the left-hand ground floor piers by the Plaza lime trees. The concept however works quite successfully when seen head on.

Image


The attic storey is chunky and solid, lending the building its monumental scale when seen from south as it wraps around the corner, its heavy massing dominating the skyline of the centre of the street.

Image


This storey is surprisingly well embellished with a host of sculpted stone features, well proportioned tripartite windows with one-over-one sashes still intact, and an elegant balustrade.

Image


Image


The central bay is crowned by a modernist pediment and marked below with a series of five medallions.

Image


The heavy cornice in between very successfully integrates the building into the rest of the Lower street.

Image


Image
GrahamH
Old Master
 
Posts: 4590
Joined: Tue Oct 15, 2002 11:24 am
Location: Ireland

Re: Clerys

Postby GrahamH » Thu Oct 19, 2006 5:34 am

The most novel aspect of the façade, the cast iron window inserts, is inherently linked to the structural system employed for the entire building: reinforced concrete. Unlike Selfridges ten years previously, and indeed most other major public and commercial buildings of the age, a metal frame comprised of steel or iron sections was not used for Clerys; Sean Rothery suggests this is the result of metal shortages following WWI, especially considering the building was being designed before the war had even ended. The architectural model’s apparent timber window frames throughout is perhaps also suggestive of this problem. In any event, vast cast iron, curtain-like window frames were inserted between the two-storey columns, one storey less than Selfridges.

Image


Slender pilasters form the dividing frames, while decorative metal panels replaced the proposed Portland stone inserts.

Image

Curiously, but inevitably disastrously, the casement window hinged armatures were placed on the exterior of the frames as can be seen above, in order to allow the casements open unobtrusively inwards. Most are probably rusted over by now - trying to open one is not for the faint hearted!

Delightful railings also adorn the windows, complete with later Christmas tree holders :)

Image

It would appear that these windows have always been painted a light colour, firstly as they don’t exactly look like they’ve been painted that often (!), and secondly as 1950s images show them as being similar to today. Notably the railings and panel details are darker. One would wonder if everything painted black or dark brown would lend the building a more distinguished air - though it would perhaps be too similar to Selfridges in that case.


Down at ground floor level, the shopfront elevation is distinguished by magnificent bronze display windows, elegantly detailed and probably originally sited atop a Portland stone plinth – it is now polished black granite.

Image


A central glazing bar.

Image


Some stud detail.

Image


These grand windows not only address the O’Connell Street elevation, but also line the entire street frontage of Sackville Place.
The original interior timber window backdrops still exist, covered over by the stud walls presented to the passer-by today.

As with Selfridges, grandiose brass company plaques adorn the piers between the windows, featuring typical early 20th century dentil, medallion and ribbon and flute detail.

Image


Image


Image

Unfortunately they are all heavily tarnished and a number are badly in need of repair, some with missing elements. It seems parts have been taken from Sackville Place to rectify problems on O’Connell Street.
GrahamH
Old Master
 
Posts: 4590
Joined: Tue Oct 15, 2002 11:24 am
Location: Ireland

Re: Clerys

Postby GrahamH » Thu Oct 19, 2006 5:39 am

Probably the most delightful features of the building are these elegant wreath and head motifs.

Image


Again a feature of Selfridges, but apt in the Dublin context.
All of the heads are different.

Image


This is the most endearing, hidden away on Sackville Place. It’s so peaceful, above all the hustle and bustle below.

Image


The main entrance as featured on the architectural model is classically Edwardian, featuring a barrelled central display unit with flanking doors and curved sidelights.

Image

Somewhat modest for such a large store, it was clearly designed for more reticent times...

The current entrance doors - soon to be removed - are good reproduction inserts with bevelled glass panes, probably dating from 1988. Alas they lack any depth or substance when seen from a distance: a mere unit inserted into a much larger void, with modern glazing and roller shutter overhead.

Image


The famous Clerys clock also dates from around this time.

Image

Needless to say the stories of thousands of couples meeting under the same clock down through the years rings just a little hollow – heritage lanterns with CFL bulbs weren’t quite de rigueur in 1922. Indeed ironically the only outward manifestation of modernity in the original design concept was this very timepiece; the original Clerys clock was quite a modern piece of design, with Art Deco references and illuminating ‘Clery’s Store’ panels.

Image


It survived well into the 1960s, if not as late as the 1980s.

Image

At least the original latticed support structure remains intact.
GrahamH
Old Master
 
Posts: 4590
Joined: Tue Oct 15, 2002 11:24 am
Location: Ireland

Re: Clerys

Postby GrahamH » Thu Oct 19, 2006 5:45 am

With the opportunities the post-1916 reconstructions offered, efforts were made to revitalise the flanking streets of O’Connell Street, notably Princes Street with the GPO Arcade and administration terrace, and in the case of Sackville Place with Clerys’ new street frontage. This dismal little thoroughfare is easily overlooked when assessing Clerys as a whole; inititally at least it performed quite an important function in connecting the store to Marlborough Street which was probably hoped to act as a growth centre eastwards in this new order of gridded streets. Alas it didn’t quite turn out that way.

Clerys’ Sackville Place elevation is classically inspired, if grim and forbidding in its current condition. It is much more modern in outlook than the principal façade. The architectural model more eloquently displays a balanced plan that in reality cannot be truly appreciated.

