History

11 North Great Georges Street

№ 11 completed in 1774 and is amongst the first houses built in the then newly laid out North Great George’s Street. Its internal features are in the prevailing style of the time, which was essentially Palladian, but including features more normally associated with earlier country houses. Its stucco decoration must be amongst the very last flings of the renowned Robert West School of Rococo plasterwork. The house was built in a very fashionable street at the heart of the then most exclusive district in the city and was designed to impress and to host elaborate social events in the confident and successful milieu of 18th Century Dublin.

Despite the drain from the city of power and money after the Act of Union in 1800, North Great George’s Street managed to hold onto some grandees till the very end of the 19th Century. In the case of № 11, these included in 1821 a George Whitford, High Sheriff of Dublin, who was knighted in that year by George IV at the Mansion House. No doubt to celebrate his new status, he had the front doorcase re-modelled to accommodate a large new fanlight, and also had the Salon joinery replaced in the fashionable neo-classical style.

Dr. Charles Orpen lived in the house in the 1830’s. He played a significant part in the development of sign language, and in the education of deaf children, founding Ireland’s first school for deaf children.

By the 1850’s a nationalist barrister called Patrick Blake inhabited the house, and it is believed that Michael Davitt, one of the leaders of the Irish Republican Brotherhood, known as the Fenians, was hidden in the house for some time before his arrest and imprisonment in 1870. By this time, and for the rest of the century, the domestic quarters of the house had retreated to the top two floors, and the rest of the house was given over to office space for barristers and land agents.

In 1910 a Mr. Kelly bought the house and turned it into a tenement, which was the increasing trend in a city becoming rapidly impoverished. Unlike many houses, the landlord at № 11 lived on the premises and so the house survived many of the ravages that other houses suffered at this time. Between the 1930’s and 1970’s every room in the house was used as a family flat.

By the early 1980’s the historic centre of Dublin had been all but abandoned. № 11 was largely derelict with a roof that was on the point of collapse. A great deal of the house was saturated and pigeons inhabited the upper floors. Despite this, the last tenant, Mrs. Margaret Howard, who had moved into the house in 1921, struggled to maintain an old fashioned gentility in her tenement rooms on the piano nobile.

The last decade of the twentieth century saw the start of a thorough and painstaking conservation and consolidation, which still continue today. It remains a domestic house in the centre of 21st Century Dublin, situated in a block of the city containing several cultural gems, including the James Joyce Centre, the Hugh Lane Gallery, the Writers Museum and the Gate Theatre.

Its grand rooms can once again host events of the kind for which they were built.

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