Re: Re: ‘Dutch Billys’

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James Kelly here at Kelly and Cogan Architects.

Apologies for not writing sooner, I tend not to keep track of the discussion forums although I generally make an exception in the case of this particular thread – which I should add is really a very scholarly and useful resource.

I am one of the architects ‘responsible for the works at no 42 and note the comments made and queries raised.

42 is a very interesting and significant building and I must admit I am not particularly surprised that the works to the front facade have generated such controversy. In the interests of clarity I shall try to deal with the issues raised. In no particular order the following should address the queries;

1. Window Sashes:

Yes they are horrendous, in fact they are the second set of windows made by the contractors sub-contractors to have been rejected by this practise, the sashes have been fitted however temporarily to seal the building while replacements are awaited. The building is still in Defects Liability Stage, delivery of correct profiles and patterned sashes are due shortly for installation and hopefully will be sufficiently improved to merit approval.

Most of the front windows were of 20th century vintage, however a series of windows to the rear elevation dating from between the early 18th and early 19th century have been identified and restored, one pattern of which, a late 18th century pattern, with concealed frames have been selected from replication to the front elevation.

2. The Double Gable Proposal:

This proposal was based upon best evidence during intial survey and opening up. At that stage it was clear that the end parapet profile dated mainly from the 19th century works carried out when the building was a Police Barracks, it was also clear that brick was structurally insecure at this level, degraded and need substantial rebuilding and replacement and that teh parapet ends themselves were a cause of substantial structural deformation in the wall at that level and would need removal.

The question then arose as to how to replace them. Internal and internal examination suggested that a double gable was the correct original treatment Gunter has demonstrated fairly accurately the thinking in this regard.

However, during opening up works at that level, it became clear due to the discovery of two differing construction methods for brickwork namely a skin of brick over rubble bonded through to a rough brick internal wall versus solid masonry at the parapet corners, that the central section of the parapet was of a piece with the rest of the facade below while the parapet ends were considerably later in date. In other words it became obvious that the central section of the parapet had always been flat.

Similarly, while the double profile looks convincing as drawn, it quickly became apparent that actually such a form of construction would not align with the roof and horizontal parapet gutter behind so as to throw off rainwater. The discovery of a sloped horizontal gutter to the side slopes at the front also demonstrated that water was discharged from this area to the sides down the slope and strengthened our suspicion that the parapet top in the centre had always been flat – as water could not have been discharged to the front.

It should be added that the roof structure appears to be original although considerable repair and replacement of timber occurred around ten years ago, enough material survived to reach this conclusion.

Our initial response was to try to verify whether the whole of the parapet was originally flat in its entirety. The cornice, it has been correctly pointed out is of early pattern and type and would seem contemporary with the larger part of the building.

This lead to the initial conclusion that the parapet may have been flat, however when dismantled it became apparent that what appeared to be broken cornice ends within the intermediate run of the cornice were actually a set of cut corner pieces and that the cornice had at some stage been re-laid to incorporate these extraneous elements, pehaps when the ‘new’ parapet was erected?

Further investigation, and some ‘jigsaw puzzle’ work and re-measurement of the cornice lead us to conclude that the original cornice to the front was actually roughly 2/3rds of the length of that present on site and that the other elements appeared to match side lengths of roof to the front and rear, where indeed, we found that some areas of the side facades had originally incorporated lengths of cornice supporting rainwater goods and joist ends, a fairly common detail for houses of the ealry 18th and late 17th century.

The length of original cornice material when re-assembled and the cut ends tallied almost exactly with the width of the central 2/3rds of the parapet.

This lead us to suspect that a profiled elevation was in fact correct but not the profile which we had opriginally assumed. A re-examination of brick at this level which went hand in hand with the removal of the unstable solid brick parapet ends reinforced this impression and a close up photo survey of both ends comparing overlaid and mirrored parapet ends showed that both ends incorporated suspiciously (almost exactly) similar S curves in the surviving original material at that level.

We then prepared a series of drawings addressing this issue and came to the conclusion that the front elevation had indeed had a gable profile: not that shown on our original analysis but a much simpler form with a flat top and two S curve ends. We know that the gable ends were not flat because the cornice ends at the appropriate point are profiled around the sides not chamfered to meet another cornice, this suggested a brick gable meeting at a lower level.

The Conservation Officer was contacted, visited our office and site, and concurred with our findings, a series of analysis sheets were prepared at her instigation stating in brief our findings and were forwarded to her for final approval.

