A chequered history
Historyeye takes a stroll down Exchequer Street to find that much of what this commercial street in Dublin 2 was traditionally known for continues today. One of the few Dublin streets to lie in three parishes and once part of the land of Tibb and Tom, it was also a favourite haunt for medieval sports people and Huguenot refugees.The subject of a humiliating partition in the 1830s, Exchequer Street was the scene of at least three deadly political assassinations and the planning of many more. A haven for brothels in the 18th century, then for a temperance hotel in the 19th and then a telephone exchange in the 20th, its affairs were often shaped by its close proximity to Dublin Castle.
One unusual feature of Exchequer Street, at least in its original form, was that it spanned three parishes - St. Andrew’s, St. Anne’s and St. Bridget’s. It has also had several names. More often called Chequer Lane until well into the late 18th century, before that it was denoted as part of The Land of Tibb and Tom. People practiced archery and nine pin bowling here because it was the nearest stretch of flat ground outside the city walls. There is and old Dublin proverb - He struck at Tibb and down fell Tom - a reference to the nine-pin bowling that was practised in the 17th century. Also recited in honour of a rickety row of houses on the lane, dating from the early seventeenth century, and standing as precariously as the nine pins.
The street's best claim to fame of course was that it played host to the old 12th century Exchequer, before that institution moved to the safer harbour of Christ Church Cathedral. Property leases for Exchequer Street typically spanned almost 100 years and a change in the character of the street occurred every century or so as a result. The last surge of redevelopment was in the late 19th century and all of the street's present-day,mainly red-brick exteriors date from this period with one exception. (The Old Stand Pub.)
Many of the lanes off Exchequer Street have disappeared. These include Trinity Place and King’s Head Court, both very densely populated areas in their day. Pennetts’s Lane, also on the north side of the street, is another defunct 18th century lane. The original Exchequer Street ran all the way from Grafton Street to George’s Street. It was bisected by the River Steine (then above ground at a point roughly half way down modern-day Wicklow Street).There was a crossing bridge at this point.
Following the revocation of Edict of Nantes, between 1662 and 1745,10,000 French Huguenot Protestants settled in Ireland. Many of these wound up in the street as the Huguenot Refugee Society took a house here in 1752, on the north side of street towards the George’s Lane end. Huguenot settlers who made the street their home included:
Monsieur Villebois who ran an inn called The Ram in the early 18th century.
John Perrier,vintner, 1730s.
Peter Elisha Prioleau,tinplate worker,1760s.
John Poudansan,shoemaker, 1770s.
James Cazal, vintner, 1770s.
The Suggar House on the north side of Chequer Lane was a sugar manufactury and a well-known feature of the street in the 18th century. It was associated with many Huguenot names including Seguin, Martin, Beauchant and Darquier.This address was later associated in the 1770s with John DuBedatt (Dubedat).Deeds from the 1770s show that Dubedat, who was probably the first from his family to set foot in Ireland, traded with another Huguenot family under the concerns of Dubedat and Crebessacs. He was the great-great grandfather of the scandal-dogged stockbroker, Francis Dubedat.
Richard Stanihurst, (1547-1618) historian, had a garden here called the Old Exchequer and wrote quite a lot about the local area. His best-known work was a book called De Rebus in Hibernia Gestis. (Great Deeds of Ireland.) Finding himself on the wrong side of the establishment after the Reformation, Stanihurst decamped to Europe and tried to launch a career as an author in Holland. Some of the Gaelic noblemen who had also fled to Europe ruined his plans. Disliking the tone of the book,where he appeared to make a joke out of Gaelic institutions, the Irish succeeded in getting the Inquisition to ban his book. Ironically Stanihurst's work remains in print today thanks to Cork University Press .
Sir Henry Docwra, (1564-1631),Elizabethan soldier and civil servant, typified the soldier of fortune who prospered in Ireland. Dubbed the "Founder of Derry", he played a prominent role in the conquest of Ireland along with the Earl of Essex. And like Stanihurst,his writings endure 400 years after they were penned. He is buried in near-by Christ Church Cathedral. The area where George’s Arcade is situated was once known as Docwras’s Park.
Exchequer Street was the location of the first home of Sir William Petty (1623-1687) Cromwell’s surveyor in Ireland and author of the Down Survey (1656-8), the first ever detailed land survey on a national scale not just in Ireland but in the world.
Some well known residents
More is known about the population of the street in the 1830s thanks to a census that was taken there in 1830 by the Church of Ireland curate of St. Bride’s Parish, the Rev. Joseph Aldrich Bermingham. (1800-1874). St Bride’s parish comprised a section of the west end of Exchequer Street.
More information on the 1832 census can be found by clicking the next button.
Exchequer Street 1836. Dublin Almanac:
No. 53: John Bassegio, one-time hair dresser (or more accurately wig dresser) to King George IV and the Lord Lieutenant. This Swiss hairdresser was so influential that he was able to purchase the office of Sergeant of the Battleaxe Guard (equivalent of the Beefeaters at Tower of London) at Dublin Castle.This position was done away with in 1831.
No. 57: John Blanc, archery ware house.
No. 58 : William and John Rigby. Gunbarrel factory and shooting gallery. Rigbys was the third oldest gun makers in the world. Founded in 1735. Gun maker by royal appointment in time of George IV. Particularly known for its duelling pistols. Still in business today and based in London.
No. 61 : St Andrew’s Parochial School. Long gone and forgotten.
No. 62: Artificial Flower Maker,Carroll and Kelly
No. 82: Jane Booth, compliment card maker,
No. 83: James Tinkler , smith and bell hanger
1837 was a significant year in the history of the street. That year property owners on the east end near Grafton Street petitioned the Wide Streets Commission to have their section renamed as Exchequer Street had now acquired a bad reputation and was attracting the wrong sort of tenant. The commission was sympathetic to their request and so Wicklow Street was born.
The pedimented gateway seen today was the entrance to Drake and McComas, distillers of wine and tea merchants. The original was designed circa 1878 by McCurdy and Mitchell, who did a lot of building work in Trinity College. This entrance is still pedimented today as the “Exchequer Chambers” re-built in 1901 by W.H. Byrne.
No. 25-27 Exchequer Street was the betting house of Cadogan, Donohue and Dunne.
A large site bounded by Exchequer Street, Drury Street and Fade Street was known as the Castle Market since 1704. While a new market opened in 1783 with many stalls, little was done to update the facilities until 1876 when a group of local business people headed by Joseph Todhunter Pim (1841-1925) succeeded in getting the City Fathers to buy property in the area.
As a result there was a competition in 1878 for a new building to house the market. The judge was the English architect Alfred Waterhouse, who was particularly associated with the Gothic revival style. A Bradford firm, Lockwood and Mawson, were the unpopular winners. Their design featured a central hall made of iron and glass, with balconies overlooking and a central spire. Subsequent contracts were awarded to London and Leeds contractors. Rebranded the South City Market, it was opened in 1881 by the Dublin Lord Mayor, with Pim's the anchor tenant taking the central hall as a furniture warehouse.
At 370 feet long, it was one of Dublin's largest Victorian buildings, and just 5 feet short of the span of the Custom House. Its many intricate features included angled turrets, gabled dormers, large moulded chimney stacks, and terracotta brick by Farmer & Brindley, best known for their work at the Natural Museum at London's Kensington.
Despite its splendour, the new market was a surprising flop. In an unexpected turn of events the buying public, now increasingly nationalist in sentiment, set about boycotting the place in their belief that the building,the labour and the materials had all come from outside and therefore at the expense of Irish craftsmen.