Historic Finds at Ormond Quay
August 15, 2016
Works are progressing wonderfully at Ormond Quay, and some historic fabric of potentially
very interesting origins has been discovered along the way. The western end of the quay remained an estuary of the River Bradogue or Pill until c.1675 when Sir Humphrey Jervis reclaimed the land as part of his eponymous estate. Development was swift, as there was already a structure on site of the current building, most likely dating to the late-17th or early-18th century, when it was leased in 1733 to William Hale. Some aspects of the earliest buildings on these sites may survive at basement level in the form of ‘battered’ rubble stone external walls. Visitors to tower houses and ancient castles will no doubt be familiar with this medieval hallmark of building construction, characterised by sloping the base of rubble stone walls outward to support the structure and reduce the depth or extent of foundations. That these walls are battered within the basement rather than on the other, external face of the party wall may suggest the early provenance of the original building to the east, built on the marshy, reclaimed banks of the river.
Further examination of the timber door frames at basement level has also revealed the survival of early door furniture. Though the original doors are gone, these wrought-iron pintles indicate their swing direction. Pintles supported strap hinges which were attached to the face of the door; a loop on the end of the hinge fit over the vertical rod of the pintle and swiveled on it as the door opened and closed.
The pintle was attached to the frame either by being formed on the end of an iron spike which was driven into the timber, or else it was formed on the end of a threaded, screw- like rod. Although later alteration and significant rebuilding have left no trace of heavy timber framing, bearings for pine bressummers or robust cooking fireplaces at this level, the remaining features likely date to the late-17th or early-18th centuries.
Upstairs and of later, though no less intriguing, origins is a timber mullion whose encasing was recently removed, revealing a fragment of wallpaper featuring an architectural motif of pointed arches. The famed English Gothic Revival architect A.W.N. Pugin described the use of such wallpapers thus: “…Gothic pattern papers… where a wretched caricature of a pointed building is repeated from the skirting to the cornice in glorious confusion, door over pinnacle and pinnacle over door.” Though Pugin would likely not approve, the design team was delighted to come across such a find, whose 19th century origins were confirmed on-site by Irish wallpaper historian, David Skinner. He indicated that these papers were often used to decorate pubs. Further digging by the enthusiastic client into the Thom’s City Directories confirmed that the building was in fact a tavern in the 1830s, which fits perfectly with the chronology of the Gothic Revival in Ireland. Mr. Skinner posted on his blog that, “It may strike us as odd that depictions of ecclesiastical architecture were considered a suitable backdrop for quaffing strong liquors, but in today’s Dublin, where disused churches find new life as bars, nightclubs and even distilleries, the symbiosis of the spiritual and the spirituous seems just as unproblematic.”
Found later on the side of the mullion was a bit of newspaper. In the late-19th and 20th centuries it was not uncommon for newspaper to be used as lining paper, and in this case it features an advert, albeit pasted upside down. Though little can be made out, the quality of the paper and the typeface suggest a 19th century date. The papers have been recorded and it has been agreed that conservation best practice entails their retention and protection in situ for future generations to enjoy.
You never know what artefacts lie behind even the most unassuming of facades. Stay tuned for more updates on the repair and refurbishment of this wonderful property!
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