In celebrating National Heritage Week 2022, the Irish Georgian Society is reflecting on projects it has assisted over the last 20 years through its Conservation Grants Programme. Funded through IGS London and IGS Inc (USA), over €1.6m has been awarded during this time.
Day 5: 38 North Great George’s Street, Dublin
Studying the delicate traceries of No. 38 North Great George’s Street reveals both a striving for geometrical perfection and also a willingness to compromise. Although seemingly concentric and perfect, the glazed fanlight over the hall door of No. 38 does not radiate from a single fixed centre point. Instead, depending on whether the outer arc is being drawn, or the lead lines that radiate from the centre, the point at which the compass is placed can vary. Emblematic in some ways of the society that created it, this ‘cobweb’ fanlight has no fixed centre, but is constantly in search of a point of origin. With curves and lines held in an elliptical tension, it is simple and brilliant. As an expression of the subtleties and instabilities that underpinned political hegemony in eighteenth century Ireland, it is beyond reproach. The columns are Ionic, echoing ancient Greece, where art and philosophy flourished, nfranchisement was restricted to male landowners, and slavery was legal. The visual impact of the fanlight of No. 38, its design resembling the tail of a male peacock, must have pleased its builder, one Charles Thorp, who in 1800, combining the skills of stuccodore, entrepreneur and opportunist, found himself elected Lord Mayor of Dublin. The house itself dates from around 1785. Built of brick laid in Flemish bond pattern, it is three bays wide and four storeys high. In the late nineteenth century it was occupied by John Pentland Mahaffy, Provost of Trinity College and tutor to Oscar Wilde, and, later, by others with marginally less claims to fame. By the mid-twentieth century the house had been divided into a warren of bedsits and rooms, but after its purchase in 1975 by Desiree Shortt, it underwent decades of patient repair and restoration.
IGS Grants — 2002: roof repairs
Pictures & text by Peter Murray from his exhibition ‘Saving Graces’ (2021)
The work of the Irish Georgian Society is supported through the Heritage Council’s ‘Heritage Capacity Fund 2022’.