The address of 22 Clyde Road in Dublin 4 has been the headquarters of the Institution of Engineers of Ireland, or Engineers Ireland, for nearly 50 years, and before that was the home to the Engineers Association, or Cumann na nInnealtóiri.

Previously being largely open fields

The origins of the building lie in the 1860s, in what is now a built-up part of the city, previously being largely open fields. Suburban growth in Dublin began on the south side of the city and this remained the fashionable area, dominated by two self-governing townships, Rathmines (1847) and Pembroke (1863).

The Pembroke Township Act “for the improvement of Pembroke Township, comprising Baggotrath, Donnybrook, Sandymount, Ringsend and Irishtown, in the Baronry and County of Dublin” was passed in 1863. Pembroke Township was largely controlled by benevolent, but absentee, landlords – the Earls of Pembroke and Montgomery – whose Irish agents were the Vernon family. Governed by town commissioners until becoming an urban district in 1899, it was absorbed into Dublin City & Borough in 1930.

The Pembroke estate was developed with long-term interests in mind. The emphasis was on controlled development. In most roads, only a few houses were built at any one time and the quality of buildings erected and the uses to which they might be put were closely supervised.

Leases were limited initially to 99 years. A typical lease signed in 1864 required the tenant to build “two good and substantial dwelling houses and (that) the area of space of ground in front of the said houses shall be enclosed with a stout kerb, with iron palisades on the top ranging uniformly along the said road or street. The front of the said house shall be built of stone or the best stock brick”.

Scrupulous in providing roads and sewers

The estate was scrupulous in providing roads and sewers and a high proportion of the ground rent income was spent on these services. Vartry water was purchased from the city from 1865 and Pembroke initiated a main drainage scheme in 1878 in partnership with Rathmines township, though Pembroke picked up most of the costs.

The 'Irish Builder & Engineer' at the time commented that the area was now one of the most important Dublin suburbs and “the many beautiful terraces and villas that have so rapidly sprung up in the district attest to the enterprise and taste of our citizens, and the judicious management by the officials of the Estate”.

Another correspondent, having noted that a few years ago there were green fields and not houses, noted that large and fashionable dwellings constructed according to the most approved designs stand around. Clyde Road eventually ran from Wellington Place to a junction with Elgin Road, meeting Raglan Road and Wellington Road. Raglan Road came into existence in 1857, on the conclusion of peace following the Crimean War. It was named after Lord Raglan (Fitzroy Somerset), the first Chief Commander in the war.

Free from public transport

Towards the end of the 19th century, Clyde, Raglan and Elgin Roads and the surrounding township of Pembroke became the new residential home of the Anglo-Irish aristocracy. These roads boasted a position further away from the street and had large gardens (unlike the houses in Fitzwilliam and Merrion Squares in the city).

Clyde Road was, and still is, a mature, tree-lined road, free from public transport. Clyde Road was named after Sir Colin Campbell (1792-1863), a Scottish soldier, who was responsible for the relief of Lucknow in India, for which action he was created Lord Clyde in 1858.

A number of substantial villas were constructed on the northside of the road, while the southside in time was to consist of 13 pairs of semi-detached Victorian dwellings, including Clyde House, many of which had mews dwellings or extensions backing on to Clyde Lane.

The lane for much of its length ran beside the Swan Water, a tributary of the Dodder, long since culverted and incorporated into the main drainage system. John Findlater and his family became the first occupants of the newly built Clyde House in 1866, currently the embassy of the Republic of Korea. His uncle was Alex Findlater of grocery fame, whose funeral cortege passed along Clyde Road in January 1874.

Other pairs of semi-detached houses were built over a number of years as plots were made available, including No 22 in 1868. In The Irish Times in 1870 under the heading 'Eligible Residences' was an ad for houses recently completed along Clyde Road. ‘To be let, one of these very desirable houses, with every accommodation for a family of distinction’, and the following year, ‘Two semi-detached well-built houses, to be sold on moderate terms.’

Residents typically judges, colonels, leading lawyers and other gentry

The residents of Clyde Road and other nearby roads tended to be members of the middle classes, typically judges, colonels, leading lawyers and other gentry, notably the Stanuell family of practising solicitors.

