Grafton Street, Dublin, Ireland


Grafton Stret, Dublin
Postmarked 1905

Grafton Street is one of the two principal shopping streets in Dublin city centre (the other being Henry Street). It runs from St Stephen’s Green in the south (at the highest point of the street) to College Green in the north (the lowest point). The street was developed from a laneway from the early 1700s, and its line was shaped by the now-culverted River Steyne. Initially a fashionable residential street with some commercial activity, the character of Grafton Street changed after it was connected to the Carlisle Bridge and came to form part of a cross-city route. It suffered from dilapidation and prostitution through the 19th century, with several run-down buildings. During the 20th century, it became known for the coffee house Bewley’s, mid- and up-market shopping, and as a popular spot for buskers. It has been assessed as one of the most expensive main retail streets in the world on which to rent.
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From its inception, the street held a mixture of residential and commercial development. Advertisements from the 1750s and 1760s describe first-floor apartments featuring a dining room, bedchamber and closet. The street was largely rebuilt in the late 1700s, following the completion of Carlisle Bridge (now O’Connell Bridge) in 1758, spanning the River Liffey, when Grafton Street came to form part of an important north-south thoroughfare. This was supplemented by the widening and rebuilding which took place as part of the work of the Wide Streets Commission, from 1841. By the latter part of the 19th century, the street was primarily commercial in nature.
Wikipedia

Customs House, Dublin


The Customs House, Dublin
Early 1920s

The Custom House in Dublin is regarded as one of the jewels in the city’s architectural crown. A masterpiece of European neo-classicism, it took 10 years to build and was completed in 1791. It cost the then not inconsiderable sum of 200,000 sterling. It was the greatest achievement of James Gandon who had been brought over from England to carry out the work. Gandon had been chosen by John Beresford, Chief Revenue Commissioner and a small coterie of the Irish ascendency who were then in the process of enhancing the streets and public buildings of Dublin.
Government of Ireland

Construction started in 1781, and for his assistants Gandon chose Irish artists such as Meath stone-cutter Henry Darley, mason John Semple and carpenter Hugh Henry. Every available mason in Dublin was engaged in the work. When it was completed and opened for business on 7 November 1791, it had cost £200,000 to build – a considerable sum at the time. The four facades of the building are decorated with coats-of-arms and ornamental sculptures (by Edward Smyth) representing Ireland’s rivers. Another artist, Henry Banks, was responsible for the statue on the dome and other statues. . . . As the port of Dublin moved further downriver, the building’s original use for collecting customs duties became obsolete, and it was used as the headquarters of the Local Government Board for Ireland.

During the Irish War of Independence in 1921, the Irish Republican Army burnt down the Custom House, to disrupt British rule in Ireland by destroying tax records. Gandon’s original interior was completely destroyed in the fire and the central dome collapsed. . . . After the Anglo-Irish Treaty, it was restored by the Irish Free State government. The results of this reconstruction can still be seen on the building’s exterior today – the dome was rebuilt using Irish Ardbraccan limestone which is noticeably darker than the Portland stone used in the original construction.
Wikipedia.

“The new picture of Dublin : or Stranger’s guide through the Irish metropolis, containing a description of every public and private building worthy of notice”, Philip Dixon Hardy, 1831

This great edifice is jointly the House of Customs and Excise ; and, besides all the offices necessary for these purposes, contains dwelling houses for the Chief Commissioners, Secretaries, &c. The doors on each side of the portico in the south front, lead into passages running the whole depth of the building, with a range of offices down them on one side. The great stair-case, with its Ionic colonnade, is deservedly admired. The Long-Room is a superb apartment, 70 feet by 65, ornamented with composite columns, and enlightened by two large circular lanterns. The Trial and Board-rooms, in the north front, are also very handsome apartments ; but the Long-room is the only one worthy the visitor’s notice.
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On the east of the Custom-house is a wet dock, capable of containing forty sail of vessels ; and along the quay that bounds it on the east and north is a range of capacious and commodious houses. . . . To the north-east of the former docks and stores an extensive piece of ground has been enclosed with a wall fifty feet in height, three sides of which are to be occupied with stores. Inside of this a new dock, measuring 650 feet by 300, has been formed, with a basin 300 feet by 250. In a line with the Custom-house, to the east, stands the Tobacco-store, which covers nearly an acre of ground, and in the construction of which no materials of a combustible nature have been used.
“The new picture of Dublin : or Stranger’s guide through the Irish metropolis, containing a description of every public and private building worthy of notice”, Philip Dixon Hardy, 1831

