Wednesday 29 October 2014

Rectified streetscape (North Frederick Street) by author

The Decline of the North Georgian City

Figure i: James Walton, View of the Law Courts looking up the Liffey, c.1799 NLI

It may be hard to believe today but the most fashionable part of Dublin city was the enviable title held by the north-east quarter. With its well thought out spacious streets, residential squares and large houses it was one of the finest examples of Georgian town planning and architecture[1]. This area was home to some of Dublin's most prestigious residents and public figures making it awash with money and social events [2]. However this was all to change in a seemingly dramatic fashion but it was in fact the culmination of domestic and foreign political and social inevitable along with twists of fate over a long period of time. It will also demonstrate how the absence of a landowner impacts on the success and longevity of an estate. For the purposes of this evaluation into the decline the years 1798 and 1858 will be examined as two pivotal years in the development of this estate. Not only are they important dates in the context of the history of the country but also in the social character of the north Georgian city which in turn had an impact on the physical fabric of the area. This essay will examine the key events of those years which lead to its degeneration be it administration change, acts of parliament, wars or the personal decisions of individuals. 


Town Planning nowadays is the process of the co-operation amongst many groups of people with differing agendas but the northside of Georgian Dublin can be accredited to the vision of two men, two generations apart but sharing the same name. Luke Gardiner (d. 1755), a name synonymous with the evolution of eighteenth century Dublin made a name for himself by developing property in the rapidly expanding city purchasing a sizeable portion of the north-east sector [3]. This began with the shrewd purchase of the Earl of Drogheda estate comprising of part of the grounds of St Mary's Abbey and the Grange of Clonliffe. All this was achievable through the apparent political stability in the form of 'Grattan's Parliament' in Dublin giving the citizens of Ireland the sense of quasi-independence. The Dublin which James Malton depicted in his watercolours at this times was undoubtedly a capital city. A reminder of the economic optimism of the age was the great canals linking Dublin with the Shannon. 

Gardiner sequentially planned out Bolton Street, George's Quay, Henrietta Street and Sackville Mall (also known as 'Gardiner's Mall', now O'Connell Street). Due to interspersed pockets of other landholding within the Gardiner estate the streets are not wholly axially symmetrical but nevertheless aesthetically the buildings' Palladian style could rival anything in London. Luke's son Charles did not continue this enterprise but it was enthusiastically taken up by his grandson. The second Luke Gardiner was born in 1745 and inherited his paternal titles as Vice Treasurer of Ireland and Surveyor General of Customs, made a Privy Councillor in 1780 as well as becoming MP for Co. Dublin [4] and Keeper of Phoenix Park [5] where he also owned property. Luke too expanded and developed the Gardiner estate in the north of the city using his place on the board of the Wide Street Commission to full advantage. As a developer he contributed enormously to the shaping of Dublin with Gardiner's Row (1769), Eccles Street (1772), Temple Street (1773), North Great George's Street (1776), Gardiner Place (1790), Mountjoy Square (1790) and Rutland Square (1791). 

The pattern of development on the Gardiner estate closely paralleled that of London with the principles of the physical presence of the landowner on the site, the complete unit of development comprising square, secondary streets, market and church (St George's) and thirdly the principle of the speculative builder operating as a middleman and building the houses [6]. 

As with the Gardiner Estate, speculative builders were usually those who risked their money in building them: master-builder, businessmen or bankers [7]. It would be this final element, the lack of cohesiveness, which would contribute amongst other factors to the fall of the Gardiner Estate. Luke envisaged the main streets on the estate to lead to an elliptical development on the top of Eccles Street called the Royal Circus similar to Nash's Oxford Circus but on a grander scale. It never came to fruition but these plans were shown on several official maps of the city and advertisements in newspapers for the sale of plots on the Circus appeared right up until 1812 [8] such as Wilson's Dublin Directory Maps below (fig iii, iv). 


In addition to his planning and political endeavours, the career of Luke Gardiner cannot be discussed without mentioning hos acts of charity and compassion towards the ordinary Catholic members of hos constituency. He was a member of the Hibernian society set up for maintaining, education and apprenticing the Orphans and Children of Soldiers in Ireland' and was on the board of the governors and guardians of St Nicholas's Hospitals [9]. In the Catholic Relief Act (also known as the 'Luke Gardiner Act') Catholics were enabled to inherit in the same way as Protestants and to take up leases for up to 999 years. In addition he tired to encourage and help the local linen manufacturers in Dublin. These attempts to help those not of the Protestant Ascendancy class did not go unnoticed Mr Gardiner has, however, marked his political career by a decided opposition to the sentiments of his electors, and a contemptuous disregard of their inclinations...He exerted himself strenuously in procuring an abolition of the Property laws, and has taken some pains, whether sincerely or not, he best knows, to serve the manufactures of Ireland [10]. 
This was duly acknowledged by the Catholic Church and expressed in a letter to Gardiner printed on the front page of the Freemans Journal, May 18th 1782 [11].


