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Grafton Street, Dublin City

Grafton Street in 1956.

Grafton Street started life as a small, medieval cattle track that wound alongside the east bank of the Stein, the river that now flows underground between St Stephen’s Green and Trinity College. In 1671 this route was deemed ‘so foule and out of repaire that persons cannot passe to the said Green for the benefits of the walk therein.’ [1] Dublin Corporation took the matter up and began converting the track into what would one day become the foremost commercial street in the city. They named it after Henry Fitzroy, the first Duke of Grafton, an illegitimate son of Charles II, who was killed in the storming of Cork during the Williamite–Jacobite War in 1690.

The Corporation then erected a row of fine houses along either side of the street which, as the Georgian age got underway, proved popular with publishers and booksellers, as well as the aldermen who sat on the Corporation. Two of the four Grafton Street houses located where Weir’s Jewellers now stands were occupied by a Lord Mayor and a Lord Mayor’s widow. The street was also home to Samuel Whyte’s Academy at No. 75, where Bewley’s now stands; established in 1758, its past pupils included the poet Thomas Moore, the patriot Robert Emmet, the playwright Richard Brinsley Sheridan and the Duke of Wellington. During the school’s heyday, the street was apparently paved with blocks of pinewood to dull the disruptive sound of horses’ hooves and carriage wheels passing by.

Grafton Street’s rise to prosperity was much enhanced by the opening of Carlisle Bridge (now O’ Connell Bridge) in 1794, which enabled people from the wealthier northside to cross the river and shop on the increasingly fashionable street, as well as the clothes shops on neighbouring Wicklow Street where the Scottish jeweller Thomas Weir opened his Goldsmith’s Hall in 1883. His move to Wicklow Street came in the wake of a major re-construction of a row of five Georgian houses running from 96-100 Grafton Street, as well as 1 and 2 Wicklow Street. This followed the expiration of the original leases on these properties from Dublin Corporation. A report published in 1877 had recommended a complete overhaul of the streetscape and so the Corporation agreed to renew each lease for 75 years on condition that each leaseholder agreed to expend between £1,000 and £2,000 on a rebuild.[2] Each lessee was also guaranteed the same length of frontage that they had possessed before the rebuild. The leaseholders were named as Messrs. Ogilvy, Seale, Boon, Forrest, Mallett, Poyntz, Waller and Rooney. [3] By December 1881, the five buildings had been entirely rebuilt as a single commercial block, as Irish Times readers were informed:

For most of the 20th century, Weir & Sons premises in Dublin consisted of 96 Grafton Street and 1-3 Wicklow Street, with the retail premises at ground level and the workshops, stock rooms and offices above. The acquisition of 97-99 Grafton Street in 1976 considerably increased the size of the enterprise

The range of houses in Grafton street, viz—Nos. 96, 97, & 98. ordered some time since by the Corporation to be taken down and rebuilt, when in the respective occupancy of John Boon, hosier and outfitter, and the Messrs E. and W. Seale, also in the same line of business, after bring partially knocked down, are now in the course of re-construction under the management of the Messrs Meade and Son, the eminent building firm of Great Brunswick street … and are rapidly approaching completion. The frontage of these renovated establishments are now finished, and are built of red brick, being three storeys high above the shops. They will, when ready for the resumption of business by their recent residents (who have temporarily removed into adjacent houses during their re-modelling) be a lasting and conspicuous improvement in this leading street.[4]

Rising sixty foot in height, the new block was reminiscent of the Queen Anne style, replete with broken gables, dormers and decorative brickwork. It was faced with ornamental red brick, relieved by dressings and string-courses of terra cotta moulding and carved limestone. [5] The spacious shops at ground level were fitted with plate-glass windows and coiling shutters while the upper portions were developed as chambers, workrooms and milliners’ showrooms. The ‘great height’ ensured these would be ‘valuable properties’ for the tenants. [6]

Michael Joseph Meade by Francesco Pinci.

The new building was designed by the architect William Mansfield Mitchell (1842-1910) whose father, George, had been a confectioner at 10 Grafton Street. [7] Having worked under Deane and Woodward until 1867, W. M. Mitchell was at the tail end of a ten-year partnership with John McCurdy when Dublin Corporation commissioned him for the new corner block.[8] Most of the construction work was conducted by Messrs. Meade and Son, an eminent building firm from Great Brunswick (now Pearse) street. They were employed to create what the Freeman’s Journal hailed as ‘not only an improvement but an art embellishment to the city.’ [9] Most of this new build would become Weir & Sons a century later but only the two sides of Mitchell’s design survive today, as both 97 and 98 Grafton Street were replaced by an Art Deco structure in the 1930s.

