Dutch Billy 18th century houses at risk

DUBLIN RISKS losing some of its remaining early 18th century “Dutch Billy” houses because they are often unlisted and masked …

DUBLIN RISKS losing some of its remaining early 18th century “Dutch Billy” houses because they are often unlisted and masked by Georgian or Victorian facades, a symposium in the old House of Lords was told yesterday.

The term Dutch Billy refers to gable-fronted houses built in the late 17th and early 18th centuries – not just in Dublin, but also Cork, Drogheda, Limerick and Waterford – by waves of Huguenot and Quaker immigrants as well as tradesmen from Britain.

Experts at the conference called for the remnants of Dublin's pre-Georgian heritage to be properly catalogued so that planners would at least know they exist. Organised by Dublin Civic Trust, the symposium, Dutch Billys: A Hidden Building Tradition, set out to raise awareness and "discuss the challenge of preserving and managing this fragile, largely hidden, architectural inheritance".

“This extraordinary phase in Ireland’s architectural history has almost entirely vanished and has been largely airbrushed out of history, with Georgian architecture influencing our modern view of how our streets formerly looked,” said civic trust chief executive Geraldine Walsh.

Peter Walsh, former curator of the Guinness brewery museum, described Dutch Billys as Irish examples of the northern European renaissance.

Graham Hickey, the trust’s conservation officer, said they were “trying to get into as many buildings as possible” to photograph interiors, even though they had to pose as potential buyers in some cases. He said most of Dublin’s surviving Dutch Billys in areas such as Aungier Street, Capel Street and Dame Street were not protected, often because they were concealed by Georgian or Victorian remodelling, which made them vulnerable.