Category: Articles (page 1 of 2)

A ‘Rose Tinted’ Georgian City

Too often we look upon Georgian Dublin with rose tinted glasses; its well-laid squares exhibiting austere yet harmonious facades and magnificent door-cases in no way prepares us for the sumptuously opulent interiors secluded behind the brick elevations. Yet we neglect the squalor that was situated directly outside those very doors. We forget for instance that bootscrapers adjacent to the thresholds had more of a functional than aesthetic purpose. However this aspect of Dublin’s history is slowly finding its voice. Dr. Finnian O’Cionnaith’s recently published Exercise of Authority (2015, Four Courts Press)  documented the decades of turmoil surrounding the lighting and paving of Dublin City. Dr. Patricia McCarthy has reassessed how the aristocracy of Georgian Ireland lived from day-to-day in her publication Life in the Country House in Georgian Ireland (2016, Yale University Press).


Both of these authors, along with other eminent names associated with the history of the Georgian Era, are presenting papers at a seminar dedicated to life in Georgian Dublin. Organised by Dublin City Libraries and Archive, and hosted in the former Royal Exchange (now Dublin City Hall) as part of Heritage Week 2016, this seminar covers topics from construction and habitation to conservation and restoration. The seminar is being held on the 24th August and early booking is essential at or on 01 674 4806.


Mount Street Upper, Dublin

*Cover image: Herbert Street, Dublin.


Posted on 10-08-16

Citation;  McKenna, M. (2016) A ‘Rose Tinted’ Georgian City.  Available at (Accessed dd/mm/yyyy)

Know Your Glazing

When reading a building facade, our eyes play across the surfaces and our mind analyses what we see in an attempt to identify balance and delight.  Proportional symmetry in fenestration is a crucial part of how our subconscious mind forms an aesthetic judgement and therefore produces an aesthetic emotion.  Although providing ample tutelage on how to balance window openings across a facade, a striking detail often overlooked in eighteenth-century pattern books is fenestration glazing, and glazing furniture.  This is curious when we consider that the thickness of a glazing bar for instance is integral to a facade appearing dense and imposing or weightless and inviting.  It was hardly the case that glazing was not considered of visual importance by the early eighteenth-century architect.  Was its manufacture so controlled as to not necessitate illustrating?  The method of illustrating windows on facades changed over the course of the century, and publications in the latter half of the eighteenth century include glazing bars on their buildings.  By the early nineteenth century the incorporation of fenestration into illustrated facades appears commonplace.

Abraham Swan (A Collection of Designs in Architecture, 1757) includes glazing bars in his designs for interiors but not exteriors.  Matthew Brettingham in his treatise on Holkham Hall (The Plans, Elevations, and Sections of Holkham Hall, 1773) does likewise.  Batty Langley’s The Builder’s Jewel, 1741, exhibits many designs for window architraves and pediments but does not include any sashes or glazing bars.  Colen Campbell’s Vitruvius Britannicus (in 3 vols., 1715, 1717, 1725) does not illustrate glazing bars on external facades, but George Richardson’s New Vitruvius Britannicus (in 2 vols., 1802, 1808) does.

Abraham Swan

Abraham Swan (1757) A Collection of Designs in Architecture, vol.2.

 BrettinghamMatthew Brettingham (1773) The Plans, Elevations, and Sections of Holkham Hall.



Robert and James Adam, New Assembly Room, Glasgow; from George Richardson (1802) New Vitruvius Britannicus, vol. 1.

Hawksmoor, et. al. (The Builders’ Dictionary, 1734) informed by a Mr. Leybourn, note several types of glass available, and report that ‘an English glass-maker went over to France on purpose to learn the French way of making glass; which he having attained to, came over again into England, and set up making of Crown Glass, and in the performance, outstripped the French his teachers’.  The dictionary includes a price for crown glass; between £0.0s.6d and £0.0s.8d per square foot, and a price for ‘looking glass’ at a much higher rate of around £0.4s.0d per square foot.  Interestingly, it also notes a type called ‘Jealous Glass’ costing around £0.0s.18d per square foot, which obscures visibility and is ‘commonly used in and about London, to put into the lower lights of sash-windows …to hinder people who pass by from seeing what is done in the room’.

Steevens Drawing

Steevens Image

The view of the front facade of Dr. Steeven’s Hospital, Dublin as illustrated above (Robert Pool and John Cash, Views of the most remarkable Public Buildings, Monuments and other Edifices in the City of Dublin, 1780) gives an altogether different impression to the photograph.

Early eighteenth-century glazing is composed of a thick glazing bar and a small pane of glass.  Few buildings have retained their early fenestration but included in their number is Dr. Steevens’ Hospital, Dublin (designed by Thomas Burgh, c. 1717) where the heaviness of the glazing bars creates a sense of enclosed fortitude in the facade.  Later in the century this style was replaced by the more delicate composition of light thin glazing bars, which were sometimes made of metal and veneered with timber.


Early eighteenth-century window on basement, Castletown House, Co. Kildare


The windows at Castletown House above basement level were refitted with sashes composed of a thinner glazing bar in the later eighteenth-century.

