Cross Lane now Golden Lane

Extract from Speed's Map of Dublin, 1610, showing St Patrick's Cathedral (63) and Cross St (68)

Extract from Speed’s Map of Dublin, 1610, showing St Patrick’s Cathedral (63) and Cross St (68)

Something a little different this time. Golden Lane, Dublin 8, dates from 1466 and is one of the oldest streets in the city. However, nothing exists on it now that pre-dates the twentieth century. The lane was marked on Speed’s Map of Dublin of 1610. Looking in the bottom-right corner and using St Patrick’s Cathedral (63) as a guide, Cross Lane (68) runs north-east towards a gateway and on to St Stephen’ St (18), just as it does today. Churches at Ship St and Whitefriars (22, 21) are visible to the north and south of the lane. Cross Lane is such an appropriate name, as anyone who walks in this area knows—it is the main pathway for going from Clanbrassil/Patrick’s St to Aungier/George’s St. Nevertheless, the arrival of a Guildhall for goldsmiths resulted in a name change that has stuck ever since (MacGiolla Phadraig, 1945).

Part of an advertisement for Roger Smith, "Upholder" at Golden Lane, 1756 (from Fitzgerald)

Part of an advertisement for Roger Smith, “Upholder” at Golden Lane, 1756 (from Fitzgerald)

What was Golden Lane like? In the eighteenth century, it was home to middle class people like Sir Fielding Ould, obstetrician, Thomas Mathews, land surveyor, Roger Smith, upholder and auctioneer, and an academy run by Samuel Edwards, “the most eminent schoolmaster of his day” (Daly, 1945, Gibney, 1958, Mapother, 1878, Fitzgerald, 1987). In the 1774 election for MP for the city of Dublin in parliament, Edward Cusack, John Pearson Esq and William Bayley Esq, all freeholders living in Golden Lane were recorded as voters (for the winning man, Redmond Morres Esq). A map by the Wide Street Commissioners of a portion of Golden Lane showing houses at the junction of Chancery and Golden Lanes drawn in 1722 is on the Dublin City Libraries website shows a well established street, and by 1735, the street already had 72 perches of pipes for water, according to Richard Cassels, who completed survey of the city. A 1728 murder trial mentions a watch house on Golden Lane.

John Field Plaque at Golden Lane

John Field Plaque at Golden Lane

Of course the street’s most famous son is John Field, who was born in Golden Lane in July 1782, and was baptised at St. Werburgh’s Church on the 5th September, 1782 (de Valera, 1982). This is the basis of one of Dublin’s most unusual plaques, located at the corner of Golden Lane and Bride St. The plaque shows an engraving of Field along with the citation: “Creator of the Nocturne Born Golden Lane 1782 Died Moscow 1837.” Field’s baptism-place is also marked with a plaque.

By the nineteenth century, the street could be characterised by one profession: shoe broker. In the 55 buildings listed in the 1842 street directory, housing 69 trades of different sorts, an astonishing 32 shoe brokers, shoe makers, and boot and shoe shops were listed; a legacy which inspired the line in the ballad Dublin Jack of All Trades:

In Golden Lane I sold old shoes, in Meath Street was a grinder (Lowth, 2008)

Other listings include provisions dealers (5), a pawnbrokers, a tallow chandler, and rather pleasingly, James Nolan, a hairdresser at No. 26. There were two circulating libraries: James Lyons who ran a circulating library and delph shop at No. 35 and Alicia Crosby ran a circulating library at No. 53. These seem to have been a kind of private library offering cheap access to books of interest of the day. Despite the name of the street, there were just two jewellers, and one of these, John Norton, doubled up as a shoe broker! One house was listed as a tenement.

Siney's Potato Factors, 33 Golden Lane

Siney’s Potato Factors, 33 Golden Lane (links to Dublin city Libraries Image Collection)

By the twentieth century, the street had joined so many others in terminal decline. Christiaan Corlett’s important book, Darkest Dublin, has several photographs from Dublin in 1913, including one showing dozens of children outside a house on Chancery Lane, off Golden Lane. In the 1901 Census, the street was dominated by tenements. Of the 60 buildings on the street in 1901, 28 were listed as tenements, 7 of these with a shop at their base. A further 5 were public houses and there was also a spirit store. Ten buildings were given over to timber stores and manufactory. Number 17 was a telephone depot.

No. 5 had five families consisting of 37 people living in the four room house, ironically because of its physical condition was classified as “1st class”. These included Michael Swaine (23), a Commission Agent, and his young wife Rosanna (20) and their infant; the family of Alexander Porter, carpenter, and his wife Margaret, their eight children and his wife Margaret’s father; Jane Gannon (56), her two grown children and a boarder; Thomas Corcoran (43), labourer and his family of six; and Joseph Byrne (46), packer, his wife Eliza and seven children. Eleven of the 37 people in this house were recorded as members of the Church of Ireland.