Image

Again a simple five-part scheme is employed: a central entrance bay, two flanking wings, and two terminating pavilions, the left-hand one formed by the receding two bays of O’Connell Street, and on the right-hand side barely marked by a slight pronouncement from the façade by the final two bays there.

Image

Presumably the original plans and drawings better describe the elevation’s proposed materials, but in spite of the Portland stone suggested by the model, a simple render was applied along Sackville Place, with stone reserved for the ground floor only. Given the coarse sandy nature of the render, it’s probably fair to say that it has accumulated more dirt over the years than the smooth limestone, and that it may have been a better match for the stone originally.

Image

The stonework along here is in excellent condition, being such a sheltered location.

The flat pediment at the centre was used to conceal a water tank sited directly above the toilet facilities. No doubt it was originally somewhat smaller in scale than the huge tank there today, again as demonstrated by the model.

Image

The plastic drainpipes that mar the façade today are also more recent additions. Thankfully all original windows are intact: away from O’Connell Street these ones open outwards. Why don’t planners insist on these basic principles today?


The entrance on Sackville Place was originally quite grand, with stone piers elegantly flanking more curved windows either side of a set of double doors.

Image

The Art Deco style lamps either side are almost identical to those used for façade of the contemporaneous Metropole Cinema directly across the road.

Alas what was that, is now this:

Image

Some vaguely interesting 1940s style covering on the steps. Numerous boreholes in the stone piers are suggestive of former signs and original lamps.

The final eastern bay also features this highly attractive overdoor detail, indeed even of a window.

Image

Is it possible this pattern featured in the upper pane of every window?

Image
GrahamH
Old Master
 
Posts: 4590
Joined: Tue Oct 15, 2002 11:24 am
Location: Ireland

Re: Clerys

Postby GrahamH » Thu Oct 19, 2006 5:53 am

Clerys is built of concrete. The entire structure is one giant reinforced concrete frame of the Hennebique technique, using simple interlocking elements, namely posts and lintels. The system was well established by the late 1910s when Clerys was designed, having been used in many countries, particularly in Europe. It is based on the simple premise using supporting columns, beams and floor slabs to create large spaces without the need for invasive partition walls. Of course steel and iron could also do this, but was probably in short supply at the time of conception. Reinforced concrete had also been widely used in Ireland by this stage.

This drawing, whilst not of Clerys, demonstrates almost precisely how the store was constructed, minus the curved arms.

Image

Reinforced concrete posts (rounded in Clerys) support traversing reinforced beams, on top of which are placed large concrete ceiling/floor slabs. To help conceal the beams, they were often decoratively coved over as seen here, forming a coffered ceiling across an entire floor comprised of shallowly coved sections. This was done in Clerys. In modern day builds suspended ceilings usually cover all of this, with services concealed in between.

In this rare photograph from c.1920 of the building under construction you can clearly see the concrete frame behind the timber scaffolding.

Image


And another from about the same time – note the neighbouring 1920 terrace is just being finished off.

Image


Image


Clerys, minus its neoclassical finery, as with many other post-1916 buildings, is a giant concrete box. As has also been noted, without concrete beams needless to say the vast stone façade could not be supported on the mere six ground floor piers with such expansive glazing in between.

Clerys is also something of a charade in terms of scale. Not only is the store less substantial than the four storeys suggested on O’Connell Street, but originally didn’t even correlate with the impression of three storeys as given on Sackville Place. The department store as initially built rose to the decidedly damp squib of two storeys behind the monumental principal façade.

In this diagram as viewed from the rear, the majority of the store proper was a large two storey concrete shell, flanked by a three storey section on Sackville Place, and the full height block with attic storey facing O’Connell Street.

Image

And here you can clearly see the shallow nature of the upper part of the main block. By contrast the lower floors are in shadow.

Image

Presumably all these upper floors contained substantial administration and staff quarters. Perhaps it is possible that the main store block below was designed to accommodate an extra storey if the store expanded in the future, replicating the structural techniques below.


Moving inside, the structural system is immediately apparent, the supporting posts dressed up in neoclassical finery as the store’s trademark Ionic columns.

Image
© Clerys

In the recent refurbishment the elegant coffers were unfortunately largely covered with suspended panels, probably for the best however given the surface-mounted sprinkler system and lighting that had been subsequently installed, with their pipes and cables scarring the ceilings. As the capitals are now less visible and the plasterwork is almost concealed, the store has a more modern feel to it.


The original interior of Clerys was spectacularly different to what we have today – it was a much more architectural space, designed with customer circulation and clear orientation in mind, as well an element of grandeur. As such, a focal point of a large double-height space punctuating the first floor was sited in the centre of the store, creating a galleried upper floor overlooking the main entrance mall below. Light flooded the space through a glazed ceiling in the first floor roof, which of course was positioned behind the full height main block which is only two bays deep. Tragically this dramatic feature of the store was completely removed in order to build the famous Clery’s Ballroom and lounge, as initiated by Denis Guiney – not a scrap of it remains.

Denis Guiney, a Kerryman, moved to Dublin in 1917 working for a number of years as a salesman both in the capital and later in England. He returned to Dublin in 1921 to open Guineys on Talbot Street which became an instant success as a seller of bargain goods. By contrast Clerys around the corner was gradually going into decline, and was eventually put into receivership around 1940. Guiney snapped it up for £230,000 and proceeded to turn the business around, making use of the flagship premises on O’Connell Street as a location for a fashionable restaurant and ballroom to rival businesses like the Metropole’s ballroom upstairs across the road, and capture the patrons of the street’s numerous cinemas who would migrate into night venues, restaurants and parlours after screenings.

