Formerly in need of major structural consolidation and conservation of historic fabric, Dublin Civic Trust has undertaken wholesale refurbishment of this designated protected structure as a beacon of best conservation practice and reuse over the course of 2017-2019. The most challenging and transformative building project it has embarked on, the trust received Europe's most prestigious award for built heritage conservation, the European Heritage Award/Europa Nostra Award 2021.  

1842 lease plan showing interconnection of the front and rear buildings. This plan appears to be anticipating rebuilding of the premises (then a tavern) with a shop, while replicating the previous layout. It is not clear if this plan was exactly executed, but it is likely that it was. Note the awkward position of the proposed staircase straddling both buildings

Project at a glance

  • Designated protected structure of regional significance overlooking the River Liffey;
  • Handsome four-storey over basement, interconnected pair of merchant buildings;
  • Riverfront house dates to 1842-43, rear building dates to the 1760s;
  • Rare arcaded Georgian shopfront composed from cut granite of likely 1789 date;
  • Both buildings require extensive structural stabilisation and careful conservation of fabric;
  • Project will restore residential use to the upper floors and traditional shop below.
  1. Cost Phase 1 refurbishment (front building – 2017-2018) €600,000.
  2. Cost Phase 2 interior conservation and decoration (ongoing support needed) €80,000.
  3. Cost Phase 3 conservation and refurbishment of rear building (future support needed) €350,000.

The building

Number 18 Ormond Quay Upper sits in the heart of historic Dublin overlooking the River Liffey near Capel Street bridge.

Before transformation of 18 Ormond Quay Upper

After transformation of 18 Ormond Quay Upper

Over the centuries, it has been home to occupants as varied as hotels and gunsmiths, taverns and grocers. It has been at the centre of urban life for over three centuries, witness to the embankment of the Liffey quays in the 17th century to the establishment of the nearby city markets in the late Victorian period. The building’s final occupants were Watts Brothers – well-known hunting, shooting and fishing purveyors – who closed in the year 2000.

Number 18 typifies the qualities of Dublin merchant buildings, featuring three storeys of living accommodation above a shop at ground floor level. Its enigmatic two-bay frontage, with an arcaded shopfront and pebble-dashed facades, is seen by thousands of curious passers-by every day on their way to work along the busy quays.

This unusual outward appearance cloaks a building of considerable architectural and historical interest, consisting of two conjoined houses running north along Arran Street East. The front house overlooking the river was constructed in 1842-43, while the house to the rear is almost a century older, dating to the 1760s. These buildings, in turn, replaced two previous houses on the site – the first dating to the late 17th century and the second constructed in 1742-43.

This complex layering of development creates a fascinating internal plan arrangement whose full story has yet to be fully unravelled – one that will gradually be revealed as interventions are carefully peeled back to reveal the original design and how the building was used by different occupants.

The challenge

Number 18 is a fine example of a Dublin commercial premises of the extended Georgian period. Four storeys over a basement with a commercial shop at ground floor level, is has the added complexity of an earlier 18th-century building connected at each floor level to the rear.

Both buildings are constructed in the common Dublin manner using mass masonry brickwork with timber-joisted floors, bonding timbers in the walls and slate-clad timber roofs (the back building lost its original pitched roof to a flat roof in the 20th century).

Both buildings feature the elegant proportions, charm and character expected of period houses of this kind. However, they exhibited a number of structural problems that required addressing before the historic interiors could be conserved. The exterior of the front building at Number 18 was comprehensively conserved during 2017-2018, while the rear building now awaits a similar treatment.


The greatest challenge Number 18 faced was a significant outward lean to the side wall which visibly bulged onto Arran Street East.

This movement was caused by the removal of internal walls over the course of the 20th century and historic water ingress that rotted bonding timbers in the outside walls, encouraging outward movement. Poor original detailing also played a part, with insufficient brick bonding to adequately tie walls together.

An extensive laser survey of the front and side elevations was undertaken which revealed the precise locations of problematic areas. This enabled a structural strategy to be developed to reinforce and tie these areas into the structural core of the building.

Devised by Coghlan Consulting Engineers, this involved the application of a four-storey grid of steelwork applied to the inside face of the side wall, anchored to the brick masonry with a series of 8mm stainless steel ties placed at 600mm centres along the structural grid.

In turn, this steel grid was tied back to the superstructure of the building with a series of metal ties and steel plates embedded in the spine and party walls. This approach enabled the complete omission of unsightly pattress plates to the exterior that would otherwise have been required.


