Monday, 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)

Terracotta scrolls and flourishes
on a busy Dublin street corner

D’Olier Chambers is a landmark building on the corner of D’Olier Street and Hawkins Street, Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2016)

Patrick Comerford

In my architectural notes over the past few weeks, I have referred to the work and legacy of the Kerry-born Victorian architect James Franklin Fuller (1835-1924), including his designs of the Superintendent’s Lodge in Saint Stephen’s Green, Dublin, and his alterations to Saint Mary’s Church, Julianstown, Co Meath.

But Fuller’s most interesting building in Dublin must be the wonderful terracotta-decorated D’Olier Chambers on the corner of D’Olier Street and Hawkins Street.

D’Olier Chambers stands at the junction of D’Olier Street and Hawkins Street in Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2016)

At present, the street-level of the building is masked by barriers protecting the works on the extension of Luas line. It is a busy junction with buses blocking views of the building and confusing pedestrian walkways taking away the possibility of most passers-by enjoying this unique building at a busy junction.

But this is one of Dublin’s landmark buildings, and I first became acquainted with it when I was working on the other side of D’Olier Street in The Irish Times.

James Franklin Fuller cleverly uses his skills and designs to turn the corner where two streets merge (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2016)

D’Olier Chambers on the corner of D’Olier Street and Hawkins Street, Dublin, was designed in 1891 by JF Fuller, who cleverly used his skills and designs to turn the corner where these streets merge.

Fuller received the majority of his commissions from the Church of Ireland and from the Guinness family, but this building was designed for the Gallaher tobacco company.

This is one of Dublin’s first steel-frame constructions, and was built by Collen Brothers at a cost of £5,876. Its beauty lies not just in the way Fuller uses the narrow street corner to its best advantage, but in the way he decorates the building in yellow brick and terracotta, integrating scrolled gables and tall chimneys into his decorative features.

Fuller decorates D’Olier Chambers with terracotta scrolls and flourishes (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2016)

D’Olier Street and Westmoreland Street are two broad city centre streets whose northern ends meet at the southern end of O’Connell Bridge crossing the River Liffey. The southern end of D’Olier Street meets Fleet Street, Townsend Street, College Street and Pearse Street.

D’Olier Street is named after Jeremiah D’Olier (1745-1817), a Huguenot goldsmith and a founder of the Bank of Ireland. D’Olier was the City Sheriff in 1788 and a member of the Wide Streets Commission. The street was one of the last major interventions in the Dublin city plan to be executed by the Wide Streets Commissioners.

Gallaher’s Tobacco Company was originally founded in 1857 by Tom Gallaher in Derry. Gallaher’s also had factories in London and Dublin, and produced cigarettes in Belfast and cigars in Wales.

The business was incorporated in 1896 to ‘carry on in all their branches the businesses of tobacco, cigar, cigarettes and snuff manufacture.’ By 1896, the company was operating the largest tobacco factory in the world in Belfast.

The building has gone through many uses over the past century, and today the Gallaher Bistro on the ground floor celebrates the name of the original proprietors who commissioned Fuller to design this beautiful work of architecture.

A lion’s head on the fa├žade of D’Olier Chambers (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2016)

Praying at Christmas with USPG,
(2): 26 December 2016

The first Christmas … the Nativity scene in a stained-glass window in the north ambulatory in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2016)

Patrick Comerford

Christmas Day is over, but the Christmas season continues, and today [26 December 2016] is the feast of Saint Stephen the Deacon and First Martyr. Each morning throughout the Twelve Days of Christmas I am using the prayer diary of the Anglican mission agency, USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel), for my morning prayers and reflections.

This week, the prayers in the USPG Prayer Diary focus on the needs of mothers and children in Palestine and Israel.

The USPG Prayer Diary:

Monday 26 December 2016, Saint Stephen, Deacon and First Martyr:


Pray for Palestine’s public health system, which is under enormous strain due to Israeli import restrictions, a lack of resources and often badly qualified personnel.

Readings (Revised Common Lectionary, the Church of Ireland, Holy Communion):

II Chronicles 24: 20-22; Psalm 119: 161-168; Acts 7: 51-60; Matthew 10: 17-22.

The Collect of the Day:

Gracious Father,
who gave the first martyr Stephen
grace to pray for those who stoned him:
Grant that in all our sufferings for the truth
we may learn to love even our enemies
and to seek forgiveness for those who desire our hurt,
looking up to heaven to him who was crucified for us,
Jesus Christ, our Mediator and Advocate,
who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever..

Post Communion Prayer

Merciful Lord,
we thank you for these signs of your mercy,
we praise you for feeding us at your table
and giving us joy in honouring Stephen,
first martyr of the new Israel;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Continued tomorrow