Posted by Sadhbh Nathan
In collaboration with Fergus O'Neill, Irish Design Shop undertook a new project "The Notebook". Using patterns based on gate and railing designs from Dublin City Centre and suburbs to create a series of five notebooks. These beautiful designs were screen printed on linen and traditionally bound by Duffy Bookbinders.
We decided to go on an adventure, visiting the inspiration for the design to find out the history of the area.
Harcourt Terrace is a tranquil cul de sac in Dublin 2 with a colourful history. With its beautiful greenery and being so close to the canal, its tradition of attracting artistic individuals is understandable. Most notable of these artists is Sarah H. Purser. One of the first things you'll notice while walking down Harcourt Terrace is a plaque placed high on the wall of No.11 commemorating Purser, who lived there from 1887-1909.
Sarah Henrietta Purser lived and worked in her studio on Harcourt Terrace for 22 years. After Sarah's Father's flour milling business went into debt he emigrated to America in search of work, and with the help of her brothers, she trained in Dublin at the Metropolitan School of Art and in 1863 moved to France to continue her education at the Académie Julian. Sarah took it upon herself to start working as a means to support herself. Putting her training to good use, she became a portraitist, and by the 1880's Sarah's hard work began to pay off. She was exhibiting regularly in the RHA gallery and had a busy studio at No.11 Harcourt Terrace. Making a name for herself and enjoying her new found fame, she would often be commissioned by national figures, both famous and influential. These included Maud Gonne, WB Yeats, Edward Martyn and Douglas Hyde. Sarah worked mostly as a portraitist but was also associated with working with stained glass. In 1906, her depiction of King Cormac of Cashel was transferred into a stained glass piece for St. Patricks Cathedral, Dublin.
On the 4th of January 1977, almost 70 years after Purser had been a resident of Harcourt Terrace, the National Museum of Ireland, received a call from Mrs. Eileen Ross. She had uncovered an old dilapidated well in her garden at No.8. Not only was the well an interesting discovery, but there were a number of impressive finds inside and around the garden. The most intriguing find according to Dr. Michael Wynne, from the National Gallery of Ireland, was pieces of waste glass, most of which was hand blown and some pieces were even flashed and decorated with pigments. He was quoted saying "The material dated to the late 19th century or early 20th century.", there had never been any recordings of a glass workshop in No.8 itself but "an explanation may be related to the fact that the portrait painter, Sarah Purser", who was known to have worked with glass, "operated a studio at the rear of No.11, Harcourt Terrace" between 1887 and 1909. Purser's paintings are part of the National Gallery of Ireland's collection, as well as private collections around the world.
News of the well raised huge intrigue with people. Lord Edward Fitzgerald, Irish aristocrat and revolutionary, was said to have been sheltered in a well in Jean Jasper Joly house on Harcourt Terrace, in 1798 while resisting arrest on a charge of treason. In the memoirs of Lady Fingall, she was quoted saying "When pursuit came near, he was hidden in the dried-up well in the garden". The street, known for its colourful artistic history also has an interesting Republican past.
In 1920, Mary Flannery Woods of Cumann na mBan, the Irish Women's Council, was said to have bought a safe house for Michael Collins on Harcourt Terrace. In this house was a special hidden cupboard built solely to hide arms and ammunition. It is unknown how long he stayed here but on Monday the 11th of July 1921 at a quarter to twelve, just shortly after British Troops had called a truce, armoured cars, tanks and patrols returned to their barracks. The heavy gates closed behind the British troops and in the streets of the city, people walked joyously. Michael was said to be sitting in his office at No.17 Harcourt Terrace, working.
Emmet Humphreys, a native of Co. Clare and moved to Dublin with his family in 1909. By the age of 15, he had already become a member of Fianna Eireann. Emmet was present at the Battle of Dublin in 1922. He and his men set up base in No.11 Harcourt terrace, Purser's former studio. On the 30th of June, himself and his men came under heavy attack. An armored car at the front directed machine gun fire into the house while snipers fired at the rear. In shock and completely outgunned they surrendered shortly after it had begun. In Survivors edited by Mac Eoin, Emmet recalls "It was a most ignominious surrender. I cannot recall that even one of us was able to fire one shot against the enemy".
Harcourt Terrace is an idyllic avenue with a rich and memorable past.
You can find the gate that inspired Fergus's Notebook at No.1 Harcourt Terrace.
Click here to see more images of our trip to Harcourt Terrace