Lunette Windows:

The situation became even more complicated when removal of plaster from the interior of the top floor front wall showed three almost intact lunette windows across the front facade, somewhat lower than and crossing the bottoms of the square top floor windows, original plaster survived within the reveals and the front elevation brick ‘skin’ merely crossed these half a brick in thickness. Obviously these windows pre-dated the square opes and when drawn aligned with the windows below. The conservation officer also examined these windows and further evidence uncovered on the inner parapet face of S curve gable ends and agreed that these windows should be re-instated, again a series of analysis sheets were prepared at her instigation stating in brief our findings and were forwarded to her for final approval.

No evidence survived however of the window joinery to these lunettes, we therefoer chose the simplest and most basic 18th century pattern for installation. Incidentally no casings or window joinery survived at this level to the front elevation so no such material was lost.

Brick Re-Pointing:

We found no evidence of tuck pointing on the cleaned down original front facade, however we did find evidence of flush jointing in lime and soft sand with a simple scribed horizontal line along the centre of the joint. This is actually a very common albeit not very visually impressive 18th and 17th century detail and it was decided to replicate this jointing again with the agreement of the conservation officer. The result is of course ‘rougher’ in appearance than tuck pointing, the jointing typically (because of the varied sizes of hand made bricks) varies between 1/2 and 1 inch in thickness. In order to reuse original brick we had, in places to accept that wear on brick arrises meant the fine joints could not be achieved. Frankly this does not bother me even in the slightest. The jointing is well carried out, the mix of sand and lime is as close to that originally used as possible and while the appearance is not ‘fine’ it is authentic and has structural integrity.


Most of the original brick was retained, where replacement of facing brick was absolutely necessary (eg: mainly on the top floor where it was badly worn) original brick matching the existing and of the same dimensions was used.

And while surfaces of the brick were degraded generally, we concluded that the damage was not so severe as to merit wholesale replacement.

One dilemma which perhaps was never satisfactorily resolved was what to do with the brick around the window opes. We are of the opinion that while much newer and of significantly differing appearance that this treatment is of historic significance, does no harm, and that its replacement could actually result in substantial damage to the delicate brick skin of the main body of the wall. We have therefore retained these surrounds although they do at present ‘jar’ somewhat with the remainder of the front facade.


No 42 has been and remains something of a conundrum. The interiors are particularly fine and comparable with some of the work to be seen in Henrietta Street.

Despite an association with this building of almost 8 years and several assessments and studies carried out by ourselves, the Heritage Council and Civic Trust almost nothing is known of its provenance.

That said it is clear from the detail that much of the current interior survives from approximately the 1740s. However much of this detail apears to overlay and supercede earlier work.

The front facade raises interesting issues in its own right. The lunette windows and spartan treatment of reveals withni suggest a very utilitarian usage at top floor level as do a number of ventilation chutes from this level into the roof space. Could no 42 have accommodated a workshop at top floor? Possibly but nothing more is known.

The front doorcase we are now convinced is not contemporary withe the building and we suspect it may date from no earlier than the police barracks useage.

One item which is intriguing is the step to the left hand of the front facade -we have found no explanation for this feature which is not reflected internally, however it would make sense in the context of a terrace of houses if this were a ‘bookend’. Was no 42 the precursor of a terrace which was never constructed?.

The rear facade however is extraordinary. It incorporates a tower, eccentrically set rear windows (many with original frames) a quite beautiful and early rear entrance door. It was quite definitely originally lime plastererd and washed as became clear from examination of the keying of jointing to the rear wall.

The tower we found to have originally had windows on three sides. what was its purpose? Fire watching? Astronomy?, A lookout in respect of mercantile vessels awaiting landing at sea (knowledge which would have afforded considerable commercial advantage).

Finally, to return to the theme of this thread and the ‘Dutch Billy’. We are convinced that the current profile is correct, flat top and all!. One thing which came out of this process for us was the realisation that there was a great many more profiles to such facades than have survived or hitherto been noted. One poster refers to Dr Johnsons house, the similarity also struck us. And similar profiles are to be found in the Baltic areas as well as Holland and a number of slightly earlier country houses in England.

So then, did we get it right?. Probably not entirely. However we have used the available evidence and found the conclusions to be undeniable. In many ways it would have been a lot easier to go down the ‘fantasy’ route and force no 42 to be the building that we ‘wanted’ it to be – Double Gables and all!. If I can make an analogy however: painting restoration often reveals ‘truths’ about the painters original intents and the tarting up, patching aggrandisement etc of subsequent owners, because once the process of restoration is commenced the restorer responds to the material revealing itself rather than superimposing his own idea of what the painting should be. No 42 is too important a building to allow for any other approach however ‘undesirable’ or ‘balloon pricking’ the conclusions may be.

Viollet le Duc or Ruskin???


And Thanks for a very enjoyable and informative thread to all the posters


PS: Interesting in the context of the above to note the Lunette at the top floor of Colognemike’s Limerick ‘Billies’

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