St Anne’s is perched on a narrow, sloping site on “The Hill” in Dublin’s Monkstown. Along with its conjoined twin, Woodville, its unusual collection of architectural features make it a curiosity. Depending on what direction it is viewed from, it could be three different houses. From the east an ornate but unremarkable suburban building. From the north a narrow angular structure dominated by a tower. From the west an expanse of red-brick wall that can look either bleak or beautiful depending on the time of year. The architect and first owner of this eye-catching house was William Caldbeck, a popular 19th century Dubliner best known for his work on banks and department stores. He was also responsible for much of the development of “The Hill” itself from the 1850s.
William Caldbeck was baptised to Francis Cope Caldbeck and Ann Curran on the 1st of September 1822, at St Mary’s Pro- Cathedral, Dublin.(1.)According to The Peerage his father was the son of William Caldbeck and Dora Graham - the owners of Moyle Park Gunpowder Mills at Clondalkin. His uncle was thus William Eaton Caldbeck, the prosperous owner of Caldbeck Castle and Larch Hill, both located in the Dublin foothills. Uncle William was to play a major role in Caldbeck's career, as patron and early client. On his mother’s side, William Caldbeck was a grand-nephew of politician and barrister to many of the 1798 rebels, John Philpot Curran (1750-1817). The Caldbeck surname is thought to be derived from a place in Cumbria translated from the Old English as “Cold Stream”, and although it is uncommon in Ireland, the name is concentrated in Laois.
Having trained with William Deane Butler, (1793-1857), a prolific gaol and court house architect, Caldbeck launched his own practice in 1844. "This is the day I command business on my own account”, is the proud entry in his surviving account book for Feb 21st, 1844.(2.) This document, which is held at the Irish Architectural Archives, gives great insight into how Caldbeck’s practice evolved from small-scale jobs, where “Uncle William” featured as a loyal and perhaps essential client until his death in 1855, to larger commissions from department stores and banks. Caldbeck's office, which was based at 24 Harcourt Street, earned an income of £150 in 1846, and he included a gold watch valued at £50 in his earnings for that year. Caldbeck was doing work at the time for Swiss watchmaker John Scriber of 20 Westmoreland Street, official watchmaker to the Queen and the Lord Lieutenant. It is likely that Scriber (or Schreiber) was the source of this quaint payment. Some years later, Caldbeck drew up plans for a country house for John Scriber at Knockmaroon Hill, Chapelizod. The resulting villa, Castlemount, an attractive castellated structure on three acres, hasn’t been attributed to Caldbeck but perhaps it should be. The house was first listed in Thom’s Directory in 1857.
Nothing went to waste in the running of the business. Caldbeck rented out the stables at the back of 24 Harcourt Street to various Dublin cabmen. And his account book shows that he was also in receipt of rent money for properties he owned at South Cumberland Street, purchased from "Uncle William". After some lean years, his earnings topped £1,000 for the first time in 1859.
Other commissions included:
Tinode house, Blessington, Co. Wicklow.
Plans for houses on Leinster Road, Rathmines in 1847.
The original premises of Brown Thomas Department Store in Grafton Street.
Mansfields Shop also of Grafton Street.
McSweeney and Delaney, Drapers, Sackville Street (later Clery’s, destroyed in 1916).
Todd Burns shops in 1850. Here was a double opportunity as Caldbeck also worked on Todd's residence in Rathgar.
Bloomsbury, Kells, Co. Meath, 1853-54.
Plans for a house for Dr. Dwyer of the Cow-Pock Institution in 1858.
Works on Emo Court, Co. Laois, circa 1860.
William Caldbeck's signature is seen on many houses in Rathgar and Rathmines. One particular residence beside the church on Rathgar Road displays nearly identical features to those of the architect's own Monkstown house.