The stone-arcaded shopfront at the front of the building, which likely dates to 1789 with the upper floors rebuilt above it in 1842, did not provide sufficient structural support for the building’s upper walls.

The arched granite stonework and infill masonry required additional engineering restraints to ensure the overall building was adequately supported and to prevent future outward movement. As part of these works, the side arch facing Arran Street East was reopened with its infill blockwork removed.

The original design intention of the shopfront had been muddled over time, with opes and entrances moved and the stonework extensively painted over. These later interventions required reversal to reveal the original handsome design.

Window heads

Throughout the building, water ingress over the years rotted a number of embedded timber beams – known as ‘heads’ – over windows and doors, which required replacement.

In some places, floor joists and the ends of roof rafters needed splice repairs or replacement for similar reasons.


The exterior façades of the building were coated in a rough cement pebbledash finish, which was likely applied in the 1950s. In some places, this trapped rainwater behind the cement where it could not evaporate, leading to moisture build-up in the outside walls. The pebbledash also concealed other structural problems including failed flat arches over windows and sagging window aprons.

Aesthetically, the pebbledash presented a somewhat crude and non-original finish to the building, disfiguring the elegant yellow brickwork. The facades originally featured hand-wigged lime jointing as a sample fortuitously survived on the side elevation beneath a former street sign. Chunky cement reveals to the windows had a similar inappropriate impact around the windows.

Like many historic buildings in Dublin that were modified during the 20th century, these cement-based interventions can cause serious unintended structural issues – all of which required investigation as part of the works.


Internally, many original lime plaster finishes to walls and ceilings had decayed as a result of water penetration in previous decades. This caused delamination of plaster layers in some cases to wholesale failure of plaster in others, revealing the structural brick underneath.

Ceilings were generally in good condition with the exception of the top floor that suffered from past water ingress. Ceilings were repaired where possible using lath and plaster methods while in limited areas complete replacement was required.

Breathable insulation strategies, including the use of Calsitherm Climate Board and Diasen Cork-Based Thermal Plaster, were used improve the thermal performance of the building.


Number 18 Ormond Quay encapsulates the essence of Dublin’s historic street buildings.

Easily overlooked and too commonly underused, these handsome merchant premises populate almost every street in central Dublin, originally designed as places to live and spaces to work. It is our intention to reinstate these original functions through PROJECT 18ORMOND, establishing a model for creative reuse and urban conservation that can be applied across the city.

During 2017-2019, Dublin Civic Trust has undertaken a wholesale refurbishment of the exterior of 18 Ormond Quay Upper, as well as initial refurbishment of the interiors which continues. The next phase involves the consolidation and conservation of the rear building at 67 Arran Street East. 

Structural consolidation and exterior transformation

The initial investment phase at Number 18 during 2017-2018 involved major structural consolidation and exterior repair of the river-facing building, returning it to its original 1843 appearance.

This included:

  • Extensive structural engineering to consolidate the bowing side wall to Arran Street East;
  • Removal of pebbledash to facades, and repair and repointing of brickwork;
  • Structural stabilisation of historic shopfront, repair of granite masonry, and reinstatement of original configuration with central entrance door and Georgian-type windows with cast-iron grilles;
  • Upper floor windows returned to their original Georgian grid configuration using precise historic dimensions.

These works are presently being followed by repair of the historic interiors for residential use, including plasterwork, joinery, floors and ceilings, as well as a mechanical and electrical services.

18 Ormond Quay Upper – Before

18 Ormond Quay Upper – After  

Construction first began in 1680s

The four-storey over basement building at 18 Ormond Quay was constructed in 1843 as a grocer’s shop with solicitors’ chambers and residence above. The building replaced at least two previous houses on the same site since construction first began on Ormond Quay in the 1680s.

It features a rare arcaded granite shopfront that is thought to predate the 1840s reconstruction and may date to the 1780s when such shopfronts were popularised by the Wide Streets Commission, Georgian Dublin’s planning body.

Above the traditional ground floor shop is a three-bedroomed, three-storey residence that was completely refurbished using traditional skills and authentically decorated in the style of the mid-19th century with Dublin-made wallpapers by David Skinner and decorative finishes.

An older house dating to the 1760s is attached to the rear on Arran Street East and will be the future second phase of the restoration. Its interiors retain high quality rococo-style plasterwork and joinery dating to the mid-18th century.

Both buildings were converted into the Douglas Hotel in 1912 and were latterly known to a generation of Dubliners as Watt’s Bros. hunting and fishing purveyors who closed in the year 2000.

