Dating from the 1720s, Henrietta Street in Dublin’s North inner city is the most intact collection of early to mid-18th century aristocratic townhouses in Ireland. These vast houses were divided into tenements from the 1870s to the 1890s to house the city’s working poor.
Built as a townhouse for the members of Dublin’s ruling elite, 14 Henrietta Street was divided into 19 tenement flats in 1877, with some 100 people living under its roof by 1911. It remained a tenement house until the last families left in the late 1970s.
14 Henrietta Street tells the story of the building’s shifting fortunes, from family home and power base to courthouse; from barracks to its final incarnation as a tenement. The stories of the house and street mirror the story of Dublin and her citizens.
14 Henrietta Street seeks to help visitors deepen their understanding of the history of urban life and housing in Ireland, through people and memory. Taking the stories, personal experiences and objects of former residents of the tenements, coupled with new ongoing social and architectural history research, the Museum gathers, interprets and preserves Dublin’s tenement history.
Why tenement living developed in Dublin – After the Acts of Union were passed in Great Britain and Ireland in 1801, all power shifted to London and most politically and socially significant residents were drawn from Georgian Dublin to Regency London. Dublin and Ireland entered a period of economic decline, exacerbated by the return of soldiers and sailors at the end of the Napoleonic Wars. The rise of the cotton mills of Lancashire had a negative impact on the Irish poplin industry.
For a time, Henrietta Street was occupied by lawyers. Dublin’s population swelled by about 36,000 in the years after the Great Famine, and taking advantage of the rising demand for cheap housing for the poor, landlords and their agents began to carve their Georgian townhouses into multiple dwellings for the city’s new residents.
Houses such as 14 Henrietta Street underwent significant change in use – from having been a single-family house with specific areas for masters, mistresses, servants, and children, they were 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.
For the safety of visitors, groups must be small, with no more that 15 on a tour at a time. Tour Guides accompany you through three floors of the house and its many stories, told through the walls of the house itself, recreated immersive rooms, sound and film.
As the building dates from the late 1720s with minimal intervention in the structure, some spaces are small and the steps of the original back stairs are uneven and steep. It’s advised that you wear comfortable shoes, and perhaps dress in layers, as parts of the house can be a little cold.
14 Henrietta Street recognised in European and Irish awards – The conservation of a former tenement house at 14 Henrietta Street in Dublin’s north inner city was named Best Conservation/Restoration Project, and won the Special RIAI Jury Award at the prestigious annual RIAI Irish Architecture Awards.
Wed-Sat: 10.00 am; 11.00 am; 12.00 pm; 1.00 pm; 2.00 pm; 3.00 pm; 4.00 pm
Sunday: 12.00 pm; 1.00 pm; 2.00 pm; 3.00 pm; 4.00 pm
Monday & Tuesday: Closed
Tours last approximately 75 minutes; pre-booking is pretty essential.
14 Henrietta Street (Tenement Museum)
14 Henrietta Street, Dublin D01 HH34
Tel: 01- 524 0383
Adults €9; concessions
Photo courtesy of Wikipedia (Sheila1988 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=74915583)