Re: Re: ‘Dutch Billys’

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Anonymous
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@Pilear wrote:

was just wondering what are the elements required for a building to be defined as a dutch billy?

There were just a few buildings I was wondering about if anyone could enlighten me:
eddie rockets on dame street (hopefully attached)
a building where capel street meets bolton street
and beside the loop line bridge on talbot street

The ‘Dutch Billy’ was a development of the simpler terraced houses illustrated in Speed’s map of Dublin of 1610. These earlier 17th century houses, being typically deeper than they were wide, were simply roofed with a triangular gable to front and rear. This common house type existed all over Europe and was itself a development of the early medieval house that would have started out as free standing, but, over time and as space became more critical, became joined up into terraces. The Germans say that they were the first to put a first floor on the slavic long house, but that doesn’t take into account possible surviving Roman and other early urban precedents.

About the time that the ‘Dutch Billy’ emerged, the cruciform roof appeared. The big advantage of the cruciform roof was that it was more suited to the terraced situation where it greatly shortened the length of valley gutters between adjoining houses. As well as that, the cruciform roof dramatically increased the amount of usable floor area in the attic storey, an attribute that was utilized to the full in the ‘Weaver’ houses common in the Liberties. The weaver houses were typically very frugal in appearance and though contemporary with the ‘Dutch Billy’ resolutely stuck to the simple triangular gable.

The standard layout of the ‘Dutch Billy’ saw front and back rooms share a huge central chimney stack in the form of corner fireplaces, with a tiny return room entered off the main back room. The stairwell was always on the opposite side to the return. The return is a very important identifying feature, because the subsequent standard ‘Georgian’ house didn’t have any and also because the pitch of the roof of the return can give a clear indication of the angle of pitch of the main roof, where this is often now missing, or altered. In the standard ‘Dutch Billy’, entrance hallways were often very narrow and the hall, stairs and most of the rooms were panelled.

Another identifying feature is the brickwork. The standard ‘Dutch Billy’ was constructed entirely in imported rich red brickwork. Later ‘Georgian’ house usually used cheaper local bricks (usually more yellow in colour) on the rear elevations. Even on front elevations, ‘Georgian’ brickwork, (except very early examples, as on Henrietta Street etc.) were seldomr as deep red in colour.

Obviously the most characteristic feature of the ‘Dutch Billy’ was the curvilinear, or sometimes stepped, gable topped with a small pediment. There are a bunch of lesser characteristics, but I think that’s the gist of it.

Your Dame Street house is a possible Victorian rebuilding of a ‘Dutch Billy’, but I’m not sure. Malton shows one good quality, 5 storey, ‘Dutch Billy’ at a similar location in his print of the City Hall (Royal Exchange), but his house is three bay wide, diminishing down to two on the fourth floor, with a single window, or possibly a plaque, in the actual gable. I don’t think it’s your house though, as it seems to be on the corner of a side street, presumably Sycamore St.

The Capel Street house is an authentic ‘Billy’ that has had it’s missing top storey rebuilt very recently. I don’t think they set out to match the original detail, maybe they felt they didn’t have enough information to attempt an accurate ‘restoration’. At least this important house has been saved, next door could use some attention now.

A couple of nice ‘Billys’ on Thomas Street, that are due for the chop soon, are these two beside the old library, now ‘The Brewery Hostel’. I’ve faintly sketched in a possible configuration of the gable on the nice three bay on the right. The rear elevation shows this one is missing it’s return, but the bright red brickwork of this return structure is still evident in the party wall of the adjoining ‘Georgian’ house.

The cute little return structure on the other, slightly wider, house (adjoining the old library) is almost the only identifying feature left to indicate that this house was also a probable ‘Dutch Billy’. That and the very low hopper heads and down pipes on the rebuilt front elevation. The rear view shows that the angle of pitch of the main roof had subsequently been greatly lowered, when compared to the roof pitch of the return.

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