Now in the 21st century, nothing of the original remains with the last of the “Georgian” houses being demolished in the early 1980s (de Valera, 1982). The Lane is dominated by The Radisson Hotel on the north edge and there are two corporation housing units on the south end.

Having existed for 550 years, I’m sure there is plenty more yet to happen at Golden Lane.

Notes

  • 650 years is an under-estimate, as I have omitted some interesting archaeology from this article – see for example: Archaeology Ireland, 2005, 19(3), 16-17 on Viking Age burials uncovered at Golden Lane.
  • Richard Castle (Cassels), 1735, An essay on supplying Dublin city with water.
  • Christiaan Corlett, 2008 Darkest Dublin. The story of the Church Street disaster and a pictorial account of the slums of Dublin in 1913, Wordwell. (The Little Museum of Dublin, Stephen’s Green, are currently exhibiting these photographs).
  • M. H. Daly, 1945, La Touche Bridge to Hoggen Green, Dublin Historical Record, 7(4), 121 – 133.
  • Terry de Valera, 1982, John Field, 1782-1837, Dublin Historical Record, 35(4), 134 – 147.

  • Frank Gibney 1958, A Civic Achievement, Dublin 1760-1800, Dublin Historical Record, 15(1), 1 – 10.
  • Desmond Fitzgerald, 1987, Early Irish Trade-Cards and Other Eighteenth-Century Ephemera, Eighteenth-Century Ireland, 2, 115 – 132.
  • Cormac F. Lowth, 2008, Dublin Jack of All Trades, Dublin Historical Record, 61(2), 169 – 182.

  • Brian MacGiolla Phadraig, 1945, Speed’s Plan of Dublin, Dublin Historical Record, 10(4), 97 – 105.
  • E. D. Mapother, 1878, Great Irish Surgeons, The Irish Monthly, 6, 12 – 19.
Advertisements

Hume Row and Smith’s Buildings now Ely Place

Stephen's Green East on Rocque's map, shows an unoccupied plot that would later become Hume St

Stephen’s Green East on Rocque’s map, shows an unoccupied plot that would later become Hume St (from cover of Lennon and Montague) 

Ely Place seems to have formed almost by accident in 1768. Rocque’s 1756 plan of the city shows that the east side of St Stephen’s Green had some vacant plots, including one plot that aligns with what is now Hume St. Perhaps spotting an opportunity to increase the earning potential of the land area, Gustavus Hume (the man who brought Richard Cassels to Ireland) constructed Hume St. With Ely House the first house to be built in 1771 at the end of Hume St, the connection from Merrion St turning the corner to Hume St—thus forming Ely Place—was a natural result of the new arrangement. The name Ely comes from the marriage of Gustavus’ daughter to the Earl of Ely. Maurice Craig notes—with some satisfaction I feel—that not only were these city streets adjacent, but the ancestral homes Ely Lodge and Castle Hume are also side by side in Enniskillen (Craig, 1952).

Updated version of Rocque's map by Scalé, 1773

Updated version of Rocque’s map by Scalé, 1773

Hume’s work was captured on Scalé’s update of Rocque’s map in 1773, although Ely Place was called Hume Row, until Ely House was built (Irish Builder, 1893). By the time Dublin was mapped again in 1789, it is recorded as Ely Place. Since then, Ely Place has enjoyed a significant status. Even as the shift away from Dublin hit St Stephen’s Green in the 1820s and 1830s, Ely was quoted as being “more select” (McCabe, 2011).

Ely House, by Fiona H Mitchell (National Library of Ireland)

Ely House, by Flora H Mitchell (links to National Library of Ireland catalogue)

Ely House, now Nos. 7 – 8 is the largest house on the street. It was the first to be built, and is clear to see on Scalé’s map, facing Hume St. No. 7 was home to the physicist and Trinity Fellow George Francis Fitzgerald, and there is a plaque in his honour, the first of three plaques at this junction.

Much more interesting for me though is next door, No. 6, which was bought from the Earl of Clare by the 4th Viscount Powerscourt, prior to selling up his very grand townhouse on South William St. Poor Lord Clare, the Lord Chancellor, was attacked by a mob in College Green during riots of 1795, according to a story retold by his sister in 1807:

My late brother the Earl of Clare was always an active, faithful servant to his king and country and ever supported the Protestant interest both in Ireland and England… on the day Lord Fitzwilliam was re-called [prompting the riots], when my brother, was returning from the Castle, after having assisted in swearing in the newly-arrived Lord Lieutenant, a ferocious mob of no less than 5,000 men and several hundred women, assembled together in College green, and all along the avenues to my brother’s house. The male part of the insurgents were armed with … every other weapon necessary to break open my brother’s house: and the women were all of them armed with aprons full of paving stones. They wounded my brother, in the temples in College green; and if he hand not sheltered himself by holding his great square Official Purse before him, he would have been stoned to death. [Irish Builder, 1893]

No. 6, Ely Place Lord Powerscourt had to retrieve his paintings in a van while his step-grandmother was away. No. 6 is the first house past the white railings (from McCullough, 1989)