Added to the excitement of the new build was improved lighting. In August 1881, the Irish Times observed:

‘Since Grafton Street has been brilliantly lighted up with the improved lamps it has considerably increased as a point of evening promenade, immense numbers of respectable and well-conducted persons throughing [sic] that important thoroughfare from dusk to an advanced hour in the evening.’ [10]

Electric streetlights would arrive in 1892, powered from a station erected close to the first Weir workshop on Fleet Street.


Early map of Grafton Street


Grafton Street in the 19th century.




In 1902, Weir & Sons opened its new jewellery shop at 5 Grafton Street, on the opposite side of the street to the present shop. The first record of a house at No. 5 was in 1780, when it was home to William Heron, a music teacher and composer.[11] In 1809, the lease passed from Mrs S. McCreary, a fashionable milliner, to the Clarkson / Moore family, haberdashers, who held it until 1819. [12] Thereafter, it was taken up by George McNaghten, a furrier, who converted it into the place to go for Leghorn Hats and Fancy Straw Bonnets.[13] He continued for 15 years before falling foul of the Chancery Court; the Sheriffs of Dublin closed him down in March 1827.[14] A few months later, the building was rented by Mr Percival ‘of the Strand, London’, who rented the premises so that ‘thousands’ of people could come inside and have their miniatures and silhouettes taken by a new camera-like device that could reproduce ‘likenesses’ of people.[15] By March 1828, No. 5 had been taken up by Henry McArdle, a supporter of Daniel O’Connell’s Repeal campaign, who was also a patron of the Orphans’ Friend Society. He was presumably the father of Peter McArdle, a maker of leather and cloth breeches, who was at No. 5 until at least 1847.[16] In 1851, the building became the base for a new glove, hosiery and outfitting establishment run by James Walsh.[17]

5 Grafton Street was the base of Charles Mayfield, watch manufacturer and jeweller, from 1857 until January 1872 when, presumably to Thomas Weir’s great interest, Mr Mayfield was obliged to sell his ‘entire valuable stock’ of jewellery, gold chains and clocks on the expiration of his lease. [18]  Then came W.F. McCartney who ran it as a Heraldic and Stationary Warehouse until he retired in 1874.[19] For the next twelve years, it was a warehouse for Messrs. C.L. Reis & Co., who specialised in clearance sales of bankrupt stock, including silver-plated ware, jewellery and watches.  When they left in 1886, the entire contents of the shop, counters and all, were put up for auction.[20] Next up, it served as a Mourning Warehouse for Laurie, Mills & Co. who held it until at least 1894. It is not clear when the shop was rebuilt but there is a record of it serving as a branch of Prescott’s Dye Works, a cleaner of blankets and lace curtains, the year before Weir & Sons moved in. [21]




On 5 July 1910, Weir & Sons bought the thirty year old corner-building at 96 Grafton Street, previously occupied by Boon’s outfitters.[22] There had been a building on this site since at least 1778 when No. 96 was given as the address of Mr Tresham, an attorney, while James Wisdom’s Hairdresser was here in 1779.[23] The property was described as a ‘New Building’ in July 1782  when taken up by Alexander Campbell, a riband weaver and haberdasher, who had the contract to sell the celebrated ‘Irish Chip Hats’ manufactured in Celbridge by William Wadsworth.[24] A contemporary advertisement in Saunders’s News-Letter revealed that the original house consisted of ‘four stories over the shop, in perfect and complete order’, along with ‘a large dwelling house at the rere, containing six rooms, two of them very large. There are two stables, one of them large enough for six horses, the other smaller; a coach-house for two carriages, an extensive flagged yard, with capital vaults underneath; the entire in thorough repair.’ [25]

The recession that afflicted Dublin in the wake of the Act of Union and the closure of the Irish parliament may have been behind Alexander Campbell’s decision to sell up in 1804. His lease was taken up by John McDermott, a linen draper, who retired from the business in January 1810.[26] The next tenant was Edward Butler, a linen draper, who was declared bankrupt in 1819.[27] On 3 June 1820, Saunders’s News-Letter advised its readers that ‘the Bankrupt’s Interest in No. 96 were ‘held for the remainder of a term of 96 years and six months from 1 August, 1786, subject to the yearly rent of £100, and to a Mortgage Debt of £600, and Interest.’ This meant they would come up for grabs again on 1 February 1883. The Title Deeds were posted on the wall of the Royal Exchange Coffee-Room, while a major sale of Butler’s woollen stock took place on site on 4 December 1820.[28]

