No. 5 Northumberland Road had its foundation stone laid on 7 April 1899. It was commissioned by the Church of Ireland as a parochial hall to serve the parish of St Stephen’s Church - The Pepper Canister - on Mount Street Crescent. The other notable parish building is the former schoolhouse opposite, now a hotel. The architect was James Franklin Fuller, a colourful eccentric, a prolific designer and a writer on a variety of topics. A native of Kerry, he went to England where he trained in engineering and architecture. In 1862, he answered an advertisement for a district architect under the Irish Ecclesiastical Commissioners. He was clearly very well equipped with the Interview Skills for which Carr Communications Limited is now renowned, for he was selected for the post from 97 candidates.
The Irish Architectural Archive lists 207 buildings under his name and he was considered an authority on the Hiberno-Romanesque style. It records that Fuller ran his practice “with a gentlemanly disregard for standard clerical procedure”. In his memoir, ‘Omniana – the Autobiography of an Irish Octogenarian’, he says that “Nine out of ten [letters received] went into my waste paper basket immediately after receipt….. In issuing cheques I never troubled to fill in the corresponding counterfoils … I kept no ledgers or books of any sort; I could not see the least necessity for them.” He died in 1924 aged 89. He ascribed his longevity to “a sound constitution which had not been undermined by excess”. He ate only two meals a day, drank mainly water, confined his pipe smoking to the period after dinner, and kept his bedroom window open at night throughout the year.
This building played a role in one of the major military engagements of the 1916 Rising … On Easter Monday, de Valera ordered small groups of Volunteers to occupy various buildings overlooking Northumberland Road in order to attack British reinforcements on their way from Kingstown, now Dun Laoghaire, to the city centre. The designated buildings were the Schoolhouse, No 25 Northumberland Road, and this building - the Parochial Hall – Number 5.
On Monday afternoon, the Volunteers fired on columns of the elderly Home Defence Force styled Georgius Rex (King George) and nicknamed ‘Gorgeous Wrecks’ by Dubliners, killing or injuring a number of them. The members of the Home Defence Force were on their way home from manoeuvres; they were in uniform and carried rifles but had no ammunition, so in effect they were unarmed. There was a violent public reaction when the news spread that the Volunteers had shot these unarmed elderly men; Pearse issued an order prohibiting his forces from firing on anybody who was unarmed, whether in uniform or not.
The area was generally quiet until noon on Wednesday when a large force of military tried to make its way down Northumberland Road towards the city centre. Lieutenant Michael Malone, Volunteer James Grace and two others in No. 25 temporarily halted their progress before they were overcome by vastly superior numbers. Malone was killed in the course of the engagement. The military also cleared the school but the men in No.5 Northumberland Road (the Parochial Hall) continued their cross fire. Eventually they were also forced to withdraw, six hours after the battle had started. They were captured in the laneway behind - Percy Lane.
The British force was held up by fire from Clanwilliam House at the far side of Mount Street Bridge. As there was little or no cover, successive waves of soldiers failed to make it across the bridge until eventually Clanwilliam House was set on fire. The position could have been by-passed and surrounded, but the commanding officer, General Lowe, insisted on pressing on with the frontal assault with little regard for the lives of his soldiers. His attitude probably reflected contemporary tactics on the Western Front where it was normal practice for soldiers—on both sides—to be ordered to charge virtually impregnable positions. Three of the Volunteers, including George Reynolds, were killed, but four escaped.
More than two hundred British soldiers and officers were killed or injured. Mount Street Bridge was one of the major engagements of the Rising, a monument to the bravery of the (mostly very young) men involved on both sides. It was also a monument to the sheer barbarity of war, although on a relatively minor scale when set in the context of the war then raging in Europe which day in, day out destroyed thousands of men as a matter of routine.
This history has been sourced from material in the National Library of Ireland’s online exhibition ‘The 1916 Rising: Personalities & Perspectives’, the Irish Architectural Archive, the Pembroke Estate Papers, and the website of St Mary’s Haddington Road Parish 2010.