Monday, 5 December 2016

The Victorian legacy of a lodge in
a corner in Saint Stephen’s Green

The Superintendent’s Lodge in a quiet corner at the at the south-west of Saint Stephen’s Green, Dublin, was designed by James Franklin Fuller (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2016)

Patrick Comerford

Saint Stephen’s Green enjoys perennial popularity among Dubliners and tourists alike. This 22-acre park plays an important role in Dublin city life, but also attracts over 5 million visitors a year.

The beauty of the gardens, the landscaping and the water features in the park, often mean that visitors miss the architectural significance of Saint Stephen’s Green, in a national context. But since its creation in 1663, Saint Stephen’s Green has become home to a significant number of architectural buildings that add interest and architectural variety to the Green.

These buildings were designed over the last century and a half, and they have been maintained to a high standard. These heritage features include the Superintendent’s Lodge or Gate Lodge, the Summer House, the Bandstand and the Fusiliers’ Arch at the Grafton Street entrance.

The Superintendent’s Lodge, built shortly after 1880 was designed by James Franklin Fuller. Fuller undertook considerable work for the Guinness family and Lord Ardilaun, most notably Kylemore Abbey in Galway, the refurbishment of Farmleigh House, next to the Phoenix Park, in 1881-1884, and the refurbishment of Iveagh House on Saint Stephen’s Green.

This may explain how Sir Arthur Guinness came to commission him to design the Superintendent’s Lodge or Gate Lodge in Saint Stephen’s Green.

The lodge stands just inside the south-west corner entrance, diagonally opposite the north end of Harcourt Street, at its junction with Cuffee Street. Fuller designed the lodge in the Queen Anne style. It has Farnham styled brick, decorative mouldings, and ornamental bargeboards.

The lodge was built at an estimated cost of £2,256, and Fuller also designed gate piers and shelters for Saint Stephen’s Green.

The Superintendent’s Lodge, with the Unitarian Church and other buildings on Saint Stephen’s Green West in the background (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2016)

Every schoolchild in Ireland knows the story, probably apocryphal, that during the 1916 Rising a truce was observed twice each day so that James Kearney, the Park Superintendent, could feed the ducks.

The lodge was captured in Easter Week by three rebels who positioned themselves in the upper bedrooms, from which they fired at troops. Later, a Cumann na mBan united under the command of Sergeant Madeleine ffrench-Mullen moved into the lodge, and when a medical unit that had been using the bandstand in the Green came under machinegun fire, they moved their makeshift hospital into the Superintendent’s Lodge.

But by Tuesday afternoon, most of the units in the lodge had made their way to the public house on the opposite corner, or had retreated into the premises of the Royal College of Surgeons of Ireland on the wt side of the Green.

A report from the Superintendent recalls how Countess Markievicz and her rebel officers ordered Kearney’s daughters to make tea for them in the lodge. When leaving, the Kearney family asked who was going to pay the bill, and were told: ‘Send the bill to the Irish Republic.’

The architect James Franklin Fuller (1835-1924) was an eccentric and snob who also wrote high-Victorian melodramatic novels. He claimed to have ‘carried out professional work in every county in Ireland’ and the Dictionary of Irish Architects lists over 200 of his works.

Fuller was born into a minor landed gentry family in Co Kerry in 1835. He was the only son of Thomas Harnett Fuller of Glashnacree, Co Kerry, and his first wife, Frances Diana, third daughter of Francis Christopher Bland of Derryquin Castle, Co Kerry.

Fuller was sent to school in Blackrock, Co Cork, alongside the architect Thomas Newenham Deane. After two years, the school moved to Dublin, where Fuller completed his schooling.

In 1850, Fuller went to England, where he spent a year’s apprenticeship with the mechanical engineers Summers, Day and Baldock of Southampton before entering the London office of Frederick William Porter. After serving his articles with Porter, he worked briefly for several architects in London, including William Burges, and then in Manchester and Sheffield, before returning to London.