First floor parlour with 1841 design wallpaper made by David Skinner

Conservation works

Restoration was overseen by Kelly & Cogan conservation architects and Nolans Group historic building contractors.

Works involved significant structural stabilisation to the side gable wall which featured a dangerous lean into the side street. This was secured using a discreet system of metal ties and brick stitching to secure the wall back to the main structure.

A total of 130 square metres of cement-based 1970s pebbledash were removed from the brickwork of the upper facades using hand-held pneumatic tools.

Traditional Irish ‘wigging’, a form of lime pointing traditionally used in Dublin to disguise rough brickwork, was reinstated based on a sole surviving sample discovered behind a street sign. The chimneys, truncated in the 1980s, were also rebuilt to their original height.

Removing cement pebbledash 

Reinstating wigged pointing during brick wigging process

Exhaustive research undertaken

The arcaded granite shopfront – one of the most impressive of its type surviving in Dublin – was stripped of decades of paint layers using steam cleaning and repointed in matching lime mortar. Exhaustive research was undertaken to reconstruct the missing shop windows and doors using documentary sources including Henry Shaw’s Dublin Pictorial Directory, 1850.

This confirmed that the shop entrance was originally located in the central arch and iron grilles were used to vent the basement. The multi-paned window glazing pattern is based on the type of glass that was affordable in the early 1840s, set in European oak frames manufactured by window specialists Lambstongue.

Authentic lamps that precisely replicate the form of historic oil lamps found in James Malton’s engravings of Dublin were commissioned from blacksmith Paul Devlin, positioned where there was evidence of wrought-iron rods on the shopfront.

The shopfront structure is composed of narrow piers of granite which required structural augmentation to halt the outward movement of the building towards Arran Street East.

This involved the insertion of L-shaped steel sections and to the internal face of the shopfront to brace the arcaded structure. The gable wall facing Arran Street also required tying back to the building using stainless steel structural ties and 'Helifix' stitching between the brick courses. Nolans Group also devised a discreet integration strategy whereby external pattress plates could be omitted in favour of brick coverings concealing the fixings.

Shaw's Pictorial Directory was used to reinstate the 1840s shopfront

Reinstatement of the 1840s shopfront


The upstairs rooms are decorated in a combination of screen- and digitally printed wallpapers by Irish wallpaper maker David Skinner. The dramatic acanthus leaf pattern in the first-floor parlour is based on an original 1841 design by James Boswell, paper-stainer of Bachelor’s Walk, which would have been available at the time of the building's completion in 1843 and is typical of the William IV/early Victorian style.

The second-floor front bedroom features a paper made by a paper-stainer by the name of Perrin manufactured on nearby Capel Street in 1854. The top floor bedrooms feature original patterns dating to the 1830s, with the front room’s colours altered to reflect the tones of the river Liffey outside the windows. See pictures at the end of this page.

Original floorboards on the first floor were relaid in their original position following the laying of structural boarding to consolidate the cellular integrity of the building – part of the wider engineering strategy.

Boards were dark-stained in the fashion typical of the 1840s, while new boards were laid on the ground floor and top floor where decay and 20th century replacements had destroyed most of the original fabric.

First floor parlour – Before 

First floor parlour – After

Sash windows, casings and interior joinery were restored by specialists Lambstongue, conserving original material and splicing in new timber elements. The firm’s craftspeople rebuilt the lower portions of the stairs that had been removed a century earlier, replicating the original balusters and curved mahogany handrail.

First floor parlour overlooking the river Liffey

Irish Fine Art Plasterwork conserved the original wall and ceiling plaster and reinstated missing cornices based on surviving fragments.

David O’Reilly of Antique Fireplace Restoration repaired and reinstated missing marble and cast-iron chimneypieces typical of 1840s Dublin houses. These include corbelled models in the grander rooms and bullseye examples in the bedrooms.

Peter Byrne undertook wallpapering, painting and decorative finishes including traditional 'scumble' graining to the architectural joinery.

Second floor front bedroom – ceiling repair during restoration

Second floor front bedroom after restoration

European Heritage Award/Europa Nostra Award 2021

Dublin Civic Trust said it was "honoured to receive the European Heritage Award/Europa Nostra Award 2021 on behalf of everyone who loves Dublin and its historic buildings. It is a ringing endorsement of the intrinsic value and utility of the city's built fabric and the immense contribution this makes to the character and identity of our capital.

