Name that building

As part of our work here in the Irish Architectural Archive, we welcome researchers and readers through our doors, people with questions and requests for information of many different kinds. At times these come in the form of a visual test – a photograph of an unidentified building. ‘Where is this?’ is the question most often asked, followed by ‘who built it, when and for whom?’

Recently we had just such a request for help from a reader. Could we identify a building in an old photograph, a handsome Victorian house with adjoining green house.


Happily, Simon Lincoln, our Exhibitions Officer, recognised it as Sharavogue, a large detached house in Glenageary, Co. Dublin. In our own collections we had photographs of the house at the time of its sale in the mid 1980s looking remarkably unchanged from the earlier image and so we were able to confirm the identification.


So what else could we tell about ‘Sharavogue’ – did we have any other documents in the Archive to tell us the story of this suburban villa? Could we procure a date for its construction or even an architect’s name?

We didn’t have drawings for the house, so the search started with old postal directories to see when Sharavogue was first mentioned. The style of architecture suggested a date pre-1900 but when we checked our collection of Thom’s Street Directories for the late 1800s we encountered a problem: the house did not seem to appear at all. Of course house names often change. A quick check on an old Ordnance Survey map of the area confirmed that the house was originally named St. Andrew’s and the directories indicated that it was built sometime between 1875 and 1883.

From the map we could see that another house sat on the neighbouring corner plot, seemingly of the same dimensions and shape. Could we be looking at twins, houses built to identical designs at the same time? Today the neighbouring plot is occupied by a housing estate, Kilcolman Court, named after Kilcolman, the possible twin of St. Andrew’s/Sharavogue. Kilcolman no longer stands, (having been demolished by 1972) and, while there is no mention of either St. Andrew’s or Sharavogue in the Archive’s Dictionary of Irish Architects (, there is a record of alteration work being done to Kilcolman in 1911 by the architect James Purcell Wrenn.

We know something of James Purcell Wrenn, as his letter books are held in the Archive, but the name Wrenn struck a further chord. The directories listed Andrew Wrenn as the original owner of St. Andrew’s. He was a successful merchant and proprietor of a number of businesses in Dublin, including the Bleeding Horse Tavern at the top of Camden Street. James Purcell was in fact Andrew’s son. He inherited St. Andrew’s, ran an estate management business from the house and carried out some work on his neighbour’s house.

However, the question of who originally designed the pair of houses still remained. Turning again to the Dictionary of Irish Architects, we found a reference to the fact that in 1877 the architect Robert J. Stirling invited tenders for the erection of ‘two new villas’ in Glenageary – could these be our two houses? On looking at Stirling’s list of works in the DIA we can see that in 1871 he carried out alterations and improvements to the Bleeding Horse Tavern, Upper Camden Street, for none other than Andrew Wrenn. Also worth considering is that the original owner of Kilcolman was a Mr. Gleeson, a merchant and businessman with properties on Thomas Street. Did Wrenn and Gleeson have a professional relationship and decide to invest in land to get away from the busy city? Having already employed Stirling on his commercial premises, did Andrew Wrenn now ask him to design two fine new villas near the sea?

These are tantalising questions and we have yet to fully answer them. But, in a way that is completely typical of even the most cursory search in the Archive, the identification of a previously unknown building in an old photograph leads to a web of interconnections, filling in some details of the history of the house and opening the possibilities of more to come.

Aisling Dunne,
Irish Architectural Archive,
February 2014

An introduction to 2014 from the Chairman of the Irish Architectural Archive

At the start of another year I would like to bring you up to date on recent developments at the Irish Architectural Archive.

At the end of 2013, David Griffin retired as Director after 28 years of loyal and dedicated service to the Archive. David’s encyclopaedic knowledge particularly of Georgian architecture has been made available to so many people over the years. We are sorry to lose him but are pleased that he has agreed to make his expertise available to the Archive and its members in a voluntary capacity.

The Board has decided to combine the roles of Director and Administrator in the Archive and replace them with a new role of General Manager. Colum O’Riordan, who started his twentieth year with the Archive on 2 January 2014, has been appointed to that post. His dedication and expertise will be invaluable in that role. We look forward to working with him in the years ahead to build and develop the work of the Archive.

Thanks to the closure of the Archive in July and August (or, more bluntly, to not having to pay our loyal staff for two months), together with the great success of our fund raising efforts particularly from our members, we finished 2013 with a small cash surplus. Our sincere thanks to all involved.

We have been informed  that our grant for 2014 from the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht has been reduced by a further 6% or €15, 000. This will have to be replaced by fund raising before we can balance our budget for 2014.

We are very grateful to all those supporters who pledged financial support for 2014 and 2015 as well as last year. We would ask those who contributed for one year and those who were not able to support us last year to consider making a small commitment for 2014. Forms are available here.

