A house on Cork Hill

It’s easy to miss Cork Hill, a short street connecting Lord Edward Street and Dame St at City Hall. I measure its length at 35 paces, and although I am tall, I reckon it must be one of the shortest streets in Dublin. Cartophiles will correctly argue that it is a little longer, as the hill officially includes the plaza to the right of City Hall, connecting Castle St. Whatever its length, this short dog-leg joining Lord Edward, Dame, Castle, and Parliament streets is packed full of history; no surprise given its location adjacent to the Castle. As Maurice Craig puts it, it was very much at the centre of things.

The street itself takes its name from the Earl of Cork, after he built Cork House there in the early 1600s on the site of the present City Hall. Cork House was itself located on the site of the church St Mary del Dam, from which we get the name of Dame St.  Also known as the Great Earl, Richard Boyle was a self-made man who took advantage of the plantation of Munster to make his fortune. Having secured the favour of Elizabeth I, he collected political titles, becoming Privy Councillor for Ireland in 1612, and Member of Parliament for Lismore in 1614. The Irish Parliament was held in Dublin Castle at the time.

The area around Cork Hill as captured by Rocque on his map of 1757.

The area around Cork Hill as captured by Rocque on his map of 1757.

Tempting as this short commute might have been, it doesn’t appear that Boyle lived in Cork House. The building was occupied by the Royal Exchange until 1683, when that operation moved to the Tholsel nearby (just visible on Rocque’s map, above). It subsequently became home to a variety of traders; most notably printers and coffee houses. Lucas’s Coffee House, one of the most fashionable places to loiter in the city, was one of the last occupiers.

Fashion could not save the house or the area from the Wide Street Commissioners. Cork House was demolished in 1768 in a grand plan to widen Parliament St. Parliament St—which doesn’t exist on Rocque’s map—was to be the new grand wide and convenient street linking City Hall to the planned construction of Essex Bridge. Walking from the right on Rocque’s map shown, we can see Cork Hill following on from Dame St, but neither Parliament nor Lord Edward St are extant; Castle St is the main thoroughfare. The entire area was a bit chaotic.  The narrow network of streets meant that maintaining law and order was difficult. At Cork Hill, a contemporary account recorded that:

pedestrians passing Cork Hill after dark were frequently insulted and maltreated by the numerous chairmen surrounding the entrances to Lucas’s Coffee House and the Eagle Tavern, the waiters of which establishments supported them in those engagements by pouring pails full of foul water upon their opponents.

Changes were needed. Trinity College Dublin led the charge at the other end of Dame St by demolishing the Jacobean frontage of college, itself less than 70 years old, and installing the present frontage. Copious plans of the area exist for around 1766 in the Wide Street Commissioners’ archives, lovingly cared for by Dublin City Archives. But before we look at those, an earlier glimpse is available. A pair of maps of the area dated 1751 (showing the alignment at the time) and 1753 (showing planned changes) are described by MacDowel Cosgrave (1918). A section of interest is shown. In this Survey of the present streets leading to His Majesty’s Royal Pallace or Castle of Dublin. Novr 9th, 1751, Cork Hill is clearly visible. 

Extract of a survey of the present streets leading to His Majesty's Royal Pallace or Castle of Dublin. Novr 9th, 1751

Extract of a survey of the present streets leading to His Majesty’s Royal Pallace or Castle of Dublin. Novr 9th, 1751

Gloriously, this map has the building locations annotated, and inspecting the legend, one finds that Cork House is located at position number 34, sandwiched between Mr Butler, printer (33), and Mr Mear’s mercers shop (35).

Proposal for new street linking Dame St to river. Point a marks proposed location of statue of George I

Proposal for new street (between the two ‘C’s) linking Dame St to river. Point a marks proposed location of statue of George I

More exciting is the proposal of 1753. In this we see that the new alignment of what would become Parliament St is proposed – 46 feet wide, running from the river south to Dame St. At the junction, a large square on the south side was planned. This was to be named Bedford Square after the Lord Lieutenant of the time, and there is even an annotation to include a statue in the centre. This was to be of George I, relocated from the old Essex Bridge. Losing out were buildings number 25 (Mr D’Olier, Goldsmith), 26 (Mr John Ross), and 27 (Mr Fords, Print Shop), and one presumes, the buildings around the new square, including Cork House.

