The Luxembourg School at Aldborough House

Gregor von Feinaigle. Line engraving by J. H. Lips after D. Lavater

Gregor von Feinaigle. Line engraving by J. H. Lips after D. Lavater (Wellcome Images)

In 1813, Professor Gregory (von) Feinaigle arrived in Dublin. His life to this point had been quite varied. Formerly a Cisterican monk, he had been expelled from the Monastery of Salem during the Napoleonic Wars, and after a brief dalliance as an industrialist, he moved into the education. He established himself in Karlsruhe, then moved to Paris, continued touring France, and arrived in London in 1811. After tours to Glasgow and Edinburgh, Feinaigle arrived in Dublin in January 1813. He would never leave.

Feinagle’s speciality was mnemonics, and their use as a tool in learning. Anxious to cultivate confidence among the nobility and gentry of Dublin, he quickly advertised his talks within a few weeks of his arrival. Proceeds from his talk held in the Rotunda rooms on his New System of Mnemonics  were given to aid the Fund for establishing the Dublin Female Penitentiary and the Richmond National Institute of the Industrious Blind. Feinaigle clearly had a sense of how to get his name out among the classes willing to pay for his services; the latter talk was attended by the Duchess of Richmond. Announcements carrying details of the talk included information for those interested that a course on:

the Principles of Mnemonics and Methodics, will likewise begin next Wednesday the 15th of January new private lectures on the Latin language principally intended for children of former subscribers of such pupils as will be presented by them. These young pupils will at the same time be instructed in other important objects of learning, such as History, Geography, Arithmetic, etc., and may receive further instruction in other languages. The price of these private lectures is one guinea a week. The subscription to be made at No. 12 Upper Sackville Street.

"The New Art of Memory" (1813)

“The New Art of Memory” (1813)

Something of a craze for Feinaiglianism quickly emerged. The self-styled Professor was encouraged to establish a school, and by August 1813, Saunder’s News-Letter carried an advertisement announcing that two contiguous and eligible houses at Clonliffe had been acquired to house a seminary for the education of youth after the system of Professor von Feinaigle. Information and enquiries about the school could be obtained from Bindon Blood of Charlemont St, Richard Williams of Drumcondra Castle (both trustees), Thomas Williams of Bank of Ireland, or Dr Harty of Gloucester St.

Engraving of Aldborough House, Dublin Penny Journal,  February 1836.

Engraving of Aldborough House, Dublin Penny Journal, February 1836.

Such were the numbers interested in applying, the Clonliffe houses were deemed too small, and Feinaigle himself advanced £4,800 to purchase Aldborough House, then unoccupied. The Clonliffe houses were retained for the female school. Forty subscribers paid £100, and £15,000 was expended on fitting the school up. This included the erection of a large hall and chapel as wings to the original building.

The school had three assistant lecturers (Rev William Lawler, Rev Piers Gamble, Mr Flynn), and named lecturers in Drawing (Mr Sandford), Natural and Experimental Philosophy (Rev Lawler), Chemistry (Michael Donovan), a Physician (William Harty), a Surgeon (Arr. Collis), and an apothecary (John Donovan). Prof Walter Wade of the Dublin Society was a  guest lecturer delivering courses in botany and agriculture.

After moving into Aldborough, the name of the building was changed to The Luxembourg, and indeed is marked as such on one map of Dublin (1821). It became one of the most successful Protestant schools in Ireland, providing students for Trinity College Dublin. Pupils called it “The Lux”, and among several pupils recalled in an 1874 article in the Irish Builder were James Caulfield, future Earl of Charlemont, Abel La Touche, Sir William and Sir Croker Barrington, as well as boys from Kilkenny, Donegal, Cork, and France.