Charles Atthell Stanuell, one-time president of the Law Society, and his family were living at 20 Clyde Road in 1911, and females from two generations of Stanuell’s were living at the time of the 1911 census at No 22.

The 1901 census recorded a mother and three daughters of the name Herbert living at No 22, Herbert being the family name of the Earls of Pembroke. To serve the many Protestant families in the area, the foundation stone of St Bartholemew’s Church was laid on May 15, 1867, on a site granted by the Pembroke estate.

Built in the early English style, the church was consecrated on December 23, 1867. It had its main entrance on Elgin Road. The English architect was Thomas Henry Wyatt, and the decorative interior was by Sir Thomas Deane.

The contractor was James Scanlan. To those who follow rugby, it might be of interest to know that in 1870, a number of former members of the Dublin University FC, founded in 1854, decided to form the Wanderers FC, primarily in order that Trinity College Dublin would have another proper club to play against instead of ad hoc teams.

Many of the subsequent Wanderers home matches were played at Clyde Road on the land behind the houses, their changing facilities occupying the stables of one of the houses. Wanderers FC subsequently moved, in the 1880s, to more permanent accommodation at Lansdowne Road.

Major drainage scheme carried out between 1878 and 1881

A major drainage scheme, the first of its kind in Dublin, was carried out between 1878 and 1881 to tackle the drainage problems of the area. The Swan Water had been culverted and became known as the Swan Sewer.

The new high-level sewer of the Pembroke Main Drainage scheme commenced in Clyde Road near the church and extended to an outfall at Whitebanks on the Great South Wall between the Pigeon House and Poolbeg Lighthouse. At the outfall, crude sewage was discharged into the estuary of the River Liffey at ebb tide.

The low-level sewers in the Pembroke area around Sandymount were served by a pumping station at Londonbridge Road, where sewage was lifted into the high-level sewer. Returning to the history of 22 Clyde Road, there have been a number of structural changes and additions over the years.

The 'Irish Builder & Engineer', on November 23, 1912, noted that “under the supervision of Messrs McDonnell & Reed, architects, 20 Ely Place (later McDonnell & Dixon), extensive additions and improvements are being carried out by Keatinge of Grafton Street at No.22 Clyde Road for Mr CE Stanuell”.

It is assumed that this was when alterations were made to the rear of the house to provide for a small ballroom and billiards room, the ballroom becoming in time what is now known as the Presidents Room.

Occupied by the Swiss Legation

From 1939 to 1953, that is all through the Second World War, No 22 was occupied by the Swiss Legation, whose government, like that of Ireland, remained neutral during the conflict. It would have been interesting to have been a fly on the wall at No 22 during that time!

Following a move by the Swiss Legation in 1953 around the corner to 40 Elgin Road, 22 Clyde Road remained vacant for some months before being purchased by the Engineers Association or Cumann na nInnealtóiri, usually referred to as ‘the cumann’.

The cumann had been founded in February 1928 following a meeting in the headquarters of the Institution of Civil Engineers of Ireland at 35 Dawson Street.

By early 1955, it was considered that the accommodation provided at its headquarters at 59 Merrion Square was no longer adequate and that, in addition to providing for business meetings and lectures, it was felt that the cumann headquarters should provide a certain amount of ‘club’ facilities.

It was also felt that the headquarters should conform to the dignity and be an outward expression of the standing of the association. It was decided not to proceed with a planned redecoration of the premises in Merrion Street while inquiries were made to consider the acquisition of suitable premises, of which eight were considered.

Thus, it was, that at a special meeting of central council of the cumann, held at 59 Merrion Square on the July 22, 1955, it was resolved that the deed of assignment dated the 15th day of July 1955, of the premises No 22 Clyde Road, from the Housing Investment Trust Ltd, be approved and that the seal of the cumann be affixed thereto.

There was only one small problem, the cumann did not possess a seal and one had to be rapidly acquired. The purchase price was £4,600. To acquire the premises, a loan of £4,750 was obtained from the Munster & Leinster Bank to include legal costs and stamp duty. The membership subscription was raised and members invited to make interest-free loans or donations, the loan being paid off in a few years.