From what can be gathered (though may be open to correction), the new ballroom and lounges were installed on the first floor, with the ground floor being retained for retail. A good quality, seemingly oak, dance floor was laid, along with a bandstand with Art Deco ceiling which is still in place. At this point the store’s magnificent gallery was sadly filled in and the glazed ceiling above lost forever, radically altering the design of the original department store. Exactly how access was gained to the ballroom is unclear, but either way the grand staircase to the back of the store was a remarkable survivor in this reforming context. Perhaps its grandeur appealed to Guiney for direct access to the new evening ballroom; certainly its bifurcating design had good capacity. Structurally the first floor bears all the marks of major alterations – many changes have been made to the ceilings and columns. The ballroom proved a big success, with regular showbands and local and national talent featuring, adding to O’Connell Street as an attractive night time destination.


However, as happened across Dublin and urban Ireland in the 1970s, dancehalls, ballrooms, cinemas and fashionable social venues closed down in favour of discos, television and other forms of modern entertainment. Developers were also scavenging about, offering lucrative amounts to owners of what was often prime real estate that were faced with dwindling revenues. Clery’s Ballroom closed in the 1970s, and the next chapter in the store’s history commenced.

Considering the venerable institution now faced a major new competitor directly across the road in the form of BHS’s new department store, Roches Stores’ relatively recent department store on Henry Street along with an expanded Arnotts opposite, as well as a revamped Brown Thomas on Grafton Street, Clerys had been well and truly left behind in city centre retailing. In a massive expansion programme started around 1978, the ballroom was converted back into retail, a third storey was added to the original building linking through to the second floor frontage on O’Connell Street accessed via a new series of escalators piercing the heart of the building, the basement was possibly opened up at this time, and a substantial new extension of brown brick with glazing (pictured is more recent) was built to the north facing onto North Earl Street, all combined at least doubling the size of the store.

Image


The added third storey can clearly be seen to the rear.

Image


This is when Clerys’ famously numerous restaurants came into being, including the rooftop restaurant overlooking the dingy north inner city. It was now a largely purpose-built modern department store, with retail and services providing an all-inclusive shopping experience just like Roches and Arnotts.
GrahamH
Old Master
 
Posts: 4590
Joined: Tue Oct 15, 2002 11:24 am
Location: Ireland

Re: Clerys

Postby GrahamH » Thu Oct 19, 2006 5:58 am

Like the others, it ambled through the 1980s with little change, until the retail market picked up in line with the economy in the mid-1990s. With Arnotts undertaking a massive expansion programme in 1998-99, and an increasing young customer base being under-targeted, Clerys again underwent a massive transformation, which in any event was desperately needed in the 1970s sections in particular with their hideous grey suspended ceilings and dated fixtures. Executed floor by floor, the ground floor was refurbished in 1998-99, the basement in 2000, the first floor in 2002 and second floor in 2003-04 – all carried out by Douglas Wallace Architects over the course of seven years. During this time the double height void in the North Earl Street elevation was also filled in with a striking glazed insert.

Though the grand gallery and other features have been lost, the interior of Clerys today is much truer to the original design concept, with the refurbishment programme rectifying previous errors, and new additions being sympathetic to the older features while also making an impact in their own right.

The grand staircase to the rear of the store is in excellent condition and looks as magnificent as ever.

Image


Image


A luxuriously deep piled, rich red carpet lines the marble steps, held down with apparently original fluted brass rods.

Image


A sense of drama is generated by the sweeping curves of the original balustrading and mahogany handrail, an almost exact design of which can be found in Independent House on Middle Abbey Street of the same year.

Image


Image


The cross and circle motif is replicated on the iron window aprons outside, while the plaster Vitruvian scrolling adds an elegant flowing touch.

Image


The sheer height of the ground floor is acknowledged by both a return and a half landing, the first of which features an elegant plaster arch. This used to contain text but has now been filled with a mirror.

Image


The beauty of what the original gallery may have been like can be acknowledged here, with first floor columns sitting atop the ground floor ones.

Image


Filled in with elegant railing units.

Image


Beautifully refined plaster panelling punctuated with pilasters lines the rear wall of the staircase:

Image
GrahamH
Old Master
 
Posts: 4590
Joined: Tue Oct 15, 2002 11:24 am
Location: Ireland

Re: Clerys

Postby GrahamH » Thu Oct 19, 2006 6:00 am

The ground floor columns have elegant Ionic capitals.

Image

However most do not appear to feature plinths of any kind – they merge directly with the floor, possibly as they originally ran into built-in timber counters and display units.
One particularly curious feature is this odd box-like projection on at least half of the ground floor columns. The capital detail even continues around it:

Image

I had always presumed them to be original electrical conduits servicing counters given the building’s solid concrete frame, but it’s also possible they were installed as reinforcing supports for the added third storey. It’s also very odd that they do not even face the rear wall in spite of the crude projections they are; rather they stick out at various angles.

The delightful ribbon and flute plasterwork can still be observed around the modern insert panels of the cool, icy coved ceilings.

Image

It doesn’t bear thinking about what the coffers looked like originally right across the store, perhaps with matching centre roses suspending bronze or brass light fittings with glittering glass shades…


Upstairs on the first floor the scale is immediately more intimate and human; here the columns are shorter in line with the lower ceiling, and hence more visible:

Image


They are also fully designed from capital to plinth, adding a distinguished air to the shopping space atop the dark timber flooring:

Image

They must have been quite striking in the ballroom.

