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Three 1830s houses demolished at Dublin's Five Lamps to make way for social housing

The State conservation group had suggested the houses be made protected structures, but an order to demolish them to build housing for senior citizens had already been made.

THREE “UNIQUE” HOUSES on Dublin’s historic Five Lamps junction have been demolished to make way for a five-storey housing complex for senior citizens.

Dublin City Council have said that although the buildings were “of some merit”, the planning permission to demolish the buildings was granted due to the “high-quality development” that was suggested to take their place.

The lodged planning application to build on the site indicates that the development will include 10 one-bedroom units for senior citizens.

The houses – 175 North Strand Road, 176 North Strand Road, and 115 Seville Place – were suggested during an Architectural Heritage Assessment by the State’s conservation group to become ‘protected structures’ due to their heritage value.

But this recommendation was given after the demolition of the buildings had been approved and scheduled. The suggestion of protected status hadn’t been approved by the council, which would give it legally-binding protection.

One expert said that although any new social housing builds were to be welcomed, it was ”a shame” that “the last part of that historic grain” at the Five Lamps junction had gone.

NIAH 2 A map of the Five Lamps Junction - the blue dots indicate buildings that have been assessed for historical importance. Circled are the three demolished buildings. Source: NIAH

What were the buildings like?

The houses were located on a corner of the busy Five Lamps junction in Dublin city, and were thought to have been built during the construction boom of the 1830s.

Two of the corners of the street have undergone a similar regeneration – one with an office block and another with an apartment block.

The buildings were three small, one-storey houses that were described as being “fairly unique to Dublin”.

One was “a very deep house”, one “a shallow house”, and the third was a “tiny one” around the corner linked to Seville Place, on which stands a line of buildings that are protected for their heritage significance.

175 175 North Strand Road. Source: NIAH

On the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage’s website, 175 and 176 North Strand Road are described as ”a pair of attractive small-scale houses characteristic of the early nineteenth century”.

Of 176 it said:

Its pleasantly proportioned front elevation is a harmonious composition with the unusual feature of three windows, implying that one of the houses has two windows and the other has only one, indicating some unusual internal division.

Adding that the buildings were scheduled for demolition in 2011, the surveyor said that the buildings were “pleasant” and “important” features of the streetscape.

176 176 North Strand Road. Source: NIAH

Of 115 Seville Place, around the corner from 176 (the red-brick square pictured above), the NIAH described it as a ”curious, diminutive house” that “occupies a constricted site at the end of a terrace of red brick houses”.

Its small proportions and decorative projecting doorcase contribute to the texture and variety of the streetscape.

115 115 Seville Place Source: NIAH

‘A curious plan’

Graham Hickey, conservation director with the Dublin Civic Trust, said that the buildings were recommended to be protected due to their “regional significance”.

“That single-storey villa type house is relatively unique to Dublin and they’re a distinctive house type of the Dublin catalogue of houses – we generally tend to associate them with the Portobello area and that kind of ‘off-Camden Street’ area of the city,” he said.

He said that these types of houses were “outliers on the northside”. He said they didn’t feature on the 1820 Ordnance Survey Map, meaning they were probably built in the 1830s, shortly before Connolly Station opened in 1844 or 45.

“They would’ve been part of that building boom in Dublin after the recession in the 1820s in the property market. In the 1830s there was a boom in construction in the suburbs in Rathmines on the south side and a lot of the smaller Georgian streets on the north side and these would have been part of that.”

He said that the reason for their “diminutive” size, was because of their location at a busy junction and “not many people would want to live at a busy junction”.

“But when you actually go into the houses,” he adds, “They’re actually a fascinating group of very ingenious developers who built them, because they all interlock.” He continued:

All of their rooms kind of fit together like a jigsaw puzzle, so one house sticks into another house and the house around the corner on Seville place interjects into it. It’s a very curious plan.

Demolition and rebuild

In 2007, an application for the demolition of the three buildings was applied for and granted, but the permission expired and an extension on the timeframe was refused in 2013.

A second application for demolition was approved in 2015 to demolish the three buildings by Patrick Harrington Architects (PHA), which have a computer-generated image of the proposed building on their website.

The decision to approve the construction of the five-storey build, which will comprise 10 one-bed apartments and a retail unit at ground floor, was made in the summer last year.

In a report, seen by TheJournal.ie, that assessed the historical importance of the buildings as part of PHA planning application, it concluded that “whilst occupying an important nodal point in the northern fringes of Dublin City, all of the subject buildings are considered to be of very limited architectural significance, to be poorly arrayed and the quality of internal fabric to be unremarkable”.

The buildings appear lost at this busy junction; they are visually dominated by Connelly House and by the remainder of Seville Place (the three-storey terrace).

“Notwithstanding some modest historical and architectural character, this site represents an opportunity to develop a more visually-pleasing and sustainable use of this important site.”

In a statement to the TheJournal.ie about whether the heritage significance of the building was waived due to the urgent need for social housing builds, a spokesperson for the Council said:

“While it was acknowledged that the structures are of some merit from a vernacular streetscape point of view, they are not protected structures.

Furthermore, having regard to the planning history on site and to the proposed replacement of the three structures by a high quality development, the proposal to demolish in this instance was considered acceptable.

The application also indicated that “an intended end user” was for a housing association to take the scheme “for the purposes of senior citizens housing”.

The proposed units have been designed “to satisfy accessibility requirements” for senior citizens, the application said.

A letter from the National Association of Building Co-operatives Society (NABCO) was included indicating that they would be interested in acquiring the development based on this.

Hickey of the Dublin Civic Trust said that “any increase in residential accommodation in the city centre is to be welcomed”, but that it was “just unfortunate that three of the most distinctive houses of their type were lost in the process”.

“It’s problematic that brownfield sites tend to languish or linger as such, while more profitable sites such as this come up for grabs and very good quality existing stock gets demolished.”

Read: After surviving 100 years of change, this rare building has been “gutted out”

Read: Conserving our heritage: ‘One woman was in tears that her home was a protected structure’

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