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William Murphy
Double Take

Double Take: The windowless landmark on Dublin's College Green

No room with a view from Bank of Ireland’s headquarters.

WALKING THROUGH DUBLIN city centre you will most likely, pass Bank of Ireland’s impressive headquarters on College Green.

Hugging the corner where Westmoreland Street meets Dame Street, the building boasts pillared columns, a triplet of statues and curved walls of Portland stone.

However, on closer inspection, you’ll notice something unusual about its facade; an absence of glazed windows.

Instead, there is a row of frames filled with grey stone, blocking a perfect view of Trinity College.

Construction of Parliament House, as it was originally known, commenced in 1729 under the direction of Edward Pearce. Over the next eighty years, there would be several extensions and rebuilds made to the structure.

The architects involved, at various intervals, included James Gandon, Robert Flake and Francis Johnston. During these reconstructions, a drastic measure to save money was made.

An account of Parliament House’s history by, states that it was the “first purpose built Parliament House in the world”, constructed at a “great time in public confidence in Dublin.” Unfortunately, fiscal stability in Ireland was challenged at the turn of the nineteenth century.

The Act of Union in 1801, caused affluent members of Parliament to relocate to London. This subsequently led the Irish capital into a state of decline. To avoid bankruptcy, the building was sold to Bank of Ireland by the British Government in 1803.

During this time, England was struggling to maintain funding towards the Napoleonic War. To raise money, an income tax was enforced in England and Wales from 1696. This tax was levied on those with six or more windows on their house.

It would be another hundred years before the Window Tax came to Ireland. Described as a “forerunner of the Property Tax” by the blog On This Day, the Window Tax, introduced here in 1799, would remain intact until 1851.

To avoid the charges, many people chose to brick up the frames instead. One of the few remaining examples of this is on the exterior of the Bank of Ireland building.

The size of the Parliament House structure – and the number of windows – would have meant a significant cost. So during construction, the builders bricked up the frames instead – and left the strange indentations that today prevent passers-by from seeing the bank’s impressive interior.

Double Take: The larger-than-life honey bee on a Co Kerry street>

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