There were two distinct methods for making glass in the eighteenth century.  The first, crown or spun glass, is made by spinning molten glass into a large disc shape, forming an undulating effect radiating from its centre.  This disc was then cut into panes with the price diminishing as the pane neared the centre of the disc.  The bulls-eye in the centre of the disc was then considered the cheapest of the panes, but is now in fact much sought after as a rare novelty.


An example of Crown glass

The second method, for making cylinder glass or ‘looking glass’, necessitated the forming of a cylindrical shape and then elongating the cylinder by swinging the form into a deep trench.  Whilst molten, this cylinder was cut and flattened out.  This glass is easily identified due to the presence of bubbles in the composition which were circular in the cylinder but became elongated ovals when the cylinder was flattened out.  This type of glass was more expensive than crown glass due to the viewing clarity it afforded the end user.


Cylinder glass with two distinct oval inclusions.

Varying colours clearly evident in eighteenth-century glass is due to the irregular ratios in the composition of materials used in its manufacture, as illustrated in the basement window above.  However, Hawksmoor, et. al. attribute the varying colours to the areas in which they were manufactured; Radcliff glass for instance was a sky blue colour, Lambeth Crown glass a green colour, and German glass either a green or white colour.

It is regrettable that much historic glass has been removed from many historic properties in favour of modern materials whose lifespan comes nowhere close to that of what it replaced.


Posted on 25-05-16

Citation;  McKenna, M. (2016) Know Your Glazing.  Available at (Accessed dd/mm/yyyy)


Leaving Certificate Georgian Architecture Question


Traditional Building Skills Exhibition 2016

Georgian Architecture and the Leaving Certificate

I am delighted to be presenting a paper to Leaving Certificate students at this year’s Traditional Building Skills Exhibition in Portumna Castle, 1.00pm, 7 May 2016.  The lecture will consider the development of architecture through the eighteenth century and will assist students in preparing an answer for the Georgian Architecture question on the Leaving Certificate Art paper.

This lecture and all scheduled lectures are FREE and no advanced booking is required.  You can find more information here, or download the IGS Event Programme.


Castle Grove, Co. Donegal

Back to Contents


Ideally situated below the crest of a drumlin that shelters the house from the northerly elements, Castle Grove is located adjacent to Drongawn Lough, north of Letterkenny, Co. Donegal.  The Grove family were present on the estate since the late seventeenth-century.  It is reported that a house was built in 1695 to replace one burned in a siege in 1690.  The extant facade exhibits the manner of the 1740s though; an adaptation of a townhouse in scheme with plain facade and ornamental doorcase.  The plan too resembles a townhouse layout; a square entrance hall opens onto a staircase to the north flanked on the east by two large reception rooms, and on the west by another.



The main house is three bays wide and two storeys tall.  The tripartite doorcase is of the Doric order in which the free-standing columns work to support the unadorned pediment above, whilst engaged pilasters form ranks on the wall behind.  The sash windows – which are still in working order – are of the mid-late eighteenth-century type, having a thin glazing bar and no joggle or sash-horn.  Much of the glazing has also survived from the eighteenth-century and was made using the cylinder process; a cylinder was formed, elongated, and opened out into a sheet – hence circular bubbles within the material became elongated ovals in the flat sheet.  The windows on the first floor also reveal the interior decoration, having sacrificed the top window pane to the deep coving running around these rooms.



It is apparent that a good deal of redecoration was undertaken in the nineteenth-century.  Externally, over-mantles were added above the ground floor windows and the interiors in the drawing rooms redecorated.  New chimneypieces were installed in these rooms, window shutters and architraves were replaced, and the ceilings were adorned with pre-moulded lime plaster ornamentation.

The ceiling decoration in the front drawing room is composed of a border or repeating panels embellished with abutting floral festoons tied to the ceiling by ribbon.  This is framed within an egg-and-dart, Greek key, and bell flower succession of mouldings to the outside, and a ribboned fascia on the inside.  The centrepiece is an acanthus palmette surrounded by a floral festoon and a bay leaf border.




Given the subject contained within the decoration of the drawing room to the rear, it may have originally functioned as a dining room.  The ceiling frame contains a grape vine presented within the aforementioned series of mouldings.  This Bacchanalian theme is continued in the ceiling centrepiece where the grapevine encircles an acanthus palmette.  The chimneypiece in this room is of the Doric order, with fluted dosseret below the mantelpiece.




Further additions were constructed in more recent times to the north and west of the house.  As the premises is now being used as a hotel, the stables were converted to suit guest accommodation.  The north extension has been finished in good taste and in a manner conforming to the suite of drawing rooms.



It is not clear when the orangery to the west of the front door was constructed; as a structure it may be old, but the large plate glass windows are certainly a modern installation.  The grounds contain a walled garden with the surrounding ‘famine’ wall constructed of local material in order to give work to the locals during that turbulent time.







