Re: Re: ‘Dutch Billys’

Home Forums Ireland ‘Dutch Billys’ Re: Re: ‘Dutch Billys’


Twin ‘Billys’ were common across Dublin and, like standard, single gabled, ‘Billys’, they were present in all strata of the building record, from the modest townhouse of the tradesman, to the high status mansion of the titled aristocrat, that’s a part of the story of the ‘Dutch Billy’.

We’ll nail this all down, but it will just take a bit of time.

Just to return to the English situation for a moment, I posted a while back the opinion that London was almost a gable-free zone in the period that we were awash with new gabled streetscapes.

That statememt probably still stands up, but the contrast certainly isn’t as stark when the comparison is with provincial England, rather than London, but even in London, the odd Dutch looking gable does turn up.

This is a detail of a John Kip view over St. James’s Palace dating to about 1714. The house I’ve marked was then ‘The Kingshead Tavern’, or possibly re-named ‘The Crown Tavern’, at Charing Cross, subsequently no. 2 Whitehall, and it does look like a pretty standard ‘Billy’.

John Kip was Dutch, but he moved to England around 1710 and became the google-earth of his day specializing in these great bird’s eye views.

There would have been houses at the then village of Charing Cross since medieval times and by the 17th century these would have been replaced by substantial terraced houses adjoining Northumberland House, which was erected in the1630s. I would just guess, on stylistic grounds, that the curvilinear gabled three bay house and it’s one-bay neighbour date to about 1700.

By the time Canaletto painted Northumberland house in 1752, no. 2 (behind the equestrian statue of Charles I) and no.3 (the one bay to the west) had lost their gables, or been rebuilt entirely in Georgian conformity. Apparently no. 1 had been rebuilt in the 1740s after earlier bungled attempts to excavate deeper basements had caused cracking in the adjoining corner tower of Northumberland House!

As we’ve said before, trying to draw conclusions on what exactly what was the extent of the gabled tradition in England at this period, and by extension the uniqueness, or otherwise, of the Irish gabled tradition, is frustrated by the shorter lifespan of London houses, the distorting influence of Building Regulations (again principally in London), the tendancy of London property owners to add extra floors, and the fact that London was at the coal face of a Palladian fashion that spread like a virus throughout the built environment of Britain.

Latest News