13 January 2021
Kenilworth Square, Rathgar,
‘a very beautiful … and very
expensive corner of Europe’
The squares of Dublin 6 tell of the development of south Dublin suburbs by benign Victorian developers and architects who had a vision for the expansion of a growing and prospering city. The squares of Ranelagh, Rathmines, Rathgar and Terenure include Dartmouth Square, Mountpleasant Square, Belgrave Square, Brighton Square, Grosvenor Square, Kenilworth Square, Leinster Square and Eaton Square.
The development of these characteristic squares was encouraged with the establishment of the Rathmines Township by Act of Parliament in 1847; the town council was renamed Rathmines and Rathgar in 1862.
Of course, some of these squares are really not squares at all: Leinster Square is a T-shape cul-de-sac, while Brighton Square is more like a triangle. But taken together, these Victorian squares are an important architectural component of Dublin 6.
Kenilworth Square in the Rathgar area was developed by different developers between 1858 and 1879. Unlike the squares of Georgian Dublin, such as Merrion Square, Fitzwilliam Square or Mountjoy Square, Kenilworth Square developed more organically around a central square plot of land. All the houses are finished in red brick but they are built in a variety of different styles.
Most plots surrounding Kenilworth Square had already been laid out and built on by 1867, as the Ordnance Survey map of 1867 shows.
The names of Kenilworth Square and many of the streets and roads off the square, as well as some of the houses in the area, including Kenilworth Road, Kenilworth Park, Leicester Avenue, Waverley Terrace, Waverley Ville and Dudley Lodge, were inspired by the Waverley novels of Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832), published between 1814 and 1831.
Kenilworth was published in three volumes in January 1821, and republished in 1830. It is set in the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, and centres on the secret marriage of Robert Dudley, 1st Earl of Leicester.
During a recent visit to Dublin, I took an opportunity to revisit Kenilworth Square, which I have known well throughout my life, to photograph the houses and to explore the stories of the families who lived there.
Kenilworth Square was once part of Dublin 6 flatland. But in recent decades, most of the Victorian redbrick houses have returned to single-use occupancy and have been carefully restored.
Inside, many of these houses retain ornate plasterwork and marble fireplaces with tiled inserts and brass hoods, and many have high ceilings, interconnecting rooms, glazed sash windows with shutters, some with interior coloured glass panels in the windows and doors, and with views from the upstairs room of the Dublin mountains.
Kenilworth House, No 1 Kenilworth Square:
Sir Thomas Devereux Pile (1856-1931), who lived at Kenilworth House, was High Sheriff of Dublin in 1898 and Lord Mayor of Dublin in 1900, when he welcomed Queen Victoria to Dublin. He was given the title of baronet later that year.
His son, General Sir Frederick (‘Tim’) Pile, commanded the anti-aircraft defences of Britain and Northern Ireland throughout World War II and became known as the ‘Scourge of the Luftwaffe.’ The family title is now held by the fourth baronet, Sir Anthony John Devereux Pile, who lives at the Manor House, Pitsford, Northamptonshire.
When the Pile family moved to England, Kenilworth House was sold to the Taylor family. Edward Thomas Taylor was originally from Taunton, Somerset, and had lived at 37 Grosvenor Square until he died in 1893. Kenilworth House was bought by his son, Alfred George Taylor (1869-1948), and his widowed mother, Cordelia Taylor, moved from Grosvenor Square to live with her bachelor sons in Kenilworth House in 1903.
Alfred Taylor’s widowed sister-in-law, Florence (‘Florrie’), first married James Archibald (‘Archie’) Taylor, who died in a gun accident in the Curragh Camp in 1901, and then married Colonel Dan Burgess, who was decorated with the Victoria Cross (VC) for bravery in the Balkans in 1918, towards the end of World War I.
Kenilworth House remained the home of the Taylor family until Alfred Taylor died there in 1948.
No 5 Kenilworth Square:
The Bogue family, who lived at No 5 for many generations, from 1890 to 1962, were originally from Passage West, Co Cork, and were one of the longest-living families on the Square.
No 18 Kenilworth Square:
No 18 is an end-of-terrace house on Kenilworth Square. Five generation of the Hughes family lived at No 18 from 1904 until 1975.
Patricia Moorhead of Rathfarnham, a descendant of the Hughes family, has carried out extensive research on the social hstory of Kenilworth Square, documenting the various families who have lived on the Square and telling their stories.
No 19 Kenilworth Square:
Henry Clayton, who lived at No 19, was an engineer from Co Meath and his wife Mary (Ryan) was from Co Tipperary.
No 23 Kenilworth Square:
Teresa Richardson Moss lived at No 23 for many years after the death of her husband, Dr William Moss. Their daughter, Mary Teresa Moss, married John William Elvery, son of John West Elvery of No 31 Kenilworth Square.
No 25 Kenilworth Square:
At the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, No 25 was the home of a widowed, London-born mother Elizabeth Wilcocks, her widowed daughter Anne Connell, and her granddaughter Eily Connell. Their lodgers included David Moran, a Waterford-born journalist.