Towards the rear of the first floor, magnificent pairs of oak doorcases stand to attention either side of the staircase, the left-hand side now serving the Tearooms, the right-hand side providing access to toilets and staff quarters. Apparently the staff washrooms still feature the 1940s mirrors of Mr Guiney’s ballroom from when they used to be the Ladies powder room!

Image


Image

Vaguely Georgian in character, and reminiscent of Government Buildings’ entrance of the same era, they feature typical 1920s leaded warped glass which if all original is a remarkable survival, and some sturdy detailing:

Image


More ribbon plasterwork surrounds them:

Image


And also features on the brass handles:

Image
GrahamH
Old Master
 
Posts: 4590
Joined: Tue Oct 15, 2002 11:24 am
Location: Ireland

Re: Clerys

Postby Paul Clerkin » Thu Oct 19, 2006 6:09 am

Great work Graham
User avatar
Paul Clerkin
Old Master
 
Posts: 5427
Joined: Wed Mar 03, 1999 1:00 am
Location: Monaghan

Re: Clerys

Postby GrahamH » Thu Oct 19, 2006 6:09 am

Downstairs in the basement underneath the Sackville Place block there appears to be more original plasterwork.

Image

This area was revealed to the public as part of the wider €20 million refurbishment of the store, a project that seems to have become bigger and bigger as it progressed. Upstairs both the dance floor and the Art Deco ceiling were revealed during the works, when carpets were pulled up and ceilings came down.

The second floor also presented a challenge to the architects and contractors as there was a lot of bounce in the floor, it formerly being the roof of the building, so timber flooring was the only option in the revamp – there are no tiles, even in the walkways. The supporting columns were also narrowed.

Image


Overall the interior is in magnificent shape, though the exterior needs attention. In particular the cast iron windows which require major work, as do the brass plaques. The latter were all removed about two years ago, for restoration as it seemed at the time, but returned in exactly the same condition. The entire Sackville Place elevation equally needs huge work, put probably won’t be attended to until DCC implement the IAP for that area.

In any event the slightly grubby principal façade gives off an air of one of the imposing sooty buildings of Europe, and looks distinguished either way :)

Image

An improved floodlighting scheme, though adequate at the moment, would be a nice finishing touch.


Clerys had been steered through these changes with one woman at the helm during it all ever since the death of Denis Guiney in 1966. Mary Guiney was chairwoman of Clery & Company, and held an active interest in the running of the business with her 52% stake until her death at the age of 103 in 2003, precisely 150 years after the grand Palatial Mart first opened in the centre of Sackville Street. Through the generations she experienced the changes of the 1940s, the 1970s, and even oversaw the most recent refurbishment and expansion. Were she to encounter the current Arnotts proposal, no doubt she’d already be hatching plans for the grand old lady of O’Connell Street.


Image






Many thanks to Clerys of Dublin for being so cooperative and helpful. and for supplying certain images.
Also thanks to the Irish Architectural Archive.
GrahamH
Old Master
 
Posts: 4590
Joined: Tue Oct 15, 2002 11:24 am
Location: Ireland

Re: Clerys

Postby Morlan » Thu Oct 19, 2006 6:21 am

Ah Graham, this is great. You've the making of a few books with all the content you've uploaded here over the past few moons.
User avatar
Morlan
Senior Member
 
Posts: 831
Joined: Thu Oct 09, 2003 2:47 pm
Location: Áth Cliath

Re: Clerys

Postby Morlan » Thu Oct 19, 2006 7:06 am

A few images to add to your article. All taken on Jan 06.

Image

Not sure if this has been repaired yet.

Image

Image

Stokes are still restoring clocks in Cork AFAIK. Ring the door bell for access to the shop as they'll be busy in the back mending clocks.

Image

A fine spectacle of a terrace leading up to the building

Image

And a shakey night shot

Image
User avatar
Morlan
Senior Member
 
Posts: 831
Joined: Thu Oct 09, 2003 2:47 pm
Location: Áth Cliath

Re: Clerys

Postby hutton » Thu Oct 19, 2006 1:04 pm

Morlan wrote:Ah Graham, this is great. You've the making of a few books with all the content you've uploaded here over the past few moons.


Hear, hear; this is excellent stuff :)
hutton
Senior Member
 
Posts: 993
Joined: Tue Dec 28, 2004 10:14 pm
Location: NAMA HQ

Re: Clerys

Postby StephenC » Thu Oct 19, 2006 2:07 pm

Yes Graham, I really enjoyed that.

Heres the latest planning application affecting the store. As you mentioned the entrance doors are being removed and replaced with modern stainless steel jobies. Bronze would be much more suitable in keeping with the display windows. The display windows are also being changed. No decison has been made on this yet.

Planning Permission is being sought by Clery & Co. (1941) Plc for alterations to the O, Connell Street/West facing elevation of Clerys, No. 18-27 O' Connell Street, Dublin 1, which is a protected structure, together with internal alterations to the existing window display areas of O' Connell Street & Sackville Place. The alterations involve the following works; Replacement of the 3 existing reproduction traditional style wood and glass panel main entrance, corner entrance and side/north entrance doors, with proposed frameless glass doors with frameless glass fixed panels above; Installation of removable stainless steel bollards to public pavement in front of proposed frameless glass main entrance, corner entrance and side/north entrance doors; Removal of existing reproduction traditional style wood and glass panel inner lobby doors at main and corner entrances; Removal of existing window display areas and construction of new window display areas, with removal of part of the original traditional wood and glass screens, presently concealed within the stud walls of the existing window display areas. Remainder of original traditional screens will be concealed within new stud walls of the new window display areas.


