Friday, 30 December 2016

Visiting four favourite buildings in Dublin
by Sir Thomas Newenham Deane (4)

The former Munster and Leinster Bank on Dame Street was designed by Sir Thomas Newenham Deane (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2016)

Patrick Comerford

During this week, I am visiting some of my favourite buildings in Dublin designed by the architect Sir Thomas Newenham Deane (1828-1899), who worked in a Dublin-based partnership with Benjamin Woodward (1816-1861).

In October 1853, Woodward and Deane set up an office at No 3 Upper Merrion Street, Dublin. They developed a Gothic style based on the naturalistic principles laid down by John Ruskin, and their practice also played an important role in the Gothic revival in England. Their two most important buildings are the Museum in Trinity College Dublin (1854-1857) and the Oxford Museum (1854-1860).

When Deane died in 1899, his practice was continued by his son, Thomas Manly Deane.

Deane’s best known works in Dublin include the National Library and the National Museum in Kildare Street, bookending Leinster House. However, this week I am looking at four of his buildings that are among my favourite works of architecture in Dublin:

1, The Museum Building in Trinity College, Dublin;

2, No 46-47 Dame Street, which was built in 1869-1871 for the Crown Life Assurance Co;

3, The Allied Irish Bank, formerly the Munster and Leinster Bank, at 7-10 Dame Street Dublin;

4, the former Kildare Street Club on Kildare Street.

Join me this week as I visit these four buildings, all within walking distance of each other.

Allied Irish Bank, Dame Street, Dublin

Deane’s design of the former Munster and Leinster Bank on Dame Street was influenced by his design of the Museum Building in Trinity College Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2016)

This morning, I am visiting the Allied Irish Bank building on the south side of Dame Street, on the corner of Palace Street, opposite the Olympia Theatre and close to the east entrance to Dublin Castle.

The former Munster and Leinster Bank on Dame Street was designed by Sir Thomas Newenham Deane in 1870-1874. The shape of this site was irregular and challenging. Work began in 1870, and was the building was completed in 1877.

Deane based his design on the Museum Building in Trinity College Dublin, which he designed two decades earlier and which we looked at on Wednesday [28 December 2016].

Like the Museum Building, the bank is designed like a Venetian palazzo, and built in the Lombardo-Romanesque style. It too shows the influences of John Ruskin’s ideas on Deane’s work, and although it is less elaborate than it is similar in many ways to the Crown Life Office at 46-47 Dame Street, which we looked at on Thursday [29 December 2016].

For this bank, Deane designed a handsome, two-storey building with a canted entrance, rows of three and four large round-headed windows and polychromic stone surrounds, and a deep-bracketed eaves cornice.

The building materials include Ballinasloe limestone for the walls, Portland stone for the carved capitals, the medallions are of Portland stone with polished green bosses, the colonettes are of polished limestone and ink granite. Deane’s initials can be seen on a roundel on the Palace Street façade.

The clerk of works was Thomas Butler, and the building contractors were John Nolan and his son, Francis Nolan.

The carvings are the work of the architectural sculptor, Charles William Harrison (1834-1903), from Cottingham, Yorkshire. There is great variety and imagination in the carving of the capitals, with fantastical foliage and beasts.

Harrison may have come to Ireland around 1859 to work on the carvings on Deane and Woodward’s Kildare Street Club, which I am looking at tomorrow.

In the early 1860s, Harrison was in partnership with Charles Abbey, working from 27 Great Brunswick Street. Later, he worked from 126 Great Brunswick Street, by 1871 he had moved to 178 Great Brunswick Street, and in 1874 his business was at 177 and 178 Great Brunswick Street.

Among those who worked for Harrison was James Pearse, the father of the Pearse brothers of the 1916 Easter Rising. Four of Harrison’s sons were sculptors too.

Harrison died in 1903 at his home at 8 Herbert Road, Sandymount, and was buried in Mount Jerome Cemetery. He was an active member of Saint Mark’s Church of Ireland Church in Mark Street, where he was a churchwarden for 14 years. The business which he founded continued until the 1970s.

The former Munster and Leinster Bank is designed like a Venetian palazzo and was built in the Lombardo-Romanesque style (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2016)

Inside, the banking hall is magnificent and is one of the most impressive in Dublin, with a vast soaring vaulted ceiling dwarfing customers and bank staff. This is a tall, double-height space with a deep coved and coffered ceiling. In the cornice, there are gilded shields showing the coats-of-arms of the principal cities and towns of Munster.

The plasterwork is by James Hogan and Sons, ornamental plaster-workers, who worked from 168 Great Brunswick Street from the 1850s until the 1880s.

The bank was enlarged in 1927-1928, when the architect was William Albert Dixon (1892-1978), and the stone carvings and marble work were executed by CW Harrison & Sons.

Originally, the facades on Palace Street and Dame Street were of equal length. In 1958-1959, the Dame Street façade was extended by McDonnell & Dixon, the architectural partnership formed by WA Dixon, and the contractors were John Sisk and Son. The main façade was sympathetically extended along Dame Street, using a more grey Ardbraccan limestone. However, the extension of the interior was less successful.

The shape of the site on the corner of Dame Street and Palace Street was irregular and challenging (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2016)

Tomorrow: The former Kildare Street Club, Kildare Street, Dublin.

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