Heffernan’s map of Dublin, published 1 May 1861, is both highly unusual and very fine. No other map of the time gives such a bird’s eye, almost axonometric, view of the city’s edifices. It shows in exceptional elevational detail both a number of the city’s principal public buildings, but also its less vaunted institutions; prisons, hospitals, workhouses etc., all within the municipal boundary set by the two canals. The suburbs were to be the focus of his next major opus, in 1868. A resident of 12 Charleville Road, in the then newly created suburban township of Rathmines, Daniel Edward Heffernan was a civil engineer and land surveyor active in Dublin in the second half of the nineteenth century. In addition to being a noted cartographer, he was also evidently a skilful artist, and the maps he published of Dublin, Bray and Wicklow, are embellished with fine vignettes of the popular attractions of these places.
By the time of Heffernan’s map, Dublin had begun to take on the mantle of a Victorian city; existing buildings in the city centre were routinely re-faced or ornamented (often with stucco in an Italianate style to suit the taste of the day), vacant sites were infilled, and new commercial and bank buildings erected. The influence and importance of Deane & Woodward’s Trinity Museum Building (1853-7) and Kildare Street Club (1859-1861) on the architectural character of the mid to late Victorian city cannot be underestimated.
Despite these exemplars, and those of a number of churches, the Gothic Revival was never quite embraced in Dublin as it had been in, for example, London and elsewhere in England. Following the erection of Matthew Digby Wyatt’s No.24-25 Grafton Street (1862), The Builder expressed an earnest desire that its Romanesque character might ‘stimulate many an Irish architect to … a national style;’ which is interesting given that ‘national’ had already begun to mean imperial in Britain, and the battle raged between the use of Gothic and Classicism as the most appropriate national style. In this regard, it is interesting to note that of the city’s more recent expressions of Gothic, Heffernan affords only Deane and Woodward’s Lombardic Gothic Museum, Johnston’s Chapel Royal (1807-1814) and John Semple’s St. Mary’s-Chapel-of-Ease (1830), one each of his thirty-two vignettes which frame his map. This suggests that they had already permeated popular visual consciousness as buildings of architectural significance, but also that the focus was still very much on the established neo-classical city. In this regard, it is also noteworthy that Clarendon’s Natural History Museum (1856-7) did not merit a vignette, though the contested ‘Royal Dublin Society House’ did. They do, as part of the overall Leinster House site, however, feature in strong elevational detail on Heffernan’s map, as do churches of all denominations.
Of Heffernan’s four views of the city, two are from the west; one from the Royal Hospital in the south-west, the other from the Phoenix Park in the north-west. The former, from William Robinson’s Royal Hospital (1705), does, however, show the city’s myriad church spires nestled within its fabric, but it is the monumental composition of Thomas Burgh’s Royal (Collins) Barracks that unsurprisingly dominates the view. The second view over the city takes the sloping parkland setting of the Phoenix Park overlooking the Liffey as its vantage point. Dublin’s parks, open spaces and clean air were often lavished with praise in visitor accounts and guidebooks. The author of The Tourist’s Handbook for Ireland 1853, the year of the Industrial Exhibition said, for example, ‘what I most admired in the city of Dublin are its lungs. In a four-mile heat it would inevitably beat any metropolis on the surface of the globe … what a fine windpipe, too, is the Liffey.’ Heffernan frames the view with two female figures in the foreground, and mature trees and Robert Smirke’s recently completed Wellington Monument (1817-1861) to the left, the then delicately cambered Islandbridge spans the Liffey adjacent to a handsome mill building. The Royal Hospital, Dr Steeven’s Hospital and Swift’s Hospital all feature in the middleground, to the right (south of the Liffey), with the main body of the city in the background. Overall it suggests a seemless melding of rural idyll with the neo-classical metropolis.
The third view is towards the city from Dublin Bay, by the South Bull Wall – one of the city’s largest infrastructural projects of the mid-18th century – and on towards the dome of Gandon’s Custom House and the church spires that characterised the skyline of the north city at that time. This is a view some visitors would have first encountered if they came directly into the city by boat. Heffernan’s fourth view is from Kilakee Co. Dublin, towards the city. It is a bucolic image, with a man, horse and plough in the middle distance, juxtaposed against the church-spire dominated skyline of the metropolis. Bar a view from the north of the city, Heffernan choice of views seem to be an attempt to show it in the round, if not from some of its most aesthetically pleasing vantage points.
As an insert to his map, Heffernan includes two panels entitled ‘historical events’. These are very selective in what they include, and begin at 140AD and end in 1800, which suggests that post-Act of Union, he deemed that nothing of historical note had taken place. Of 1800 he simply states, ‘the Parliament removed from Dublin to London on the Union with Ireland.’ Around the edges of the map, Hefffernan continued the tradition of featuring vignettes of popular buildings and locations in the city; thirty-two in this instance. Most are concerned with infrastructure and institutions, many of which are the standard fare in such representations of the city: Trinity College, The Four Courts, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, The Queen’s Inns, the Midland & Great Western Railway Terminus (Broadstone), the Great Southern & Western Railway Terminus (Heuston) etc. Interestingly, the former Parliament building does feature on this map as the Bank of Ireland, as do Dublin Castle, the Chief Secretary’s Lodge and the Vice-Regal Lodge. The oblique angle at which the map is drawn also gives a very strong sense of the military presence in Ireland at the time, with barracks occupying large swathes of the city at regular intervals. Of note too are the market gardens and orchards, especially around the Meath Hospital, and the ‘City Basins’ that existed in between Portobello Harbour and Bloomfield Avenue on the Grand canal – a sister to that adjacent to both the Royal Canal and Grand Canal Harbour, which had the Royal Portobello Pleasure Gardens adjacent. The Gardens, advertisements in the Freeman’s Journal inform us, regularly hosted ‘the greatest concentration of novelty and talent ever witnessed,’ and was ‘attended by crowded and fashionable audiences.’
Collectively, the vignettes, suggest an elegant, genteel city, with figures appearing only for the purpose of scale. What is different and revealing about Heffernan’s map, is the unflinching candour with which he shows such normally socially taboo institutions as prisons, asylums, workhouses and fever hospitals. It is almost as if we can see over their high walls into the troubled heart of them, as they stand cheek-by-jowl with the city’s then unquestioned civic masterpieces, churches, hospitals and more recent infrastructural additions, on the map proper. Such holistic representation is possibly suggestive of a social conscience at play; a recognition of the myriad realities of the Victorian metropolis in the post-Famine period, and that Heffernan was like a Dublin Dickens of sorts in what he chose to portray and how. That is to perhaps overstate it, and it is simply a rendering of the city and its infrastructure through the pragmatic and realistic lenses of a civil engineer.