Bank of Ireland and the Custom House, Dublin

J. Stirling Coyne & N. P. Willis
c. 1841
Volume I, Chapter VI-11 | Start of chapter

The Bank of Ireland, in College Green, is decidedly the noblest specimen of architecture which the metropolis can boast; indeed, it is scarcely saying too much to assert that it is unequalled in grandeur of design, simplicity of arrangement, and majesty of effect by any public building in the empire. This magnificent pile was originally the parliament house of Ireland, but in the year 1802, after the incorporation of the Irish senate with that of England, by the union of the two countries, the building was purchased by the governors of the Bank of Ireland for a sum of nearly £40,000. The central facade and projecting wings, which form a colonnade of the Ionic order, are admitted to be a chef d'oeuvre of modern art. This noble portico, which is without any of the usual architectural decorations (with the exception of the three statues surmounting the centre pediment), derives all its beauty from the harmony of its proportions, and is one of the few instances of simple form only expressing true symmetry. On the conversion of this building into a bank, several alterations internally and externally were found necessary, to adapt it for its present purposes, which, however, have been executed with judicious taste, and a strict regard to the preservation of the original design of the edifice.

The Custom House, Dublin

The Custom House, Dublin

Proceeding westward along the quays, at a short distance from Carlisle Bridge, we reach the CUSTOM-HOUSE, a magnificent structure, the great defect of which is, that it is placed so close to the water's edge that the spectator is unable to see to advantage the noble front which it presents on that side. When viewed, as Sir Richard Hoare observes, from the opposite bank of the river, it has a very striking effect; and combined with the numerous shipping immediately adjoining it, reminds one strongly of those subjects which the painter Canaletti selected for his pencil at Venice. The building is a quadrangle, and is completely insulated, exhibiting four fronts to view, those to the north and south being the principal. Over the portico, on the south side, is a handsome cupola covered with copper, on the top of which is a disproportionately large statue of Hope. The warehouses and wet-docks to the east of the building are spacious and commodious; but they have been constructed on far too extensive a scale for the decaying trade of Dublin, and the appearance of these magnificent but deserted basins and wharfs, awaken sensations more nearly allied to sadness than pleasure,—such as might be experienced while contemplating the ruins of some noble work of antiquity.41


[41] About twenty years since these splendid warehouses were burned to the ground, and property to a great amount destroyed. The fire, it was imagined, was caused by the spontaneous combustion of some goods deposited in the building.