Re: Re: ‘Dutch Billys’

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Speaking of roofscapes and Thomas Street, we probably should look again at Thomas Street in Limerick.

The early core of Georgian New Town Perry seems to have been the grid of streets comprising Georges [O’Connell] Street, William Street and Thomas Street, with Georges Street assuming predominance once it was decided to erect the new bridge linking across to Kings Island via Patrick St./Rutland St.

We’ve long been intrigued by the three houses on the west side of Georges Street that seem to incorporate the ‘Billy’ characteristic of a single lunette window in what appears to be an attic storey. Numerous photographs show the Georges Street three with enormously high flat parapets [to match the houses on either side] containing tiny half-round windows. [The middle house appears to have been altered quite early with the insertion of a pair of blind windows to match the two bay arrangement on the lower storeys].

Only the lower section of the right hand house survives today and it’d be doubtful if there are any identifyable features remaining inside, but a 1950s aerial photograph show the roofs from the rear and although the detail isn’t as sharp as I’d like, the further ‘Billy’ characteristic of a cruciform layout to the roof structure appears behind the flat front parapet.

Missing are the characteristic returns and chunky chimneys, but Limerick never seems to have fully embraced the chunky chimney and confusingly returns appear in the ‘Billy’ position on houses that we know were not ‘Billys’ while they are as often absent as present on the ‘Billys’ for which we have good evidence.

Obviously it would be unthinkable that the early phases of ‘Georgian’ New Town Perry consisted of, or even included, Dutch Billys, but pressing on regardless, more enigmatic evidence turns up across the road at the foot of Thomas Street.

The google images don’t reveal much here except perhaps no 7 [the right hand half of ‘Chicken King’] which on closer examination is gabled [simple triangle] to the rear and has top froor windows on the front elevation that appear to barely squeeze into the triangle of the roof structure.

Like Graham’s pair on Dublin’s Thomas Street, I’d probably be happy to let this one go as a ‘transitional’ house, ‘Georgian’ but with some of the constructional legacy of the ‘Billy’ tradition.

No. 7 appear the same in this 1960s aerial view of Limerick’s Thomas Street, however the three houses opposite that I marked earlier on the current Google image [nos. 55, 56 and 57], in the 1960s image, reveal far more intrigueing roof profiles. No. 57 appears to have a single window [possibly lunnette] squeezed under the gutter of a low transverse roof which looks like a not particularly well resolved alteration to me and nos. 55 and 56 appear to have originally had steeply pitched cruciform [or at least partially cruciform] roofs with the front and back apexes hipped behind unconvincing flat parapets. Again the top floor windows must be low to the floor for the heads to squeeze between the rafters and again you’d have to ask yourself why would a builder set out to do it this way when the double-pile transverse roof of the standard ‘Georgian’ model would appear to be the handier route, if ‘Georgian’ was his goal.

Ironically, if these house were in fact originally gabled [which is unthinkable] or ‘transitional’ and they were altered to appear more ‘Georgian’, possible within twenty years of being built, then they’ve been altered again, probably in the last twenty years, to appear even more ‘Georgian’ . . . . nice

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