Carson’s Ranelagh build
Architect and developer Edward Henry Carson built 52 Moyne Road, writes Mark Keenan
Back in the middle of the 19th Century, the Anglo Irish ascendancy in Dublin were on the back foot. For generations they had been protected from competition in prime jobs from majority Catholics by the Penal Laws. These had barred Catholics from influential positions and education, and precluded them from voting. Catholic Emancipation changed all that, especially measures in the 1829 Act.
As Catholics became educated, qualified and professional, they began to be elected to the City Council which had far greater powers than it does today.
At the same time, the economic fall-out of the Act of Union, which took away Dublin’s Parliament and civil service, hit the city economy, in turn leading to vast unhealthy slums.
In reaction, the Anglo Irish community came up with a solution. The Earl of Pembroke, who owned a vast estate on the city boundaries, became part of a plan to develop a new ‘colony’ of Anglo Irish professionals outside of the city boundaries.
His private lands were developed for housing on long leases of 999 years. Pembroke fully believed his future estate would be enriched in a millennium’s time, by taking ownership of the thousands of homes which would result.
The new Pembroke Township covered what is now Ballsbridge, Donnybrook, Sandymount, Irishtown and Ringsend. The Pembroke Township Council governed taxation, sewerage, public works and so forth.
Next door in Rathmines, a similar project got under way in the Rathmines and Rathgar Township. Both constructed their own town hall buildings to govern from, one at Merrion Road, the other being the well known four-faced clock tower-topped Town Hall in Rathmines,.
And so the first step in getting the ball rolling was to develop the residential streets. Marlborough Road was among the first.
Later, new developers came on board in the 1860s to build the ancillary streets off it, and among them was Moyne Road.
The developer of Moyne Road was one Edward Henry Carson of Harcourt Street, a well connected architect and the son of a Scottish immigrant.
His son would become the famous Lord Edward Carson, leader of Protestant Ulster and an important barrister and Government minister in London. Carson senior was politically well connected and had a finger in many pies. Fervently Protestant, he was an obvious candidate to become involved in the huge Pembroke plan getting underway.
So as a developer in the early 1860s, he began sketching out houses for the plots off Marlborough Road, including Moyne Road which he designed and constructed. Dozens of city families moved in and both townships were initially a big success.
But as a new Catholic middle class continued to develop, they too began to acquire or rent the high class homes constructed in the Pembroke and Rathmines townships. The 1911 Census for example shows that 50 years after it was built, No52 Moyne Road was occupied by Michael and Isabel Finn. Aged 64, Michael lists his occupation as ‘Superannuated 1st Class Officer of Inland Revenue’.
Today, Ranelagh is once again the favoured address of Ireland’s influential classes, although there are no sites left to build upon.
And it might have surprised Finn, the senior bean-counter, to learn that just over a hundred years later his home would be on offer for €1.225m.
No 52 has been reworked and extended to cater for a modern family. The house still has the original front door that Carson provided for it, leading through to a wide entrance hall with coving, a centre rose, dado rail and a tiled floor.
There’s a big living/drawing room with high ceilings, coving, sash windows and shutters, and a distinctive marble chimney piece. The dining area has a cast-iron version.
There’s a kitchen/breakfast room with eye- and floor-level units in white over a polished timber floor. Appliances include a Bosch dishwasher, Ceran electric hob, Smeg extractor, Neff gas wok hob and a Smeg oven. This room leads into a conservatory with additional summer dining space, check floor tiles and glazed double patio doors to a 52ft garden. There’s also a study on this floor.
Upstairs are three bedrooms, each with cast-iron period chimney pieces, and a big family bathroom which was originally a fourth bedroom. It has double basins and stone surfaces, a bath and a shower. The price is €1.225m.