live, online Dublin history & architecture Zoom talks

On Tuesday 2nd June we start our series of five online history and architecture “virtual tour-talks” – five classic Dublin Streetscapes.  These one-hour talks take place every Tuesday at 2.30pm from 2nd June to 30th June.  No previous knowledge of Dublin architecture or history is required.  All are welcome.  Topics covered include masterpieces of Georgian and Victorian architecture; vanished medieval churches and abbeys; a one-legged 17th century bookseller; an attempted coup d’état, and a troupe of performing fleas!

These highly informative yet entertaining, accessible discussions are not virtual tours, in the sense of a live camera wandering along the streets.  They are instead richly illustrated slide-talks, designed and researched by guide, writer and historian Arran Henderson of Dublin Decoded tours.  The talks are delivered live – via the medium of a Zoom call!  Attendance is ticketed.  As well as seeing and listening to Arran deliver the material live on Zoom, each talk contains a varied succession of contemporary and archival photographs, historic maps, old topographical prints and engravings, each image chosen to shed light on different aspects of the city’s history and architecture.

Together we will explore a seemingly familiar area of central Dublin each week to uncover the less-well-known aspects of its buildings, social history, the evolution of the streetscape through the centuries, and even some surprising links to history, literature and revolution.   You will find there are many layers!

Tickets only €12 per talk when purchased individually, or just €50 for the whole series of 5 talks (a saving of €10).   To avail of the special €50 5-talk ticket offer, you must book before 11.50pm,  Monday 1st June.

Talk 1 – Tuesday 2nd June – From Cathedral to Castle: Dublin’s Medieval Core.

Join Zoom call from 2.30pm; talk starts 2.45pm sharp   

Discover an area of Dublin thickly layered with forgotten stories and esoteric detail.  Starting from Christ Church Place, then pausing briefly to contemplate the massive yet neglected institutional buildings of nearby Lord Edward Street, before we arrive at Cork Hill by the gates of Dublin Castle.  Here we explore two architectural masterpieces.  First City Hall (previously the Royal Exchange) with its history of political assassination, of robber barons, posing eighteenth-century dandies and duelling cardsharps.  Then the fabulous, shape-shifting old Newcomen Bank (latterly Dublin Rates Office) with its dark secrets.  Next we’ll see and discuss nearby Castle Street, ancient medieval Cole’s Lane and their complex histories.  All through this lavishly illustrated talk you will learn about architecture; vanished medieval churches; a one-legged 17th century bookseller; an attempted coup d’état and a troupe of performing fleas!

Talk tickets for Tuesday 2nd June here.  Please note, it is not necessary to book more than one ticket if you wish to watch the talk together with a friend or friends.  One ticket is sufficient for a group.  Please however do not share or resend your Zoom invite to other households by forwarded email.  If you’d like to book the whole series of 5 talks at a discounted rate of €50 (available until 11.50pm on 1st June), buy the all-in-one ticket.  

Talk 2 – Tuesday 9th June – Grafton Street: architecture and history. 

Join Zoom call from 2.30pm; talk starts 2.45pm sharp 

Most of us go to Grafton Street for the shops, rarely looking up to appreciate its superb legacy of architectural and design gems.  It’s time to set that right, with this architectural tour.  We begin at Number 1 Grafton-  the Provost’s House of Trinity College, boasting links to Renaissance Italy.  Then we travel south, taking in highlights of Georgian, Victorian, Edwardian and Contemporary architecture, while discussing the retail history of Georgian sweet-makers and Victorian carpet shops; via hidden Dutch Billies, the Egyptian-infused Art Deco of Bewley’s Café; and the hidden, attic-level social history of two legendary Irish department stores.  We’ll also take in French medieval pastiche and some early Irish film history; Georgian Dublin’s most celebrated brothel keeper and the links between Grafton Street and a forgotten North African fortress.  You will discover that Grafton Street – seemingly such a familiar thoroughfare – hides several amazing surprises.

Tickets to this talk €12 here when bought individually.  All-in-one ticket for 5 talks at a discounted rate of €50 (available until 11.50pm on 1st June) available here.

Talk 3 – Tuesday 16th June – Capel Street and its area: Markets, Monasteries and the Law.