No 30 Kenilworth Square:
Charles Eason, founder of the Eason’s chain of bookshops, built No 30.
Kenilworth Bowling Club, the longest-established bowling club in southern Ireland, was established in the square in 1892 in the back garden of Charles Eason, behind Nos 29 and 30 Kenilworth Square. The club acquired a 25-year lease on nearby Grosvenor Square in 1909 and has remained there since, but retains the Kenilworth name.
Meanwhile,No 30 has been substantially rebuilt in recent deacdes, and is now divided into multipe apartments.
No 31 Kenilworth Square:
John West Elvery and his wife Catherine Jane (Fuller) built No 31 in 1861. the Elvery family, a famous Dublin business family, who claimed to be descended from Spanish or Portuguese Sephardic refugees who had changed their name in England from Alvarez to Elvery.
John West Elvery was the founder of the Elvery chain of shops that sells sports goods.
Their son, William Elvery, married Mary Teresa Moss of No 23 Kenilworth Square, and their children included the artists Daphne Kaye and Beatrice Elvery Moss, who married Gordon Campbell (1885-1963), who succeeded as Lord Glenavy in 1931. Lady Glenavy’s son, Patrick Campbell (1913-1980), was a well-known writer, Irish Times journalist, satirist and television personality and 3rd Lord Glenavy.
No 38 Kenilworth Square:
Robert Elmes, a civil servant, lived at No 38 with his family from 1877 for over half a century, until his death in 1928.
No 41 Kenilworth Square:
George Bryers, a Dublin-born printer and publisher, and his Scottish-born wife Netta lived at No 40 in the early 20th century.
No 44 Kenilworth Square:
Dudley Lodge, at No 44 Kenilworth Square, on the corner with Rathgar Avenue, also took its name from the Wavereley novels of Sir Walter Scott. This was diagonally oppsite Kenilworth House and was reputedly the oldest house on Kenilworth Square.
The Farrell family moved into Dudley Lodge ca 1867, and continued to live there for almost a century, until 1961.
Dudley Lodge was demolished in 1961 for the Murphy and Gunne’s Garage. This is now the showrooms of Kingsford Motors.
No 51 Kenilworth Square:
The Marist Sisters have a convent at 51 Kenilworth Square.
No 53 Kenilworth Square:
During the War of Independence, Éamon de Valera (1882-1975) moved his office to 53 Kenilworth Square 100 years ago in 1921, when his house in Blackrock was raided.
It was in this house that Arthur Griffith presented Lloyd George’s proposals for the Anglo-Irish Treaty to de Valera four days before the Treaty was signed in London.
No 55 Kenilworth Square:
This house was the home in 1901 of John Edward Sheridan (81) and his much younger wife, Ethel Gertrude Sheridan (28).
No 57 Kenilworth Square:
Major Joshua Fielding of No 57 was the father of Hedley Vere Fielding, a student of theology … I wonder whether he was ever ordained.
No 58 Kenilworth Square:
The Brodie family at No 58 included two sons, Frank who was born in Bermuda, and Henry who was born in India.
No 60 Kenilworth Square:
No 60 Kenilworth Square was the home of Charles William Comerford (1877-1953), the only member of the Comerford family who was actually in the GPO in Dublin in Easter Week 1916.
Charles William Comerford was born on 28 February 1877, and was baptised on 31 January 1878, Saint Peter’s Church (Church of Ireland), Aungier Street, Dublin. On 9 June 1910, in Holy Trinity Church, Rathmines, he married Adelaide Margaret Field (1878-1953) of 13 Leinster Square, Rathmines, daughter of John E Field, solicitor’s clerk, of 39 Longwood Avenue, South Circular Road, Dublin, and his wife Elizabeth Mary (née Doyle), of 53 Lower Clanbrassil Street.
His granddaughter, Angela Marks, believes Charles Comerford was in the GPO in O’Connell Street in 1916 and says family tradition tells of him crawling out along the street and swearing to leave Ireland.
The Comerford family left Ireland ca 1922, but the memory of the family home on Kenilworth Square continued in the name ‘Kenilworth’ which they gave to his house on Nore Road in Portishead, near Bristol. Adelaide Comerford died on 2 February 1953, and Charles Comerford died seven months later on 3 September 1953. Charles and Elizabeth Comerford had three daughters, Lillian, Nora and Kathleen, who were born while they were living at No 60. All three daughters became teachers in England.
After the Comerford family moved, No 60 Kenilworth Square was home to the same family for almost a century until it was placed on the market in 2016.
No 64 Kenilworth Square:
The Conroy family lived at No 64 and their lodgers included John H Wakefield, the manager of a musical instrument shop.
No 65 Kenilworth Square:
No 65 is a three-storey bay-windowed Victorian home, on the corner of Kenilworth Square at the junction of Leicester Avenue. From July to December 1939, this was the home of Professor Ludwig Hopf (1884-1939), a German-Jewish refugee and theoretical physicist who had been the first assistant to Albert Einstein and introduced Einstein to the psychoanalyst Carl Jung.