Many would cite the Act of Union as the turning point in the evolution of the Gardiner Estate [12] but in fact it was the untimely death of Luke Gardiner two years earlier. As Colonel of the County Dublin Militia he was sent to Wexford to fight the Irish rebels during the Wolftone and Untied Irishmen rebellion. He was killed at the battle of New Ross on the 5th of June 1798 but it took a further two days for this news to be dispatched to Dublin Castle [13]. Out of Luke Gardiner's eight children only two survived, a girl called Louisa (b. 1775) and his heir Charles John (b. 1782) [14].Since Charles was only sixteen years of age the estate was managed in his interest by his guardian, being Rt Hon John Beresford, the Rt Hon William Trench and his uncle Robert Gardiner, as stipulated in Luke Gardiner will. The Gardiner Estate Papers contain documents pertaining to the monetary transactions made by Charles guardians on his behalf leasing land in counties Antrim and Kilkenny [15] in 1801 and 1802 respectively. Inheriting his father's titles and wealth but not the ambition to build on the urban development his father initiated, the adult Charles rarely visited Ireland spending most of his time either touring Europe or in Parish which was a huge burden on his Irish estates and as a result these became heavily encumbered. His daughter Harriet's dowry of £40,000 for her brief marriage also exacted a hefty claim on Gardiner's finances. On the death of Charles all the family titles became extinct and the direct bloodline stopped with Harriet died in 1849. 

Figure v: S.F. Brocas, View of Dublin from the Phoenix Park, looking from Wellington Monument across to the Royal Hospital at Kilmainham with Sarah Bridge in the foreground. NLI  Ref. No. 1999 (TX) 15
The death knolls for the prestige of the Gardiner estate can be traced as far as 1748 when The Earl of Kildare, later the Duke of Leinster, James Fitzgerald was the first to move south of the river Liffey [16].In the years after the Act of Union the gentry slowly switched back south to the Fitzwilliam estate [17] (later known as the Pembroke estate), spilling out beyond the canals [18].
Grattan's Parliament had been installed in 1782 with the impression that the idea of Union had been dropped permanently but this climate of security changed with the French Revolution (1789) and the Insurrection of the United Irishmen (1798)[19]. With the Act of Union enacted in January 1801 there was no change to the number of Irish boroughs [20] but anybody with an interest in politics now had to have their place of primary residence in London. There was now no reason to spend money on high land rates in Dublin where tensions between the landed gentry and the common cottiers were increasing. The subsequent Gardiner generation demonstrates precisely what befalls an estate when its owner is of the absentees who lived more or less permanently out of the country[21]. The main reason for the passing of the Act of Union was the perceived security risks of Napoleonic fleets landing in Ireland and attacking mainland Britain from the west. The United Irishmen rebels were viewed as possible comrades for this invading force which explains the intensity of their suppression. In the same letter issued from Dublin castle, reprinted in the Dublin Gazette, the Lieutenant General Lake placed a curfew on all inhabitants of Dublin between 9pm and five the following morning "under pain of punishment.[22]" Part of this security measure ordered that a list of inhabitants be affixed to the door of every house in the city [23]. This stipulation coincidentally facilitated Rev. William Whitelaw in his task of compiling a census of every person in Dublin city centre regardless of class [24]. At the turn of the century Whitelaw calculated that there was an average of 87 persons per acre in St Thomas' parish compared to 439 per person in St Michael's. 

However the effects of the peers and members of Parliament relocating to London soon had a knock on effect on the economy of Dublin. One such example is that of John Claudius Beresford, son of Commissioner Beresford who as previously mentioned was on of the trio of Charles Gardiner's guardians. While John Senior on behalf of the young Viscount was leasing out large amounts of land to raise funds, his son only a decade later was declared bankrupt after his Dublin based bank failed [25]. 

Figure vi S.F Brocas 'Phoenix Park' c.1820, NLI Ref. No. PD 4194 TX1. NLI. Military manoeuvres taking place in the background. In the distance is the Vice regal Lodge.


