Tag Archives: John Semple

Custom House of Dublin

Custom House
* Dublin, Ireland *

One of the monumental buildings along the River Liffey’s north bank in the heart of Dublin City is the “Custom House” next to the Dublin Docklands on Custom House Quay between Butt Bridge and Talbot Memorial Bridge. “Teach an Chustaim” is one of the more popular examples of Neo-Classical 18th century architecture in Ireland. It is the current home of the Department of the Environment, Community, and Local Government Offices. Visualized by John Beresfrod, the first commissioner of Revenue in 1780, the Irish architect James Gandon was selected to make it a reality. The Dublin Corporation was against the project as was local merchants who believed it would change the axis of the city centre.
It became a costly building project as first laid out on a swamp, away from the current city centre, and laying of the foundations were disrupted by the High Sheriff and the Dublin Corporation. Ignoring the protests, they plowed ahead with construction. Gandon commissioned many of the available masons and stone cutters in Dublin at the time to complete the project. Notably he worked with the Meath stone cutter Henry Darley, mason John Semple, and carpenter Hugh Henry. They finished the project at a cost of 200,000 by November of 1791. The building majestically displays four facades decorated with coats-of-arms and ornamental sculptures representing Ireland’s rivers. Atop, is Henry Banks’ work on the dome and various supernatural statues. Originally the building was utilized for the collection of custom duties with river traffic into the port of Dublin. As this practice became obsolete, so did the original purpose of the building, and occupation was soon replaced by Irish government offices. The Irish Republican Army burnt down the building during the Irish War of Independence in 1921, destroying most of Gandon’s original interior design and causing the central dome to collapse. This fire destroyed a large amount of irreplaceable historical records for Ireland and in so doing caused a major setback for the IRA as a majority of its volunteers were captured at this point. It was later restored by the Irish Free State Government, and the results of this reconstrucion can be seen on the current building exterior – dome was rebuilt using Irish Ardbraccan limestone that is darker than the original Portland stone, but was done to promote Irish resources. Further restorations took place by the Office of Public Works in the 1980’s.

    Bibliography/Recommended Resources:
  • Craig, Maurice. 1969 “Dublin 1660-1860”.
  • Mackay, James “Michael Collins: A Life”
  • Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. “Dublin Custom House” Website referenced May 2012.


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The Black Church (Dublin)

Black Church
* aka: St. Mary’s Chapel of Ease * The Black Church, St. Marys Place, Dublin, Co. Dublin, Ireland? – 01 860 0007? *
St. Mary’s Chapel of Ease was a Gothic Revival Cathedral that was part of the Church of Ireland and located on St. Mary’s Place, in Dublin, Ireland. A chapel of ease is a church building other than the parish church lcoated within the bounds of a parish for those to attend that cannot conveniently reach the main church. This is also known as “The Black Church” and sinisterly looms upon its onlookers in the area. Named “the Black Church” after the black limestone calp it was created from. The Church was designed and founded by John Semple in 1830. Within the Church there is no walls or ceiling, but rather consists of a single parabolic vault. It was the favorite Church of infamous English Poet Sir John Betjeman and the Dubliner Austin Clarke. Clarke claimed in his autobiography that a local legend states that if you went Twice Round the Black Church the Devil would appear. Some say that you have to walk counter clockwise around the Church three times at midnight to summon the Devil. The Church is now closed. took the title for his autobiography from the local legend that the devil would appear if you went Twice Round the Black Church. The church is no longer open and was closed 1962. It is currently used for offices for the Dublin Corporation. The grounds belong to the Earl of Mountjoy.

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