Voluntary labour to undertake repairs and redecoration of new headquarters

A premises subcommittee organised a good deal of voluntary labour to undertake the repairs and redecoration of the new headquarters, including technicians from the ESB, who undertook the complete rewiring of the house.

The cumann treasurer, AF McGeorge, chaired the committee and oversaw much of the work, including revitalising the gardens. By October 1955, all the functions of the cumann and Irish Engineering Publications (IEP), publishers of the Engineers Journal, were operating from 22 Clyde Road.

One of the advantages stated of the move to Clyde Road was that the road, to quote a reporter in the Engineers Journal, "was not a main traffic route and, as it is a wide thoroughfare, parking of cars will present no difficulties"!

The now listed building was described in 1955 as a red-brick, two-storey and semi-basement, semi-detached house of good appearance and situated in one of the best residential areas in Dublin. It provided sufficient space for the cumann’s then requirements, including accommodation for IEP. The small ballroom was considered to be suitable for public meetings. 

Large garden aroused thoughts of a tennis court or bowling green

On the ground floor, it was planned to develop a club, with lounge, reading and meeting rooms. The large garden at the rear aroused thoughts of a tennis court or bowling green, while the double garage, it was felt, might provide a small income.

Engineer John Manning, writing in the 'Engineers Journal' at the time of the move to Clyde Road very presciently remarked: Well I declare The Engineers are going to migrate from Merrion Square… Well I guess the crowd up in Dawson Street Will envy us our new dwelling They may even want to join with us some day There’s no telling… In 1965, the Institution of Civil Engineers of Ireland decided to sell its premises at 35 Dawson Street and use the proceeds to kick-start a project to construct a new engineering centre, which it was proposed should house both the institution and the cumann.

Central council of the cumann approved, in principle, of the proposals and indicated its willingness to co-operate in the establishment of the centre. However, as it turned out, a suitable site or building could not be identified and plans came to nought. The government vetoed what was considered to be an ideal site, while other sites failed to be granted planning permission on appeal.

The institution instead took up an offer from the cumann to relocate its administration to 22 Clyde Road, the institution at first renting offices from IEP, and housing its library holdings on a temporary basis. UCD, meanwhile, provided accommodation at Merrion Street for lectures and council and other meetings. The Engineers Club was formally opened in 1966, decoration being completed by January of the following year.

The permanent home of the unified Engineers Ireland

A joint secretariat of the cumann and the ICEI was inaugurated in April 1967. In 1969, a Charter Amendment Act established a new professional body, the Institution of Engineers of Ireland, as the sole body licensed to award the title ‘chartered engineer’ within the state and 22 Clyde Road became the permanent home of the unified Engineers Ireland.

Following the launch of a Development Fund Appeal in 1989, an extension at the rear provided for an engineering education centre, which included a conference room and above it a flat-floor lecture theatre which accommodated a multitude of events until it was replaced in 2005.

Meanwhile, in 1994, it was decided to avail of the opportunity to take a 10-year tenancy on the adjacent premises at No 23, to provide additional office space and to free up space in No 22 for meetings and courses.

Construct a new engineering education centre

As the institution’s membership and activities continued to grow, it was decided to construct a new engineering education centre to replace and extend the facilities that had been opened in 1989. Thus, on October 23, 2005, the then Minister for Enterprise & Employment, Micheal Martin, opened a new education centre and ancillary offices at the rear of the premises.

A key part of the overall project was the refurbishment and modernisation of the existing offices. The large front office was converted into a meeting room for members and the main reception area redesigned and refurbished. The centrepiece was a well-equipped, air-conditioned lecture theatre.

The theatre was sunk some 3m into the ground and was provided with a grassed roof to reduce heat loss and clad internally with curved birch panelling to enhance the acoustics. The existing conference room was upgraded and the earlier lecture theatre had its roof raised by 1.5m to accommodate two floors of offices.

This major project was seen as a very positive vote of confidence in the future of the institution and a fitting tribute to the members of the profession in Ireland. Included in the project was the refurbishment of the Clyde Bar, an important feature of the Engineers Club.