Georgian Dublin was a city second only to London in grandeur, which boasted a diversity of life gestated by lassie faux economics, minimal social conscience and the gross inequality it sired.
Number 29 is a late 18th-century Georgian townhouse which introduces us to this world through a tour of its restored interior and a collection of objects associated with the daily life of its occupants. Emerging from the dark, cramped servants quarters in the basement you enter the splendor of the late Georgian era – the richly decorated pinnacle of 18th-century living. Moving from parlour to dining-room, drawing room to boudoir every attention has been given to collecting together period pieces and replicating the sensibilities of the time. The greatest juxtaposition is evident when entering the fifth and final floor, the attic, where the children of the house spent the majority of their youth. Little wonder the rest of society could be treated with near murderous disregard when children were committed to such an austere environment. However there is a feeling of limitation, that the scale and vibrancy of Georgian Dublin could not be contained within these four walls. In truth it would take a much bigger project to comprehensively tackle the vastness that was Georgian Dublin. Class and gender conflicts simmer beneath the serene interiors: hinted at in the sterile, basement room of the spinster housekeeper, the pretentious stencilled floorboards of the impoverished governess and the reproductions of Hogarth’s ‘Harlot’s progress’ which hang inappropriately in the lady’s boudoir. Unfortunately these issues were not explicitly discussed. This was not the fault of our excellent guide or the rest of the friendly staff who made our visit highly enjoyable. But the limits of the museum can be found in the very climate in which No. 29 was created. In the late 1960s the ESB demolished a number of Georgian houses in Lower Fitzwilliam Street. In their place, interrupting the largest intact Georgian street-scape in the world, was constructed a bland (to be kind), modernist pile. Number 29 was one of the buildings to escape the bulldozer. Its later restoration can be seen as a tokenist balm to soothe bitter opponents. In saying that, the potential is there to centre this little museum at the heart of discussions on the complexity of Georgian Dublin. If the ESB really wants to make amends for earlier crimes then boost the budget and increase the remit of this project so that it can tackle the social and cultural conundrum that was the Georgian era. Number 29 is well worth a visit, but unfortunately at the moment there is little that will draw you back a second time – except perhaps the tranquil little teashop.