Friday, 30 December 2016

Three Victorian terraces and
a Roman burial site in Bray

Evening lights at Esplanade Terrace … the site of a Roman burial ground (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2016)

Patrick Comerford

The mild, bright winter means there are surprising blossoms on some trees, and there is a beautiful perfume from the apple blossoms on the trees in the grounds of No 1 Florence Terrace on Florence Road, Bray, Co Wicklow.

We stopped there this afternoon on our way to a walk along the seafront and before a late lunch.

Florence Terrace is terrace of 13 houses that may have been designed by Lanyon, Lynn and Lanyon, the architectural partnership formed in Belfast and Dublin in 1860, when Charles Lanyon and William Henry Lynn were joined by Charles Lanyon’s eldest son, John Lanyon, as their junior partner.

The Dublin branch office at 64 Upper Sackville Street, Dublin, was run by John Lanyon until 1867. In Bray, they also designed Prince of Wales Terrace and Ardmore House on Herbert Road. The partnership was dissolved when Lynn took a court action against the Lanyons.

Florence Terrace is one of Bray’s most complete and most impressive 19th-century groupings. This is a relatively uniform but non-identical row of 13 house, built in stages from 1870 to about 1875.

Late blossoms at No 1 Florence Terrace … one of Bray’s most complete and most impressive Victorian groupings (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2016)

No 1, Florence Terrace, also known as the Mayfair Hotel, is an end-of-terrace three-bay two-storey over basement former house, built in 1870. The basement level has since been greatly extended to all sides.

The asymmetrical front elevation shares a projecting full-height gabled bay with No 2 Florence Terrace, the neighbouring house to the west, with the combined properties originally forming a symmetrical ‘palace front.’

To the east elevation there is a full-height canted bay, while to the rear there is a two-storey over basement return. The façade is finished in painted plain and rusticated render with moulded quoins, string courses, and a parapet with a projecting eaves course, while the bay has a pediment-like gable.

The hipped roof, which is largely hidden behind the parapet, is covered in slate and has shared rendered chimney-stacks with pronounced corbelling.

The entrance is set within the bay and consists of a partly glazed timber door, jambs with decorative brackets, projecting entablature, and a plain semi-circular fanlight. It is reached by a flight of stone steps.

The windows are flat-headed, and have one-over-one and two-over-two timber sash frames, with some replacement uPVC frames and top-hung timber frames to the basement extension. There are cast-iron rainwater goods. The hotel signage to the front and east elevations dates from the 1970s and 1980s.

The building faces onto a street, but is separated from it by a relatively large garden, largely enclosed by decorative cast-iron railings and a matching gate.

Next door, No 2 Florence Terrace is a terraced, three-bay, two-storey over basement house. The asymmetrical front elevation shares a projecting full-height gabled bay with the neighbouring house to the east, with the combined properties forming this symmetrical palace front.

The façade is finished in painted plain and rusticated render with string courses, and a parapet with projecting eaves course, whilst the bay has a pediment-like gable.

The hipped roof, which is largely hidden behind the parapet, is covered in slate and has shared rendered chimneystacks with pronounced corbelling. The entrance is set within the bay and consists of a panelled timber door, jambs with decorative brackets, and a semi-circular fanlight with decorative tracery set behind the glass. It too is reached via a flight of stone steps with decorative cast-iron railings.

The windows are flat-headed, and have replacement timber frames, and there are cast-iron rainwater goods. Here too, the building faces onto the street, but is separated from it by a relatively large garden, enclosed by decorative cast-iron railings and a matching gate.

Mount Norris Villas, Bray … James Charles Wilmot once lived at No 4 (left), an elegant Victorian villa (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2016)

On the sea front, my eye was caught by Mount Norris Villas, tucked away at the top of a narrow laneway between the Strand Hotel and the Esplanade Hotel. This is a set of four paired semi-detached villas with stuccowork and shared niches on the façades that hint at their former Victorian elegance.

I have been unable to find any details of these villas in architectural archives, and I wonder whether they were designed by the Dublin architect, John Charles Wilmot (1856-1912), who once lived at No 4.

Wilmot was a son of Dr Samuel George Wilmot, sometime president and fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland. He was born in Monkstown, Co Dublin, and went to school in England at Saint Paul’s College, Stony Stratford. He first practised as an architect in London and Windsor but returned to Ireland in 1887, when he set up his own practice in Dublin.

He lived at No 4 Mount Norris Villas, Bray, until 1900, and then at 4 Sidmonton Square, Bray, 2 Milward Terrace, Bray, and then at 3 Galtrim Road, Bray, until he died in 1912.

Esplanade Terrace, Bray, stands on the site of a Roman burial ground (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2016)

Nearby, the houses on Esplanade Terrace on the seafront, beside the Esplanade Hotel, were probably built by Isaac Farrell in 1861-1862.

Farrell first appears in the directories in 1833 and continues to be listed until 1877 or 1878. His works include several Methodist churches in Dublin and elsewhere, and the Presbyterian Church in Adelaide Road, Dublin.

Some decades before Farrell designed Esplanade Terrace, in 1835, workers building piers for a gate for George Putland’s house, uncovered several skeletons that had been placed side-by-side on the site, separated from each other by stone flags. They were buried with a number of Roman copper coins, some with the image of the Emperor Hadrian, and others with the image of the Emperor Trajan.

They are believed to be the bodies of the crew of a Roman trading ship. Perhaps their ship was shipwrecked nearby, or perhaps the Romans had a small trading post in Bray. Perhaps we shall never know, for any further evidence that may have survived is buried beneath this Victorian terrace of houses.

We went back to Carpe Diem for an Italian lunch and a glass of Italian wine.

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