Join Zoom call from 2.30pm; talk begins 2.45pm sharp    

Laid out by the ship owner, developer, merchant and Lord-Mayor Sir Humphrey Jarvis in the 1600s, Capel Street was the first great projection of the city of Dublin across the river Liffey.   Yet it sits in an area of much older interest, including the former Dominican Friary of St Saviours and the great medieval powerhouse of St Mary’s Abbey.  We’ll also contemplate the old Fruit and Vegetable Markets, some extraordinary terracotta and the Green St area, with its 18th century courthouse, the scene of some of the most famous (and infamous) trials in Irish legal history, and its three former prisons.  We’ll end on beautiful Henrietta Street, the first and greatest of Dublin’s Georgian Streets, home of the King’s Inns, James Gandon’s most intact architectural masterpiece.

Tickets to this talk €12 booked individually here. 

All-in-one ticket for 5 talks, at a discounted rate of €50 (available until 11.50pm on 1st June), see link above.

Talk 4 – Tuesday 23rd June – Parnell Square to Grangegorman. 

Zoom call from 2.30pm; talk begins 2.45pm sharp

A richly illustrated virtual voyage from the elegant Georgian elite enclave at Parnell Square (formerly Rutland Square) and nearby enigmatic Black Church (with its construction secrets and local superstitions), then across the whole North-West section of Dublin city.  Highlights include the fabulous architecture of Broadstone station and the Hendron’s Building.  Also covered is the dark, half-forgotten history of the North Dublin Work House, with its vast complex of hospitals, asylums and penitentiaries.  We will end by looking to the future, at the promising new DIT/TUD campus at Grangegorman.

Tickets to this talk €12, booked individually, here.

All-in-one ticket for 5 talks, at a discounted rate of €50 (available until 11.50pm on 1st June), see link above.

Talk 5 – Tuesday 30th June – Along the River Liffey: in the heart of Dublin.

Zoom call from 2.30pm; talk begins 2.45pm sharp

The river of water, story and history that both divides Dublin north from south, and yet binds it all together.  Studded with bridges that have witnessed street battles and revolutions and lined with some of the greatest buildings in the capital, from huge barracks to Georgian Courthouses, this is an exploration of the Liffey, its bridges, its buildings and its place at the very heart of Dublin’s history.  This our fifth and final Zoom talk.

Tickets to this talk €12 booked individually here. 

All-in-one ticket for 5 talks at a discounted rate of €50 (available until 11.50pm on 1st June), ticket link here 

Important Notice on how to access the Zoom Talk – Please Read:   

1- When you purchase your ticket or tickets, you will receive a confirmation email for each purchase.  This however is only a confirmation,  it does not contain the links to access the Zoom talks.  The link containing your Zoom invitation is only generated on the day of the talk itself.  It will be sent to you in a second, separate email 25-30 minutes prior to the talk.

2- If you have purchased a ticket, please check your email 20-25 minutes before the talk commences, on the day of the talk.   Please remember that the email may not arrive into your Primary email folder.   Please therefore check all email folders, including (on Gmail for example) your “Social”, “Forum” and “Updates” folders please.

3- Please also remember to refresh your email page every few minutes, in case the link arrives by email while you are looking for it.

4- Once you see the email, please press the link in that email to join our Zoom call.   The talk proper will begin at 2.45pm sharp. We would ask guests to press the email link at least 10 minutes before the start of each call to avoid delays for other guests.   Thank you.

5- Once commenced, each talk lasts 55- 65 minutes.  Guests’ computer microphones will be unmuted at the beginning of the talk, but muted (by the host) for the duration of the talk.  Microphones will be unmuted again after the end of the talk, when Arran will be available for a further 10-20 minutes for a Q&A.

We look forward to seeing you on Zoom!

Arran Henderson   |   Dublin Decoded.

River Talk 5 image Talk 5

Dublin Decoded 2018, our year in pictures.

It was a slow start to our year, what with snow in March, then a broken bone in my foot early April!   But once we did get going with our walking tours,  we barely drew breathe for the next seven months.

One particularly exciting tour early in our schedule was to 9/9A Aungier Street. Now concealed behind a later 18th century facade, this is actually a house from the 1600s, and in fact one of the oldest surviving houses in Dublin.

