Re: Re: ‘Dutch Billys’

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The significance of the remains of Riversdale House had been flagged repeatedly in representations to Dublin City council over the years, yet the last visible remains of the house were swept away recently during the course of adjacent flood defence works to the Camac River in Kilmainham.

The façade of Riversdale house, Kilmainham, prior to demolition in the 1960s

Riversdale House was an extremely rare example of a high status house from the 18th century gabled tradition [probably originally including Dutch Billy gables] constructed entirely in stone rather than brick. The house was constructed about 1725 by a Dublin lawyer called John Fitzpatrick who sold it shortly afterwards to a legal colleague, Simon Bradstreet. The Bradstreets resplendently resided in the mansion throughout the 18th century, adding to their holding and tending the formal gardens that stretched out in front of the house up to a splendid wrought iron gateway fronting the highway at Old Kilmainham.

O.S. map showing Riversdale House [outlined in red] set at the rear of formal gardens.

The entrance gate on Old Kilmainham disappeared early in the 20th century and was reportedly shipped off to Malahide, where I haven’t yet been able to find it

At what point the uber refined entrance door of the house acquired its signature statue of Shakespeare is still unclear, but the great house, long since converted into a tenement with a plain 19th century roof, was substantially demolished in the mid-1960s.

The entrance door of Riversdale House with the statue of Shakespeare above it.

What remained until recent weeks was the lower half of the west gable wall, which formed the property boundary and the party wall with a slightly later house called Millbrook House which had been constructed on the adjoining site entered from Lady Lane. Importantly, the remaining section of gable wall included the south-west corner with the front façade of which the first 1170mm survived including the jam of the westernmost window. This visible window jam belonged to the first floor not the ground floor as the ground level had been built up at the time of the demolition, probably using the rubble of the house for this purpose.

The remains of the west gable wall of Riversdale House before its recent demolition with Kilmainham Mills in the distance beyond to the west

The replacement wall looking east

Had the will been there, an excavation of what should be the guts of a full ground floor, together with the evidence of construction detail that a close examination of the remaining gable wall could have provided, would have formed the basis for a reconstruction of the old house as part of a wider redevelopment of the site. For a discussion of reconstructing lost buildings, see thread of that title.

A sketch section of one of the reconstruction proposals in the ‘90s that didn’t come off

The current Dublin City Development Plan states:
‘It is an objective of Dublin City Council to carry out a survey and study of the remains of the ‘gabled tradition’ of buildings and assist in the conservation, recording and in some cases the restoration of representative examples of these houses so as to prevent this legacy being lost’

Empty words to put in an empty space.

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