Re: Re: ‘Dutch Billys’

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Anonymous
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Can we leave the ‘Twin Billy’ argument for a day or two. I think we may be able to nail this down conclusively shortly . . . . . but then again I had thought that we had already done that, on at least half a dozed occassions :rolleyes:

@GrahamH wrote:

Back on Thomas Street, the pair of nondescript rendered houses immediately to the right of the corner building at the junction with Meath Street are almost certainly of an early date.

Seen here just after the Victorian corner building. The high windows indicate just how grand these houses once were with their steps and probable railed frontages to the street.

However both structures do not appear to be Billies as I had long hoped, but rather a pair of transitional style houses of c. 1745-55.

This somewhat revealing photograph taken in the 1960s shows the rears of the houses as being clearly different from each other in terms of fenestration, roof profile and even building depth. There are also no paired closet returns, while the left-hand house seen below appears to consume the central chimneystack all for itself. Traversing cruciform roof forms are clearly apparent.

To this day, the easternmost house still has a lower roof profile (in spite of roof surfaces being renewed in concrete tile).

The remarkable scale of the westernmost house’s quaint roof is quite the spectacle on the streetscape.

The sophistication of the Wide Streets Commissioners block of the 1820s makes for an interesting comparison.

A rear view showing the singular surviving original slate finish to the hip. The sash windows here date from the late 19th century alterations to the front.

The question to be asked of course is what survives to the interiors of the upper floors of these houses. Certainly the lower floors have been completely gutted, carried out for the amalgamation of the properties into The Carpet Mills in the 1970s – now proudly playing host to officially the most hideous shop frontage in the capital.

Also of note is the curious fragment of a facade to the west of the houses as seen below, with a pair of small, slender windows stranded high above the street. Unfortunately, even by the 1960s this building was largely gutted, so we need to go back earlier to get clues as to its origin.

A short footnote to Graham’s dissertation on these houses on the corner of Thomas Street and Meath Street.

A memorial of a lease dated 22 August 1720 records that a George Eastwood of the City of Dublin, Gentleman, leased a house ‘at the Glibb [market] on St. Thomas Street . . . . at the corner of Meath Street’ [predecessor to ‘Cash Converters’] to a Henry Fitzgerald of the City of Dublin, Hatter, for the period of thirty one years in return for the annual rent of twenty eight pounds ‘over and above all taxes which so ever’.

The interesting thing is that the house is described as ‘. . . commonly called ye Dutch House’.

Although we can’t know for certain what the reasons were behind this nickname, given that none of the parties involved with this house appear to have been Dutch and given that there is nothing obvious in the records to suggest that the occupants of the property where in any way pot-smoking tulip merchants, it would seem reasonable to conclude that this colloquial label attached itself to the property as a result of the particular appearance of the structure.

While it might initially seem odd that the records appear to single out an individual house as ‘Dutch’, given that Dublin was coming down with Dutch gabled houses by the 1720s, it should be noted that older streets like Thomas Street, which Speed shows fully developed by 1610, would presumable have been slow to acquire urban renewal in the form of bang up-to-date new building stock and it probably wasn’t until the arrival of major interventions, like the opening of the new thoroughfare of Meath Street in the late 17th century, that the opportunity presented itself to make an architectural statement on a newly created prominent corner site.

In the circumstances, I’m going to run with the conclusion that the current prominent, but filthy, Victorian building with the chamfered corner and the canary yellow Cash Converters shop front [that Graham has illustrated in detail], is a rebuilding of one of the pioneering Dutch Billys that began the transformation of Dublin from a dreary city of low, grey-scale, lime wash in the 17th century into a confident red-brick mercantile capital of European scale by the middle of the 18rh century.

I only wish I could find some way to claim it had twin gables 🙂

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