Angier St & 9-9A tour March ‘18 1

9/9A is still undergoing a hugely complex restoration process.  We are extremely grateful therefore,  both to the owner, and to the conservation architect, Sunni Goodison for allowing us special access for this visit,  and putting on such an illuminating, fascinating talk,  of this venerable, deeply historic building.  Among other treasures we heard of a small shoe, left in the ancient timbers of the buildings, then found in the restoration process.  This hiding of a shoe was a common superstition of the Early Modern period (the 1600s) – done to ward off witches and evil spirits!

DD Tour oif Angier St & 9-9A tour March ‘18 1


Arra on a Dublin DEcoded How to Read a Painting Tour NGI 2018

March and April, with the weather still not hitting the sunny heights it did later in 2018, we held some of other Spring-time tours indoors, including several visits to the National Gallery, both for our signature How to Read a Painting Tour (above) and on a special one-off visit to the Denis Mahon archive (below)  Huge thanks to NGI Mahon archivist Leah Benson, and her team, for hosting us there.

at the DEnnis Mahon archive NGI March 2018

April saw a whole plethora of highly varied tours.  An early example was walk around some of the architectural gems of South-East central Dublin, including those on Kildare Street and Kildare Place, on Dawson and Kildare Streets and St Stephens Green.  This tour concluded on Harcourt Street, and & visit inside the  former HQ of old Sinn Féin during the Revolutionary Era,  number 8, Harcourt St.  It is now home to Conradh na Gaeilge (the Gaelic League) and I am indebted to the archivist there, Cuan O’Seireadáin, for the superb talk he provided.   (Picture below)




The weather was better a few days later for our next Dublin Decoded event,  when we walked a section of the “Dub-line” the stretch that follows the ancient Slí Mor along High Street, Cornmarket, Thomas St and James St.   That tour concluded with a visit to the stunning Edward Worth Library, a fossil library established in the early 1700s and left untouched ever since.   A truly magical place.   (See pictures below)  We are always treated there to a welcoming and scholarly talk on its history, and its extraordinary collection of rare precious books,  by the head Librarian Dr.  Elizabethanne Boran.   It has thus become something of a Dublin Decoded tradition to visit the Worth Library (within old Steevens Hospital)  every 12 to 18 months.  I have no doubt we will visit again sometime in 2019.

Worth Library 2

Worth Library 1

Worth Library 3

One more bad day in June, when we debuted a brand new, and very different walk, a tour of the architecture and retail history of Grafton Street.   A story full of surprises.  As you can see in the picture below, the weather was less obliging, alas!  All my hardy guest git soaked to the skin.  But everyone was such a good sport we somehow had a really enjoyable excursion nonetheless.

First ever Grafton St tour 15 April ‘18

Around the same time we debuted a brand new tour we’d been preparing for several months, of the architecture and retail history of Grafton Street. This it turns out is a story full of surprises. As you can see in the picture below, the weather was less obliging, alas! All my hardy guest git soaked to the skin. But everyone was such a good sport we somehow had a really enjoyable excursion nonetheless.

We ran the Grafton Street a few more times over the year, including one version for the IGS in June and another two for Culture Night in September.

From May onward however the weather improved dramatically, as Dublin and Ireland experienced one of our hottest, driest summers for 40 years.   Day after day of blue skies and baking sun.  It made for great walking weather!

Next we went to Temple Bar, giving it the “Decoded” treatment.  It turns out even the best known parts of Dublin are full of surprises.

Temple Bar Tour


Our next tour brought us to the North West quarter of the city,  on a tour of the fascinating area on and around Grangegorman.   With its old Work Houses, Asylums, and the Women’s Penitentiary, this is one of the most fascinating yet least understood area of Dublin.   Accordingly this has become one of most popular tours and during 2018 we led tours for our own Dublin Decoded members, as well as the Rathmines Historical Society and the Irish Georgian Society.

Grangegorman Tour for IGS 23 June ‘18

Gragegorman Tour 2018 photo credit Luke McManus

We were proud to continue our valued association with the Irish Georgian Society (IGS) this year. In fact it is a association that continues to grow.   Not only did we lay on a number of different walking tours for the IGS during 2018, they also invited us to design and lead a new, entirely unique tour, designed around their key exhibition of the year Exhibiting Art in Georgian Ireland” a large, prestigious exhibition focused on the art and groundbreaking exhibitions of the Society of Artists from 1764- 1780.