It would be great to see some investment going into Sackville Place. There is no reason why it cant become a more attractive street. An exansion of Clerys into that concrete lump at the Malbrough Street end would be a good more - it could be linked to the main store across the rear lane. Clerys could redevelop it for use by a big brand. This in turn would stimulate the depressingly rundown Malborough Street.
User avatar
StephenC
Old Master
 
Posts: 2497
Joined: Mon Jul 16, 2001 12:00 am
Location: Dublin

Re: Clerys

Postby GrahamH » Thu Oct 19, 2006 7:26 pm

I was thinking exactly the same - it's an ideal opportunity for redevelopment, remembering that Clerys also appear to own a huge warehouse in this block, linking into the back of Guineys. Similarly the monstrous DIT building on Sackville Place (which though difficult to believe is even worse inside) is also ripe for complete replacement. Large floorplates could be achieved in both these cases - alas who the heck is going to base themselves down here in the current environment? DCC needs to take action.


Yes I read that application a few days ago too Stephen - the submission time is now over. Alas in spite of the splendid refurbishment, these proposals do not sound promising, They sound like yet more ugly blank glazing being used as a chic excuse for a lack of design. I see where Clerys are coming from though - the current two sets of doors are quite awkward and confusing to use, and narrow for bag-laden patrons. However considering they don't seem to be replacing the inner set with anything, removing just these doors alone would make a big difference. Here's hoping at least that they may be recycled on Sackville Place.
In spite of they being reproductions, the layered effect of the two sets looks magnificent as the doors open and close, with their myriad slender glazing bars and bevelled glass panes glittering in the store lights. It'll be a shame to lose them :(

The original window display screens sound very interesting - a great pity they don't want to expose them.

Fantastic pictures as always Morlan :)

Image


Trust you to get that light - I waited around for hours and then it clouded over!
Bah.
GrahamH
Old Master
 
Posts: 4590
Joined: Tue Oct 15, 2002 11:24 am
Location: Ireland

Re: Clerys

Postby GrahamH » Sat Oct 21, 2006 6:28 pm

Also just an image of the flooring I couldn't find earlier. An excellent choice of design and colouring:

Image

This flooring in Clerys is very distinctive and memorable. It's quite rare in any retailing space to get dark timber flooring, and less still that it be complemented by a suitably matching walkway design. The combination Clerys went for looks very sophisticated in being modern but also subtly Edwardian in character.
So refreshing in contrast with the hideous beech effect covering pasted down across a certain other department store and many other retail outlets in the city.


Very interesting interview below with Galen Weston, owner of Brown Thomas (and Selfridges and many others) in last week's The Sunday Business Post. Opening a Brown Thomas north of the Liffey seems to be a medium term aim for the company - it'd be great if O'Connell Street could scoop it. Suggestions of Clerys being bought out are made, given the store is now more vunerable to takeover.
The biggest relevation that Arnotts are proposing to spend €700 billion on their revamp! :D


Weston's way to the top
15 October 2006 By Simon Carswell


The Brown Thomas head office at the top of its flagship building on Dublin’s Grafton Street is quiet but busy. From here, you can almost see the northside of the city.

It’s a view that Brown Thomas owner, Canadian billionaire Galen Weston, and his management team at the country’s leading luxury department chain must be considering more and more these days. This is the perfect vantage point from which to plan a full-scale retail invasion of the O’Connell Street-Henry Street area of the city’s northside.

It’s a part of Dublin ripe for an incursion. This part of town competes with the Grafton Street area for the ever-growing number of well-off shoppers with bulging wallets. Weston has been watching with great interest what is happening north of his Irish retail headquarters and, in particular, how his retail rivals, Arnotts and Clerys, are performing.

Weston’s day-to-day schedule is calculated with military precision. He is in Ireland for a flying visit, but managed to squeeze in about 30 minutes to speak exclusively to The Sunday Business Post, his first interview with an Irish newspaper in years.

Before the 4pm interview, he attended a management meeting to plan the continued upgrading of the Brown Thomas stores - Weston has four in Dublin, Cork, Galway and Limerick (as well as two BT2 outlets) - and he poses for pictures during an eight-minute photoshoot on the Grafton Street shop floor.

Weston must be on his way to Dublin Airport by 4.30pm - I am told - if his private jet is to make its landing slot in London where he owns another flagship store, in the main shopping thoroughfare of Oxford Street. The store is Selfridges.

He later proudly describes the shop as ‘‘one of the top three stores of its kind in the world’’. ‘Top’ is a word that Weston can quite legitimately use to describe most of his businesses, whether they’re in Britain, Ireland or Canada.

But today, Weston’s focus is firmly fixed on Brown Thomas, the retailer that occupies the front line on the Irish luxury retail battlefield. Weston is polite, immaculately dressed and exudes the confidence that you would expect from someone who is the second-wealthiest man in Canada and one of the richest shopkeepers in the world.

Returning to the stylish office of Brown Thomas chief executive Dalton Philips, Weston prefers not to take his lieutenant’s chair, plumping instead for the guest side of the desk.

Brown Thomas has been located on the western side of Grafton Street for 11 years now, ever since Weston amalgamated BT and Switzers.