"18 Ormond Quay Upper represents conservation in action, reviving traditional skills, regenerating streetscape and setting a conservation-led benchmark for others to continue. We hope it will inspire Dubliners and citizens all over Ireland to embrace our rich urban heritage by preserving and reoccupying neglected older buildings that form the backbone of our villages, towns and cities.

"We are currently working on plans to open 18 Ormond Quay Upper for public viewing as public health restrictions allow." 

Commenting on the award, Geraldine Walsh, CEO of Dublin Trust, said: “We’re delighted to receive the recognition of Europa Nostra for the trust’s many years of work in highlighting the beauty and essential resource value of Dublin’s historic buildings.

'Must take action to carefully invest in and reuse'

"Often it takes the outsider to point out what is of intrinsic good on our own doorstep. This is a ringing endorsement that Dublin’s old buildings have significant cultural, economic and environmental value and we must take action to carefully invest in and reuse them.” 

Graham Hickey, conservation director in the trust said: “The aim of the 18 Ormond Quay project was to highlight how these modest street buildings, though not a grand statement individually, collectively shape the essential identity of Dublin.

"All of their elements, from brickwork to windows to plaster details, are specific to our city and can be cost-effectively conserved. We’ve proven how manners can be put back on the streetscape and we hope other building owners and investors will take note and step up to reanimate their own premises – especially in the post-Covid context.”    

The Europa Nostra Jury particularly appreciated that: “The project was undertaken to specifically be a model for others, showing that the heritage of buildings common to Dublin has value and contributes to a more sustainable development of the city.

"The fundraising model is similarly replicable and was developed with the goal of it being repeated elsewhere.” “Meticulous research was carried out with significant efforts made to ensure a conservation-restoration that was consistent with the original values of the building and to conserve as much of the remaining details as possible.

"New features, such as the wallpaper, were carefully considered in terms of their authenticity. This humble, minimal conservation-restoration is nevertheless visible.” 

Top floor bedroom before restoration

Top floor bedroom restored with 1830s wallpaper by David Skinner

Second floor bedroom before restoration

Second floor bedroom with an 1854 wallpaper pattern originally made in Capel Street

Staircase before conservation

Staircase after conservation

Steam cleaning 1840s brickwork

Lambstongue manufacturing arch-headed shop windows

Oil-type lamps being installed by master blacksmith Paul Devlin

Support 67 Arran Street East

The trust is now turning its attention to the conservation of the final portion of 18 Ormond Quay – the rear building facing 67 Arran Street East. "This curious structure dates to c.1760-1775 and was mostly likely built as an extension to the 1740s house that previously occupied the site of 18 Ormond Quay.

"This building rises to four internal storeys over a vaulted brick basement, with a single room on each floor. These spaces contain fascinating decorative fragments from the mid-18th century including a high-status rococo cornice and lugged architectural joinery.

"We have already conserved and reinstated the original c1760s profiled timber sash windows under a grant provided by the Built Heritage Investment Scheme 2020.

"We now intend to restore the front facade to its hybrid 1760s/1840s appearance by removing the pebbledash from the Georgian brickwork and restoring the 1840s Roman cement render at ground floor level. The works would have a transformative effect on the streetscape.

"As a non-state funded organisation, we need your support to help this happen. Any donation, large or small, will help us fulfil this ambition and contribute towards the restoration of a small but important sliver of Dublin's architectural inheritance." 

Project team and suppliers 

Project lead and client: Dublin Civic Trust, Geraldine Walsh, CEO and Graham Hickey, conservation director. Conservation architect: James Kelly, MRIAI, MRIBA, Conservation Grade I, Kelly & Cogan Architects. Structural engineer: Coghlan Consulting Engineers. Main contractor conservation works: Nolans Group. Window and architectural joinery conservation: Lambstongue. Decorative lime plastering: Irish Fine Art Plasterwork. Electrical services: Aulden Electrical. Plumbing services: BMK Plumbing & Heating. Chimneypieces and fireplaces: Antique Fireplace Restoration. Professional decorating: Peter Byrne. Traditional Irish wallpapers: David Skinner. Timber flooring: Kiltra Timber. Cast-iron work: Bushy Park Ironworks. Door furniture and ironmongery: Knobs & Knockers.


Dublin Civic Trust gratefully acknowledges the assistance of the following agencies and individuals for generously supporting elements of Project 18Ormond: Dublin City Council; Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht – Built Heritage Investment Scheme; the Apollo Foundation; the Heritage Council; Irish Georgian Society; the Primrose Trust; Press Up Entertainment Group; ESB; David Skinner Wallpapers; private donors.