History of Society House

Merrion Square was laid out in the late 1780s on rough fields and garden plots at the edge of the city, near a small quarry and one of the city gallows.

The lease granted to the first tenant and developer of the plot of no. 63, Joseph Sandwith, required that he construct a

‘good and substantial dwelling house with lime and stones, or with bricks and lime and stones, or with bricks and lime, well roofed and covered with slates, not less than 30 ft. in the front and 3 stories and a half high above the cellars at least, and shall make an area of 8 ft. wide at the front of the said house and lay flags before the house for a foot passage in like manner as the same is now done before the houses in Merrion Street and shall pave the whole street before the front of the said house . . .’

Plaster work in the house is by Andrew Callnan (on behalf of surveyor  Bryan Bolger), & shows the influence of Dublin stuccodore Michael Stapleton.

Tenants and house occupants:

  • Joseph Sandwith – lease drawn up in 1787, house not completed until 1793
  • Sublet by Sandwith to William Shannon in 1791 – finished & fitted house before being declared bankrupt
  • Lease reassigned to William Cope, who put the house up for auction
  • Leased to Humphrey Minchin, draper, from 1795 to 1797
  • House then became the Dublin townhouse of Wexford M.P. Ponsonby Tottenham, who paid £3,500 for it & who occupied it from 1797 to 1808,
  • Judge Luke Fox, of the Court of Common Pleas, a connection of Tottenham, moved in in 1808 & stayed until his death in 1822
  • House in the hands of either the Brownrigg or Brownlow family from 1822 to 1827
  • Finally passed in 1827 to members of the Sankey family from whom the RSAI bought the house in 1917, also buying out the remainder of the lease from the Pembroke estate for £500

The stables are currently used by the horses of the Garda Síochána, while the living spaces above are rented out as holiday accommodation by the Irish Landmark Trust (more information & images on their website). The garden of 63 Merrion Square is the only example of a Georgian garden in Dublin. The restoration of this garden was undertaken by the RSAI in partnership with the Irish Georgian Society.