Weston says the deal - in which Marks & Spencer paid £18 million (€22.8 million) for his old site across the road - is still hugely memorable for him.

It represented a massive return on a 30-year investment.

‘‘I didn’t have a lot of money at that time. Marks & Spencer gave us £18 million and I had put £350,000 into the business initially, so to receive £18 million for a property which was falling down was a great opportunity, especially when House of Fraser was selling this building,” he says.

Brown Thomas is part of the Weston family’s Wittington Investment Group, which also owns A-Wear and BT2 in Dublin, Selfridges in London and Holt Renfrew fashion stores in Canada. Weston has strong ties to Ireland; he says he is ‘‘prejudiced’’ towards the country.

His wife, Hilary, a former top model, is from Dublin and Weston remarks proudly that his children were born here.

He arrived in Ireland in the 1960s to promote his family’s business interests through Associated British Foods (ABF), which owned Quinnsworth and Crazy Prices before their sale to Tesco. Weston left Ireland and his home, Roundwood Park in Wicklow for Canada after a foiled IRA kidnap attempt in 1983.

He is still clearly startled by the economic growth here.

‘‘I was buying two-acre supermarket sites for £5,000 in 1960s and 1970s, many, many of them,” he says.

‘‘I bought Brown Thomas for £350,000, bought my property down in Wicklow for £200,000. I understand it was sold for mega millions just a few weeks ago.

‘‘I had a very busy and exciting time in the 1960s and 1970s putting the foundations of our businesses together.”

Weston says he met inspiring people during his early years in Ireland and learned the value of money.

‘‘We moved very slowly over a 25-year period to grow our businesses and we were obviously aided by the growth of Ireland and the business success and dynamism of the country,” he says.

The shelves of Brown Thomas are laden with designer brands and luxury goods that, 30 years ago, would never have sold in any great amounts. The growth of Brown Thomas has mirrored the country’s economic progress.

‘‘We have climbed that ladder in terms of the kind of products that we sell and the kind of brands that we have and, hopefully, the kind of service that we provide. It has been a very happy marriage and a great investment,” he says.

‘‘The financial services sector in Ireland was a brilliant stroke,’’ Weston adds, excitedly.

‘‘The government leadership, compared to so many other countries that I am involved with, was thoughtful, positive and extremely helpful in terms of getting Ireland ahead of the game.

‘‘That is really the headline to me and it is the thing that fascinates me more than anything else, because Ireland is now a head of the game. Compared with the US or Canada, Ireland has this tremendous dynamic and it is moving so quickly. There are elements of risk coming into it, for sure, but it still has wonderful foundations.”

Rising interest rates and household costs could potentially eat into the spending power of BT’s core customers, but a possible economic downturn doesn’t concern Weston.

‘‘When you look from afar at Ireland, you think about those kind of issues, but when you come back and walk the streets, and you visit the stores and talk to the people, your fears are allayed. There isn’t anything like as much concern that there would be a setback,” he says.

‘‘There is still a tremendous energy here. Our businesses are on such a small piece of the market that there will be lots of opportunity for stores like ours and very good locations in all the major cities. We will continue to update our stores and make them bigger where we can, and provide more products at the top end, over and above just fashion.”

The arrival of high-end retailers, such as House of Fraser and Harvey Nichols in Dundrum Shopping Centre, which opened last year, has failed to knock Brown Thomas from its perch as Dublin’s top department store. Dundrum was seen as a major threat to Weston’s long-established market when it opened.

‘‘It has gone by without a lot of concern to us here, as you can see from our numbers,” says Weston. ‘‘We are growing very quickly and it really doesn’t appear to have affected us.

‘‘We have had a 15-16 per cent growth rate, and that is pretty much where we were before Dundrum opened, so we have done a lot of things to upgrade our store, making it worth coming into, and I think the very top end is not correctly positioned in the Dundrum Shopping Centre.

‘‘I just don’t think it is where people want to go to shop for expensive things. They are very happy to come into town. It is a special treat. They feel they are coming to the heart of the experience, where they are going to get the choice and all the other options that go with that - where they eat and enjoy themselves,” says Weston.

The Canadian retailer still watches Dundrum’s performance closely, though. He has to - Weston has a large Penneys outlet (a chain in which the Weston family have a controlling interest), a BT2 store and an A-Wear shop there.

But the number of large shopping centres that have sprung up across the country, selling some of the brands that Brown Thomas stocks, is a concern.

Asked if anything keeps him up at night, Weston says: ‘‘There are a lot of shopping centres coming into Ireland and some of the downtown will be challenged by them, but Ireland is continuing to grow and prosper. I don’t see any great drama on the downside.”

Weston says Brown Thomas will remain a high-street brand, and will not be tempted to shopping centres in the suburbs.

‘‘There are high-street stores and suburban stores, and the Brown Thomas name, as it stands, will remain a high-street store,” he says.

Weston believes there are plenty of high streets where Brown Thomas can live comfortably.

His attention has evidently been caught by the retail activity in Dublin’s north city centre - the massive growth of Arnotts, which is involved in a €700,000 million expansion, and the tough times at Clerys.

‘‘There will be lots of opportunity for Brown Thomas on the northside and downtown,” he says. ‘‘It just needs to clarify itself in terms of where the best location will be - and I think we will probably be there.”

If Clerys came on the market, would Weston consider buying it?

