As you walk through the leafy areas of Dublin from the Mews you will inevitably stumble across the grand older buildings that stand out from today’s time and bring you back to times gone by.
These buildings have a certain nobility distinguished in particular by their brick and stone, doorways and windows…what you are witnessing is known as "Georgian Dublin", an architecture style from the reign of four King Georges between 1714 and 1830.
This period of time coincided with a golden period of prosperity for Dublin; from the economic wealth of trade created by the newly dominant British Empire at that time when Dublin grew to become the fifth largest city in Europe.
Dublin was considered the "second city" of the Empire after London.
This was a new and emerging Dublin under the influence of Wolfe Tone, Jonathan Swift, Oliver Goldsmith, as well as the Lords and Ladies of the Ascendancy, the protestant ruling class of the time who used their wealth to create new busildings for education, admisistration and residence shifting the old medieval city into broad streets, large green squares and a new uniformly impressive houses using brick and stone.
James Gandon was a famous architect of the time and his buildings included Dublin City Hall (adjacent to Dublin Castle), The Custom House, The Four Courts and King's Inn.
In the beginning of the Georgian period,areas of the North side of the river Liffey was considered to be far more fashionable than the south. Henrietta Street is perhaps the most famous Georgian residential influence at that time with a wide cobbled street lived in by Dublin's barristers who attended King's Inn. Parnell Square, known as Rutland Square back then, at the top of now O'Connell Street (formerly Sackville Street) was very popular but not as popular as the prestigious Mountjoy Square, where the Archbishop of Dublin lived.
The Earl of Kildare famously pulled rank by building a palatial home for himself on the south of the river - “Kildare House" - which was later renamed Leinster House and now houses the Irish Government. In doing so Lord Kildare set to tone for Dublin’s south to become Dublin’s most prestigious area which it still is to this day. His move was followed by the development of Merrion Square facing right onto Leinster House and the National Gallery of Ireland. Fitzwilliam Square a somewhat quieter square along with Fitzwilliam Place and Street came next. St Stephen's Green, despite accommodating much smaller Georgian houses is notably, the most well-known of the Dublin's Georgian squares today
And so it was that throughout the 18th century, the Elite lived in these areas served busily by servants, merchants and professionals until the end of Dublin’s Golden Age when the London government rescinded the limited Home Rule that had allowed the Protestant Ascendancy of Dublin to enjoy their own parliament. The transfer of power to London following the Act of Union in 1801 meant Dublin lost its importance and many of the elite moved to London taking the economic value of their needs being served elsewhere
Whilst Irish neutrality in the war protected Dublin’s Georgian buildings some damage was done in the 1916 revolution and civil war. Once becoming independent in 1922many of Ireland new ruling class looked on Georgian buildings as a symbol and reminder of Ireland’s colonial pastholding the nation back. Property developers were later allowed to pull these buildings down to make way for the new. Today these buildings are understood to be valuable as part of Dublin's heritage and many are protected under law.
Georgian architecture worth a visit in Dublin include – Henrietta Street, Merrion Square, Trinity College, National Gallery of Ireland.