(below: pictures from the Society of Artists exhibition, by Francis Wheately)


(above and below: pictures on show at the Society of Artists exhibition, these by Francis Wheately, including the Volunteers at College Green, image courtesy of the National Gallery of Ireland.   Below, the Ambush and Blinding of Parolles, by the same artist, Private collection)

Francis Wheatley Parolles Ambushed and blindfolded - Fota House

Our approach was to hold half our tour among the art within the exhibition, and then to spend the second half out and about on the streets, tracking down the lodgings and stuios and other general whereabouts of the original 18th century artists, such as Robert Hunter, Thomas Roberts and Hugh Douglas Hamiliton .  It was a challenging but rewarding tour to research, plan and put together.  The terrific reward was that our guests seemed to get an awful lot out of it.

Around this time we did another Grangegorman walk, as they are always in demand.  Then we changed gears again and explored one of my absolute favorite themes, and my favourite approach to any walk, Dublin’s Medieval Walls.  This was a really fun day out. Here we are by the former church of Saint Nicholas Without.

Dublin Decoded group St Nicolas WthIn, on Medieval Walls Walk, October 18

Later the same afternoon saw us hosted royally by the superb OPW guides at the ancient church of Saint Audoen, including a superb talk on the medieval Portlester Memorial. (Below)

Dublin Decoded group St Audoen's on Medieval Walls Walk, October 2018

All this time of course, right through the year, we took on various private groups and private family and small group tours.   So here I am below for example with the utterly charming Nozaki family from Japan,  pictured first inside the University Church, then later at the National Gallery of Ireland.

with the Nokazaki Family at the Univ Church

with the Nokazaki Family at the NGI

and here below is another wonderful family group I’d the pleasure of guiding for four wonderful days, this time from the Flemish part of Belgium.  (We were on a visit to Marsh’s Library at this point,  as you may see!)


I had better warp it up there although i will say there were also a couple of very interesting late season tours to the River side quays, Grand Canal Dock and Hanover Quay.   It is of course an extraordinary district, chock full of fascinating architectural, engineering, commercial and maritime history.

Hanover Quay

Bindon Blood Stoney Diving ball on Sir John Rogerson Quay

It is also an area that continues to change, very rapidly.  I suspect we will pay at least one further visit in 2019.   Keep your eye out on the mailing list.

Grand Canal Dock

I didn’t even mention the two great Dutch groups we hosted.   Nor my sense of extreme privilege to partner up for one day and collaborate with the great Shane O’Toole.  Nor that Dublin Decoded were also honoured to be chosen to host and lead a group from the London Art History Society,  for all four days of their tour here to Ireland.   It was a total pleasure.  Here they are, in Edward Lovett Pearce’s extraordinary House of Lords,  inside the old Parliament buildings.   Huge thanks as always to Bank of Ireland for accommodating visits such as this on their premises.  It is always appreciated.

London Art History Society early July 2018, (at the House of Lords)


Very finally,  we were extremely honoured for our two last tours to be asked to lead two extraordinary tours,  first a Renaissance-themed tour for the Royal Hibernian Academy and Temple Bar Studio and Galley’s (TBG+S) collaboration, the Winter Seminar, Lives of Artists.  (This is one of the Renaissance paintings we discussed on that tour, Marco Palmezzano’s Madonna and Saints in the National Gallery of Ireland. image courtesy of the National Galley of Ireland)

S Madonna w Saints by Marco Palmzanno NGI


Just a week later we led a second tour for TBG+S,  this time at the invitation of the brilliant Ellen Rowley and TBGS curators Cliodhna Shaffrey and Orla Fitzpatrick.  This secoind walk was on the theme of books and libraries, traveling from the Chester Beatty, to Marsh’s Library, then the lanes around  Temple Bar and Castle St.   It was fantastic!   I was honoured to be invited to lead tours like this, as you can well imagine.

So to sum up?    Well, once again, at the end of 2018,  I suspect I may very well have the best job in the world.   And once again, for another year I would like toi thank all of my guests through the whole last 12 months, for your custom but also for your great company, your humour, patience, and un-ending intellectual curiosity and sense of fun.   You are, undoubtedly,  what makes it all worthwhile!     I wish you all a very happy festive season and hope to see many of you again next year in 2019.