Hopf had remained in Germany until 1939 and escaped the Nazi regime only at the last minute. The SS efforts to arrest him and were thwarted by his son Arnold posing as his father. Arnold was arrested and sent to the Buchenwald concentration camp, from which he was able to escape after three or four weeks and made his way to Kenya. Ludwig left for England with his wife and three of their children, taking a research position at Cambridge. He moved to Dublin in July 1939 to take up a specially created professorship of mathematics at Trinity College Dublin. Writing to friends in Germany, he describes living in ‘a very beautiful, very famous and very expensive corner of Europe.’
Shortly after taking up his post at TCD, Hopf became seriously ill and he died of thyroid failure on 21 December 1939. At his graveside in Mount Jerome Cemetery, Erwin Schrödinger (1887-1961), then living in Clontarf, called him ‘a friend to the greatest geniuses of his time,’ then adding, ‘Indeed, he was one of them.’
After the death of their 18-year-old daughter Liselore in Dublin in 1942, his widow Alice (Goldschmidt) returned to England with their sons, and died in London in 1975. Through the persistence of Father Willie Walshe, a former missionary in Kenya, his sister Kay McNamara and John Halligan, his gravestone was repaired in 2013. At a small gathering described by Frank McNally in The Irish Times, there were prayers over Hopf’s grave by Willie Walshe in English and in Hebrew by Tomi Reichental, who survived Bergen-Belsen.
No 67 Kenilworth Square
Dr Ernst Scheyer (1890-1958), who later lived at No 67, was a Jewish refugee from Nazi Germany in the late 1930s. He was born in Oppeln in Upper Silesia in 1890, was decorated for his bravery in the Germany army in World War I, and later earned a PhD in Breslau (Wroclaw). Later, he was a practising lawyer and a respected member of the Jewish community in Liegnitz, Silesia. He married Marie Margareta (Mieze) Epstein, who was five years younger than him and was born in Breslau.
He was rounded up after Krtistallnacht, and spent almost a month in Sachsenhausen, a concentration camp near Berlin. He arrived in Dublin on 14 January 1939, and the Scheyer family made their home at 67 Kenilworth Square. He later taught German at Saint Columba’s College, Rathfarnham, and in Trinity College Dublin. When he died in 1958, he was buried in the Progressive Jewish community’s cemetery in Woodtown, Rathfarnham.
No 72 Kenilworth Square:
No 72 was the home of the Wilkinson family from 1898 until the 1940s. Thomas Wilkinson was managing director of Leverett and Frye, grocers and wine merchants on Grafton Street.
No 74 Kenilworth Square:
No 74 was once the family home of William Shepherd, a ‘landscape gardener to the nobility,’ who was born in Bermuda in 1843. He landscaped three well-known Dublin parks – Saint Stephen’s Green, Palmerston Park and Harold’s Cross – and designed the formal gardens at Glenart Castle, Arklow, Co Wicklow, for the Earl of Carysfort.
His wife, Jemima (Tiller), is commemorated in a stained-glass window in Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin.
No 77 Kenilworth Square:
Philip Baker (1879-1932), who lived at No 77, was an Irish chess champion. He was born in Riga in 1879, and began his working life in Ireland as a draper and a cap factory representative, eventually owning his own clothing factory.
At first, Philip and Fanny (Berman) Baker also lived in the streets of ‘Little Jerusalem’ off the South Circular Road in Dublin. He joined the Sackville Chess Club, and quickly became an Irish Grand Master. He was the Leinster champion in 1922 and 1926. He first became the Chess champion of Ireland in 1924, and he was the Irish Champion again for three consecutive years, in 1927, 1928 and 1929. Later, as the proprietor of his own clothing factory, he was recognised as a model employer.
He died at 77 Kenilworth Square, Rathmines, Dublin, on 18 April 1932, aged 53.
Philip Baker’s son, Professor Joshua Baker (1906-1979), earned a double first in Hebrew and Oriental Studies and Legal Science at Trinity College Dublin, and earned a gold medal and a scholarship to the US, where he completed his doctorate. Josh Baker had a demanding practice as a senior counsel and legal expert, yet he lectured at TCD for 30 years in Hebrew and as Reid Professor of Criminal Law. Another son, David Baker, was the Hebrew/Gaelic interpreter when the leaders of Israel and Ireland met. Philip Baker’s eldest daughter Sarah married Leslie (Lazare) Scheps, a Swiss Jewish immigrant. Their daughter Rosalind married Judge Henry Barron (1928-2010).
No 84 Kenilworth Square:
Jane O’Brien and her nieces, Martha Bell and Maud Boyers, lived in this house in 1901, along with four boarders, including Ines Simpson and Amy Madden, sisters who were born in Chile.
As for the Square around which these Victorian houses are built, Saint Mary’s College, Rathmines, privately owns the green area inside the square which the college acquired in 1948.
This area contains rugby pitches and a cricket pitch, as well as some changing rooms.