Brooks & Co on Baggot Street: winding down in curiosity shop where time stands still

Bits and pieces of Dublin history can be found at the shop on Baggot Street. It’s now available for letting

Brooks a well known antiques and curiosities shop on Dublin’s Baggot Street is winding down after forty years of business. Video: Cyril Byrne

 

If ever there was a place where time has stood still, it’s the Brooks & Co shop at 136 Lower Baggot Street, Dublin 2.

The timber structure, dating from the early 1800s, is in a modest Dutch Billy style, with a handsome shopfront adorned with gold-leaf signage.

Inside, the dark wooden pharmacy fittings date from the mid-1800s and the visitor is immediately transported to the Victorian era.

This is an authentic period shop, inside and out, a place where IT has yet to register its presence.

Next to the ground floor fireplace, where turf is slowing burning, the shop’s proprietor sits chatting with clients.

Pat Ryan, now in his 80s, has run an antique and curiosity shop here since the 1970s.

All around is a potpourri of oddities sourced at auctions and fairs up and down the country.

There are gramophones, porcelain, taxidermy, silver, prints, mirrors, copper, brass, walking sticks, compasses, bird cages, old advertising and much more.

A few days previously, Ryan opened a low drawer and a glass eye rolled out. “We put it in the shop window,” says Ryan’s daughter Audrey, “and it sold pretty quickly.”

If you’re looking for something different, you’re bound to find it at Brooks & Co – or, at the very least, get some interesting ideas.

The shop has a loyal and eclectic clientele. Audrey recalls visits from Neil Jordan (who shot a scene from The Butcher Boy in the shop), Gabriel Byrne, Cyril Cusack and Jeffrey Archer.

The latter added to his extensive collection of Winston Churchill figurines after spying one in the window while on business in Dublin.

“My fondest memory,” says Audrey, “is of my father and David Norris going through a cache of Bengali records. Nobody knew what speed to play them on the gramophone, so Norris grabbed a customer and began waltzing around until he felt the music was being played at the correct speed.”

Despite his more than 30 years in the shop, Pat Ryan has only made one significant addition to the interior: installing a staircase sourced from the former Paradiso restaurant on Westmoreland Street to give access to the first floor.

This was added before the building, inside and out, was listed in the 1990s.

What’s now Brooks & Co was the location of Fowler’s coachmakers in the 1700s and early 1800s.

Today’s shopfront has been a feature of the streetscape since the mid-1800s, when a “chemists, druggists, varnish; oil, colour, and glass merchants” was run from the premises.

The pharmacy subsequently traded under the name of Brooks & Co before being assumed in the late 1800s by Mr RJ Downes, the notable president of the Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland, who operated as “The Fitzwilliam Pharmacy”.

He was acclaimed by the Dublin Journal of Medical Science (1890) and the British Medical Journal for his novel preparation of a new iodine solution. In 1900, following his death, the pharmacy was taken over by JH Bowden MPSI.

Two prescription books/ledgers, one dating from 1901-1902 and one from 1912, have been preserved. Customers’ names and addresses are listed with their prescriptions and medication costs.

In the mid-1900s, a Ms Healy took over the pharmacy before the premises passed to Pat Ryan in the 1970s.

New chapter

Lisney’s Emma Coffey is quoting a rent of €75,000 per annum for No 136, which has 187sq m (2,012sq ft), including 102sq m (1,093sq ft) of retail space on the ground and first floors.

There are another 50sq m (539sq ft) in the basement.

Brooks & Co could very well get a new lease of life as a coffee shop, restaurant, or bakery, due to its location in the heart of the southside Georgian core, with excellent passing footfall not far from the Shelbourne and Merrion hotels.

“However, it should be noted that you will require planning permission for change of use if preparing food on the premises,” says Coffey, who also believes that health and beauty service providers could be interested in the premises.

Nearby retailers include Boots, Chez Max, The Pearl, Voila and Tesco. There is also a good selection of restaurants in the area, among them Patrick Guilbaud, The Pearl, Chez Max, FX Buckley. Landmark pubs closeby include Doheny and Nesbitt, Toner’s, O’Donoghues and Matt the Thresher.