Re: Re: ‘Dutch Billys’

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I hadn’t spotted this planning application.

The whole time we were merrily exploring ‘Billys’ here (including this one!) the owners of this house had planning permission to ‘reinstate’ the presumed original twin gabled facade!

As a very significant Protected Structure, it’s hard to believe that the planning application didn’t seem to attract any attention from anyone of a conservation frame of mind, An Taisce included.

What has happened here is a real shame. I’ve read through the planning file now and it’s clear that the architects involved are fellow travellers, ‘Dutch Billy’ anoraks to a man by the sounds of it.

Apart from deciding to interfere with the facade in the first place, there’s not a lot wrong with their assessment, this house was almost certainly a twin ‘Billy’ (in the 30 Jervis Street mould) . . . but these are exactly the type of former ‘Billy’ that you must never try to un-pick in an attempt to re-created an original appearance that you believe it may have had. Houses of this type are witness to the abrupt change in fashion that brought an end to the gabled tradition, in Dublin and across the country, and the survival of this type of house, in turn, is critical in any reading of the story of the ‘Dutch Billy’.

As I’ve said before, the flat parapet alterations to this house look very early to me (1770s at a guess) and they were patently very deliberate and very assured, this house isn’t a ‘Dutch Billy’ that eventually crumbled from neglect, or was butchered by some partial demolition, it was a twin ‘Billy’ that was re-branded as a ‘Georgian’ and in that form it survived the ups and downs of the next two centuries +. Trying to un-do this now would be like scraping off the Mona Lisa to get at some fifteenth century sketch on the canvas underneath.

@GrahamH wrote:

gunter, on the issue of the building up of the parapet in place of the gables, how is it do you think, that there was no shadowing of replacement brick in the central valley? I get the impression from the wider view of the façade that the entire attic storey was refaced at that time, although that doesn’t quite explain the 19th century brick to the ends.

Graham, I think the bottom of any central curvilinear sweep (between twin pedimented gables) would probably have hardly intruded one, or two, course into the brickwork of the existing parapet, if at all. In spite of the evidence from the Leask drawing of no. 30 Jervis Street, it’s also very likely that the ridge of the supporting roof wasn’t always obliged to line up directly with the centre of the pedimented gable (on twins), they may have used the masking function of the gable to slide the pediments into positions that suited the facade best, although the evidence from the tapered corner house pair on New Row South / Ward’s Hill suggests that a combination of a tiny central separating curve and comparatively huge side sweeps was a perfectly acceptable composition.

I know that I’m probably labouring this point, but since I did started out last year doubting that this house could be firmly established to be a twin ‘Billy’, (as opposed to a hybrid transitional, flat parapeted house from the start) I just want to nail down that the evidence from the roof profile really is pretty conclusive on this point.

Given that the house was clearly the product of the ‘Dutch Billy’ tradition, whether in fact a ‘Billy’ itself, or a transitional ‘Georgian’, it would seem reasonable to conclude that the transverse section of roof, outlined in yellow, as the natural continuation of the roof volumes terminating in the side gables, would have been present unless there was some compelling reason to omit it. As the front section of the valley gutter could have simply drained to the north or south via the front parapet gutter, the only compelling reason to omit the central section of the transverse roof was that the parapet gutter must not have originally existed and, in that circumstance, the only means of draining the front section of roof would have been via an outlet brought through the front facade between the original pair of gables that must have existed before the parapet and the parapet gutter were created. By the 1730s I think this would have been unacceptable, particularly in a three bay twin, where the outlet, and associated down pipe, would have emerged over the line of the middle windows.

Views of the house (before alteration) from the south and the north showing the great flat parapet and moulded coping.

@ctesiphon wrote:

For such a proposal to be acceptable, the sources should be unambiguous, and even then there’s still a debate to be had. With sources that are at best ambiguous, this was never the right course of action.

ctesiphon has said it, this alteration, even as originally envisaged in the planning application, was never the right course of action for a house of this importance, but as originally envisaged it could be the right course of action for numerous other, less well preserved, ‘Billys’ that languish is unrecognised half-demolished misery all over the city.

What this episode points out to me is that, more than ever, we need a comprehensive survey and a reliable inventory of these houses, as well as some kind of reasonably well worked out guide on what to do when one of these properties comes up for redevelopment.

It’s probably worth noting that the DCC conservation officer was uneasy about the proposal, but prepared to take a chance:

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