18 Ormond Quay Upper Wins European Heritage Award / Europa Nostra Award 2021

Dublin Civic Trust is delighted to receive Europe's most prestigious award for built heritage conservation - the European Heritage Award / Europa Nostra Award 2021 - for the restoration of 18 Ormond Quay Upper, an 1840s merchant buiding in the historic centre of Dublin.

18 Ormond Quay restored by the Trust over a three-year period since 2017 as a demonstration project under its ‘revolving fund’ mechanism, showing how historic buildings in the centre of Dublin can be sensitively restored with a residential component. It is the eighth building the Trust has restored since its foundation in 1992 and the first award Ireland has won in Europa Nostra’s conservation category since the Office of Public Works was awarded in 2005 for its restoration of the Victorian Great Palm House complex in the National Botanic Gardens.

The project was majority funded by Dublin Civic Trust’s revolving capital fund with additional support from Dublin City Council. Specific works grant assistance was secured from The Heritage Council and the Built Heritage Investment Scheme of the Department of Housing, Heritage and Local Government administered by Dublin City Council, as well as private donations from the Apollo Foundation, Irish Georgian Society and the Primrose Trust.

18 Ormond Quay Upper - Before + After

18 Ormond Quay Upper - Before + After

The Project

The four-storey over basement building at 18 Ormond Quay was constructed in 1843 as a grocer’s shop with solicitors’ chambers and residence above. The building replaced at least two previous houses on the same site since construction first began on Ormond Quay in the 1680s. It features a rare arcaded granite shopfront that is thought to predate the 1840s reconstruction and may date to the 1780s when such shopfronts were popularised by the Wide Streets Commission, Georgian Dublin’s planning body.

Above the traditional ground floor shop is a three-bedroomed, three-storey residence that was completely refurbished using traditional skills and authentically decorated in the style of the mid-19th century with Dublin-made wallpapers by David Skinner and decorative finishes. An older house dating to the 1760s is attached to the rear on Arran Street East and will be the future second phase of the restoration. Its interiors retain high quality rococo-style plasterwork and joinery dating to the mid-18th century. Both buildings were converted into the Douglas Hotel in 1912 and were latterly known to a generation of Dubliner’s as Watt’s Bros. hunting and fishing purveyors who closed in the year 2000.

Commenting on the award, Geraldine Walsh, CEO of Dublin Trust, said:

“We’re delighted to receive the recognition of Europa Nostra for the Trust’s many years of work in highlighting the beauty and essential resource value of Dublin’s historic buildings. Often it takes the outsider to point out what is of intrinsic good on our own doorstep. This is a ringing endorsement that Dublin’s old buildings have significant cultural, economic and environmental value and we must take action to carefully invest in and reuse them.”

Graham Hickey, Conservation Director in the Trust said:

“The aim of the 18 Ormond Quay project was to highlight how these modest street buildings, though not a grand statement individually, collectively shape the essential identity of Dublin. All of their elements, from brickwork to windows to plaster details, are specific to our city and can be cost-effectively conserved. We’ve proven how manners can be put back on the streetscape and we hope other building owners and investors will take note and step up to reanimate their own premises – especially in the post-Covid context.”   

The Europa Nostra Jury particularly appreciated that:

The project was undertaken to specifically be a model for others, showing that the heritage of buildings common to Dublin has value and contributes to a more sustainable development of the city. The fundraising model is similarly replicable and was developed with the goal of it being repeated elsewhere.

Meticulous research was carried out with significant efforts made to ensure a conservation-restoration that was consistent with the original values of the building and to conserve as much of the remaining details as possible. New features, such as the wallpaper, were carefully considered in terms of their authenticity. This humble, minimal conservation-restoration is nevertheless visible.

First floor parlour with 1841 design wallpaper made by David Skinner

First floor parlour with 1841 design wallpaper made by David Skinner

Conservation Works

Restoration was overseen by Kelly & Cogan conservation architects and Nolans Group historic building contractors.

Works involved significant structural stabilisation to the side gable wall which featured a dangerous lean into the side street. This was secured using a discreet system of metal ties and brick stitching to secure the wall back to the main structure.

130 square metres of cement-based 1970s pebbledash were removed from the brickwork of the upper facades using hand-held pneumatic tools. Traditional Irish ‘wigging’, a form of lime pointing traditionally used in Dublin to disguise rough brickwork, was reinstated based on a sole surviving sample discovered behind a street sign. The chimneys, truncated in the 1980s, were also rebuilt to their original height.

Removing pebbledash and reinstating wigged pointing


The arcaded granite shopfront - one of the most impressive of its type surviving in Dublin - was stripped of decades of paint layers using steam cleaning and repointed in matching lime mortar. Exhaustive research was undertaken to reconstruct the missing shop windows and doors using documentary sources including Henry Shaw’s Dublin Pictorial Directory, 1850. This confirmed that the shop entrance was originally located in the central arch and iron grilles were used to vent the basement. The multi-paned window glazing pattern is based on the type of glass that was affordable in the early 1840s, set in European oak frames manufactured by window specialists Lambstongue.