Extract of the Wide Street Commissioners map of the area around Cork Hill (click to link to Dublin City Library source)

Extract of the Wide Street Commissioners map (No. 499) of the area around Cork Hill (click to link to Dublin City Library source). ‘A‘ marks the proposed location of the statue.

There is a significant number of maps available in the Dublin City Library image collection documenting the Wide Street Commissoners plans for the area, but perhaps the one to select to continue our story here is Map No. 499, shown. This shows Dame Street, Castle Lane (now Palace Street), Swan Alley (now Exchange Court), Parliament Street, Cork Hill, Castle Street, Castle Yard and vicinity. The site of Cork House is now annotated as “Lot from Swan Alley to Cork Hill”, and it is evident that plans for a square and statue of George I were still being considered by the Commissioners.

Rocque's map of 1756 showing the proposed Bedford Square

Rocque’s map of 1756 showing the proposed Bedford Square

The letter A on the map marks “a pedestal for the Statue of his Majesty George I which faces Parliament St and Castle St.” Parliament St is now shown, with “New Buildings” lining either side. The intention to complete the square obviously convinced Rocque, who in his 1756 map showed the square, to the south of Cork Hill, complete with statue. The square itself looks like Rocque rubbed out previous engravings of existing buildings. His 1757 map shown at the top of the article corrected the prediction.

As we now know, the square was never built, but Cork House was demolished in 1768, and City Hall construction began the following year. The infamous approach of the Wide Street Commissioners on Parliament St is well documented, when “public consultation” was replaced by unroofing houses in the middle of the night to get people to leave. While it would be some time (and a national rebellion) before Lord Edward St would appear, the area was beginning to take the form we recognise today.

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Artichoke Road, then Wentworth Place, now Hogan Place

Artichoke Road

Artichoke Road, 1797 Plan of the City

The short stretch before Grand Canal St Lower from Holles St to Grattan St has a surprising amount of history packed into it. Before its current name honouring Irish sculptor John Hogan (see below), it was called Wentworth Place, housing both Hogan and Irish painter George Sharp. And before that again, a map of the city from 1797 labels the entire length Artichoke Road. Although this was at the eastern outskirts of the city, some development along the initial stretch of this road is apparent on the 1797 map.

One of these early buildings probably housed the man responsible for the first name of the street: Artichoke. In 1736, French refugee John Villiboise leased some land from Richard, 5th Viscount Fitzwilliam, and erected a “curiously designed house” there (Dawson, 1978). Villiboise grew artichokes in his garden, and his agricultural efforts led to both the road and the house taking on the appellation. According to Dawson in 1978, the site of The Artichoke house, then at 37 Wentworth Place, had been recently cleared, but people remembered it and used to call it “The Castle”.

Robert Strahan

Company details of Robert Strahan, showing address of factory on Wentworth St

The street at this time was also home to the “factory and timber yard” of Robert Strahan & Co., a furnishing company established in 1776, located at No. 12, as can just be made out in the company’s advertisement. Strahan also made doll’s houses, and a house made about 1820 (“Strahan House”) was donated to the National Museum of Ireland (Raftery, 1985). Some detail on Strahan’s furniture is available on the NMI website.

Wentworth Place OSi 1838

Wentworth Place OSi 1838 (maps.osi.ie)

The street obtained the name Wentworth Place in the 1830s, when a terrace of houses were built by John Swift Emerson, who likely obtained a lease from Charles Wentworth-Fitzwilliam, whose father had inherited both the Wentworth and Fitzwilliam fortunes. The OSi map from about 1838-1840 likely captures this new terrace, and shows the street name now as Wentworth Place.

