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Dublin: 11 °C Friday 18 October, 2019
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Have you seen the light? 5 Dublin lampposts you should really take a closer look at

Dublin’s streetlights are a postcard staple for tourists – but how many of us give them a second thought?

Image: Shutterstock/abd

IF THERE IS one thing Dublin does well, it’s street lights and lampposts.

Dotted around the streets of the capital are lampposts that transcend their utilitarian purpose and resemble little works of art. Often adorned with little flourishes, they are ornate and decorate. Moreover, they are quintessentially Dublin. They brighten up the city’s streetscape in more ways than one.

Seamus MacSweeney is Senior Executive Engineer, Public Lighting Services Division in Dublin City Council. He explains that there are over 46,000 street lights in Dublin City. Of that number, just under nine per cent are those ornate lighting columns synonymous with the city. 

“We have approximately 1,350 of the old-style large ornate lampposts in the city varying from 7m to 9m tall to the level of the luminaires,” he says.

“We also have approximately 2,350 small ornate lamp posts that you typically see in older residential areas of the city. These are typically about 4m high. Most of these are cast iron with a small number of cast aluminium replicas.” 

The lampposts come in many different varieties. Some come bearing wrought iron curlicues. Others are embellished with quirky little details like crests and shamrocks. Photographer Thomas Fitzgerald’s series of photographs published on The Streets of Dublin gives a partial picture of the rich variety on display on the city’s streets.

According to MacSweeney, typical varieties you might see strolling around the city include the Ballantine Column and the Large Hammond Lane. The Ballantine Column are intricately designed and feature little shamrocks poking out. The Large Hammond Lane, meanwhile, is similar but less fussy with just the one shamrock taking pride of place. 

The 'Large Hammond Lane' lamppost Source: Dublin City Council

The names of the columns refer to the manufacturers or foundries where they were produced. For instance, the Large Hammond Lanes were made at a foundry in Hammond Lane, Dublin 7. The Ballantine Columns, meanwhile, were produced by a Scottish-based foundry.  

“The manufacturers’ names can be seen as crests located near the bases of the columns,” adds MacSweeney.

An example of a 'Ballantine column' lamppost Source: Dublin City Council

While many of the originals have been preserved, Dublin City Council has also erected numerous replicas of iconic lampposts around the city, such as the O’Connell Bridge columns. 

Source: Shutterstock/Claiton Medina

“The replicas are so good that it is hard to tell the difference,” says MacSweeney.

Asked for other noteworthy lampposts around the city that people should keep an eye out for on their travels, a few immediately spring to MacSweeney’s mind. 

“There a couple of unique lamp standards around the city. These include the ‘sea horse pillars’ in College Green, the columns on O’Connell Bridge and the column in Father Matthew Square.”

Screen Shot 2019-01-09 at 12.57.28 PM The 'Sea Horse Pillars' at College Green Source: Google Maps

The aforementioned ‘sea horse pillars’ can be found located at either side of the Henry Grattan statue on College Green. According to Come Here To Me, there were once four such pillars but just two remain on view today with the whereabouts of the others unknown. 

The three-headed lamps on O’Connell Bridge are a familiar sight for Dubliners and well worth a second look next time you pass by.

The street lamp at Father Matthews Square, meanwhile, is located near a memorial for the Church Street Tenement Collapse and is indeed a singular sight to behold.

33514885630_8aeb7a3ef7_z The post at Father Matthew Square Source: William Murphy/Flickr

For MacSweeney, these lamps serve a bigger purpose beyond just keeping our streets brightly lit.

These columns play a huge part in Dublin’s streetscape. The ornate lighting columns are a clear illustration of Dublin City’s rich street lighting heritage and they contribute to the essential character of the city.

So next time you’re walking around the city and its environs, take a moment to appreciate and admire these wonderful structures.

More: From flats to nightclubs: An insider guide to 7 overlooked art deco gems around Dublin>

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Amy O'Connor

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