16 August 2016
Bray has become a regular location for my beach walks, and I have become familiar with some of the good Italian cafés and restaurants that are good for a cup of coffee or even a late lunch after a walk along the seashore or along the beach.
But in recent months I have also come to appreciate the elegant Victorian and Edwardian architecture to be seen throughout this former seaside resort.
On an afternoon last weekend, my eyes were caught by a colourful yet elegant doorway with delicate Victorian or Edwardian stucco work that has survived beside Ladbrooke’s at the top of Quinsborough Road, and I began to wonder how much more of Bray’s Victorian architectural heritage has been lost in recent years.
Quinsborough Road runs from the Main Street to the Railway Station, and was laid out in 1854 by William Dargan, the great railway pioneer who had a vision of bringing the railway to Bray and laying out the town as a fashionable Victorian resort.
But as I began to walk along Quinsborough Road that afternoon, I realised the Victorian wealth of this one street – both lost and surviving – would be impossible to describe in one essay such as this.
I stopped first to admire the former Presbyterian Manse, a five-bedroomed house at No 13 Quinsborough Road that is currently on the market and that stands beside Saint Andrew’s Presbyterian Church.
The manse is a detached, three-bay two-storey house, built in 1850 before Dargan had completed his plans for Quinsborough Road.
The front elevation consists of three gables, with the gable to the centre smaller but projecting slightly, and with single storey canted bays to the outer ones.
The façade is finished in painted render with moulded drip stones to the entrance and upper floor windows and small ‘arrow loop’ and quatrefoil recesses to the gables.
The pitched roof is slated and has rendered chimneystacks and rendered parapets with corbels.
The entrance is set within a small recessed porch with a Tudor-style arch opening, and consists of a timber door with ogee-arched panels, pointed arch sidelights and a three-pane pointed arch fanlight. There are decorative spandrel panels between the porch opening and the drip stone above it.
The windows are flat-headed and have two-over-two timber sash frames. The house has cast-iron rainwater goods.
To the west side of the house there is a gabled gate screen with a small pointed arch gateway, leading to a dentist’s surgery that is not affected by the sale.
In front of the manse, a small garden enclosed by decorative cast-iron railing separates the house from the street front.
This early Victorian manse with Tudor-style overtones is one of the more distinctive domestic properties in the centre of Bray. Until recently it has been well-preserved and it forms a picturesque grouping with the neighbouring Presbyterian Church that it once served.
The estate agents Quinn Agnew say the main section of the property is in residential use with a living room, kitchen, dining room, and utility areas on the ground floor, and five bedrooms on the first floor. The rest of the ground floor and side mews area is let to the dental practice with separate pedestrian access.
Next door, on the neighbouring corner site, Saint Andrew’s Presbyterian Church was designed by William Joseph Barre. It was built in 1858 and opened on 12 September 1858.
Presbyterian origins in Bray date back 200 years, when the Irish Evangelical Society organised student-led services in the town in 1816. A year later, the first Presbyterian church in Bray was built in Main Street in 1817.
The Revd David Creighton and his congregation in Bray joined the Secession Synod in 1834 and in 1840 became part of the newly-formed General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland. The congregation in Bray continued to grow in size, and the present church, built on a corner site beside the new manse, opened in 1858. In 1925, the congregation adopted the name Saint Andrew’s.
Across the street from the church and the manse, the post office and caretaker’s residence were designed in the Dutch Renaissance or Queen Anne style by Robert Cochrane or George William Crowe in 1904-1905. It has been argued that this is “the most distinguished Edwardian composition in the whole of Bray and one of the town’s most memorable buildings,” which makes it worth writing about separately.
But the pride of Quinsborough Road is the collection of three Victorian terraces of houses built in the second half of the 19th century.
The most elegant of these terraces is Prince of Wales Terrace, which was designed by Lanyon, Lynn and Lanyon in 1861. This is a terrace of 12 three-bay, three-storey over basement houses.
Opposite is Duncairn Terrace, built in 1859. This is a collection of 10 similar semi-detached three-bay three-storey over basement house, built as a planned development of houses, some terraced and some semi-detached. No 1 is known as Dargan House.
Goldsmith Terrace, between Prince of Wales Terrace and the Presbyterian Church, was built in 1863 as a terrace of 12 originally uniform houses. Most of the ground floor areas have long been converted into shops. Two houses and a shop nearby may have been designed in the 1860s by James Thornton.
At the east or lower end of Quinsborough Road, Bray Railway Station was designed in an Italianate style for Dargan in 1854 by George Wilkinson. It is a detached, multiple-bay, single-storey building with an attic railway station. Across from the railway station, the War Memorial was designed by Sir Thomas Manly Deane.
But as I began to explore the history of these important architectural gems in Bray, I learned about two lost parts of Bray’s architectural heritage on Quinnsborough Road: the International Hotel, which burned down in June 1974, and the Turkish Baths and Assembly Rooms that were demolished in the 1980s.
I must return to write about these two buildings in the days to come.