Authentic lamps that precisely replicate the form of historic oil lamps found in James Malton’s engravings of Dublin were commissioned from blacksmith Paul Devlin, positioned where there was evidence of wrought-iron rods on the shopfront.

The shopfront structure is composed of narrow piers of granite which required structural augmentation to halt the outward movement of the building towards Arran Street East. This involved the insertion of L-shaped steel sections and to the internal face of the shopfront to brace the arcaded structure. The gable wall facing Arran Street also required tying back to the building using stainless steel structural ties and 'Helifix' stitching between the brick courses. Nolans Group also devised a discreet integration strategy whereby external pattress plates could be omitted in favour of brick coverings concealing the fixings.

Shaw's Pictorial Directory was used to reinstate the 1840s shopfront


The upstairs rooms are decorated in a combination of screen- and digitally-printed wallpapers by Irish wallpaper maker David Skinner. The dramatic acanthus leaf pattern in the first-floor parlour is based on an original 1841 design by James Boswell, paper-stainer of Bachelor’s Walk, which would have been available at the time of the building's completion in 1843 and is typical of the William IV/early Victorian style.

The second-floor front bedroom features a paper made by a paper-stainer by the name of Perrin manufactured on nearby Capel Street in 1854. The top floor bedrooms feature original patterns dating to the 1830s, with the front room’s colours altered to reflect the tones of the river Liffey outside the windows. See pictures at the end of this page.

Original floorboards on the first floor were relaid in their original position following the laying of structural boarding to consolidate the cellular integrity of the building - part of the wider engineering strategy. Boards were dark-stained in the fashion typical of the 1840s, while new boards were laid on the ground floor and top floor where decay and 20th-century replacements had destroyed most of the original fabric.

Carpet squares were common in the 1830s-1840s and this is the approach we have taken with certain rooms.

The rooms are simply furnished with mahogany and rosewood furniture, cut glass and effects that were fashionable in the second quarter of the 19th century.

First floor parlour - Before + After

Sash windows, casings and interior joinery were restored by specialists Lambstongue, conserving original material and splicing in new timber elements. The firm’s craftspeople rebuilt the lower portions of the stairs that had been removed a century earlier, replicating the original balusters and curved mahogany handrail.

Irish Fine Art Plasterwork conserved the original wall and ceiling plaster and reinstated missing cornices based on surviving fragments.

David O’Reilly of Antique Fireplace Restoration repaired and reinstated missing marble and cast-iron chimneypieces typical of 1840s Dublin houses. These include corbelled models in the grander rooms and bullseye examples in the bedrooms.

Peter Byrne undertook wallpapering, painting and decorative finishes including traditional 'scumble' graining to the architectural joinery.

Second floor front bedroom during and after restoration


Dublin Civic Trust is honoured to receive the European Heritage Award / Europa Nostra Award 2021 on behalf of everyone who loves Dublin and its historic buildings. It is a ringing endorsement of the intrinsic value and utility of the city's built fabric and the immense contribution this makes to the character and identity of our capital.

18 Ormond Quay Upper represents conservation in action, reviving traditional skills, regenerating streetscape and setting a conservation-led benchmark for others to continue. We hope it will inspire Dubliners and citizens all over Ireland to embrace our rich urban heritage by preserving and reoccupying neglected older buildings that form the backbone of our villages, towns and cities.

We are currently working on plans to open 18 Ormond Quay Upper for public viewing as public health restrictions allow.

Support 68 Arran Street East Conservation

We are now turning our attention to the conservation of the final portion of 18 Ormond Quay - the rear building known as 68 Arran Street East, for use as the offices of Dublin Civic Trust. This curious structure dates to c.1756 and was mostly likely built as an extension to the 1740s house that previously occupied the site of 18 Ormond Quay Upper. 

This building rises to four internal storeys over a vaulted brick basement, with a single room on each floor. These spaces contain fascinating decorative fragments from the mid-18th century including a high-status rococo cornice and lugged architectural joinery. We have already conserved and reinstated the original c.1750s-profiled timber sash windows, restored the facade to its hybrid 1750s/1840s appearance by removing the pebbledash from the Georgian brickwork, and conserved the 1840s Roman cement render at ground floor level - works assisted by the Heritage Counmcil Community Grants, the Built Heritage Investment Scheme and the Historic Structures Fund. 

As a non-state funded organisation, we need your support to continue the works. Any donation, large or small, will help us fulfill this ambition and contribute towards the restoration of a small but important sliver of dublin's architectural inheritance.

Your endorsement of our work is greatly valued. Find out more through the link below. 


Proposed restoration of 67 Arran Street East

Proposed restoration of 67 Arran Street East