‘‘It has got great history, history that connects with Selfridges, so clearly it is a fascination and an interest, but it is still too early to tell whether O’Connell Street is going to make the grade as the great fashion location for the northside. There is a lot happening in behind Clerys, but there is also a lot happening on the other side of O’Connell Street, going down Henry Street. We are going to sit back and see how that plays out.”

But would a Brown Thomas outlet on the northside not eat into the business of the Grafton Street outlet, cannibalising its well-established and loyal market?

‘‘It is a concern, but we have very high sales per square foot in this store and we have nowhere to grow. If you can’t do that in Grafton Street, then you go to the next place which provides for alternative shoppers who might want the same products, but aren’t necessarily committed to Grafton Street.

“As Dublin grows and becomes more and more sophisticated, there will certainly be a place for Brown Thomas on the northside.”

Clerys and Selfridges have strong connections. The second Clerys building was modelled on the Selfridges store in London after the first shop was destroyed during the 1916 Easter Rising.

Asked whether there will be a Brown Thomas north of the Liffey in five years, Weston says: ‘‘I would think that, in five years, we will know where we are going to be on that side.”

Weston says he sees plenty of potential to grow the A-Wear brand further and he has turned to another of his entries, Penneys (known in Britain as Primark) for inspiration.

The growth of Penneys into a high street retailer on a par with H&M and Topshop in Britain and Ireland - under the stewardship of the low-profile Dublin businessman Arthur Ryan - has impressed Weston, whose family owns 55 per cent of ABF, the company behind the two retail chains.

‘‘It has been one of the most exciting business stories written over the last 20 years. It is a very tight and committed management team under his [Ryan’s] leadership that has been together for 30 years.

“They are fearless and unbelievably committed and determined tow in,” he says.

‘‘We would very much like to do with A-Wear what we did with Primark and Penneys, which is to take it to England.

“We have got a very good management team, but it is a very competitive part of the marketplace, especially right now and especially in Ireland.

‘‘So we are just testing in Birmingham and, hopefully, we will be testing soon in Oxford Street and, when we get the formula right, I am sure that we will do things.”

On his 2003 takeover of Selfridges, Weston says he could not have bought the landmark British department chain without the gains made from Brown Thomas. Weston paid stg£860 million (€1.25 billion) for Selfridges, which has shops in London, Birmingham and Manchester.

‘‘I am going to give credit to Brown Thomas because without Brown Thomas and that £350,000 in 1965, we would never have been able to afford it or want to do it,’’ says Weston.

‘‘Paul Kelly [former Brown Thomas chief executive and now Selfridges boss] did a great job here. We had someone who could lead it with confidence, because it is a great big monster and it is a huge challenge, with 4,000 people in the building, clearly one of the top three stores in the world of its kind, at a time when department stores are becoming more and more unfashionable.”

Selfridges in London, with its 500,000 square feet of retail space, dwarfs Brown Thomas, which has a total of 227,000 square feet in Ireland (110,000 square feet in Dublin, 57,000 in Cork, 43,000 in Limerick and 17,000 in Galway).

Weston’s daughter, Alannah, is creative director of Selfridges.

He also has a son, Galen Jr, who is known as G2.

Weston is not sentimental about keeping any of his businesses in the family, particularly if he were to find himself facing aggressive competition from advancing multinationals.

‘‘Sometimes you have to get out of something,” he says.

‘‘You don’t necessarily do the same thing for 50 years just because it is a family company.

“You have to be prepared to sell parts of your business to fund new, growing businesses.

‘‘That is all part of the free market system - when somebody tough comes along, you have to weigh up all your options and decide whether you can win. If you decide you can’t win, you change your game plan and do what is necessary.”

Is Weston surprised at how his family’s business has grown?

‘‘Yeah, although it has come slowly. We didn’t strike oil. We are in the consumer products business. There wasn’t some sort of ‘eureka’ moment. It has been a day-to-day thing, whether it is supermarkets or department stores or bakeries or sugar companies or whatever,” he says.

‘‘As a family, we have had five or six members take full control of different parts of the companies and we have been very fortunate with their ability and enthusiasm and capabilities.

“Provided you love what you are doing and you are fair to the people who work with you - and you are in those kind of relatively low-risk businesses - then you shouldn’t be surprised if it works well.”


© The Sunday Business Post
GrahamH
Old Master
 
Posts: 4590
Joined: Tue Oct 15, 2002 11:24 am
Location: Ireland

Re: Clerys

Postby fergalr » Mon Oct 23, 2006 1:29 pm

Graham..
thanks is not enough. This is just brilliant; between the detail and the excellent photographs. Stuff like this is what keeps me coming back to this website.
I doff my hat, sir:D
fergalr
Senior Member
 
Posts: 513
Joined: Wed Nov 30, 2005 3:33 pm
Location: Howth, Co. Dublin

Re: Clerys

Postby C.H. » Mon Oct 23, 2006 9:36 pm

Was that a typo? Is it €700 million or €700 billion revamp on Arnotts? Because I'm nearly sure I heard before that it was only €700 million
C.H.
Member
 
Posts: 3
Joined: Mon Oct 23, 2006 8:00 pm

Re: Clerys

Postby GrahamH » Mon Oct 23, 2006 11:00 pm

Well considering one could run the entire health service on €700 billion for the next 65 years, I would hope so C.H...


