Just a week or two after leading our first Dublin Decoded architectural tour of the Grangegorman area back last August last year (2016) I re-stumbled across this amazing map. You may already know it. It’s Daniel Edward Heffernan’s Map of Dublin from 1861, quite a well known image.
Looking closely what impresses the viewer is not the general survey or map-making, which is relatively conventional. There’s nothing in the general mapping like the rich level of detail apparent in say, Roque’s 1756 map (see detail foot of page). Nor the unique historic value of John Speed’s 1610 map, nor even the spidery charm of Strangeway’s medieval scholars map of Dublin’s old walls (all maps discussed on this site in the past). But what Heffernan was was an artist of real merit, with a genuine interest in buildings and monuments. Accordingly what set this work here apart are his small yet superb little drawings of Dublin buildings. It is in other words a map made for architectural buffs; for amateurs, enthusiasts, for historians and aficionados alike!
Here is a detail of the NW area of the map. Forgive the difference in colour, from the full image above, I am using two different sources. But focus instead on how Heffernan depicts the buildings. It’s superb!
As you can see above, Heffernan depicts building in two ways. Thirty-two of them are depicted as “vignettes”- in the margin around the boarder of the map. These are very nice and of genuine historical interest. Secondly and even more exciting (to my mind at least) are his drawings of buildings appear within the map, set down amid the streets and square of Dublin, in axonometric form, meaning they are rotated to the correct angle (thus sitting here snugly on their street or space) . These buildings in particular give the map as a whole strongly three-dimensional sense, popping upwards and outwards from the essential flatness of the image.
I haven’t spent hours counting to arrive at a definitive number, but as a rough estimate, across his entire map, Heffernan seems to have depicted about 85 buildings in this manner within his map in addition to the 32 illustrated in his margins. (The vignettes in the borders are bigger and slightly larger in scale.)
Inevitably Heffernan’s selection of which buildings to illustrate of buildings involved an element of curating. As Dr Niamh Marnham, Senior Built Heritage Consultant at Arup remarks in her excellent essay on Heffernan’s map, Dublin at the period it was made was in the process of becoming a (physically) Victorian city, with neo- Gothic or Gothic Revival buildings starting to appear more frequently. Indeed within 25 to 30 years of this map, Dame St and College Green for example would become a procession of massive set-piece buildings, often bank headquarters, nearly all in some sort or variation of Gothic style (whether more French-style, Scottish baronial or whatnot) Admittedly many of these had yet to appear, but the movement was already underway and Heffernan depicts a city on the cusp. Nonetheless, as Dr Marnham remarks, he still appeared to exhibit a preference for the Classical style over the Gothic, “of the city’s more recent expressions of Gothic, Heffernan affords only Deane and Woodward’s Lombardic Gothic Museum, Johnston’s Chapel Royal (1807-1814) and John Semple’s St. Mary’s-Chapel-of-Ease (1830), one each of his thirty-two vignettes which frame his map”
The other interesting element about Heffernan’s selection Dr Marnham highlights is his willingness to depict not only the grand “respectable’ buildings of ecclesiastical, or state, public and university use but also the grimmer, tougher places of Dublin, like asylums, prisons and work houses. The James Street area and Grangegorman in particular are both dense with such institutions. She posits tentatively his willingness in that regard might signal a sense of social conscience or social awareness on Heffernan’s’ part; a compassion for the less fortunate, making him perhaps a sort of “Dublin Dickens”. Or as she admits, this willingness may also simply reflect the fact he was a civil engineer and his map reflects an engineer’s pragmatic lens of how a city works and fits together.
I think both aspects may well be possible. In addition, it’s perhaps easy to overlook the purely formal concerns that most image-makers work with, like in this case trying to achieve an attractive, even spread of buildings across the map. The North-west “Grangegorman area “ corner of Dublin city centre, bounded below by North Kings Street and the above by the western end of the North Circular Road, is full of such tough, practical buildings, but far less in the way of genteel institutions. In other words, Heffernan, rather than leave large areas of blank map, achieved visual balance simply by depicting what was there. As an artist (professional or otherwise) he may additionally have enjoyed the strong elevational interest some of these “grim” buildings provide, especially two buildings by Francis Johnston’s which were grim in practice but magnificent in appearance and scale, namely Johnston’s Asylum and his Women’s Penitentiary. The huge Women’s Penitentiary in particular, with its radial arms and semi-circular buildings surely possesses one of the most distinctive plans of any building in the country. You can see it clearly here below, just above and let of centre.
Other buildings here like the Black Church, Rotunda (on the right hand margin of my detail here) and- near the Black Church- the now lost Bethesda Chapel (by Darley) all show strongly on Heffernan’s map. I was delighted to rediscover all this. Because apart from its visual and artistic merits, the map provides a terrific visual aid for a strong, spatial understanding of the area from Parnell Square to Grangegorman road and all points between, including those many institutions and how these relate to one another, physically and spatially.
The reason this is so germane to me right now is because I’m leading an architectural and historical walking from Parnell Square to the new DIT campus on Grangegorman Road, our walking tour on Saturday 13th of May. And naturally many of these buildings on this map feature on our tour, including John Semple’s masterful, enigmatic St Mary’s Chapel of Ease (the Black Church) ; various hospitals like the Hardwick and the Richmond; the remains of the old North Dublin Union Work House and Johnston’s Asylum and his Women’s Penitentiary. Overall, this Saturday is a rare chance to discover this important, historically loaded district of Dublin, just as it experiences profound and irreversible change, due to the LUAS extention and the new DIT campus (below).
above: Victorian Buildings of the old Saint Brendans Asylum, now restored and part of the new DIT campus (image courtesy GDA).
If last August is anything to go by this should be a very sociable as well as an educational event. This is an open event, everybody is very welcome. There are still tickets available remaining, they are priced around €16-€17.30 pp. Please find tickets here. If you’ve access to a printer at home or in your office you may wish to consider printing off a copy of this beautiful map. I’ve provided a pdf just below, at the foot pf this page, of the Detail of the map that we are walking on the day. (Or simply use it on your screen/phone) If you are joining us on Saturday, and everyone is welcome, please do bring it along. We may have a few to pass around but having your own copy will undoubtedly enhance your experience and orientation on the day!
I hope some of you can join us then. It should be a very nice walk indeed.
Best wishes – Arran Henderson | Dublin Decoded.
below: other maps and resources: 1- a detail from Bernard Scale’s 1798 map (based on Roque’s 1756 original) Showing Henrietta St, the Linnen Hall, Broadstone Harbour. Also find Fosters Aqueduct; the “new House of industry” (otherwise known as the workhouse, or North Dublin Union) and lower Grangegorman Lane.
above: a small close up detail from the 1756 map, (a coloured version) showing Henrietta Street but of course before the King’s Inns was built.
Above, a detail of the maps again showing the NW reach of our walk this Saturday. You can see the maps dates to after 1805 due to Gandon’s Inns being completed (albeit by Henry Aron Baker) and after 1837 since that complex of buildings here is named “Queens Inns” and after 1841 by the fact the Broadstone terminus is also there. But before 1878 -as the harbour has not yet been filled in.
Below, a final image from Heffernan, a wider shot than those above but this time clipped to show most of his buildings he depicted North of the River.
hope to see some of you on Saturday. – Arran.