Georgian Dublin Walking Tour

Following on from the Birmingham related topic of the last post, here is a Dublin flavoured piece to continue the city theme. This is one of those ‘out and about’ pieces that I haven’t done for a long time, though it does have a connection with a book. Inspired by the new Bank Holiday for St Brigid (spring in the air, etc) I began to think about what cultural and historical activities I might undertake this year. A sort of spring resolution as opposed to the New Year variety. This in turn reminded me about one activity that I did with a friend over a year ago, but never got around to mentioning on the blog.

So, several months too late here goes:

On a very pleasant autumn Sunday afternoon I found myself strolling in Dublin city centre, taking part in one of the Henrietta Street walking tours. In case you haven’t come across these Dublin City Council tours before, they focus on the city’s northside Georgian architecture, beginning with Henrietta Street where Georgian Dublin first began to take shape. This street was the earliest development by the Gardiner family, laid out in the 1720s and was named for Henrietta, Duchess of Grafton. The historic building walk was a first for me (thanks Natalie); it was a good introduction to Henrietta Street, somewhere I had never visited. You can book tours of the restored 14 Henrietta Street, which is something that is still on my ‘to do’ list (see above!) Have a look at the museum website for further information as there are usually various events on during the year.

In their heyday, large properties such as those on Henrietta Street housed the families of Members of Parliament attending to their duties and enjoying Dublin’s social whirl. However, changes came about after the Act of Union, which moved parliament from Dublin to London. So the seasonal demand for townhouses was lost; gradually the area’s residences housed members of the legal profession instead. Large Georgian houses such as 14 Henrietta St eventually ended up being divided into tenements for multi-occupancy in the late nineteenth century. The Henrietta Street Museum charts these changes and tells the stories of those that lived there over 300 years of habitation.

The Georgian architecture tour was an excellent introduction to the layout and growth of the Georgian northside, from an engaging and knowledgeable guide. Afterwards I did wish that I had taken notes along the way, but at the time it was enjoyable just to stroll along and listen. We covered quite a bit of ground (literally as well as historically) so I think that stroll probably counted as my daily exercise.Thankfully the weather was kind to us too.

Later on, after getting home, I had a delve into my copy of See Dublin on Foot: An Architectural Walking Guide (Julie Craig). I’ve mentioned this walking guide previously on the blog, when I bought it way back in 2012. It was published by Dublin Civic Trust in 2001, so some of the information is now a little out of date (think Clery’s demise to start with) but I don’t think that an updated edition is available yet.

I was able to read up a bit more on those northside city streets and to plot out on the map where we had been walking. If you look at the map that I have scanned in you will see that we had a good tour of Gardiner’s Dublin (the route I have marked isn’t entirely flowing, but you get the idea). The architectural guidebook gives details of who originally lived in Henrietta Street, so reading that was a nice supplement to the tour. I’ll just mention a couple of residents noted in Craig’s book: Number 7 was built and lived in by Nathaniel Clements, Teller of the Exchequer and MP (1730); he also built numbers 4, 5 and 6. Apparently the first recorded occupant of number 14 was Richard, Third Viscount Molesworth in 1755. However, since that book was written further research may have identified an earlier resident. This house was built by Luke Gardiner as part of a terrace block with numbers 13 and 15 in the early 1740s.

Further Reading

In the Henrietta Street website shop, three new books on the area are now available, published by Dublin City Council Culture Company. Between them, the books cover the rise and fall of Henrietta Street and the people who lived there (from 1750-1979). Each book is by a different author: Georgian Beginnings by Melanie Hayes; Grandeur and Decline by Timothy Murtagh and From Tenement to Suburbia by Donal Fallon. I haven’t yet had a look at them, but plan to do so.

I will let you know if I manage to make a visit to see the interior of 14 Henrietta Street. Has anyone else been to see it? I would love to hear your thoughts on the experience.