My interest in this street was piqued by Philip McEvansoneya’s recent article on George Sharp (2014). In it he writes that Sharp had set up a school in the late 1840s at Wentworth Place, with the help of his friend and mentor Sir Philip Crampton. In promoting his school, Sharp wrote that it was “the only school room for drawing established within the city of Dublin for 50 years“.

George Sharp

George Sharp

McEvansoneya gives the address as 16 Wentworth Place, and indeed the street index of 1862 lists George Sharp, artist and professor of drawing, R.H.A. as resident there. Buildings either side are labelled “tenements”, but this must have been pretty decent accommodation for the time. Sharp had good connections to high society, and he counted Viscount Powerscourt and Sir Charles Coote among his patrons, and perhaps his pupils. This area near Pearse St would become a popular place for artists and architects (Casey, 2009) and Sharp was joined in 1862 by Lawrence Aungier (painter) and John Hogan (sculptor).

14 Hogan Place

14 Hogan Place

Hogan lived at No. 14, which still exists, just about. It looks like it has been incorporated into the modern buildings to the west, where 10-13 have been rebuilt. Hogan was a sculptor, Waterford born, self-taught, and initially based in Cork. He moved  to Rome in 1824 although returned to Ireland regularly to exhibit work and collect payment (Turpin, 1980). He returned to Ireland in 1849, settling at Wentworth Place. A lot of detail about Hogan’s work, and his many statues in Ireland are available at this website (McGreevy, 1943). These include his statue of O’Connell at City Hall, shown. Viscount Powerscourt must have enjoyed visiting Wentworth Place, as he was a patron of Hogan too, as was Lord Cloncurry. The latter commissioned Hibernia with a bust of Cloncurry (1846), which Turpin considers to be his masterpiece. It is available to view in the UCD Collection, and it shows Hibernia giving Cloncurry a delicate but affectionate little hug.

john Hogan O'connell statue

Daniel O’Connell at City Hall, by John Hogan

Hogan died in 1858, but his family lived on in Wentworth Place. The 1901 Census lists three of his daughters: Margherita (aged 58) and Kate (Cattarina) (49), both born in Rome and both unmarried, and Susan McSwiney (née Hogan), a widow (40). It looks like the family moved from the original house at No. 14 though, as the address is given as “Wentworth Place South Side“. This may have been to distinguish them from another Hogan—James (52)—who also lived on the street. He is not, as far as I can make out, a brother, but is perhaps another relative. By 1911, only James’ wife Kate (now Catherine) was living on the street. The occupations of her children (domestic servant, van driver, shop assistant) suggest that if they were related to John Hogan, the family’s social status had fallen.

Whatever about the family’s fortunes, such was Hogan’s output, it was decided to rename Wentworth Place as Hogan Place in 1924. The Irish Times reported in May 1924, under a headline that made this author happy (“Dublin Street Names“), that along with changes to Sackville St., Queen’s Square, Great Clarence St., and Hamilton Row,* Wentworth Place was to be renamed as Hogan Place. The resolution was moved by Mr P McIntyre at Dublin Corporation, seconded by Mr Medlar, and with that, the new name was official. We won’t know until the release of the 1926 Census whether there were any descendants of Hogan still living in the eponymous street, but No. 14 must certainly be a candidate for a plaque to commemorate one of Ireland’s most prolific sculptors.

19 Hogan Place in the 1950s. Links to Dublin City Library Archives

19 Hogan Place in the 1950s. Links to Dublin City Library Archives

Notes

*Changed to O’Connell St, Pearse Square, Macken St, Fenian St respectively.

  • Casey, C (2005) The Buildings of Dublin, Yale University Press
  • Dawson, T (1978) Some Echoes of “St. Catherine’s Bells”, Dublin Historical Record, 31(3), 82-93.
  • McEvansoneya, P (2014) More Light on George Sharp (1802-1877), Irish Architectural and Decorative Studies, XVI, 50-69.
  • MacGreevy, T (1943) Some Statues by John Hogan, The Father Matthew Record. 5-6.
  • Raftery, C (1985) The Strahan Doll’s House, Irish Arts Review, 2(2), 33-35.