Happy Christmas and new year everybody.   We shall see you on the other side!

Arran Henderson  – Dublin Decoded.

on the Gragegorman Tour 2018 photo credit Luke McManus


Nat Hist Museum with Horner School group


Grafton St tour


francis-wheatley-the-dublin-volunteers-on-college-green-4th-november-1779Remco de Fouw, Door of Green Building, Temple Bar

Gragegorman Tour 2018 photo credit Luke McManus


Dublin’s Medieval Walls: a circuit & exploration.

Our Medieval Walls Walk is a complete circuit and exploration of the medieval walls of Dublin, both in a physical sense, and as an exploration of the walls in the imagination and through Dublin’s history; through maps, conversation, story and historic detail.

Once a palisade of wooden stakes erected from 841 by Dublin’s Viking founders, and later re-built as thick, high stone walls by the Anglo-Norman conquerors, the walls delineated and defined the city for generations of medieval Dubliners. Citizens of the city felt their reassuring presence, as they limited, protected and defined a sense of place for centuries.

We will follow their route along castle walls, down backstreets and side lanes, as the wall appears, disappears and reappears again, using maps, historic accounts, tell-tale street names and physical clues in the present city landscape to guide us along our way.

Along our route we will consider towers and gates, prisons and bridges, fires, plague, invasion and revolution. We’ll see the impact on the modern street plan, and contemplate how it helped shape the current-day city of Dublin.

We normally meet and start outside the West door of City Hall on Cork Hill (directly across the road from the Dublin Rates Office) We then walk a complete circuit of the ancient city walls, whether currently visible above ground or not.

This is an especially fun tour.  We hand out maps of the medieval walls to all our guests.  We then use these maps to trace the line of the old walls in the existing, modern-day streetscape.  This requires a lot of imagination, map reading, navigation and guess work, and at times has an element of hunting for clues about it.

A terrific tour, that will bring out the Indiana Jones in everyone.

This tour is run as a public tour from 3- 6 times per year and, like all public tours,  is naturally open to all.   If any of these Medieval walls tours are currently scheduled they’ll appear on our Public Tours Page.

Alternatively, we also offer and run the tour as a private activity for your own private group.

Please use the private tours contact form to inquire about Private tours.   (Use exclusively for inquiries regarding private tours only please)  Thank you.

from late-May to mid- October this tour normally includes the ancient church of Saint Audoen’s, established 1190 and the oldest continually- operating parish church in Ireland.  (The church is closed during the winter season)

Medieval Walls Walk Dublin Decoded image 2



images above: top left: at the Portlester Memorial in St Audoen’s church; top right:  artist Iain Barber’s superb painted image of Viking Dublin; middle right: the Seagrave and Spark/Duff Memorials in St Audoen’s church.  Bottom a group picture of a Medieval walls guests on a recent Medieval Walls tour, by the old church facade of St-Nicholas-Within.  Top and featured image: Gilbert’s map of Dublin from the Dublin Builder 1865.


Dublin: The Story of a City by Stephen Conlin and Peter Harbison, reviewed — Arran Q Henderson

Dublin: The Story of a City The publication of any book of drawings by Stephen Conlin is something of an event for any student of our capital city. This book is particularly welcome, bringing together as it does most of the artist’s most important Dublin drawings, made in a long career stretching well over 30 […]

via Dublin: The Story of a City by Stephen Conlin and Peter Harbison, reviewed — Arran Q Henderson


Arran’s blog

Dublin Decoded tours’ owner and chief guide is the writer and street-level art historian Arran Henderson.  Arran is a passionate local historian and avid observer and writer on many aspects of  artistic, architectural culture and almost all eras of history.  He is a graduate of Oxford Brook Art History department, Ireland’s National College of Art and Design and the Dublin Institute of Technology and has spent additional time in the University of Rhode Island and and Central St Martins, London.

His blog, about everything from traditional cast iron coal hole-covers to the use of optical magnifying and projecting apparatus in 17th century Dutch art appears at irregular intervals.  It is titled simply Arran Q Henderson dot com. and you can see it here.

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