Hello and welcome to this weekend’s virtual walk.
We have been so lucky with the weather and have had a spell of dry and spring like days.
So, seizing the opportunity, pull on your walking boots and join me for a stroll through Georgian Dublin.
Now, I hope that you are fit and well; todays walk will take about two hours, and we can keep within the 5 kilometre radius under the Covid 19 requirements.
Let’s head towards town, passing through Ballsbridge , and crossing the grand canal at Mount Street bridge, we enter a bygone age , and the Georgian era.
A little history … As you already Know, Dublin was settled over a thousand years, in fact its charter dates from 988 AD, so basically it’s a mediaeval city. However in the early 18th century the city fathers decided that the streets should be widened , squares and open places laid out, proper sewerage installed and the city modernised.
As a result several lovely squares were laid out, and fine houses set out around them – the most beautiful being Merrion square and Fitzwilliam square .
Let’s head towards Merrion Square . It was laid out after 1762 and was largely complete by the beginning of the 19th century. The demand for such Georgian townhouse residences south of the River Liffey had been fuelled by the decision of the then Earl of Kildare to build his Dublin home on the then undeveloped Southside. He constructed the largest aristocratic residence in Dublin, Leinster House, second only to Dublin Castle.
Before we stroll through the square , let’s stop for a moment on mount street and have a look at the pepper canister church .
Officially known as St Stephens church, but more fondly dubbed by Dubliners as the Pepper Canister, – from the shape of its dome , it was the last of a series of Georgian churches built by the Church of Ireland in the early 1800’s. The Pepper Canister Church Still used as a place of worship, the venue also hosts musical events. I love its elegance and the way its build right in the middle of the street !!
The houses on the square were built for the merchant classes ; have a look at the well-worn boot scrapers outside the doors, and the steps leading to the basements below where the servants lived.
Many famous people lived in these houses , and as we walk along we can see many plaques marking previous notable occupants.
The owners of the properties had private access to the park in the centre of the square, and access could only be gained using you own key !
Nowadays most of these house are no longer lived in , and are used as offices… so as you can imagine it’s a bit eerie and quiet today .
What never fails to impress me are the doorways : let’s look at the brass knockers and fittings, the amazing design of the fan windows over the door – used to bring light into their hallways .. and the way everyone will put their own distinctive touch to their property by choosing their own particular shade of paint.
In fact it would be considered the height of bad manners to paint your doorway the same colour as your neighbours – careful thought and much pacing up and down the row of houses must be undertaken before choosing your own colour !!
Let’s pop into the gardens for a quick look – this one is open to the public and the daffodils are in bloom ; it must have been lovely long ago to have the square just at your doorstep.
Now , at the northern end of the square we can see the National Gallery of Ireland ( of course closed these days ) that houses an exquisite collection of Irish and international art , and beside it leinster House, home to Dail Eire, our parliament .
The next building is fondly known as the ” Dead Museum ” as it’s the natural history museum and house and amazing array of stuffed animals. sadly, its closed too , but when you have a chance to plan a visit as it’s an amazing example of an old style Victorian museum.
Best crack on, no chance to stop for a coffee .. and cross over to the adjoining Fitzwilliam square.
Now, this square was laid out at about the same time as Merrion square and bears most of the same hallmarks. Once again its mainly offices nowadays, but I’m aware that a few of the houses have reverted to family homes, in fact as most of the offices are closed and there is hardly any traffic , I can hear the sound of a piano coming from one house , and spotted a family having lunch together in another !
The landscaped square is a lot smaller than Merrion square and is locked , access is only allowed to the residents and property owners; but let’s take a peek through the railings line a bunch of Georgian urchins.
Have a look at a few more doorways and wrought ironwork as we stroll along the deserted streetscape. It’s great that these squares are being preserved , and nowadays it’s a condition that any refurbishment must fit with the style that dates back over 300 years. In fact even the auctioneers have signed up – and any signage for sale or letting reflects this Georgian style.
I see the clouds coming so we have better head back – so crossing back over the canal at Leeson street Bridge let’s make for home.
I do hope you are not to tired after this two hour trek, and I hope you enjoyed coming with me today and stay safe until next time. Stephen
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Sláinte , Stephen.