26 December 2016

Enjoying Pentland’s Post Office and sea
views in Blackrock ‘on the feast of Stephen’

John Howard Pentland’s Post Office is an important of the streetscape in Blackrock, Co Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2016; click image for full-size view)

Patrick Comerford

Good King Wenceslas looked out
On the feast of Stephen
When the snow lay round about
Deep and crisp and even.

Today is the Feast of Saint Stephen [26 September 2016], but while the weather is bright and crisp, there is no snow in Dublin this Christmas week, either deep or even.

After a busy Christmas Eve and Christmas morning in Christ Church Cathedral, I felt very lazy yesterday afternoon and evening. Two of us took advantage of the bright, crisp winter weather this afternoon to waken up with a short crisp walk along the seafront at Blackrock, Co Dublin.

The tide was out, and from the bridge over the railway line at Idrone Terrace there were clear views out to Dun Laoghaire to the east, Dublin Bay and the Pigeon House stacks to the west, and Howth Head to the north.

Later, during a walk through the quiet Main Street of Blackrock, I stopped to admire the Post Office at No 36 Main Street, Blackrock, was designed in 1905-1909 by the architect John Howard Pentland. This Post Office, like many post offices built at this time, features brick and stone extensively. The public office has high windows and sills allowing for desks or counters to be sited underneath them. Good quality signage completes the look of post offices of this period.

The new post office in Blackrock was built by GW Scott & Co of Usher’s Quay, Dublin, and opened on 1 November 1909.

The architect John Howard Pentland (1855-1919), who was born in Lurgan, Co Armagh, on 30 July 1855, was a son of Thomas Pentland, a bank manager, and his wife, who was a daughter of Thomas Carroll, of Dublin, and a sister of the architects Thomas Henry Carroll, Howard Carroll and James Rawson Carroll.

From 1872 to 1877, Pentland was a pupil of his uncle James Rawson Carroll. At Trinity College Dublin, he distinguished himself in engineering, classics and languages, and he graduated from TCD in 1877 (BA, BAI, special honours).

For the next two years, Pentland was a working pupil of Sir Thomas Newenham Deane, before returning to his uncle’s office as an assistant in 1879, becoming a partner in 1882. The practice of Carroll & Pentland continued until 1884, when Pentland was appointed an assistant surveyor of buildings in the Board of Works. In 1891, he became head of the Board of Works architectural department as senior surveyor and principal surveyor.

John Howard Pentland’s Post Office is an important of the streetscape in Blackrock, Co Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2016)

Pentland designed several post offices for the Board of Works, including the post offices on Shelbourne Road, Ballsbridge (1891), James’s Street, Dublin (1892-1893), North Circular Road, Phibsborough (1892-1893), the Parcel Sorting Office, Amiens Street, Dublin (1893), Main Street, Enniskillen, Co Fermanagh (1899), Westport, Co Mayo (1899-1901), Church Street, Castlebar, Co Mayo (1902), Tullamore, Co Offaly (1909), Athy, Co Kildare (1909-1910), and Oliver Plunkett Street, Co Cork (1914).

For many years, Pentland was involved in enlarging and remodelling the General Post Office in O’Connell Street, Dublin, completed only weeks before the building was destroyed in the Easter Rising in 1916.

Around 1890, he designed the arch into Donnybrook Graveyard erected by members of Dublin Stock Exchange as a tribute to his father-in-law, Graves Searight, president of the Dublin Stock Exchange. This arch was relocated when the road through Donnybrook was widened.

His best-known work in Dublin is the Fusiliers’ Arch built in 1906-1907 at the north-west entrance to Saint Stephen’s Green, Dublin, in memory of members of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers who died in the Boer War.

He was a founder member of the revived Architectural Association of Ireland in 1896, and served as both vice-president (1896-1898, 1902-1903) and president (1898-1899). He was also a Fellow of the Royal Institute of Architects of Ireland (MRIAI, 1883, FRIAI, 1903), a Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects (1889), a member of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland (MRSAI, 1888), and a Member of the Royal Hibernian Academy (RHA, 1895).

Pentland and his wife Marian, daughter of Graves Searight, were the parents of an only daughter Marian.

He lived at a number of addresses in Rathmines, including 16 Moyne Road (1883-1887), 7 Ormond Road (1887-1893), and Lis na Crun, Cowper Road (1894-1896), before moving to 4 Lansdowne Gardens, Shelbourne Road (1907-1918). He worked from office at 176 Great Brunswick Street until 1883, and then from the Office of Public Works (1884-1918).

Pentland retired in 1918, and after a short illness he died on 15 November 1919. He was buried in Deansgrange Cemetery.

After a walk along the seafront at Idrone Terrace and through the streets of Blackrock, we stopped for double espressos in Insomia. But the signs of homelessness in the shopfronts and doorways still reminded me of the true meaning of Christmas:

Therefore, Christian men, be sure,
wealth or rank possessing,
Ye who now will bless the poor,
shall yourselves find blessing.

A view across Dublin Bay and out to Howth Head from the railway bridge at Idrone Terrace in Blackrock, Co Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2016; click image for full-size view)

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