(yes, yes it was a typo)

Just on Sackville House to the rear of Clerys, apparently it was sold earlier this year. To whom I wonder?

http://www.ireland.com/newspaper/commercialproperty/2006/0531/702740412CPSACKVILLE.html
GrahamH
Old Master
 
Posts: 4590
Joined: Tue Oct 15, 2002 11:24 am
Location: Ireland

Re: Clerys

Postby StephenC » Fri Oct 27, 2006 4:11 pm

Speak of the devil....

A tender notice has gone up on Sackville House (such a classy name) for redevelopment.
User avatar
StephenC
Old Master
 
Posts: 2497
Joined: Mon Jul 16, 2001 12:00 am
Location: Dublin

Re: Clerys

Postby StephenC » Wed Dec 20, 2006 5:40 pm

Some interesting news in last sunday's Business Post regarding Clerys. As mentioned above here the company recieved planning permission to redesign its shop front to allow for greater transparency through the store. Work should start in NY and be completed by May. Paul Tierney, the MD, also announced that Clerys had aquired Sackville House on Malborough Street for €20 and are developing plans for the site. Great news! and along the lines of what was suggested should happen. Clerys are also very much plugging Marlborough Street as the preferred route for Luas (I agree) and want the council to start looking at M St and Sackville Place in the cvontext of the OConnell Street IAP. The company are also planning a revamp of their Guinneys outlet on Talbot Street but are awaiting plans by the City Coucil to pedestrianise Talbot Street (its on the cards but hasnt been fully assessed yet).

Tierney said he had to problems with the Arnotts development across the street and welcomed the healthy competeition it would bring.

http://www.sbp.ie
User avatar
StephenC
Old Master
 
Posts: 2497
Joined: Mon Jul 16, 2001 12:00 am
Location: Dublin

Re: Clerys

Postby jdivision » Wed Dec 20, 2006 8:15 pm

jdivision
Senior Member
 
Posts: 802
Joined: Wed Sep 28, 2005 4:34 pm

Re: Clerys

Postby Devin » Mon Jan 01, 2007 1:53 pm

Clerys is a wonderful building. The O'Connell Street facade would be in my top 10 buildings in the city centre. It looks wicked when the sun just comes on it in early afternoon in winter.


GrahamH wrote:The famous Clerys clock also dates from around this time.

Image

Needless to say the stories of thousands of couples meeting under the same clock down through the years rings just a little hollow –]This clock is a little bit dated - in an '80s way. Maybe it would be an idea to replace it with something more stylish, in a modern way.


The original looked cool:

Image
Devin
Old Master
 
Posts: 1509
Joined: Fri Dec 12, 2003 10:27 pm
Location: Dublin

Re: Clerys

Postby GrahamH » Mon Mar 12, 2007 11:48 pm

Look who are peeking out above the window display stud walls at Clerys :)

Image



Image

They are of course the leaded top lights of the original panelled timber backdrops of the display windows. Most of these still survive according to the conservation report compiled for their recent planning application, however some have also been hacked about a bit over the years.

Their planning application was recently granted, subject to very tight conservation conditions. The intention is to completely open up the windows immediately flanking either side the main entrance with views of the store by removing the current back walls, and the same treatment given to the windows at the furthest extremities of the ground floor, essentially opening up the interior to the street. The very central windows at either side will be retained as display windows, where the 1922 screens at these points will be retained in situ, however they will also remain encased in modern cladding. The screens or remnants of screens, to each side, will be removed entirely to open up the vistas, as depicted below.

Image

I think it's a great pity that the screens being retained aren't going to be exposed or otherwise utilised in this reordering, especially given the very limited amount of display space there will actually be upon completion. Unfortunately O'Connell Street and so much of the city centre in general is defined by humdrum UK high street design - it also has very limited traditional shopfront fabric remaining. As such, to have an original element of early 20th century commercial architecture exposed as part of the wider historic Clerys streetscape would act as a significant reinforcing boost to the 1920s character of O'Connell Street that has been so eroded over the past 20 years.

Of course it has to be acknowledged that shopfront and display design are critical factors in modern retailing, but there's no reason why freestanding displays against the traditional backdrop cannot be suitably creative and striking in their own right. Indeed up to this point Clerys have often demonstrated a very good eye in their window displays.

Douglas Wallace are drawing up this project, they also being the architects that worked on the impressive restoration of the building over the past eight years or so. The proposals for replacing the reproduction entrance doors with a sheer expanse of glazing works better in reality that it may sound - what they have proposed is certainly better than the disjointed mess of elements comprising the main entrance at present.

Image
© Douglas Wallace Architects

Is it just me, or is there a faintly 1920s-30s thing going on here? :) A very elegant drawing.

On paper it looks impressive, particularly if the sparkily spotlights come to fruition. A grandiose 1920s central mall chandelier along the lines of Marks and Spencers' magnificent specimen on Grafton Street would also do wonders with views from the street.
GrahamH
Old Master
 
Posts: 4590
Joined: Tue Oct 15, 2002 11:24 am
Location: Ireland

Re: Clerys

Postby PVC King » Tue Mar 13, 2007 10:36 am

For sure 1920's is very much the hot style at the moment in major retail and and high end offices. Personally I am not particularly attracted to such a quantity of architectural glazing in what is such an opulent building. No doubt Douglas Wallace have done a fine job over the years supervising the restoration of the interior into one of the finest retail spaces in the city. But I feel that this entrance is more ILAC than Selfridges for Clery's something opulent in Bronze whilst a little brash would have aged better.
PVC King
 

Next

Return to Ireland