2004:0560 - 63 MERRION SQUARE, MEWS AND COACH YARD, DUBLIN, Dublin

NMI Burial Excavation Records

County: Dublin Site name: 63 MERRION SQUARE, MEWS AND COACH YARD, DUBLIN

Sites and Monuments Record No.: N/A Licence number: 04E1489

Author: Edmond O'Donovan

Site type: Post-medieval garden

ITM: E 716565m, N 733402m

Latitude, Longitude (decimal degrees): 53.338004, -6.249693

An assessment was carried out on the coach house at the rear of No. 63 Merrion Square that is being renovated by the Irish Landmark Trust. The design team involved in the conservation works to the building sought to investigate the yard to the rear of the mews to establish the use history of the space for conservation purposes.

In January 1787 Richard Viscount Fitzwilliam of Merrion demised to Joseph Sandwith, merchant, 'All that Lott or Piece of ground situate on the South West side of a new intended square to be laid out and to be called Merrion Square in the suburbs of the city of Dublin and in the manor of Baggot's Rath alias Baggottrath'. This deed stipulates the dimensions of the site plot of No. 63 as 'containing in front to said square 30ft to be measured from the South West side of a street 60ft wide bounding said square and containing 30ft in breadth in the rere and 290ft in depth from front to rere over and above the breadth of the Area which is to be 8ft wide in the front of the house that shall be built on the said ground and over and above the flagged passage which be 10ft wide from said mearing and bounding on the North West to Hall Lamb's holding on the South West to an intended Stable lane 24ft wide on the South East to the said Joseph Sandwith's holding and on the North East to Merrion Square aforesaid'. After four of the five years allowed for the building of the house had passed without a start on the building being made, Sandwith, in May of 1791, subleased the plot for 144 years from 29 September 1791 to William Shannon at an annual rent of £24. Shannon agreed to build, within the first six months, a house of the dimensions detailed above. Construction was again put off and Shannon mortgaged the plot and 'house now building' for £800 to William Cooley. On 18 November 1793 the house was finally completed, being one of the last to be constructed around the square.

In the first entry of Griffith's Valuation, dating to 1853, the property is described as 'four-storey house, office, yard and small garden'. 'Office' refers to the mews buildings at the rear of the property. It should be noted that at this time the address of the property was No. 25 Merrion Square; it subsequently acquired its present numbering system in 1882.

In 1917 the property was sold to the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland for £500. At this time the property was subdivided – the coach house and stable at the rear was listed as a separate property. The interior of the house was subdivided and the top floor turned into a flat that was occupied by various tenants over the years.

Three test-trenches were excavated in the yard to the rear of the coach house. A deposit of soil was identified at the bottom of the trenches that equated to the period of use at the site prior to the construction of Merrion Square. The sticky clay represents the open fields depicted on Rocque's map of 1773, where the nature of the deposit indicates the poor marshy ground conditions prevalent prior to the construction of the house and stables in the 18th century.

The earliest walls surrounding the yard are the two stone property plot boundary walls orientated north-south down the property. The building of the stables, coach house and the wall dividing the stable yard from the garden, as well as the raised boundary, appear to have been conducted as a single episode of construction. A deposit of orange clay was identified; this suggests that a clay surface was constructed across the yard when it first came into use. An occupation layer of domestic rubbish was located above this in Trench 1. This appeared to be the discarded rubbish from a combination of the coach house and the Big House.

Two distinct cobbled surfaces were exposed in Trenches 1 and 3. Each of the surfaces was constructed from rounded water-rolled stones. While the full extent of the surfaces was not determined, however, it is clear that the yard remained largely open and cobbled in the 19th century. The yard surface was repaired in the 20th century with the laying of a new mortar surface either immediately above the cobbling (Trench 3) or above the occupation deposits that accumulated above the cobbling (Trench 1). The cobbling identified in the trenches is likely to be original to the stable yard. The cobbling identified in Trench 3 was constructed in a superior manner to the cobbling present in Trench 1 and was bedded in mortar.

Lean-too sheds are illustrated on the maps of the site from as early as 1837 in the rear yard. The function of these sheds is not clear. The earliest shed was located along the western yard wall. This was replaced by a later smaller structure in the same location. The later structure is illustrated on the 1889 edition of the OS map. An even smaller structure is present on the 1908 edition. No standing structure is located along the western side of the yard, but scars are present in the walls indicting the height of the previously demolished structures. The upper 0.5m of deposits in Trench 2 appeared to be the demolished remains of a glasshouse, although the deposits derived from a late 19th- or 20th-century structure.

The garden, which lies to the north of the yard, incorporates a centrally positioned oblong flower/vegetable bed with a perimeter of small trees/shrubs arranged at regular intervals around it. The design of the interior of the oblong consists of four circular features and a single diamond-shaped feature arranged centrally in a linear fashion.

The most interesting and unexpected find on the site was a bronze tag commemorating Lieutenant Robert Eustace Maude's involvement in the siege of the Redan in 1855. The tag was inscribed with the following text: 'Coat worn by Lieut Robert Eustace Maude 41st Regiment when he was wounded at the storming of the Redan Sept 8th 1855'. The battle for Sevastopol was one of the final engagements in the Crimean War, where the British and French armies assaulted the outer defences of the city. The British objective, which failed, was the taking of the Great Redan. Clearly Robert Eustace Maude considered the coat to be a suitable personal commemoration to his participation in the battle. He held the rank of ensign, 41st Welsh Regiment, on 22 September 1854; he was promoted to lieutenant on 11 January 1855 and to captain within the 41st on 13 December 1859. He is recorded as leading No. 4 Company of the regiment in the storming of the apex of the Great Redan on 8 September 1855. Information obtained from the Royal Welsh Regiment shows him as having sustained a light wound to the leg during the assault. For his service during the war he received the British war medal with one clasp, and also the Turkish Crimean War medal. No familial relationship is obvious between Robert Eustace Maude and the occupants of No. 63 Merrion Square and the question of how the tag (presumably attached to the coat) came to be located on the cobbles in the stable yard remains a mystery, both in terms of being discovered in the yard and of being discarded as rubbish.

Margaret Gowen and Co. Ltd, 27 Merrion Square, Dublin 2.