The school had become a success quickly and was now a significant provider of expensive education for children of wealthy parents. Feinaigle decided to marry, and chose for his bride a widow, a former matron at the Rotunda. Sadly his success came to an abrupt end with his sudden death in 1820. He left a significant legacy at the time. Enrolment in the school was about 130, and schools after his system were being established in other towns in Ireland. Feinaigle’s own son Charles Gregory graduated from The Lux and entered Trinity College in 1834. However, Dublin was changing; this part of the city was deteriorating quickly, and a new master (Feinaigle’s step son) intent on pursuing an overtly religious curriculum put many parents off. The school closed and Aldborough House was abandoned once more until it was taken over by Dublin Castle to house soldiers during Daniel O’Connell’s monster meeting at Clontarf.

The Feinaiglian system never gained the acceptance that the Lancaster “monitorial” system did; the latter becoming standard in classrooms around the country. But Feinaigle is immortalised in Don Juan by Byron (1818), which includes in its first canto:

Her memory was a mine; she knew by heart

All Calderon and greater part of Lopé,

So that if any actor missed his part

She could have served him from the prompter’s copy;

For her Feinaigle’s were an useless art,

And he himself obliged to shut up shop

He could never make a memory as fine as

That which adorn’d the brain of Donna Inez.

The current status of Aldborough House is well documented on the Irish Aesthete’s website. You can receive email updates when a new post is published by subscribing below.

Notes

Michael Quane (1964) The Feinaiglian Institution, Dublin, Dublin Historical Record, 19(2), 30-44.

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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.

Glib Market, Thomas St

Glib Market, Thomas St

Glib Market, Thomas St (Rocque, 1756)

On Rocque’s map, 1756, there is a substantial curb-side marking on Thomas St with the label “Glib Market.” It lay just east of the entrance to St Catherine’s Church in the direction of Meath St. The name “Glib” comes from an ancient watercourse; the Glib River (Brooke-Tyrell, 1983). While it was originally thought that this was laid out in 1670, it was later found to be much earlier. A Trinity College deed from 1349 makes reference to Pype Lane, at the back of Thomas St and a 1426 deed mentions a lane “through which the water of the pipe of Dublin runs.” Whatever the origins, in 1696, an order was made to provide costs to cover and pave over the Glib, and in 1709, a proposal was mooted to establish a Hide Market at “the back of the Glib Water in Thomas Street.” (Jackson, 1950, who covers the Glib watercourse in glorious detail).

Perhaps this Hide Market is the origin of our Glib Market, obviously well established by the time Rocque wandered by in the 1750s. Brooke-Tyrell reports some interesting anecdotes. A meeting of Herring Sellers from the market was held 1781 so that they could air their concerns about the crowds standing about, with no intention of buying herrings, but just to listen to ballad singers. The sellers felt that these cads should be made to walk on the opposite side of the road; enforced by the Lord Mayor’s men if necessary. Standing around listening to ballad singers was clearly part of the social scene of the time. Local schoolmaster Dr. William Gahan wrote in the rules for his new school in 1777:

The children are never to assemble together in the streets, either going to, or returning from school: never to join any riotous meetings, or to stand listening to ballad singers or swearers (from Brooke-Tyrell, 1983).

What was Frawleys, and (site of?) Glib Bank

What was Frawleys, and (site of?) Glib Bank (Google Maps)

Glib was also the source of a name of a bank on the street (Archiseek Forum). A will of 1747 left money to two clerks of the bank; Abraham Fuller and John Bell (£100 each – what loot!). The bank was located in what is now, or what was, Frawley’s Department Store.

Next time you stop to buy your toilet rolls and washing powder, you’re at a market that is 0ver 300 years old…

Notes

  • To keep up to date with Thomas St life, architecture and culture see the community group pages on Facebook and Twitter
  • Val. Jackson (1950) The Glib Water and Colman’s Brook, Dublin Historical Record, 11(1), 17-28.
  • Alma Brooke-Tyrrell (1983), Focus on Thomas Street, Dublin Historical Record, 36(3), 107-117.
  • Archiseek Forum on Glib bank at Thomas St.

