South Frederick Street was laid out in the 1730s as a fashionable residential street intended to be called Library Street, taking the name of Thomas Burgh’s newly constructed Library Building in Trinity College at its northern end. The land on which the street stands was sold by Richard Molesworth in four large lots in March 1733 to developer William Wilde. Wilde built a number of corner houses to set the standard of the development and over time sold on plots of various widths to developers and builders.
The western side of the street on which Numbers 10 and 11 stand was slow to be developed, with large tracts remaining unbuilt as late as the early 1750s. The site of the two houses, with a 47' 6'' frontage to South Frederick Street, was sold by Wilde to David Fleming, merchant, in July 1752, who possibly built the two houses. It is likely that Number 10 was the first to be developed, with Number 11 subsequently erected to a more imposing standard.
The earliest houses on the street were originally fronted with curvilinear gables, commonly known as 'Dutch Billies', such as the surviving terrace of houses on the east side that still feature stark triangular gables and closet returns to the rear. Number 10 appears to have slightly bucked this trend due to its late development date and might be classified as a ‘transitional’ style house - i.e. a house that includes both older and newer features in the evolution of 18th-century house design. This includes the flat parapet fronting the street – a new addition to modest Dublin houses of the 1750s - while in every other respect Number 10 conforms to the classic Dutch Billy typology. Features of this older, established way of building includes the cruciform-shaped roof, a projecting closet return to the rear and a saw-tooth outline of gables to the rear wall and return.
The main indicator that Number 10 may have been one of the first non-gabled merchant houses built on a fashionable street in Dublin was the survival of the old-fashioned exposed box windows to the top floor until the late 20th century. These would almost certainly have been replaced in the late 18th or early 19th centuries if the present parapet had been rebuilt from an earlier gable. Evidence of early modification in other parts of the house include the handsome Wyatt window – named after the architect James Wyatt who popularised the design – at ground floor level. This replaced a former pair of windows at ground floor level, as was commonly carried out in Dublin during the era when window tax was levied on the number of windows in a building. The tax operated in Ireland from 1799 until 1822.
Opposite: The distinctive sawtooth outline of the rear gable to Number 10 with its matching closet return and exposed sash box window frames. This was the typical arrangement of merchant house rear elevations in Dublin until the mid-18th century.
Internally, Number 10 hosts a massive central chimneystack that is shared between the front and back rooms on every floor, resulting in delightful corner fireplaces so typical of early 18th-century Dublin houses. The layout consists of a standard two-room plan with a sequence of attractive panelled rooms with original cornices in timber and plaster. A closet return to the back elevation, comprising of a single room on each floor, runs the full height of the house.
An impressively robust closed-string staircase is situated at the rear of the building with double newel posts terminating the balustrades, a low wide handrail and gentle gradient steps. The hallway and staircase is also half panelled with raised and fielded panelling up to dado level. At first floor level, some full height panelling had survived and this formed the basis for reinstatement during the restoration project.