A slightly unloved Dublin street
It was never a fashionable place: a short street slotted between the city's hay, corn and cattle markets to the east and the enormous Royal Barracks to the west. A street that might be used on the way to or from somewhere else: so overlooked that it never made it once into the canon of Joyce's Dublin. The shell of Edmundson's Electrical depot still dominates Hendrick Street today, as does the firm of Bourke's Funeral Directors on the corner. Together they somehow evoke the many everyday struggles and tragedies that visited Hendrick Street over the years.
Lying in the ecclesiastical parish of St Paul's, Hendrick Street sprang from what was once part of the major public ground of north Dublin,Oxmanstown Green.The street was named after its developer : local entrepreneur William Hendrick whose ancestors had a small brewing business at Islandbridge. According to Brendan Twomey, author of Smithfield and the parish of St. Paul,1698- 1750, young Hendrick bought up numerous parcels of land in the area in the 1720s and leased them to prospective builders. Like many Dublin developers, Hendrick went bankrupt when he defaulted on his loans and he was sent to the nearby Four Courts Marshalsea for a time. Development of the street was only piecemeal as a result, and it really only started to take shape as a real street in the 1740s, long after Hendrick's death on the continent while serving in the army.
The Sign of St. Patrick
One of the first leaseholders in the street was Samuel Tyndal, a timber merchant.The plots he owned on the north east, where Queen Street and Hendrick Street intersect, became known as Tyndal’s Row. Old deeds from the 1750s reveal that a house on the junction between the two streets (where Bourke's Funeral Directors stands today) was commonly known as the Sign of St. Patrick, and was occupied by a timber merchant called John Plunkett.
John Roque’s map of the area from 1755-6 shows that Hendrick Street was still shaped more like a green than a street as only the north side of it had been built up. The new terrace of houses was of the gabled three or four storey “Dutch Billy” model, like those seen in locations such as Sweeneys Lane and Hammond Lane.(Since demolished). There was a mix of two and three-bay houses in the terrace.
The street is lined up with what was once the Dublin Water Pipe Office to the west, near where a small harbour called the Gravel Walk Slip landed water pipes for the city. It was also a stone’s throw from the Royal Barracks with the soldier’s artillery ground lying to the immediate north west of the street. The Blue Coat Hospital School, which adds great architectural quality to the area, wasn't begun until 1773. This magnificent building serves as a backdrop for Blackhall Street instead.
Along with Tighe Street to the south (now part of Benburb Street )Hendrick Street was sometimes called the Gravel Walk. This title is remembered today in the name of the modern block of apartments on the north west side of the street. In fact the Gravel Walk marked a walk way from Queen Street to an old banqueting house that stood on Barrack Street (now also Benburb Street) .
Gravel Walk Methodists
A Methodist church stood at the west end of Hendrick Street from 1771, the second to be built in Dublin city. It evolved in the 1740s from the tradition of outdoor preaching at Oxmanstown Green by John Wesley and his followers. These meetings were stormy affairs and it wasn’t unusual for the preachers to be attacked by local crowds. Popularly known as Old Gravel Walk Chapel, it was said to be the homeliest place of Methodist worship - avoiding the social elitism of the Abbey Street and the religious stuffiness of the Whitefriar branches. The proximity of the chapel to the Royal Barracks ensured that many soldiers were converts to the religion too. These barracks always played a significant part in the life of Hendrick street. 18th and 19th century marriage registers from St Paul’s Church of Ireland on nearby North King Street show how many soldiers’ brides came from the street.
The methodist chapel was rebuilt in 1841 and this is the building which faces on to Blackhall Place today. During the building project, several workmen fell a great height when a scaffold gave way, causing the death of one worker and severe injuries to four others. A Wesleyan School catering for over 400 pupils was added to the complex by the 1830s. The chapel was sold in the 1960s and although there were fears for the buildings’s future at the time, its exterior has been well preserved, although it is frequently vacant.
With its proximity to the main city markets and the barracks, Hendrick Street was always destined to be part residential and part commercial, with businesses seeking to capitalise on these major centres. It had developed a strong tradition of timber merchandise in the 18th century and Charles Peatland had a slate and timber yard there. Joshua Peet of No. 15 Hendrick Street made barm, a popular by-product of beer used for cake and bread making.
A small orphanage for catholic girls was located briefly on Hendrick Street between 1804-1806. Run by the Poor Clare nuns, the house of 30 orphans moved to Harolds Cross in 1806 and so played no further part in the street.
In the early 19th century Goodwin’s Coach factory and Livery Stables had a thriving business at No. 30-31. The firm was owned by John (or James) Goodwin and his wife Catherine. In late August 1834, thirteen Goodwin children became orphans in the space of 18 hours when both parents were carried off by cholera. The newspapers reported on a fund that locals had set up to provide for the children. By 1835 the street was home to a soap store, a shoemaker, a cabinet maker, a milliner, a dressmaker, and several corn stores.
