a chequered history
Courtesy of the Irish Architectural Archive. Taken ~1879 by South City Markets. The shanty is J. Hendrick, provisions. No. 38, Mansfield's (now Central Hotel Chambers) is a grocers.Dame Court is between Hendrick’s and Mansfield’s.
Photograph of Exchequer Street taken at the same spot as the 1879 photograph
Drawing of original plan for South City Market by Lockwood and Mawson, Architects. Central towers and turrets mark the main differences between the original design and the model built after the 1892 fire. Photograph courtesy of the Irish Architectural Archive
The market limped on until it was mysteriously destroyed by fire on August 27,1892. While the building itself was well insured (£72,000), many stall holders lost their livelihoods and their living quarters, which were situated overhead. Irish architect W.H. Byrne undertook the extensive renovations. He removed the central spire and converted the main hall into an arcade. He also replaced a lot of the timber work with iron. The market rose again phoenix-like on September 13th,1894, and was now firmly in the good books of the shopping public once more.
Known today simply as George's Arcade, its literary connections come in the disreputable shapes of Corley and Lenehan, the "Two Gallants" of Joyce's Dubliners. In the story, Corley worked at nearby Pim’s Department Store while Lenehan killed time at the market as he waited for Corley to complete his mission in the story.
The Deadliest Hour
History reveals that the deadliest time to be on the street was between 9am and 10am in the morning. At least three assassinations occurred on Exchequer Street during the War of Independence (1919-1921) and two occurred at this unlikely hour.These operations were especially risky as they were carried out in the shadow of Dublin Castle.
The shooting of the mysterious Bryan Fergus Molloy, a suspected spy who had been trying to make contact with the rebels, took place on the 24th of March,1920. The operation didn't go smoothly. Passersby tried to detain the assassins and a cyclist blocked one gunman's getaway outside St. Andrew’s Church. Historyeye believes the identity of the young spy may be that of Frederick Vernon Maximilian McNulty, a Manchester-born son of Irish parents with a chequered career in the British Army. Having been discharged from the Army Service Corps in 1914 for being underage, McNulty joined the Royal Flying Corps in 1917 before apparently deserting the following year to re-join the ASC under the assumed name, B.F. Molloy. A clerk and a commercial traveller by profession, Frederick McNulty's Air Force Record appears to confirm his real identity
William Doran, a night porter at the Wicklow Hotel (now the AIB Bank) was shot dead on the street shortly after ending his shift on the 28th of January 1921. He had been passing on information to British Intelligence about the comings and goings at the hotel, which was a favourite meeting spot for Michael Collins and Liam Tobin.
No doubt the giant-sized British Intelligence officer, Captain Cecil Folder Harcourt Lees, thought he was safe when he checked into the nondescript "dry" hotel on Exchequer street in March 1921. (St. Andrew’s Temperance Hotel is now a row of shops on the street's south side.)
The experienced Harcourt Lees, nicknamed "The Frenchman", had come to Dublin to carry out reconnaissance with a view to wiping out the Irish rebel leaders. But a chance sighting of him at La Scala Picture House off O'Connell Street led an IRA hit squad from GHQ Intelligence to his door. Following the coded message to "oggs him" by the 'Big Fella', he was shot dead on Exchequer Street shortly after 9.30am, the 29th of March, 1921.
Then and Now
Today the street is probably best known for its shoe shops and some music shops. But in the mid 19th century, the general provision dealer dominated the street, followed by clock and watch makers. Then as now, hair dressers were numerous on the street though they tended to cater to wig making. In general 19th century Exchequer Street had-
9 provision dealers
5 clock and watch makers
4 wig and hair dressers
3 eating houses
On 1-9 Exchequer Street the popular Central Hotel stands. Before being a hotel a dairy stood here, then a grocery shop and then an eating house.The hotel was originally two storeys high and was built by the South City Market Company in 1887. W.H. Byrne, the architect who renovated the Markets after the 1892 fire, added two storeys and a mansard roof in 1891.
Some members of British Intelligence based themselves here during the War of Independence. There had been a plan to organise a hit on the hotel during this time, but as the hotel staff refused to divulge the rooms of the officers to the would-be assassins and the hotel stood so close to Dublin Castle, the plan was abandoned.
The Old Stand Pub is at No. 37 and has been owned by the Doran family since the 1950s. Murals are by Cecil Ffrench Salkeld (1904-69), Beatrice Behan’s father. It is the only building on the street to retain its Georgian facade. In the late 19th century the bar was owned by Tipperary-born merchant, Thomas J. Ryan and was called The Monico. It isn’t clear why the Ryans chose this name.
Thomas Ryan’s wife had a French grandfather : the hatter, Prosper Loré who came to Dublin to set up business in the 1840s. Before the Doran family took over, it was owned by John Condon of Kilmacud,a motorcycle enthusiast who made it the headquarters to the Dublin & District Motorcycle Club. The Monico was sold after his death in 1951 and was renamed The Old Stand.
Some now defunct trades such as as tripe dressing were prominent on this street during the 19th century due to the nearby location of the Castle and South City meat markets. As the ultimate cheap cut, tripe had to be meticulously cleaned and prepared to make it fit for human consumption. There are echoes today of this once-popular staple on Irish dinner plates in the large food emporium of Fallon and Byrne, where French-style tripe sausages (andouillettes) can be bought. But the voices of the Central Telephone Exchange which once swirled around the high-ceilings of this same building are silent forever.
© Denise Dowdall February 2018