Another Challenge: The Easter egg hunt continues…

I wrote a piece for the Irish News Review about participating in the Big Egg Hunt, which is aiming to raise money for the Jack and Jill Foundation. Well, that was only the beginning folks! My quest began with the modest aim of finding twenty out of a possible hundred, which is all you need to find for the Egg Hunt. Finding twenty eggs and submitting the form in the I-Spy booklet means that you may enter into a draw to win a year’s supply of chocolate. There is also a diamond bracelet on offer, but what is that compared to lots of chocolate?  The hunting bug has completely claimed us however, to the extent that we are now aiming for the round hundred, no less. So apart from my February Month of Letters challenge, I have now added hunting Easter eggs. I think that we have reached the sixty eggs mark, or thereabouts. We scent victory in our hunt…

I Spy Booklet

Easter Egg Hunting…

Today’s bag focussed on the three to be found at Malahide Castle (but I am not saying exactly where, or which ones they are so as not to spoil anyone’s fun) which made for a pleasant Sunday morning excursion. Before heading to Pearse Station to get the DART, we decided to tick off the last of the Southside city centre Easter eggs. We were only missing the egg on display in the Merrion Hotel. (Now, this is going to be a bit of a spoiler so look away now if you prefer). As we approached the hotel, I was rather hoping to spot the egg on a plinth outside the building. It was not alas, to be. I had visions of us trawling around the interior of this smart hotel on a rather ‘egg-centric’ search while brandishing our booklet and pen to the alarm of respectable hotel residents enjoying a late breakfast.

I confess here and now that I did ask the trio of door attendants standing chatting outside, about the exact location of the egg. They said that it was inside the premises (they did specify the location but my lips are sealed) and pointed in the general direction. At the hotel desk, I asked staff for more specific details, and one receptionist very kindly showed us to the egg. I will just say that we might not have located it otherwise, without wandering for quite a while through lounges and corridors. By the time the hunt is over, the amiable staff of the Merrion Hotel might be a little tired of random people wandering in off the street waving maps at them. Perhaps some of the hunters may stay on to have tea afterwards and make it worthwhile for the hotel staff. Could this have been the cunning plan all along?

I will let you know if and when we reach our goal of making a century of eggs. Meanwhile, I am almost at the end of my February letter and postcard writing stint which I have greatly enjoyed. In my next post I will give a progress report on both of those challenges.

The trouble is, I just can’t stop thinking about chocolate Easter eggs. On with The Big Easter Egg Hunt!

New literary travel guide from Oxygen Books

St Petersburg Guide

Another delicious literary guide…

Quick Post: New literary travel guide from Oxygen Books

This is by way of a brief ‘thank you’ to Malcolm at Oxygen Books for my lovely copy of the latest in the City-Pick  series: St Petersburg (edited by Heather Reyes, Marina Samsonova and James Rann). I have had it tucked away for a wee while and have only now started dipping into it. I began with some pieces on the Marinsky Theatre, Anna Pavlova and extracts from Truman Capote’s visit to the city on a cultural exchange tour in 1957.  After reading about St Petersburg in the snow I am feeling quite Christmassy already.

My first City-Pick guide was the Dublin guide which I originally wrote about for Hackwriters and which has seen plenty of wear in the meantime. If you want to read this piece I have now tweaked it and re-posted. (here). Similarly you might like to take a look at Amsterdam (here) which I wrote about after a weekend trip in 2011. Now all I need is a holiday in Russia….

Update ( June 2013) – I have been sitting on the Istanbul guide for a while and have been inspired to take it out after seeing the Bollywood film Ek Tha Tiger (Salman Khan and Katrina Kaif) in which part of the action takes place in this lovely city. Whether the book contains any anecdotes about secret agents (of any stripe) remains to be seen though. Mind you the plot of the film began in Dublin, so if there’s ever a revised edition of the Dublin guide perhaps it might include reminiscences from the Bollywood film crew. Now there’s a thought…

cover of Istanbul guide with cresent and minarets

‘perfect gems of city writing’…

The Past is Another Country: Culture Night

I am truly sorry about the miss-use of  that quotation in the title and have no excuse except that it just popped into my head and it seemed a shame to waste it. Just for the record, I have not yet actually begun to read The Go-Between and am still reading Bring up the Bodies. Anne Boleyn’s downfall is edging closer as I write so be prepared for copious amounts of bloodletting. And now on to a snapshot of our Culture Night’s activity…

As I said in my last piece, I was itching to get out and about to catch up with a few as yet unvisited cultural venues. At risk of sounding rather like a cultural box ticker, I did manage to cross three places off my list of ‘I must it do sometime’ activities. My brochure was a mass of ticks by Friday evening so I knew that there would be no hope of doing everything on my list. As it turned out, the first port of call for my fellow culture vulture and I was a late entrant to the event, not even mentioned in the brochure (though listed on the website) so that counts as a bonus point.

