Dublin ‘Pubs’

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    • #704678
      Shane Clarke

      Is there anybody out there who knows anything about the architecture of Irish/Dublin pubs? Could somebody perhaps recommend something other than a coffee table book on the subject. I am doing a dissertation of the ‘cultural aspects of the Irish ‘theme bar’ which is why I’m interested.

    • #712814
      James McQuillan

      The Irish pub is essentially a product of the nineteenth century, as that was when the greater part of our common urban building was erected, replacing earlier thatched houses and so on. Also there was the practice of awarding licences to general traders, grocers, etc., so that one finds the curious dual trading of shop-in-front – hardware etc., and pub behind. Later in the century with the great programme of Catholic church-building, landlords could fit out the interiors with richly-carved wooden bars, church tiling on the floors, and so on. Etched glass and brass fixtures are to be found in the better ones, but many remain very simple, with t-and-g boarding, a few barrels mounted over the rear counter, and sometimes ornate gas-lamps in the windows. One overlooked feature is thatinstead of signs, pubs were painted in a particular livery, which never changed – in an age of illiteracy, one had to be able to identify the pub through say its being red-and-black. Ofcourse names were used, but generally the family name of the licensee, and sometimes done in gold, covered by glass.

      One could not see into the pub directly – an important consideration securing the privacy of the pub. Thus the front windows tended to have a high sill, and a great single pane over ( 19 c. plate glass). The snug, a small compartment between front window and the bar service area, or elsewhere in the building, was for the reception of ladies, who may have been forced to settle sales of farmstock in private with the ritual drink and ‘luck-penny’ exchange. The cities boast saloons on the international style of ‘parlour houses’, with very ornate design, stained glass and carving, the rural ones can be very informal, with drinking taking place in the business end, giving rise to the range of drawers that are installed in English theme-pubs.

      It is hard to write a history as there is such variation, but a number of pre-eminent examples can be easily idfentified in any area – in N. I. some of the good ones are listed – some of the good-but-simple ones are going fast. As regards the imagery, there were of course no medieval ones, so huge timber beams are never found, or other features of English pubs that have now become common worldwide. Therefore desite a lot of variety, the Irish pub has a recognisable gamut of features which give it its quintessential character, and surely it is this identity that has swept the Continent, where the examples are far less ‘commercial’ than the ones found everywhere now in England, with prissy names – products of interior designers who usually get things mixed up a bit, and the whole effect becomes coy in the extreme.

      The above contribution is the result of many happy hours of self-financed research around the world!

    • #712815

      Just visit the Stags Head off Dame Street and you’ll appreciate and learn everything about the quintessential Irish pub

    • #712816
      James McQuillan

      By visiting the Stag’s Head, you won’t ‘learn everything’ about Irish pubs, Donncha!

      The original challenge from Shane Clarke was from England, I’m sure, otherwise he wouln’t have asked about the ‘cultural aspects’ of the Irish pub.

      As for the Stag’s Head, this fits into the international class of ‘parlour house’ entertainment to be found all over the Anglophone world at the turn of the century, as far away as San Frasncisco, I’m sure. So it is certainly a ‘grand’ interior, but not typically Irish, as taken up by the ‘theme pubs’ that Clarke is studying in England.

      As a better Dublin example, Donncha could have nominated the Brazen Head, alledgedly the oldest pub in the city, and very infromal in its decor, therefore so much more representative of the provincial Irish pub of the 19th. century.

      I suppose the question arises – what IS the oldest pub in Ireland? I’d like to know, for one, but am too lazy (other irons in the fire!) and far from the material to sort this one out.

    • #712817

      Can anyone share any information
      on the development of Bars in Dublin
      particularly over the last ten years.
      I don’t mean traditional Irish bars
      I’m looking at the new Irish style (front lounge ect.)

    • #712818
      Mrs. M. J. Lister

      From the bit of the globe i have have thread in my life one thing has struck me, nearly where you go , you can be sure to come across an “Irish theme Pub” and a “McDonalds”. about the architecture of these pub most just enploy olde worlde objects , mock signs and smoke stained walls and wood .These are employed in much the same way as McDonalds use boards that look like brick and tin roof that look like tiles.
      The reason i think that makes Irish Pubs popluar was there social aspect and the buzz, something which relies on the people not the slap up decor.

    • #712819
      john white

      Well, actually in Dublin there are only one or two real traditional Irish pubs left. The Long Hall etc. They’re eclectic in style. With a natural incorporation of elements from different eras, Victorian, 50’s and 60’s etc. They haven’t been interfered with by people with ‘taste’. A great record of it’s voyage through the century.

      We also have on the other hand – ironically, Irish Theme Pubs of our own. How ridiculous!

      Totally artificial and twee.

      Can we just keep the real ones please. We don’t need to retain the filth though!

      Is there a preservation order on the filth and horrid smell in places like The International Bar and JJ Smyth’s?

      “This ‘jacks’ contains traces of Brendan Behan’s Vomit. Do NOT clean. By order Dublin Corporation. Fine £500 and forcible admission to ‘Zanzibar’ pub.”

    • #712820

      I think she was asking about bars not pubs: Front Lounge etcetera. I think its influenced by Barcelona in the 90s

    • #712821
      Janet Molphy

      I have looked at the Barcelona design style but I am now focusing on the more recent emergence of an Irish modern style fusing comsoplotion design style with traditional Irish elements,The Clarence, Nude, The Odeon and of course the Front Lounge. I would be grateful for opinions.

    • #712822
      James McQuillan

      While my earlier descriptions of the Irish bar /pub (there is no essential difference) stressed the unself-conscious character of the easy civility, indeed ‘rurality’ of the Irish nineteenth-century interior, I no way would endorse the ‘interference’ with the integrity of such places, and it saddens me to hear that all have no been ‘improved’ (if true).

      Again I do not endorse low standards of hygiene, and the local authorities (the weak link in Western polity) should exact penalties according to their duty.

      The Irish theme pub is rampant across S. England, the Continent and even in SE Asia, and is certainly quite ‘twee’, but then so is a typical Chinese restaurant.

      As regards the ‘Barcelona’ style, please define.

    • #712823

      Forum – I posted an entry here some years ago and have subsequently written my thesis – ‘The Irish Pub in the Global Village’. Received a 2.1 for it but in all honesty its no more than a first draft. Speed typing over four days. An interesting subject though.

      If you are interested you can find it @

      I am now doing an MSc in Urban Design at the Bartlett School, University College London. I have posted an entry re my thesis prosposal under the forum heading ‘The Croppy Acre’. Again I would be very interested in comment. Much more confident with urbanism than cultural studies.

      Thesis will be concerned with hyperdensity and the city of towers. My proposal is a ‘sphere-city’; sustainable, spectacular, citizen orientated. I am very keen to develop ideas and discussion via Archeire which I think i s a very inspirational web-site.

      regards, Shane Clarke (sclarke)

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