Wednesday, 13 April 2011

A pleasant morning in Old Mount Pleasant

A clump of Spring bluebells in the sunshine in the grounds of the Church of Ireland Theological Institute (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2011)

Patrick Comerford

This has been a week of Church of Ireland committee meetings in Rathmines. In all, I was at three meetings and two celebrations of the Eucharist in the space of two days … although, like all committees, much of the work was done on the side-lines, over coffee and in one-to-one conversations.

The bluebells were out in little clumps and clusters in the grounds of the Church of Ireland College of Education. And it was delightul to see how the new furniture in the college chapel

The interior of the refurbished chapel at the Church of Ireland College of Education (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2011)

I managed to take a little time out early yesterday morning [Tuesday 12 April]. I wanted to take new photographs of the different houses in Ranelagh and Ratmines that my grandfather and great-grandfather and three generations of the Comerford family had lived in at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century – houses in Upper Beechwood Avenue, Old Mount Pleasant, Mount Pleasant Villas and Swanville Place.

The 1911 Census shows that my grandfather, Stephen Comerford, his second wife, Bridget (nee Lynders) and three of their children – Mary (8), who was the child of his first marriage, and Patrick (3) and Robert (1) – were then living at No 2 Old Mount Peasant. Stephen’s son by his first marriage, Arthur Comerford (7), was then living with his stepmother’s widowed mother, Margaret (nee McMahon) Lynders in Portrane in north Co Dublin.

No 2 Old Mount Pleasant ... Stephen Comerford was living here 100 years ago on the night of the 1911 census (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2011)

Missing from the 1911 census were another son, Edmond Joseph Comerford, who had died in childhood, a daughter Margaret, who was born the following year, and my father, Stephen Edward Comerford, who was born in 1918, after my grandfather had been invalided home from Thessaloniki in the middle of World War I.

I wonder whether my grandfather was vain, or wanted to appear a little younger to his wife. He gives his age on the 1911 census form as 38, but in fact he was born in 1867, not in 1873.

Old Mount Pleasant is a terrace of ten houses on the crest of a hill, off Mount Pleasant Square, behind a school, and close to Ranelagh Village. The late Deirdre Kelly, in her history of the area, Four Roads to Dublin, suggests Mount Plesant may have derived its name either from having a pleasant view from that hilltop out to the sea, or from Thomas Pleasants, a Huguenot builder who lived near here.

These ten houses in Old Mount Pleasant are a mixture of brick-fronted, two-storey and three-storey houses, some with basements. At the end of the terrace, No 1, is a Victorian-era pub, The Hill, which now incorporates my grandfather’s house, No 2 into the premises.

No 6 Old Mount Pleasant ... the most interesting house in this terrace of Georgian Houses in Ranelagh (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2011)

In the middle of the terrace, No 6 is the most interesting looking house. This is a stuccoed, classical-style house. It is set back from the building line of the other houses in the terrace, and was probably the first of these houses to be built. The terrace was completed by the mid-1770s, and the houses have changed little in the intervening over almost two and a half centuries.

No 6 was probably detached at first, with gardens now occupied by Nos 5 and 7. The house was the home of Thomas Ivory, the 18th century architect who designed the Blue Coat School (the King’s Hospital), now the headquarters of the Incorproated Law Society, the Newcomen Bank, Kilcarthy House in Co Meath, and the two-arch bridge in Lismore, Co Waterford.

Thomas Ivory moved to this house in 1784, but he may have actually designed the house in 1775, for the original lease bears that date and on the front, ground-floor elevation there is an arched window within an arch – a design that Ivory used when he designed both the Blue Coat School and Newcomen Bank.

A year after moving into the house, Thomas Ivory’s 12-year-old son died, and Thomas Ivory died in December 1786. His nooks and drawings were sold by his widow to the Dublin Society, where he had taught drawing and architecture. But she also had to sell the house to pay his debts, and No 6 was sold in in 1787.

This terrace remains an interesting and curious part of Dublin’s architectural heritage. Old Mount Pleasant must have been a pleasant place for my grandfather to live at the time of the 1911 census 100 years ago this month.