Dublin Civic Trust

James Malton’s view of Provost’s House on lower Grafton Street captures a busy street scene in 1790s Dublin. The great dome of architect Richard Castle’s old bell tower in Trinity’s Front Square, demolished in 1837, can be seen rising over the West Front.

Zoom in to the gate piers of Provost’s House where the original decorative urn cappings can be seen, sadly now missing, Also gone today are the magnificent wrought-iron brackets of the lanterns to each side of the central entrance gates, and the oil ‘lamp irons’ topping the piers of the boundary walls. To the extreme right is a temporary timber shop with a drop-down front, once common in the city.

Also on the right, the first building on the corner of Grafton Street appears to date to the first decade of the 18th century, featuring a red brick facade, an early ‘dogtooth’ eaves cornice, and an almost flush-faced sash window with an exposed box frame.

By contrast, the building on the extreme left is bang up to date for the 1790s with a glorious neoclassical shopfront, richly embellished with a swag frieze and delicately leaded glazing. Its frontage to Grafton Street seems to feature a bold pedimented shopfront topped by a lion, likely part of a royal warrant composition comprising lion, unicorn and crown. This pivotal shop corner is now occupied by a woeful 1980s Boylesports shopfront with dodgy fanlights and glazing plastered with branded transfers.

The wider terrace facing Provost’s House features a grand array of oil lamps projecting over the public pavement, mounted on delicate wrought-iron arms. These were probably coordinated by the Dublin Paving Board and feature oil tray burners suspended from wires within the globes.

The area outside Provost’s House is one of the few areas in Dublin that may be described as an Itialian-style ‘piazzale’ – a semi-enclosed public space that is open on at least one side. This urban room could be a glorious launch-pad for Grafton Street and College Green, but the heavy-handed, visually illiterate engineering of Luas Cross City has sadly compromised that prospect.

Author: https://facebook.com/194432100573047 – Dublin Civic Trust


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Emily Lewis

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