Re: Re: ‘Dutch Billys’

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It’s a pity we don’t have more information on the Billys at the Fountain in James’s St. The sundial is still there johnglas, not much else though.

Went northside for ‘Open House’, got turned away from Luke Gardiner’s old pad on Henrietta Street yesterday with the lame excuse that thirty people had shown up at half two. Must be a piss poor house if you can’t get more than thirty people into it over two hours on a Sunday afternoon.

Anyway, far more interesting are three former ‘Billys’ down the bottom of the hill at 38 – 40 Bolton Street.

These three houses appear to be the last survivors of the long terraces of similar three storey Billys that snaked along this old highway leading out of the city to the north. The fact that they don’t look much like ‘Billys’ is likely down to the all pervading influence of the said Luke Gardiner, Edward Lovett Pearse, Nathaniel Clements and their circle of West-Britanicus Palladians.

The two most interesting of the three houses, it turns out, were recently bought (apparently at 2007 prices) by Dublin City Council, no less. God only knows what they have in mind for them!

rear of no. 38 with the little tiled roof of the return just visible on the left

rear of no. 39 again with the small gabled return suggesting the profile of the original steeply pithched cruciform roof.

How do we know these houses were Billys? We know this by comparing these houses to three almost identical, but less altered, Billys that stood at 47 – 50 Bolton Street, just a few meters away on the other side of the Henrietta Street junction.

As the caption says, these latter houses were shamefully demolished as recently as 1979 including some virtually intact panelled interiors. In a brief article on the destruction of 18th century Dublin by Kevin B. Nowlan, published the following year (from where these pictures are lifted), Nowlan gives the date of construction of these houses as 1722, virtually contemporary with the first house constructions on Henrietta Street. There’s no point dwelling on the contrasts between Bolton St. and Henrietta St. the scale is too different and Henrietta St. took too long to develop for that comparison to be meaningful, the real contrast is between Henrietta St. and a street like Molesworth St. and we’ll need to do a bit more preparation before enter that battle zone.

Though no. 40 Bolton Street is the most altered of the three former Billys, even it retains many original features, including it’s corner fireplaces and rear return. The level of the ground floor appears to have been altered, but the original timber beams with their characteristic square notches to carry small square section joists survive in the basement and probably on the upper floors as well.

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