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.

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.

Praying at Christmas with USPG,
(6): 30 December 2016

‘Pray for the churches of Palestine and all Christian NGOs who reach out to people of all faiths with God’s love’ … ‘Our Lady who Brings Down Walls,’ the concluding display from Bethlehem at the Elias Icon Exhibition in Lichfield Cathedral in 2014 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

The Christmas season continues, and 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:

Friday 30 December 2016:


Pray for the churches of Palestine and all Christian NGOs who reach out to people of all faiths with God’s love.

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

I John 2: 12-17; Psalm 96: 7-10; Luke 2: 36-40.

The Collect of the Day:

Almighty God,
you have given us your only-begotten Son
to take our nature upon him
and as at this time to be born of a pure virgin:
Grant that we, who have been born again
and made your children by adoption and grace,
may daily be renewed by your Holy Spirit;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Continued tomorrow