Aungier Street plays host to two of the undoubted highlights of this year’s Open House Dublin programme. On Saturday and Sunday (18 & 19 October) members of City Architects’ Conservation Section will be giving guided walking tours of the area. While, for those who can’t make those tours, 9/9a Aungier Street will be also open to the public both day. Previously overlooked, the Aungier Street area has seen a marked revival of interest in recent years. City Architects have been at the centre of this activity with a report published last year and a host of other activities undertaken elsewhere on the street.
Aungier Street was laid out in 1661 on the grounds of the former Whitefriar Monastery. It was the first planned suburb outside the medieval city walls and was an important precursor to future Georgian developments. These were the grandest houses in 17th century Dublin and several houses from this era still survive. However, the street was overtaken in prominence by subsequent Georgian developments such as the Gardiner and Fitzwilliam Estates.
The history of 9/9A Aungier Street, which is open on Saturday 18 October from 11 till 2 and on Sunday from 12 to 3, mirrors the changing fortunes of the street. It was originally built as a home for the ‘elite’ of Dublin Society, but served as a merchant’s house in the 18th and 19th century before slipping into tenements by the 20th century. Hidden behind an unassuming 1940s facade, its age and significant went largely unnoticed until a recent proposal to convert the building to apartments. It is considered to be the oldest domestic building in the city, celebrating its 350th birthday this year.
Building visits of 9/9A will be guided by Sunni Goodson of Mesh Architects and is open on a first come first served basis – however the tour is not suitable for children.
Revealing Dublin’s Missing Link – exploring a hidden (sub)urban legacy is the name of the walking tours which will take place on Saturday and Sunday afternoons. These tours will be guided by Nicki Matthews, Conservation Officer with Dublin City Council, with Marc Ritchie from the Department of Arts, Culture & the Gaeltacht, with building visits informed by architects working on current projects including 19 & 20 Aungier Street, The Swan Bar and the Whitefriar Street Church and Community Centre. The tour will begin at Dublin Castle and explore the area, taking in visits to several historic buildings on the way. This will include number 9/9A Aungier Street. The historical context of the area’s development will be explored, as will possibilities for its future regeneration.
The following quote is taken from an online review of the preview tour:
“Seeing the bones of the oldest intact house/dwelling place in the city is an extraordinary experience. The Open House tour of 9/9a Aungier Street started at the Chester Beatty Library to give us a visual overview of the masterplan. Aungier Street is apparently the oldest planned street in the city, ending at the now-vanished St George’s Church which faced Dame Street. We ‘processed’ out the back of the Castle, as one does, along Stephen Street, where in some waste ground, the medieval ditch of Dublin is still apparently visible. How cool is that? It reminds how every corner of Dublin has a history, sometimes several histories.
The Central Dairy shop on Stephen Street, which used to be a defunct newsagents, now hosts a lovely designer shop on the ground floor, and the upper floors are being restored. I think it’s amazing to be able to see an old house stripped back to the bare essentials. The tour of 9/9a was the highlight, the guides from Open House had their work cut out for them getting people to move on the next part of the tour, so fascinating was each room. Such a privilege to be shown around by people whose knowledge is driven by a passion for Dublin’s history”
Such is the interest in Aungier Street’s built heritage, unfortunately both Open House walking tours are now fully booked. However, a self guided tour has been prepared by City Architects and a leaflet is available to download online. This sets out a route of 27 important sites to be explored. It also shows how the area developed in the city and gives an introduction to the street’s house typologies.
More information on Aungier Street can also be downloaded in Aungier Street: Revitalising a Historic Neighbourhood. This report was launched by City Architects in 2013 and promotes revitalisation of the area through understanding its historic value as a place to live, work and visit.
Download the publication Aungier Street: Revitalising a Historic City Neighbourhood