Pearse Street in its present form is largely the result of plans made by the Wide Streets Commission in the years immediately preceding and following 1800. Originally a marshy area flanking the unwalled river Liffey, the land on which the street now stands was reclaimed in the 17th and early 18th centuries by Dublin Corporation and individuals such as Alderman Hawkins and John Mercer. Speculative development followed, including laying out new streets and terraced, gable-fronted houses, all anchored by the establishment of St. Mark’s Parish in 1708 and its associated church whose construction began in 1729.
In May 1790, the Wide Streets Commission ordered Thomas Sherrard, their secretary and surveyor, to draw up a map of:
‘all the Ground and Houses on the South side of Townsend Street from the College to the Low Grounds, and back to the College Estate. And also all of the streets and Avenues from Hawkins Street to Ring End Harbour and between the River and Hamilton Row and the Artichoke Road’.
This would become known as ‘Sherrard’s great map’ and comprised the development plan for Pearse Street and its hinterland. The main thoroughfare, originally named Great Brunswick Street after the Brunswick ancestral title of the Hanoverian King George III, was renamed in honour of Padraig Pearse in 1924.
Intense development of Great Brunswick Street began in the 1810s following land agreements with Trinity College and public auctions for the redevelopment of the western end of the street near D’Olier Street.
Number 27 was constructed during the first wave of development on the street, sited in a terrace of six houses constructed c.1818-1820. The terrace may have been built by coal merchant Thomas Piele, who had coal stores at one end of the terrace and who took up residence in Number 27 itself.
Originally, the interior was typical of a modest Regency house of its time, set out with two rooms per floor and with kitchen and service facilities in the basement. The ground floor of such houses was usually reserved for dining in the back room and a study or office to the front. Interconnecting drawing rooms occupied the first floor, with bedrooms to the second floor. The 1847 Ordnance Survey map shows the rear of the house set out in an attractive planted garden.
A curious quirk of Number 27 and its neighbours are the angled plot divisions of the houses, where party walls divert at an angle from the street and the rear walls are not quite parallel with the front walls. The result is a delightful skewing of the interior accommodation, an effect that can only be detected from the outside by the angled chimneystacks at roof level.
The scale of Number 27 - being three storeys over a basement - is typical of Dublin in the opening decades of the 19th century. Where formerly four and even five-storey terraces were constructed on commercial streets, the uncertain economic climate following the Act of Union in 1800 prompted a more cautious approach to property development. This is most starkly demonstrated on nearby D'Olier Street, where parts of the terrace formerly occupied by The Irish Times was built with a five-storey street facade but only contains four storeys behind.
Great Brunswick Street grew increasingly commercial during the 19th century, with offices, builders’ yards, mechanical and electrical suppliers and other forms of light industry emerging.
It was within this context that James Henry Pearse, father of Padraig Pearse, established his monumental sculpting business at Number 27 in 1870, having previously operated a sculpting partnership at Number 182. Following his death in 1900, the business was carried on for a few years under the Pearse & Sons name by his younger son, sculptor William Pearse (1881-1916), with some help from his more famous elder son, Patrick Pearse (1879-1916).
At its peak, it was the largest monumental sculpture firm in Ireland, employing up to 86 workers and undertaking work for major church building and funerary monuments across Ireland. It was during the Pearses’ occupation that the ground floor frontage of Number 27 was modified with a pair of windows and central column to indicate the status of the business contained within.
The 20th century saw a continuation of commercial uses in the house until acquisition of the property, prompted by Dublin Civic Trust, through the generous assistance of businessman Hugo Flinn.