No. 14 Henrietta street had recently been renovated and in 2018 opened its doors for public viewing by Dublin City Council. A family of five can access this historical building for €20 and believe me it is worth every single penny. We managed to get parking just outside and walked straight in for our tour. We were brought into another room which would have been the original area in the early 19th Century, where the lords and ladies got together to discuss politics. At this stage the house had not been converted into several different flats.
Luke Gardiner began building number 13-15 Henrietta Street in the 1720’s and when finished the first residents of no. 14 were Lord Viscount Molesworth and his wife Mary Usher moved in.
The main areas used, were on the ground and first floors, with three inter-connecting rooms around the large two-story entrance hall and its winding staircase. The family rooms were located on the ground floor and the servants slept in the attic.
In the 1800’s political power moved over to Regency London when the Act of Union was passed, but lawyers conducted their business at number 14 Henrietta street. Solicitor Peter Warren and Proctor of the Prerogative Court, John Moore, moved in and set about acquiring and selling insolvent estates after the Great Famine. We were shown the Grand room where this took place and a miniature house of number 14 was on display to experience what life was like back then.
During 1860-1876 Dublin was known as a Garrison town when the Dublin Militia occupied the house. After the Great Famine there was a rise in population in Dublin to 36,000 people who came from all over and had nowhere else to go. They were looking for cheap accommodation and landlords saw this to their advantage, so turned Georgian townhouses into affordable dwellings. As residents moved in, people from the street squatted in the hallways for warmth which angered existing tenants and so they wrote on the walls for the squatters to “keep out”.
In 1876 Thomas Vance installed 19 tenement flats of one, three and four rooms, which then housed multiple families from the north inner city of Dublin to the southside around the Liberties and near the south docklands. Number 14 went from a single family house with servants and mistresses to one family per room with cordoned off sections for the kitchen, living room and bedroom, sharing an outside tap and lavatory with dozens of others in the same building. According to the census, in the year 1911 100 people lived and worked in this house and 850 people lived on the streets.
We were shown some short video clips of improvements being made by Dublin corporation in 1931 and the architect Herbert Simms who created new communities outside the city centre with greenery and fresh air, that became known as the suburbs. This signalled the end of the tenements in the city centre and by 1970 the last of the residents moved out as the building was declared unstable and unsafe to live.
According to residents of number 14 Henrietta street it was not all doom and gloom living there, it was a close knit community and children played on the street and left doors open and families felt safe. When they moved to the suburbs, it took a while to adjust to the new life without people there all the time and doors were kept closed.
After a ten year project, Dublin City council opened up number 14 Henrietta street to the public.
For more information log on to http://www.14henriettastreet.ie