Assembly House

Dublin City Assembly House

Our bonus venue then, was the former City Assembly House in South William Street, which is due for a restoration programme by the Irish Georgian Society in partnership with Dublin City Council. I have long wanted to have a peek inside the elegant looking building but have never seen it open. Sadly, the interior fabric desperately needs attention from some dedicated craftspeople to restore its former glory. According to IGS’s literature, the group is looking to raise a staggering €2,000,000 to finance the restoration. When finished, the building will be the headquarters of the IGS and is also to be restored to its original function as a venue for exhibitions and other cultural events. The plan is to have the restoration completed in time for the building’s 250th anniversary.

Abandoned Mansions

Tarquin Blake’s first volume

The building dates from 1765 and was the first purpose-built public exhibition gallery in Ireland. Wandering around the still gracious rooms, we could mentally step back in time and imagine how they must have looked. The double height octagonal exhibition room (once the city assembly’s meeting room) featured a collection of Tarquin Blake’s photographs of abandoned mansions of Ireland. He has recently brought out a second volume of images published by The Collins Press (see the illustration taken from the publisher’s site). It seemed strangely apposite to be viewing pictures of ruined buildings in this venue, which while not a ruin itself, clearly needs the planned intervention to prevent it becoming one. These images of ruined mansions and castles attest to a past that was indeed a very different place. Some of the mansions simply fell into disuse and became ruined while others were actively destroyed. Either way, looking at the pictures produces very mixed emotions. The owners of these houses lived very privileged and protected lives unlike the vast majority of people. Having said that, the house would have been a source of employment in the area and was a whole community in itself.

Abandoned Mansions II

More brilliant images…

I will follow the restoration process of the City Assembly House with interest and I hope one day to stroll around an exhibition in the finished rooms. If anyone is interested in the Irish Georgian Society’s activities, follow the link here and to check out Tarquin Blake’s gorgeous books click here.

And now, I’m off to read for a while…let me know what you’re reading at the moment!

Planning Culture Night: Landing field trip

Culture Night is still a few more days away and already I am anticipating an evening of cultural entertainment. I do realise that the Landing Eight Reading Challenge should be my paramount concern, but Culture Night comes but once a year (just like Christmas only less expensive) and is not to be missed.

Culture Night 2012 Logo

It’s that time of year again..

I have been scanning the programme and trying to work out how many items I can feasibly fit into the evening (allowing time for refreshments of course). High on my list of priorities is a tour of the Freemason’s Hall, which is one of the decreasing numbers of yet unvisited places of interest in Dublin. I tried to get to see it last time it was opened to the public but the queues snaked down the road and round the corner. I am quite clearly not the only nosy (I mean cultured) person in Dublin.

I was thinking of sticking to the South Georgian Quarter this time round, but who knows what might happen when I get the cultural bit between my teeth once again. It did occur to me while planning this year’s activities that I had written a short piece for the Reader Review column of the Independent newspaper (UK) in 2007 when Culture Night was still in its infancy. I managed to dig out a photocopy of the newspaper cutting to scan into the blog (my technological skills increase with every passing day). It is clear from looking back to 2007 how much the event has grown in five years, even spreading far beyond the confines of Dublin.

text of review

Review from the Independent (UK) (2007)

I wrote a piece this week for the Irish News Review about the up-coming 2012 event in which I mentioned that this year sees 134 venues participating in Dublin alone. It is a tribute to the hard work of all of the institutions, venues and organisers involved that this event has gone from strength to strength as it has. I will be out doing my bit to support the event on Friday evening (with a book in my bag of course!).

There will be a return to book talk for the next Landing post, but if you do get out and about for Culture Night, wherever you are, drop me a line and share your culture fix.