Despite the lack of resources 2013 was a good year for exhibitions and lectures, with five shows in the Architecture Gallery and two in the first floor rooms. The number of readers and other visitors continued to increase. The number of visits to the Dictionary of Irish Architects website now stands at over 361,500 and more than 1.3 million pages have been viewed, as clear an example as any of the growing demand for access to the services only the Archive can provide.

We look forward to some exciting exhibitions and other events in the year ahead as we continue to grow and develop the Archive to serve all our members and users.

I would like to place on record my thanks to our members, supporters and Board members for their support in what was a very difficult year for the Archive. I would particularly like to thank our loyal staff who despite all the problems continues to serve our users in their usual friendly efficient and professional way.


Michael Webb,
Irish Architectural Archive.
January 2014

Christmas Access at the IAA

The Irish Architectural Archive will close at 12 noon on Monday 23 December 2013. The Archive will reopen at 10 am on Thursday 2 January 2014 when normal reading room and exhibition opening times resume, i.e. 10 am to 5 pm, Tuesdays to Fridays.

The staff of the Archive wish all our readers, researchers, donors, friends, visitors and supporters a happy Christmas and a prosperous 2014!

Irish Architectural Archive Temporary Closure

On foot of cutbacks in core grants and the sustained downturn in its traditional private-sector support base – architecture and construction – the Irish Architectural Archive has been experiencing very serious financial difficulties since mid-2012. Having ended last year with a €30,000 deficit, and facing the prospect of a cumulative deficit of over €100,000 by the end of 2013, the board has been forced to close the Archive for July and August 2013 as a cost saving measure to avoid insolvency, making all staff temporarily redundant.

For these two months, it will not be possible to provide public access to the building or the collections, or to respond to phone, email or postal enquiries, or any other correspondence. The board deeply regrets the inconvenience this closure will cause, and the impact on its staff.

In order to minimise the duration of the closure, the Archive has intensified its fundraising efforts. Since February 2013 nearly 80 individuals and companies have paid or pledged over €44,000. This money will be used to confine the proposed closure to just two months instead of longer.

Michael Webb, Chairman of the Archive, noted; ‘The response from the Archive board, members, staff and friends has been very encouraging and we are extremely grateful to all those individuals and organisations who have contributed.’

The Chairman and other Archive representatives met Jimmy Deenihan TD, Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, and have entered into meaningful engagement with his Department on a restructuring programme to secure the future of the Archive.

The Archive Reading Room, Architecture Gallery and office will close at 5 pm on Friday 28 June 2013.

The Archive office will reopen on Monday 2 September.

The Archive Reading Room and Architecture Gallery will reopen at 10 am on Tuesday 3 September 2013.

For updates on this situation please refer to the Archive’s website

Berlin Palace Exhibition and Panel Disucssion

The Irish Architectural Archive, with the support of the German Embassy in Dublin, is hosting an exhibition on the proposal by the Humboldt Forum Foundation Berlin to reinstate the demolished Berlin Palace in the heart of Berlin as a site for world culture.The proposal is regard as one of Germany’s most significant cultural projects, and the Germany Embassy views the presentation of the exhibition in Dublin as an important contribution to Ireland’s EU Presidency. The exhibition will open on Thursday 17 January 2013 and run for 4 weeks. It be accompanied by a lecture series and a panel discussion featuring Prof Franco Stella, the competition-winning architect for the project,  on Friday 18 Janu

ary 2013 at 6.30 pm in the Edmund Burke Theatre, TCD.

Merrion Square Open Day 2012

Merrion Square Open Day will be held on Saturday 25 August 2012. Once again the Irish Architectural Archive will be participating in this Heritage Week event. No. 45 will be open for guided tours from 10 am to 5 pm (last tour 4.30 pm). There will also be an opportunity to see ‘Merrion Square 250: An exhibition of drawings from the National Archives of Ireland at the Irish Architectural Archive to mark the 250th anniversary of the creation of Merrion Square’. The full programme of events in and around the Square is available here.

Merrion Square 250

Coming soon to the Irish Architectural Archive Architecture Gallery:

Merrion Square 250. An exhibition of drawings from the National Archives of Ireland at the Irish Architectural Archive to mark the 250th anniversary of the creation of Merrion Square.

The exhibition will be accompanied by a series of lectures reflecting on Merrion Square and its architecture.

IAA Email Restored

The Irish Architectural Archive server is finally fully restored. E-mail is back and the catalogue is once again accessible in the Archive’s reading room.

Emails to the Archive sent between Monday 9 July and Tuesday 17 July will not have been received. Any urgent messages – and even the non-urgent ones – sent over that period should be sent again.