On Thursday, 23rd February a group of Kilkenny RTAI members visited 14 Henrietta Street, Dublin where we experienced over 300 years of city life within the walls of one address.

Our guide, Sheila, connected us to the personal stories of those who called 14 Henrietta Street home and revealed to us the building’s hidden histories.

Built in the late 1740s by Luke Gardiner, Number 14’s first occupant was The Right Honourable Richard, Lord Viscount Molesworth and his second wife Mary Jenney Usher, who gave birth to their two daughters in the house. 

The house is built over five floors, with a railed-in basement, brick-vaulted cellars under the street to the front, a garden and mews to the rear, and there was originally a coach house and stable yard beyond.

These grand rooms of the house began as social spaces to display the material wealth, status and taste of its inhabitants. During the winter season, from October to March, the occupants entertained their guests in these rooms.

After the Acts of Union were passed in Great Britain and Ireland in 1801, political power shifted to London and the ascendancy classes moved out of Dublin.

This marked a turning point for the street – professionals moved in, and Henrietta Street was occupied by lawyers. 

In 1876 Thomas Vance purchased Number 14 and installed 19 tenement flats of one, three and four rooms. 

14 Henrietta Street was now filled with families – often one family to a room – the room itself divided up into two or three smaller rooms – a kitchen, a living room, and a bedroom. Entire families crammed into small living spaces and shared an outside tap and lavatory with dozens of others in the same building.

By 1911 number 14 was filled with 100 people while over 850 lived on the street.

In 1931 Dublin Corporation began building new community schemes in the suburbs and this signalled the end of tenement life in Dublin.

The last tenement residents of number 14 left in the late 1970s when the building became uninhabitable.

A visit to 14 Henrietta Street is a must. We had a very enjoyable tour of the house and Sheila, our guide, was very knowledgeable and engaging throughout the visit. The audio visuals were great and very helpful in bringing the story of the house and its occupants to life. We were also delighted to make a personal connection to the house as Ronan Costelloe, son of Eilis, is responsible for the beautifully crafted models of the house displayed in the various rooms.