Front Elevation & plan “Monumental classic architecture in Great Britain and Ireland during the eighteenth & nineteenth centuries”, Albert Edward Richardson, 1914

The ground selected for the new building had not even been purchased at this time, but when this was arranged the difficulties that presented themselves dismayed Gandon the more he advanced. He relates soon after his arrival — “At last I ventured, but at very early hours in the morning, to walk over the grounds,” and the necessity for being cautious will be understood when it is told that a meeting v/as held to devise some way of preventing the project from being carried into effect, and the Sunday after the site had been marked out, hundreds of the people met there, and it was feared that the trenches, which had been dug, would be filled up. On this occasion, however, the mob, perhaps rendered good humoured by the amount of whiskey and gingerbread consumed during the day, only amused themselves by swimming in the water with which the trenches were filled. Later, however, in response to a meeting convened by the Corporation and headed by some of the leading citizens, the people paid another visit to the place and pulled down a fence that had been erected on the river side.
“Sketches of old Dublin”, Ada Peter, 1907

St Stephen’s Park, Dublin, Ireland


St Stephen’s Green Park. Dublin.

Published: Lawrence, Dublin
c.1910

Google Maps.

The name St Stephen’s Green originates from a church called St Stephen’s in that area in the thirteenth century. Attached to the church was a leper hospital. Around this time the area was a marshy piece of common ground, which extended as far as the River Dodder and was used by the citizens of the city for grazing livestock. In 1663 the City Assembly decided that the plot of ground could be used to generate income for the city and a central area of twenty-seven acres was marked out which would define the park boundary, with the remaining ground being let out into ninety building lots. Rent generated was to be used to build walls and paving around the Green. Each tenant also had to plant six sycamore trees near the wall, in order to establish some privacy within the park. In 1670 the first paid gardeners were employed to tend to the park.

By the nineteenth century the condition of the park had deteriorated to such an extent that the perimeter wall was broken, and many trees were to be found in bad condition around the park. In 1814 commissioners representing the local householders were handed control of the park. They replaced the broken wall with ornate Victorian railings and set about planting more trees and shrubs in the park. New walks were also constructed to replace the formal paths previously found in the park. However with these improvements, the Green then became a private park accessible only to those who rented keys to the park from the Commission, despite the 1635 law which decreed that the park was available for use by all citizens. This move was widely resented by the public.

Sir Arthur Guinness, later known as Lord Ardilaun, grew up in Iveagh House located on St Stephen’s Green, and came from a family well noted for its generosity to the Dublin public. In 1877 Sir Arthur offered to buy the Green from the commission and return it to the public. He paid off the park’s debts and secured an Act which ensured that the park would be managed by the Commissioners of Public Works, now the OPW. Sir Arthur’s next objective was to landscape the park, and provide an oasis of peace and tranquility in the city. He took an active part in the design of the redeveloped park, and many of the features in the park are said to have been his suggestions. The main features of the redeveloped park included a three-acre lake with a waterfall, picturesquely-arranged Pulham rockwork, and a bridge, as well as formal flower beds, and fountains. The superintendent’s lodge was designed with Swiss shelters. It is estimated the redevelopment of the park cost £20,000.
St Stephen’s Park

Access to the Green was restricted to local residents, until 1877, when Parliament passed an Act to reopen St Stephen’s Green to the public, at the initiative of Sir A.E. Guinness, a member of the Guinness brewing family who lived at St Anne’s Park, Raheny and at Ashford Castle. He later paid for the laying out of the Green in approximately its current form, which took place in 1880, and gave it to the Corporation, as representatives of the people. By way of thanks the city commissioned a statue of him, which faces the College of Surgeons. His brother Edward lived at Iveagh House, which his descendants gave in 1939 to the Department of External Affairs (now the Department of Foreign Affairs).

During the Easter Rising of 1916, a group of insurgents made up mainly of members of the Irish Citizen Army, under the command of Commandant Michael Mallin, his second-in-command Kit Poole, and Constance Markievicz, established a position in St Stephen’s Green. They numbered between 200 and 250.[ They confiscated motor vehicles to establish road blocks on the streets that surround the park, and dug defensive positions in the park itself. This approach differed from that of taking up positions in buildings, adopted elsewhere in the city. It proved to have been unwise when elements of the British Army took up positions in the Shelbourne Hotel, at the northeastern corner of St Stephen’s Green, overlooking the park, from which they could shoot down into the entrenchments. Finding themselves in a weak position, the Volunteers withdrew to the Royal College of Surgeons on the west side of the Green. During the Rising, fire was temporarily halted to allow the park’s groundsman to feed the local ducks.
Wikipedia