In 1861, Fuller returned to Co Kerry with his wife, and in 1862 he became a district architect under the Irish Ecclesiastical Commissioners, moving to Killeshandra, Co Cavan.

After the Church of Ireland was disestablished in 1869, he set up his own office at 179 Great Brunswick Street, Dublin, where he remained for the rest of his life. His connection with the Church of Ireland continued: in 1871 he became architect to the Representative Church Body for the dioceses of Dublin, Glendalough, Kildare, Ossory, Ferns and Leighlin, and in 1882 for Meath, and in 1873 he also became architect to Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin.

Fuller was also architect to the Benchers of King’s Inns and to the National Board of Education, and in 1912 he was appointed assessor to the Ballsbridge Carnegie Library competition.

He resigned in 1913 because of ‘advancing years and failing health.’

Fuller was considered an authority on the Hiberno-Romanesque style, regularly supplied the Irish Ecclesiastical Gazette (now the Church of Ireland Gazette with news of all his latest works, and was also a prolific writer. But he kept no ledgers or books and made a point of destroying all letters marked ‘Private.’ He claimed never to have owned a razor, an assertion borne out by his full beard, ate only two meals a day and always slept with a window open.

He died at his home at Lissatier, 51 Eglinton Road, Dublin, on 8 December 1924. He is said to have ‘retained all his faculties and mental vigour to the end.’

In 1860, he had married Hélène (1838-1925), daughter of John Prosper Guivier, a French musician, supposedly descended from one of Napoleon’s marshalls. They were the parents of two sons and three daughters, and they are buried in Mount Jerome Cemetery in Dublin.

Fuller’s architectural legacy includes Kylemore Abbey, Co Galway, Ashford Castle in Cong, Co Mayo, the Great Southern Hotel, Parknasilla, Co Kerry, Saint Anne’s House, Raheny, and Farmleigh House at the Phoenix Park in Dublin.

His houses for private clients, particularly the Guinness family, included marble halls, stuccoed ceilings and galleries, grand staircases, colonnades and follies, and he loved steep Victorian gables.

The wonderful terracotta-decorated Gallaher building at the corner of D’Olier Street and Hawkins Street, Dublin, is also his – it was one of the earliest steel-frame buildings. His more restrained civic buildings include the former National Bank building on Arran Quay in Dublin, and he also designed the rectory at Saint Brigid’s Church, Stillorgan.

Even a cursory glance at a list of his projects shows that Fuller deserves to be better known. An exhibition at the Irish Architectural Archives last year marked the 180th anniversary of his birth, and featured many 19th-century photographs of some of his works.

The Fusiliers’ Arch at the Grafton Street entrance of Saint Stephen’s Green (1907) was designed by John Howard Pentland and built by Henry Laverty and Sons (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

On the north-west corner of Saint Stephen’s Green, the Fusiliers’ Arch at the Grafton Street entrance was designed by the Dublin-based architect and engineer, John Howard Pentland (1855-1919).

Pentland was born in Lurgan, Co Armagh, 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 Rwason Carroll. He was a pupil of his uncle James Rawson Carroll from 1872 to 1877, and, from 1873 onwards, he also attended Trinity College, Dublin, where he graduated BA and BAI in 1877.

For two years he was a working pupil of Sir Thomas Newenham Deane, before returning to his uncle’s office as an assistant in 1879. The following year he travelled in Normandy, and in 1882 he became his uncle’s partner in the practice of Carroll & Pentland. He worked from 176 Great Brunswick Street until 1884, when he was appointed an assistant surveyor of buildings with the Board of Works.

Later he became head of the Board’s architectural department, senior surveyor and principal surveyor. He designed several coastguard stations and post offices, and enlarged and remodelled the GPO in O’Connell Street only weeks before the it was destroyed in Easter Rising in 1916.

His best-known work in Dublin is the arch erected in 1906-1907 at the north entrance to Saint Stephen’s Green in memory of the soldiers and officers of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers who died in the Boer War in South Africa. It was designed ‘in the manner of the Arch of Titus in Rome.’

Pentland retired in 1918, and died after a short illness in 1919.

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