No. 6, Ely Place. Lord Powerscourt had to retrieve his paintings while his step-grandmother was away. (from McCullough, 1989)

The Earl escaped further injury by dressing up as a kitchen maid once he arrived at the back door of his house. Having escaped this drama, he died in 1802 and the house was sold to 4th Viscount Powerscourt. This Lord Powerscourt, one of only five Irish Lords to oppose the Act of Union (that is my tenuous link to the previous post about Pitt St) died in 1809 and the house became the dower-house of his second wife, Isabella, the Dowager Viscountess Powerscourt. A formidable woman, she lived there until 1848, out-living not only her step-son but her step-grandson, who was just eight when his father died. When he came of age, one of his duties was to retrieve paintings and furniture from the house at 6 Ely Place taken from the house at Enniskerry by Isabella. In his memoirs, Mervyn, 7th Viscount describes the operation (Wingfield, 1903):

All the family pictures now at Powerscourt… had been removed by Dowager Lady Powerscourt sometime in my father’s minority and before his marriage. He was determined to recover the pictures, and on occasion when Isabella, Lady Powerscourt, was absent he went to the house with a van and carried off all the pictures and brought them back to Powerscourt.

Hume House,birthplace of Richard Griffith taken in 2012.

Doorway of Hume House,birthplace of Richard Griffith taken in 2012.

Powerscourt did however install a new staircase in the 1830s. Soon after the Dowager’s death in 1848, No. 6, along with its pair No. 5 (Glentworth House) had a very different use—they were given over in 1859 to the Offices of the General Valuation and Boundary Survey of Ireland under Sir Richard Griffith, becoming the nerve centre of his enormous land valuation survey. Griffith’s birthplace was just opposite, at the junction of Ely and Hume. Marked with an old plaque, it is now neglected—a sad testimony to the man involved in every major undertaking in 19th century Irish administration: Bog Surveys, Ordnance Survey, Griffith Valuation, Census. For good measure, he is also father of Irish geology, having been Professor of Geology and Mining at the Royal Dublin Society. The Valuation Office moved out in 1998 to the Irish Life Mall.

Quoin at No. 1 Smith's Buildings, Ely Place

Quoin at No. 1 Smith’s Buildings, Ely Place

The extension of Ely Place towards the Royal Hibernian Academy was originally called Smith’s Buildings, with Thomas Dodd Smith, builder living at No. 1. Not sounding grand enough, its residents opted instead for the name Ely Place Upper. A stone quoin with the engraving “Smith’s Buildings” is visible at No. 1, of the 5-block terrace at the end of Ely Place Upper.

The third plaque is dedicated to George Moore, who lived at No. 4 Ely Place Upper, and apparently made use of the garden at No 15, opposite, now the site of the Royal Hibernian Academy (Moore, 1966). The Tinker, by Douglas Hyde, first President of Ireland, was played in the garden in 1906, as Gaelige (Daly, 1945). It seems everywhere you look on this street, there is something to commemorate with a plaque!

Three plaques in this area, George Francis Fitzgerald, Sir Richard Griffith, and George Moore

Three plaques in this area, George Francis Fitzgerald, Sir Richard Griffith, and George Moore

Further reading and notes:

Pettigrew & Oulton’s Dublin Directory 1842Dublin Street Directory

Pettigrew & Oulton’s Dublin Directory 1842
Dublin Street Directory for Ely Place. The Dowager is at No. 6.

  • If plasterwork is your thing, Christine Casey (2005) has a lot to say about that, along with Ros Kavanagh, both of which feature a picture the staircase at Ely House. (Christine Casey,2005, The Buildings of Dublin, Yale University Press, Ros Kavanagh, 2007, Irish Arts Review, 24(3), 80 – 83).
  • Niall McCullough’s gorgeous book also has a lot about the architecture of Ely Place, including a picture of the kitchens at Ely House, architectural plans for No. 5 and No 6, and pictured here, the impressive entrance hall and staircase at No. 6. (Niall McCullough, 1989, Dublin: an urban history, Anne Street Press).
  • Old Dublin Mansion Houses, The Irish Builder, 1893, XXXV, May 1, 100 – 102.
  • Maurice Craig, 1952, (2006 repr), Dublin 1660 – 1860: The shaping of a city, Liberties Press.
  • M. H. Daly, 1945, La Touche Bridge to Hoggen Green, Dublin Historical Record, 7(4), 121 – 133.
  • Colm Lennon and John Montague, 2010, John Rocque’s Dublin: A Guide to the Georgian City, Royal Irish Academy, Dublin.
  • Desmond McCabe, 2011, St Stephen’s Green, Dublin, 1660–1875, Government Publications, Dublin.
  • Desmond F Moore, 1966, The Royal Hibernian Academy, Dublin Historical Record, 21(1), 28 – 37.
  • Mervyn Wingfield, 1903, A Description and History of Powerscourt.

Edited 29 March to insert photograph of quoin at Smith’s Buildings and amend text that said I couldn’t find it… 🙂