As the MPs moved out of the Gardiner estate their properties were bought up by property developers and not the 'genteel family' that some advertisements advised [26]. These speculative buyers soon realised that the only way to meet exorbitant land rents was inside of one family per terraced building, they could have one family per room one each floor from the basement to the roof space. From 1817 onwards there appeared weekly advertisements for the sale of a lease of property in the Gardiner estate. It is interesting to note that the named occupations changed from barristers and aldermen to carpenters, bakers and peruke (wig) makers. As the century went on these landlords had no problem renting their one-roomed dwellings to the ever increasing population of the lower working class of the city. The small industries such as the manufacturers of linen which Gardiner tried to sustain and encourage were now disappearing with the end of the Napoleonic wars and the contracts for army supplies such as uniforms. These former manufacturers and craftspeople were now flocking in droves to the capital in search of employment in non-productive sectors such as transport, dealing, domestic service and general labouring [27]. This problem was also made worse by the free trade agreement in the Act of Union which combined with the emergence of the steamship (1816) served to open the Irish economy to a substantial measure of competition. Ireland could not compete with the cheaper and better made products being imported from Britain with her resources at her disposal from the Colonies. As these families moved in, the middle classes moved out to the suburbs of Dublin with 50% choosing the southern suburbs of Rathmines and Pembroke and only 12.4% opting for the northern suburbs like Clontarf and Dromcondra [28]. This demographic shift was facilitated in part by the introduction of the Kingston railway line in 1834 which helped to move the city's professionals out from the confines of the city's physical boundaries. 


Rapid economic decline post Famine reduced much of the housing to overcrowded tenements [29]. The capital's population surged after the Repeal of the Corn Laws which allowed landowners to turn properties into pasture and get rid of their tenants. This move was largely responsible for the very slow recovery of the country after the Famine years [30]. With the agrarian unrest the number of military installations was increased in Dublin, especially in the northside of the city which brought in its wake prostitution, hospitals and similar facilities. Having been one of the few newspapers to report on the starving and destitute of the common Irish during the Famine, the Illustrated London News, whether knowingly or unknowingly, never addressed the issue of agrarian unrest in Ireland in the 1840s. In 1848 it was still depicting the Irish as drinking and dancing under an image of a leprechaun-like man named 'Patrick O'Tater with the inscription: 

'For the things we're famous- though Saxons may hate us
For the point of our sayings- the meal of our 'tatoes;
And so we can manage, without ere a joint,
To live and grow fat on potatoes and point.' 

The newspaper did not report specifically on nationalist outbreaks but gave little glimpses of the required visible military presence in the north of the city with such sketches as 'Encampment in the Phoenix Park, Dublin' by James Mahony [31]. Immediately above this sketch is another depicting Kilmainham Jail. These were the images being shown to the rest of the world with connotations of civil unrest and disobedience. It is no surprise that landlords would rather spend most of their time in civilised London than in disruptive Dublin. The vast majority of the coverage was for the spread of revolution throughout mainland Europe such as Germany, Austria, Italy and particularly France giving extensive accounts and sketches of the 'June Days uprising.' The national army used heavy force to suppress these outbreaks which were described in the Illustrated London News and similar periodicals which must have made an impression on the British government. It is no coincidence then that in 1847 at the peak of the Young Irelanders outbreaks that construction on Mountjoy prison in the north of the city began which conveniently have an army barracks and hospital in close proximity. In the same newspaper nearly fifty years to the day of Luke Gardiner's death the debating of the Irish Poor Law in the House of Lords was reported with a small minority winning the vote [32]. The Marquis of Lansdowne was stated as opposing the motion [33] which is surprising as he famously set up the 'Famine Road' scheme of relief works in 1846-8 on his property to enable the poverty stricken and starving people earn sufficient money to feed themselves but it however failed. Like Lansdowne members of the British government viewed the Irish as a financial burden. 


The Gardiner estate was declared bankrupt in 1846. Thanks to the financial mismanagement and absence of Gardiner's son and granddaughter the estate was in danger of breaking up in the most buoyant of economic climates but the retreat of the professional classes to the suburbs, the Act of Union and the Famine compounded the situation. In 1849 the Gardiner estate was acquisitioned through the Encumbered Estates Court. This was a fate that befell many estates in Ireland during these years with approximately 8000 estates changing hands between 1850 and 1858 [34].


