Hen­riet­ta Street tells the sto­ry of Du­blin

À la dé­cou­verte d’une rue géor­gienne de Du­blin.

Vocable (Anglais) - - Sommaire -

Si Du­blin re­gorge de fa­çades de style géor­gien – on pense no­tam­ment aux cé­lèbres portes co­lo­rées im­mor­ta­li­sées sur les cartes pos­tales de la ville –, ce style ar­chi­tec­tu­ral est par­ti­cu­liè­re­ment mis à l’hon­neur dans Hen­riet­ta Street, dont la plu­part des bâ­ti­ments viennent tout juste d’être ré­no­vés. Le New York Times nous em­mène à la dé­cou­verte d’une rue char­gée d’his­toire et de se­crets...

In 1787, Ma­ry Woll­sto­ne­craft, la­ter to be­come the mo­ther of the wri­ter Ma­ry Shel­ley — and the­re­fore, in a way, the grand­mo­ther of Fran­ken­stein — mo­ved to 15 Hen­riet­ta Street, Du­blin. She was 28 and had been hi­red as a go­ver­ness to the aris­to­cra­tic fa­mi­ly of Lord King­sbo­rough. It wasn’t a job she par­ti­cu­lar­ly wan­ted — she had al­rea­dy es­ta­bli­shed her own school in Lon­don and had writ­ten a book about the edu­ca­tion of girls — but times were hard, and she nee­ded to sup­port her­self.

2. Ten years la­ter, one of the girls ran off with her own uncle, and a fu­rious Lord King­sbo­rough mur­de­red him. Al­though Woll­sto­ne­craft had died by then, the in­fluence of her ra­di­cal fe­mi­nist tea­chings was wi­de­ly bla­med. The scan­dal in­fla­med Ireland. Lord King­sbo­rough was ac­quit­ted.


3. This is just one of the tales with which these cob­bles­tones are scor­ched. A stub­by, single-block dead end on the sup­po­sed wrong side of town, Hen­riet­ta Street is en­or-

1. la­ter to be­come... qui al­lait de­ve­nir... / to hire en­ga­ger, em­bau­cher / to sup­port one­self sub­ve­nir à ses be­soins. 2. to run, ran, run off s'en­fuir / by then à ce mo­ment là / to blame mettre en cause / to in­flame ici, cho­quer, ul­cé­rer. 3. tale his­toire / cob­bles­tone pa­vé / to scorch ici, im­pré­gner / stub­by large et court / single-block d'un seul bloc / dead end im­passe /

mous­ly wide, and the 18th-cen­tu­ry brick houses that flank it are flat-fron­ted and vast: four sto­ries high, with as ma­ny as five win­dows across each. The ear­liest Geor­gian street in Du­blin — and the most in­tact col­lec­tion of ear­ly-to-mid-Geor­gian houses in Ireland — it was built be­gin­ning in the 1720s for the Irish aristocracy.

4. Af­ter the Acts of Union were pas­sed in 1800, uni­ting the king­doms of Great Bri­tain and Ireland, the coun­try lost its own par­lia­ment, and the great and the good, who now spent most of their time in Lon­don, no lon­ger had a need for Du­blin gran­deur. Over time, Hen­riet­ta Street be­came more de­pri­ved and more in­ha­bi­ted: In the te­ne­ment era, which be­gan in the late 19th cen­tu­ry and las­ted un­til the 1970s, up to 19 fa­mi­lies li­ved in each house.

5. In pho­to­graphs from the 1960s, ma­ny of these buil­dings ap­pear as car­casses, huge sma­shed things left for dead. More re­cent­ly, they were still de­re­lict. No. 3, bought in No­vem­ber 2016 by the 63-year-old de­ve­lo­per Pa­trick Wig­gles­worth, is in the pro­cess of being res­to­red through a part­ner­ship with the 59-year-old ar­chi­tec­tu­ral conser­va­tio­nist na­med Ian Lum­ley, who lives at No. 12.


6. Over the time I spent lis­te­ning to the in­ha­bi­tants of Hen­riet­ta Street, its sto­ry came to sound not like one of simple re­ge­ne­ra­tion, but like a much stran­ger fable, with a mo­ral bent. Blin­ding am­bi­tion, of the kind that en­abled these as­pi­ra­tio­nal homes to be built, had di­sin­te­gra­ted in­to hard­ship, and at least two re­si­dents re­fer­red to a pas­sage in James Joyce’s Du­bli­ners (1914), in which a young le­gal clerk walks down the block and makes his way through a “horde of gri­my chil­dren,” “mi­nute ver­min-like life”. This per­iod is the one ensh­ri­ned at 14 Hen­riet­ta Street, a new te­ne­ment mu­seum. Al­though that house was first in­ha­bi­ted in 1751 by Vis­count Mo­les­worth and his fa­mi­ly, that era is on­ly faint­ly tra­ced, as if the ac­tual buil­ders were just the out­lines and the real lives that mat­te­red were those from the late 19th cen­tu­ry.


7. “‘Gen­tri­fi­ca­tion,’ ” Lum­ley says, is a word that “would real­ly be re­sen­ted” by the re­si­dents, nor is it par­ti­cu­lar­ly apt. There are no bou­tique ho­tels here yet, nor shops that sell ex­pen­sive snea­kers. Fer­gus Mar­tin, a 63-year-old ar­tist who has a stu­dio in­side No. 6, notes, with some pride, “I think this is the Wild West.” Tech­ni­cal­ly, it’s the wild North. There is, as in Lon­don, a wa­ter­way di­vi­ding the ci­ty, and it is the nor­thern ter­ri­to­ry above Du­blin’s Ri­ver Lif­fey that has tra­di­tio­nal­ly been seen as the rou­gher side of town. Al­though the buil­dings on Hen­riet­ta Street are beau­ti­ful, they are al­so daun­ting. 8. Still, a few in­tre­pid buyers and de­ve­lo­pers have sought to tame them. Un­til the 1970s, they were pre­do­mi­na­te­ly ow­ned by te­ne­ment land­lords. There are now four ow­ne­roc­cu­piers of the street’s 13 houses, as well as four ins­ti­tu­tions: the Ho­no­rable So­cie­ty of the King’s Inns, where lawyers are trai­ned; the Daugh­ters of Cha­ri­ty of St. Vincent de Paul, where nuns live; Na Pío­bairí Uilleann, a pi­pers’ club, where a va­luable col­lec­tion of Irish bag­pipes is held; and now the te­ne­ment mu­seum.


9. Some of these land­lords have sought sim­ply to pre­serve the buil­dings from des­truc­tion; others have res­to­red them in de­tail, with at­ten­tion to his­to­ry; one or two live pri­va­te­ly en­ough to sim­ply call them home. “From child­hood, I was drawn to old houses,” says Lum­ley, sit­ting at the top of his house, in a room pain­ted Ve­ne­tian red. In buying this pro­per­ty in 1982, he conti­nued his in­vol­ve­ment in a loose mo­ve­ment he re­fers to as “the con­ser­va­tion scene.” For years, [Hen­riet­ta Street] ap­pea­red to have been for­got­ten. But now, in its new life, there’s a pur­po­se­ful re­mem­brance.

(William Mur­phy. Fli­ckr: Hen­riet­ta Street - Du­blin, via Wi­ki­me­dia Com­mons)

Hen­riet­ta Street is the ear­liest Geor­gian Street in Du­blin.

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