Posted on 19-04-16

Citation;  McKenna, M. (2015) Castle Grove, Co. Donegal.  Available at (Accessed dd/mm/yyyy)

Great Fire of London

Back to Contents

GF London

GF London_Dublin

The Great Fire of London began on this day in 1666. It was to have a major impact on the townscapes of in Britain and Ireland. The Building Act of 1667 stated all external and party walls should constructed of brick. the 1707 Act banned the employment of timber eaves cornices and instead suggested a blind parapet be used which would be at least eighteen inches high to better protect the roof from fire. And the 1709 Act stated the windows of a town house should be set back four inches from the facade. The application of these Acts can be clearly seen in buildings such as No.9 Henrietta St, Dublin, attributed to Edward Lovett Pearce.


Posted on 02-09-15

Citation;  McKenna, M. (2015) Great Fire of London.  Available at (Accessed dd/mm/yyyy)

Alessandro Galilei Birthday

Back to Contents

Alessandro Galilei

Alessandro Galilei was born on this day in 1691. An Italian trained architect, he arrived in London in 1714 at the bequest of Robert Molesworth and was invited to Ireland by Molesworth in 1718, bidding unsuccessfully for the design of St Werburghs Church in Dublin and later making designs for William Conolly at Castletown. Galilei was unsuccessful in Ireland and returned to Italy in 1719 where his most notable work is the design the front facade of St. John Lateran for Pope Clement XII, completed 1735.


Posted on 25-08-15

Citation;  McKenna, M. (2015) Alessandro Galilei Birthday.  Available at (Accessed dd/mm/yyyy)

Nathaniel Hone the Elder Death 1784

Back to Contents

Nathaniel Hone

Nathaniel Hone the Elder died on this day, 14 August 1784. He was born in Wood Quay, Dublin to a family of goldsmiths. Hone married in 1742 and settled in London where he built a very successful artistic practice.  Though his art is heavily influenced by classicism he never visited Italy.  His younger brother Samuel, who was also an artist, was an elected member of Accademia del Disegno in Florence in 1752, and Samuel succeeded in having Nathaniel elected in absentia on 14 January 1753.

Nathaniel’s artistic career led him to become one of the founder members of the London Royal Academy in 1768, and he exhibited a total of sixty-nine oil paintings and miniatures between 1769 and his death in 1784.  He did not always find agreement with his fellow artists in the Royal Academy however and in 1775 painted the above painting, the Conjurer, as an attack on the president of the Academy Joshua Reynolds, who Hone felt depended too much on the motifs and poses of the Old Masters.  The painting was exhibited as part of the Royal Academy exhibition but quickly removed owing to a female nude figure in the work reported to be a likeness of fellow RA artist Angelica Kauffman.  It was not reinstated and instead Hone exhibited it as the centrepiece of his one-man show in 70 St. Martin’s Lane, probably the first of its kind to be held in Britain or Ireland, featuring sixty-six works in total.

He died at his home, 44 Rathbone Place, London, on 14 August 1784 and was interred six days later in Hendon churchyard.  This painting now forms part of the National Gallery of Ireland collection.


Posted on 14-08-15

Citation;  McKenna, M. (2015) Nathaniel Hone the Elder Death 1784.  Available at (Accessed dd/mm/yyyy)

Vincenzo Scamozzi Death 1616

Back to Contents

Scamozzian Ionic Castle Coole


Vincenzo Scamozzi died on this day in 1616. His publications were of great importance to eighteenth-century architecture and included ‘The Mirror of Architecture’ published in English by William Leyburn in 1708. He is probably best remembered for the Scamozzian Ionic capital seen here on the front facade of Castle Coole constructed between 1789 and 1798 to designs by James Wyatt.


Posted on 07-08-15

Citation;  McKenna, M. (2015) Vincenzo Scamozzi Death 1616.  Available at (Accessed dd/mm/yyyy)

Sir Joshua Reynolds’ Birthday

Back to Contents

Sarah Bunbury

Sir Joshua Reynolds born on this day in 1723. In this portrait Lady Sarah Bunbury (nee Lennox) is depicted sacrificing to the Three Graces. Lady Sarah lived her later life in Celbridge House (now Oakley Park) beside Emily at Carton House and Louisa at Castletown. An engraving after this image is in the Print Room at Castletown.


Posted on 16-07-15

Citation;  McKenna, M. (2015) Sir Joshua Reynolds’ Birthday.  Available at (Accessed dd/mm/yyyy)


Hughes Cottage, Co. Tyrone

Back to Contents

Hughes Cottage

The cottage where New York Archbishop John Joseph Hughes was born in 1797. It was painstakingly moved from outside Augher, Co. Tyrone to its current location in the Ulster American Folk Park in Omagh, Co. Tyrone. Although born into humble surroundings, Hughes was responsible for overseeing the construction of St Patrick’s Cathedral in Manhattan, New York in the 1850s……/…/Buildings/Ulster-Buildings/Hughes-House


Posted on 15-07-15

Citation;  McKenna, M. (2015) Hughes Cottage, Co. Tyrone.  Available at (Accessed dd/mm/yyyy)

Older posts

Copyright © 2024

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