Although he died before his time, Luke Gardiner at least only knew the Gardiner estate was the epitome of elegant Georgian town mansions and squares of the classical Palladian style. During his political career he tried to serve the people of the north of the city whether they were wealthy Catholic or ordinary linen manufacturers. He undoubtedly would have been saddened by the loss of an Irish Parliament which removed its members away from their constituents and estates. With the loss of funding resulting from the dissolution of the parliament many of the ambitious plans of the Wide Street Commissioners had to be shelved including Gardiner's Royal Circus. The Act of Union was a crucial turning point in Irish history but the main reason for the collapse of the Gardiner estate was the absence of effective estate management which resulted from the death of Luke Gardiner [35]. The northside of the city is a credit to the vision and single-mindedness of Luke Gardiner I and his grandson. One of their greatest achievements was the creation of Gardiner's Mall which set the scale for central Dublin as it stands today [36].If Luke Gardiner had survived Dublin would not be as we know it now. The northside could very likely still be the most fashionable part of Dublin. 


1     F.A. Ashe Mountjoy Square in Dublin Historical Record, Vol.3 No.4 (Jun-Aug 1941), p.98.
2     This can be seen in almanacs such as Thom's Directory with an extensive list of shopkeepers and the advertisement columns of the                press for a wide range of luxury and semi-luxury products available in Dublin. 
3     John Coleman, Luke Gardiner (1745-98); An Irish Dilettante' Irish Arts Review Yearbook, Vol.15, (1999), p.161.
4     Gardiner Estate Papers, Collection List No.67 [MSS 36501-626] National Library of Ireland, p.6. 
5     Robert Beatson, A political index to the histories of Great Britain and Ireland; or a complete register of the hereditary honours, public              offices and persons' (Edinburgh, 1786), p.715. 
6     F.O.C Meenan, The Georgian Squares of Dublin and the Professions, in An Irish Quarterly Review, Vol. 58, No.232 (winter, 1969),                  p.405.
7     Maurice Craig, 'Dublin 1660-1880,' (Dublin, 1980), p.175. 
8     Freemans Journal Wed July 22, 1812 front page; Freemans Journal sale or let of plots, July 12, 1812. 
9     Samuel Watson, The Gentleman's and Citizen's almanac, (Dublin, 1783), p.82; 86. 
10   Robert John Scott, A Review of the principal characters of the Irish House of Commons (Dublin, 1789), p.221.
11   To the Right Honorable Luke Gardiner and John Dillon Esquire. 
12   Douglas Bennett, The Encyclopedia of Dublin, (Dublin, 2005), p.109. 
13   Dublin Gazette 7th of June 'The General (Johnston) severely regret the loss of that brave officer, Lord Mountjoy, who fell early in the                contest.'
14   The Annual Register, or a view of the history, politics and literature for the year 1798, (London, 1800). 
15   Gardiner Estate Papers, Ref MS 36,509/9
16   Séamus Ó Maitiú, Dublin's Suburban Towns 1834-1930, (Dublin, 2003), p.20.
17   Jacqueline Hill, From patriots to unionists,' Oxford, 1997), p.197.
18   L.M. Cullen, The growth of Dublin 1600-1900: character and heritage, in F.H.A. Aalen & Kevin Whelan (eds) Dublin from pre-history to            present, (Dublin, 1992), p. 255.
19   D.J Hickey & J.E. Doherty, A new Dictionary of Irish History from 1800', (Dublin, 2003), p.3.
20   F.W.S Craig, British Parliamentary election results 1832-1885,' (London, 1977), p.622.
21   K.H. Connell, The Land legislation and Irish social life' in Economic History Review, xi, (1958), p.2.
22   Dublin Gazette, June 9th 1798. 
23   Mary Daly, 'Dublin, the deposed capital; a social and economic history 1860-1914, (Cork, 1984), p.278. 
24   Whitelaw, An essay on the population of Dublin (1805). 
25   Announcement in Freemans Journal in 1811 'John Claudius Beresford- bankrupt.'
26   Freemans Journal 8th August 1817. 
27   Mary Daly, The deposed Capital, p.5. 
28   Ibid, p.255. 
29   Christine Casey, The Building of Ireland- Dublin, (Dublin, 2005), p.120. 
30   G.B. O'Brien , The economic History of Ireland from the Union to the Famine, (Dublin, 1921), p.136. 
31   Illustrated London News, p.176 16th September 1848 National Library of Ireland, microfilm. 
32   Illustrated London News, 3rd of June 1848, p.361. 
33   Ibid. 
34   Casey, Dublin, p.119. 
35   Kevin Brennan, Mountjoy: Cradle of the Irish Ordnance Survey, in Dublin Historical Record, Vol. 36, No.3 (Jun, 1983), 83.

1 comment:

  1. Congrats on your blog Em. Your doing a great job as always. Best of luck with it chick. :)