11 August 2020

Two Victorian houses
in Harold’s Cross retain
their charm and elegance

75 and 77 Harold’s Cross Road … an attractive and unusual pair of houses with charming details (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

Patrick Comerford

My stroll through Dublin last week eventually ended in Harold’s Cross on Thursday evening. I spent part of my childhood in Harold’s Cross, and as I waited for a lift from a family member, I found myself standing opposite a fair of Victorian houses that I have found engaging since that time.

Nos 75 and 77 Harold’s Cross Road stand on the east side of Harold’s Cross Road, at the pointed north end of Harold’s Cross Park and almost opposite the entrance to the Hospice. I remember how in my early teens I noticed details such as their symmetry, the occuli, Venetian windows, carved balconies with elegant timberwork, the details in the brick work, the tiling on the roof and the unusual arrangement of the shared façade.

This pair of houses was built ca 1885, about the same time as building work began on the Hospice on the opposite side of the road and as Harold’s Cross was beginning to emerge as a suburb.

Harold’s Cross Road is a continuation of Clanbrassil Street, and runs from the Grand Canal to Terenure. The area, like Rathmines to the east, once formed of the Manor of Saint Sepulchre, and its name is said to come from a cross that marked the boundary of the lands of the Archbishop of Dublin.

The Rathmines township was formed in 1847 to encourage the development of the suburban area south of the Grand Canal, and it was later extended to include Rathgar and part of Harold’s Cross then in Saint Catherine’s Parish.

The Rathmines and Rathgar township kept rates low to stimulate growth, and by 1859 there was a prolific development of villas, terraces and semi-detached houses throughout the area. These two houses, in many ways, embody that development.

These two houses at 75 and 77 Harold’s Cross Road have an unusual form, scale and architectural style. The elaborate brick detailing enlivens the façade and is an example of the skilled design and work involved in building these houses.

There is a strong sense of symmetry in both the form of the roof and in the arrangement of the façade. There is elegant timberwork, including the carved balconies and the well-executed doorcases. These features add decorative interest to this pair of houses.

This pair of semi-detached, two-bay, two-storey houses, was built ca 1885. They share a projecting central bay at the front elevation with a catslide roof, a recessed entrance bay on either side, and shared return at the back of the houses.

The hipped slate roof has a central polychrome brick chimneystack, there are terracotta ridge tiles, more recent rooflights, carved timber barge boards, cast-iron rainwater goods and a dentillated moulded brick eaves course.

The brown brick is laid in a style known as English garden wall bond. There are moulded red brick string courses on the first and second floors, a red brick continuous sill course on the first floor, and a moulded red brick plinth course.

There is a moulded dentillated brick cornice over the second-floor windows to recessed bays. The square-headed window openings have moulded brick voussoirs and keystones. There are two-over-two pane timber sash windows in No 75, but No 77 has replacement uPVC windows, and there are granite sills.

On the first floor, there are paired, round-headed window openings at the entrance bay, with moulded brick surrounds and keystones and timber sash windows with leaded lights. Each house has a carved timber balcony that has a balustrade and a decorative apron, supported on carved consoles.

There are oculi over the paired windows, and these have brick surrounds and keystones – there are timber louvered vents at No 75, and a patterned window at No 77.

There are square-headed door openings, with stepped brick piers that have moulded brick capitals, and moulded brick segmental-headed hood mouldings. The houses have timber panelled doors with leaded glazed panels, timber doorcases with decorative carved cornices, and leaded overlights.

Granite steps with cast-iron boot-scrapes lead up to the front doors. Cast-iron railings divide the front gardens of the houses. The cast-iron front gates have matching railings on carved granite plinths, and there is a square-profile polychrome brick pier on the south-side house, No 77.

Despite the loss of some details in the original design, these houses make a striking impression and enhance the streetscape in this part of Harold’s Cross, and continue to attract my attention every time I pass by them.


Unknown said...

I'd just like to say this was an amazing write up and a very interesting insight into the history of our area that's quickly disappearing if it wasn't for people like you.
I'm on of the residents of number 77 and it was amazing to get a bit of the history of my home and it's area.

My dad bought the house in 1989 from 2 builders that had hoped to restore the house, but a rise in house prices at the time convinced them to sell. The house was in an extremely sorry state when my dad bought it. A mechanical engineer by trade, himself and my mother lived in a single bedroom on the upper floor as he worked to restore the house over 5 years.

Many of the original features have been preserved, the tea bells used by the clergy that live here originally, the arched window in the main lobby after entering the main door, and the staircase were all restored by my dad in the early 90s.

Unfortunately other spaces were renovated for family life, the attic converted to a bedroom, the old servants quarters (originally a room only 2m x 4m) was expanded to accomadate a bed and living area.

I wish I had more information to give you but my technical knowledge is very limited. I found your write up highly informative and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.

P.S. I've heard but never verified, in the passage of Ulysses where Mr Joyce attends a funeral in Mt. Jerome, he references the "Tally chimney houses" On Harold's Cross. I hope that's true as my only claim to fame!

Unknown said...

Also as an addendum. My mam said to inform you that the main windows are solid teak windows, not uPVC 😀