Rocque’s Plan of the City 1756 and 1757 now online

From "Survey of the city and suburbs of Dublin" (1757)

From “Survey of the city and suburbs of Dublin” (1757)

After arriving in Dublin about 1754, John Rocque began his famous surveys of the city. In total, Rocque published six maps of the city; all the more impressive given the short time he spent here. The first was his “Exact Survey of the City and Suburbs of Dublin“. This was published in 1756, and  provides glorious detail of every corner of the city and its suburbs. You can have your very own reduced size copy from the Royal Irish Academy,* or view it online at the Bibliothèque nationale de France at this link. This was later updated by Bernard Scalé, and you can see how useful the comparison is in my previous article on Hume St and Ely Place. This was followed in quick succession by a Survey of the City and Suburbs of Dublin, now also online, and a Survey of the City, Harbour, Bay and Environs of Dublin, online here. Rocque wrote in an accompanying guide to the latter:

But we see in this Map, that Dublin is one of the finest and largest Cities of Europe, as well on Account of its Quays, which reach with Order and Regularity from one End of the Town to the other, as on Account of a great many grand Buildings in different parts on either Side; for instance Kildare house, the Barracks, Hospitals, Parliament-house, the College, and the Castle, which is the residence of the Lord Lieutenent, &c. and also on account of several spacious and magnificent Streets, the Gardens, Walks, &c

In this guide, Rocque also offers his opinion of the locals. They are “frank, polite, affable, make it their pleasure to live much with each other and their Honour to treat Strangers with Politeness and Civility“.

In 1760, he published An Actual Survey of the County of Dublin, which is magnificent—it reaches as far south as Lord Powerscourt’s recently revitalised estate outside Enniskerry in County Wicklow (Rocque knew who paid the bills). That one is visible in the Map Library of TCD. Other maps included an undated precursor to his 1756 map and a 1762 map of the baronies of Dublin, probably published by his wife after his death.

Click and enjoy these beautiful maps!

Notes

  • *Lennon and Montagues’ book on Rocque’s plan of the city is a must read for cartophiles: Colm Lennon and John Montague, 2010, John Rocque’s Dublin: A Guide to the Georgian City, Royal Irish Academy, Dublin.
  • F O’K (1974) John Rocque on Dublin and Dubliners 1756, Dublin Historical Record, 27(4), 146-147.
  • B. P. Bowen (1948) John Rocque’s Maps of Dublin, Dublin Historical Record, 9(4), 117-127.

 

Music at Mornington House

Birthplace of the Duke of WellingtonIn a prime spot facing Government Buildings, Mornington House on Merrion St is a very elegant five-bay Georgian building built by Viscount Monck as part of a development consisting of five townhouses. The house, according to a plaque by the front door, was the birthplace of the Duke of Wellington.

The duke’s father, the (1st) Earl of Mornington, is an interesting character. He was a talented musician, and founded the Academy of Music in 1757 with Kane O’Hara. On receiving a Doctorate in Music in 1764 from Trinity College Dublin, he subsequently became the first Professor of Music, a post he held for the next decade. The college is currently celebrating the 250th anniversary of the establishment of this Chair of Music with its “In Tune” exhibition, running until April.

Mornington HouseMornington could play any instrument, and he had an amateur band that played at theatrical events held in private houses—a very popular pastime in the eighteenth century. His band included William Brownlow MP on harpsichord and Sackville Hamilton MP on violin. What larks! Many of these theatricals were assisted by students of Whyte’s Academy on Grafton St., and one of the pupils here was Mornington’s son, the future Duke of Wellington. It’s an unusual case of two plaques in the city contributing to the same story.

Whytes Academy Grafton StFor more on that topic, see Patricia McCarthy’s wonderful essay “Private Theatricals in Irish Houses” in the latest Irish Architectural and Decorative Studies (XVI). 

Mornington House is now part of the Merrion Hotel.