Spectral Mansions

The making of a Dublin tenement, 1800–1914

Timothy Murtagh

Hardback €27.00
Catalogue Price: €30.00
ISBN: 978-1-84682-867-6
May 2023. 280pp; large format; colour ills

“Henrietta Street is often used as a metaphor for the decline of Dublin between the Georgian and Victorian periods. From one of the wealthiest streets in the city to one of the poorest … But how did this change come about? This is among the questions addressed in this book, taking Henrietta Street as a case study … Always keeping Henrietta Street in focus, the book outlines the history of Dublin in the eighteenth century and in particular the contrast between the wealth of the colonial elite in their fine houses and the masses of the poor who were forced to live their lives crammed into the nooks and crannies behind the big houses and in alleys, lanes and courts … A number of the houses in the street remained tenements up to the 1960s as some of the wonderful photographs of hordes of children playing on the pavements illustrate … the book is lavishly illustrated and … is a fine record of an iconic street in the story of our city.” Seamus O’Maitiu, Dublin Historical Record, 2023, Vol. 76

"What an apt title 'Spectral Mansions' for a work dealing with the history of Dublin's tenements and especially, as the timeframe covers a period from the emergence of a self-confident, outward looking, and elegant capital of the Kingdom of Ireland in the late eighteenth century to a declining provincial city in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland with some of the worst slums in Europe in the early twentieth century. [...] Dr Murtagh charts the growth of the city in late eighteenth century with emphasis on the main property developers, the new public buildings, and the vision for the city with the Wide Streets Commission. [...] His description of the overcrowding and appalling sanitary conditions throughout the city in buildings in several stages of dereliction is the backdrop for the Dublin housing crises of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. [...] His focussing on Henrietta Street as the thread running through the various periods is excellent and, in fact, adds a very accessible social narrative that will be of considerable interest to those with Dublin tenement ancestors.[...] Wonderful book- highly recommended." Ireland's Genealogical Gazette, June 2023.

“This richly illustrated book tells the story of Georgian Dublin through the prism of the city’s first major residential development, Henrietta Street, built in the 1720s by Luke Gardiner, whose own home stood at the highest point, on the site of what is now King’s Inns ... more than just a history of the street. It takes in the wider social and historical context and upheavals of 300 years … this is a very worthwhile, erudite contribution to the history of Georgian Dublin.” Liam Collins, the Sunday Independent, Sunday 9th July 2023