Merchant’s Quay on the south bank of the Liffey was sited at the centre of the medieval city adjacent to Wood Quay and the trading heart of the city. It has been synonymous with the Franciscan religious order since the 1600s, originally founded in Dublin around the year 1230 before its friars abandoned the city in the 1540s under the Dissolution of the Monasteries. A new friary was built on adjacent Cook Street in 1615, followed by a new church erected in 1749, and by the present church on Merchant’s Quay which was begun in 1834 and completed in its present form in 1938.
Like many Catholic religious houses, the friary and church was positioned in the middle of the urban block of Merchant’s Quay, Winetavern Street and Cook Street, bounded by houses and trading premises on all sides. By the 18th century, the block was densely developed with houses such as Number 9 providing the curtilage to the ecclesiastical complex within.
The mansion at Number 9 began life as a smaller house, possibly built by a merchant named George Sall. John Rocque’s map of 1756 depicts two houses positioned side by side, with the eastern house denoted as a commercial premises and the western property on the corner of the laneway as a residential house. Both houses were conjoined during the late Georgian period behind a united façade.
Since the mid-20th century, Number 9 was noted by architectural historians for the quality of its interior decorative stuccowork, especially on the piano nobile (first floor), with its delicate neoclassical ceiling and wall-mounted medallions depicting the Aldobrandini Wedding - an Ancient Roman painted scene now on display in the Vatican Museum. This is complemented by high status joinery including beaded doors and shutters and various neoclassical enrichments.
Opposite: Condition of the piano nobile in the late 1990s prior to refurbishment with heavily overpainted wall medallion and delicate neoclassical ceiling enrichments.
To the exterior, the handsome ground floor frontage is executed in robust granite rustication framing a series of arch-headed windows with spider web glazing. The position of the original entrance door to the former eastern house can still be made out to the extreme left of the façade – since converted to a window.
To the rear of the building, a pair of robust bows project to capture the best of the southerly light and it is from here that the plan and layout of the originally separate pair of houses is more clearly apparent.
By the late 20th century, Number 9 was in an advanced stage of dereliction and in danger of being lost. Through the intervention of Dublin Civic Trust and the facilitation of the Franciscan Order and Dublin City Council, the house was secured and transformed over a two-year period.
Opposite: The handsome restored ground floor exterior of Number 9 with its emphatic granite rustication and arch-headed windows.