The last remnant of 18th century Hendrick Street today lies with the building occupied by Bourke’s Funeral Directors, located on the north east junction with Queen Street. It is now a two-storey over basement structure but was once a three or even four storey dwelling and may have been gabled. Bourke’s was founded in the 1880s by local coach operator, Thomas Bourke. With its main entrance on Queen Street, the property boasted 24 windows according to the 1911 census, in addition to a stable, coach house, shed and workshop. Bourke's is operated today by the Harmon family who are descendants of the original founders. In her childhood memoir of Queen Street, A Dublin Memoir, Eithne Aungier recalls how the building was also used as a location for the 1960 British thriller, The Siege of Sidney Street.
Many of the Dutch Billys of Hendrick Street were already tenements by the 1840s. In February 1847, a Leitrim couple called John and Ellen Mulhearn died in a back dwelling at No. 6 within 24 hours of each other . They had been in the parish only nine months. An inquest later that month concluded that both had died of destitution from prologued want.
The 1901 census of the street shows that a Prison Gate mission operated at No. 6 to provide women released from prison with temporary accommodation. Along with its 81 year-old caretaker, Mary Jane McClean, the Prison Gate held 14 female lodgers, although the census enumerator’s return mentioned 22 inhabitants. One lodger, Sarah Peggs, was a typical example. She was constantly passing through the local prison and workhouse system in the 1890s as the records of these institutions show. 4’ 1” tall and a charwoman, she had been deserted by her husband who somehow managed to marry another woman in Dublin without any difficulty. By the time of the 1911 census, the mission had gone and No. 6 was now home to 7 families.
In April 1914, 5 year-old Patrick Reddy from 9 Hendrick Street lost his life. His clothes caught fire from a match thrown by another child as they played on the street. The December before this 21 year old John Eccles died suddenly in the same house. There were allegations at the time by the deceased man's brother, Peter Eccles, that his wife had somehow caused his death. But the coroner found that heart disease was the actual culprit, despite his young age.
Many of the 18th century Dutch Billys of Hendrick Street survived until the 1950s. But they were in poor condition. No.s 9 to 11 were the first to be demolished in 1951. No.s 5,6,7,8 by 1953. In 1963, No.s 13 and 18-22 were taken down, prompted in part by the collapse of two houses at nearby Fenian Street which had resulted in the deaths of 2 children.The 1960s demolition left only one 18th century house on the street, the aforesaid Bourke's Funeral Home.
Skin & Hides
Hendrick Street was synonymous with the hide and skin business of the Judd family for many decades. The founder, Wicklow-born Michael Judd (1822-1907) started out at 4 Watling Street before moving to 18 Hendrick Street in the 1880s, taking over the premises of provision merchants, Kehoe and Reddy. He was joined in the business by brothers Ignatius and Ambrose Judd. All were sons of Bray-based glover and wool merchant, John Judd and his wife, Margaret Kelly. Conveniently location beside the cattle market,the Judd Brothers thrived and expanded into No.s 15,16 &17 Hendrick Street in the early 20th century, with two phoenix birds,carved out of wood, capping the tall pillars of the main gates. Michael Judd didn't live in Hendrick Street. His residence was at Strawberry Hill, Dalkey, where he served as local councillor. A major fire wiped out the Judd Brothers Factory in February 1962 with the destruction of all its stock of hides, wool and skin, although one of the carved phoenixes survived.
The site was replaced in time by a modern factory-type building. Unlike Judds Brothers, this factory was well set in from the road behind a tall railing, so breaking the line of the street. Well-known Motor Factors, Brown Brothers, in business since 1888, occupied the street for a time but left in 1972. They were followed by General Electric at 15-19 Hendrick Street in the late 1970s. Edmundson Electrical Distributors arrived by the early 2000s. It was a reminder of the interesting local origins of the firm as William and Joshua Edmundson, Furniture Wares and Ironmongers, had started at nearby No. 33-36 Capel Street in 1830. (At the so-called Birmingham & Sheffield Building).This site on Hendrick Street has been derelict for some time, despite plans over the years to re-develop it as apartments.
To Boldly Go............
Notable residents of the street included Willie “Toucher” Doyle (1880-1933) of No. 22, the best known toucher in a time of prominent Dublin cadgers. Although officially a clerk, Doyle was better known for his presence at race meets and society events. Edward VII was reputed to have been one of his famous victims.The law caught up with "Toucher Doyle" in 1923 when he was handed a prison sentence for picking the pocket of the aptly named Mrs Fortune at Nelson's Pillar. An angular, sharp-featured man, Willie Doyle's face was immortalised in a painting by Harry Kernoff. And there are playful theories doing the rounds that he may have been the inspiration for Star Trek's Doctor Spock. No. 22 was also home to Irish Press photographer, Joe Smartt, who captured the dramatic Custom House fire of 1920 from the railway bridge. Margaret Ellis, sister of one of the Invincibles, Joe Brady who was executed for his part in the 1882 Phoenix Park murders, lived at No. 11 for much of her married life.
Recently Hendrick Street has enjoyed a new lease of life as a favourite destination for Dublin's thriving ghost industry, although the most notoriously haunted houses were demolished over fifty years ago. In Autumn 2016 there are plans afoot for a seven-storey hotel on the very spot where they stood. If it goes ahead it will be a significant first for the street.