Re: Re: ‘Dutch Billys’

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There are credible rumours going round at the moment that some in Dublin City Council may be contemplating taking an active interest in these two important houses.

no. 20 & 21 Thomas Street sandwiched between the old Dublin Corporation Library (a P.S.) at nos. 22-23, on the left, and no 19 (also a protected structure) on the right.

A rumour may be a pretty slender thread to be hanging three hundred years of ‘Dutch Billy’ heritage on, but I’d settle for it, if it comes with a feckin plumber who can get in there and turn off the dripping water.

This is a mixture of survey drawing and conjectural reconstruction, intended to give an indication of what these houses originally looked like.

The actual amount of ‘conjecture’ here is quite low when you get right down to it, and much of that conjecture could be resolved if a thorough exploration of the fabric were possible.

The 18th century building practice of incorporating existing party walls into new house construction provides a particularly rich vein of information that is often presumed to be lost. Where a party wall was relatively new, and solidly built, it appears to have been the practice for adjoining owners to just lift the end slates and built off the earlier brickwork and around any joist end that might be in the way.

Where the scale of the new house might have put too much additional loading on an existing party wall, 18th century builders tended to organise the floor plan of the new house to place the new chimney breasts against the existing wall, effectively taking all of the weight of the new construction on the new foundations. There are nice examples of this practice to be seen here in the west walls of both nos.19 and 22 Thomas St. (the old Dublin Corporation Library).

In one of his few references to Thomas Street, Craig noted in 1949 that ”Halpin’s (no. 20) is a particularly fine early-nineteenth shop-front.” There’s got to be a photograph of that out there somewhere!

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