Joshua Dawson’s descendants welcomed back to their ancestor’s home - Dublin’s Mansion House

On 18th May 2015 Dublin City Council will mark the 300th Anniversary of the deed of sale of the Mansion House between Joshua Dawson and the then named Dublin Corporation.

To mark this special occasion, Joshua Dawson’s descendants will be welcomed back to the Mansion House by the Lord Mayor of Dublin, Christy Burke. Lady Moyola, widow of direct descendant Major James Dawson Chichester-Clark and her daughter Tara Whitley, will be presented with a loaf of double refined sugar, a condition of sale at the time. Sugar was a luxury item at the time so this was a substantial request, however, neither Dawson nor his family ever asked for the Sugarloaf. The original 300 year old deed of sale will be on special display at the Mansion House along with a copy of a portrait of Joshua Dawson and a silver cup he owned at the time of sale.

“Today marks a very significant date in the city’s history. The Mansion House has been at the centre of Dublin life for 300 years and sits proudly here on Dawson Street. I am honoured and delighted to welcome Joshua Dawson’s direct descendants back to their ancestor’s home. I look forward to presenting them with a loaf of double refined sugar which was one of the original conditions of sale” said the Lord Mayor.

Joshua Dawson was one of the first people to realise that Dublin had the potential to expand eastwards of its medieval core and in 1705, he purchased a tract of land to the east of Grafton Street from Henry Temple, which was described on a map dated 1685 as “a piece of marshy land without even a lane crossing it”. This land is now where the Mansion House stands. In 1715 he sold it to the then named Dublin Corporation for £3,500 in addition to an annual rent of 40 shillings and an agreement to provide two fat capons (male hens) and a loaf of double refined sugar weighing six pounds at Christmas. In return, Joshua Dawson agreed to build on an extra room to the house which could be used for civic receptions which he wainscoted in large oak panels: to this day, it is called the Oak Room, and it is used as originally intended, for civic gatherings and receptions.

Tara Whitely said “It is 300 years since my direct ancestor, Joshua Dawson and family, left the Mansion House to live in Castledawson.  I feel very honoured to be invited by the Lord Mayor of Dublin to return on this very special day”.

“Dublin's Mansion House is special for many reasons, not least of which is its continuity - it has been the Lord Mayor's home for 300 years, since the deed of sale was signed on 18th May 1715. It is wonderful to have Joshua Dawson's descendants with us to mark this anniversary” said Mary Clark, Dublin City Archivist.

Ends

A photocall will take place on 18th May at 12.30pm at the Mansion House. Photos will be syndicated to Picture Desks by Jason Clarke photography.

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Notes to the Editor:

Major James Dawson Chichester-Clark, direct descendant of Joshua Dawson was Prime Minister of Northern Ireland from May 1969 to March 1971.

Joshua Dawson was a member of the guild of merchants. His family came from Dawson’s Bridge in Co. Derry and he later helped to develop the village of Castledawson. A civil servant by profession, he was secretary to the Lords Justices of Ireland and was well placed to identify trends in the development of the city.   In 1705, he purchased a tract of land to the east of Grafton Street from Henry Temple, which was described on a map dated 1685 as “a piece of marshy land without even a lane crossing it”.   Two years later, Dawson had drained the ground and laid out a wide and straight road, parallel to Grafton Street, naming it Dawson Street in his own honour, and by 1709 he had issued building leases for the construction of houses along the street. The building and development of Duke Street and Anne Street followed, linking Dawson Street with the earlier Grafton Street.

This process was assisted by the creation of St. Ann’s Parish by Act of Parliament in 1707, and Dawson presented a substantial site in Dawson Street “for erecting a church and vicarage house with garden and for enclosing a churchyard and garden for the Vicar’s use”.   He also agreed to have four houses of his near the new St. Ann’s Church pulled down, so that Dawson Street could be linked with the adjoining Molesworth Street, thus improving access to the church.  

In 1714, a committee of the Dublin City Assembly was formed to look for a suitable residence “for the honour and advantage of the city and a conveniency to the Lord Mayor”.   The committee decided that a house which Joshua Dawson had built around 1705, in the street which bore his name, should be purchased as a mayoral residence, for the sum of £3,500 subject to a yearly rent of 40 shillings and a loaf of double refined sugar at Christmas.  

In 1991, a small street to the south of Dawson Street, which gives access to the Royal Irish Automobile Club, was named Joshua Lane by Dublin City Council, as a further tribute to the person who had done so much to develop the area.      

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