No. 96 was next occupied by Henry Roche, another linen draper, who moved his shop over from Nassau Street.[29] He retired from the linen trade in April 1831 but either he or his son and namesake continued to run a jewellery business from 96 Grafton Street, in partnership with Michael Bennett and Co., manufacturing jewellers and importers, who took over the shop that August. This means that jewellery was on sale at No. 96 over 180 years ago. The Roche-Bennett partnership was dissolved by mutual consent in April 1836.[30] Six months later, Henry Roche, ‘gold and silver smith, jeweller, watchmaker and general importer’, was offering customers ‘a splendid collection’ of jewellery, which he had gathered up in London and Paris, consisting of brooches, lockets, rings, gold chains, bracelets and buckles, as well as Sheffield plated ware and German silverware.[31]

In 1841, the shop was taken up by Hetherington and Barber, sellers of ‘London and Paris jewellery’, as well as papier-mâché, ink, work-boxes and useful nick-nacks.[32] They bowed out two years later, when the leasehold was put up for sale again, along with all the fixtures, glass cases and a spring clock.[33] From at least 1847 until his death in 1877, it was the shop of Francis Asken, a shirt-maker, military glover and importer of French scarves.[34] In later life he went into partnership with John Boon who, in addition to shirt and glove-making, operated as a colonial outfitter and seller of Brigg’s Celebrated Umbrellas. During a Royal visit to Dublin by the Prince of Wales (later Edward VIII) and his new bride, Princess Alexandra, in 1863, John Boon was commended for displaying two stars and a plume at No. 96, along with the Royal coat of arras, encircled in a wreath of gas jets, helping to illuminate the street.[35] No. 96 also housed the Industrial Depository, which claimed to have the largest stock of Irish Point and Guipure lace.[36]

In 1870, William M. Mitchell, architect, and Millard, builders, of Harcourt Street, were commissioned to carry out some modifications on John Boon’s corner house.[37] This was evidently insufficient to save the entire house from being felled and rebuilt between 1879 and 1884. Mr Boon appears to have hesitated about Dublin Corporation’s offer to renew his lease on condition that he spend £2000 rebuilding the house. His plot of land went up for auction on 13 October 1881 at City Hall, along with the site of a small house at 1 Wicklow Street that had previously been occupied by tenants such as William Bagnall, a boot and shoe maker, John Fullam, a tobacconist, and, most recently, Charles Travostino, a tailor. Ultimately, Mr Boon renewed his lease on the plot at No. 96. The site of 1 Wicklow Street was now divided between the adjacent properties, with one half going into Mr Boon’s new shop and the other half was incorporated into the Fox Tavern, run by the Devon-born vintner Richard J Mallett.[38]

While he waited for the building project to be completed, John Boon moved his shop to 8 Grafton Street. In May 1884, he returned to occupy part of the new built corner house at No. 96.[39] This new building also now included 96A, which served as home to the Central Registry Rooms in the late 1880s. Shortly before Christmas 1894, 96A was occupied by Bradbury & Co., who manufactured sewing machines, bicycles and bassinettes (hood­ed cradles and prams), which must have been of interest to Thomas Weir’s inventive eye. By 1900, the shop was run by Thomas M’Ateer, a woollen agent. From 1903-1909, it housed the ware of JJ Murphy, an outfitter, while William Martin, solicitor, was also based there in 1908.

John Boon had passed away by 1893 but his family continued to run the shop until it was bought by Weir’s in 1910. In January 1907, for instance, the  Boon brothers won first prize in a window dressing contest held by the Jaeger Company,  producers of Dr Gustav Jaegers’ pure wool clothing, long-johns and bedding. In  announcing their victory, the Dublin Evening Mail remarked: ‘It may be mentioned that within the past few months the Messrs. Boon have made extensive alterations for the purpose of opening a department specially for the ladies in connection with their Jaeger agency, and it is now in full working order.’ [40]




In 1976, Weir & Sons bought the three houses at 97, 98 and 99 Grafton Street, all of which were part of Mitchell’s new 1881 block. The original house at No. 97 had been built by 1787 when it was recorded as a warehouse for Michael Boylan, a house and floor cloth painter, who also specialised in paper hangings and paper stains.[41] He was succeeded by his sons John and Patrick Boylan who remained at No. 97 until 1810, by which time the majority of buildings on the street had been converted from residential to retail units. .[42] The house was then purchased by Maxwell McMaster, a watchmaker, who specialised in chronometers, watches and clocks. Later trading as McMaster & Son, the firm remained at No. 97 for the next seventy years, relocating to 61 Dawson Street in 1880 when the lease from Dublin Corporation expired and the property was bookmarked for reconstruction. [43]

Part of the upper floor at No. 97 is occupied by Grafton Architects, which was established in 1978 by Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara. The company won the World Building of the Year Award in 2008 for their seminal work on the Luigi Bocconi University in Milan.[44]




The earliest record of 98 Grafton Street is in April 1782 when it was a bookshop run by John Exshaw (1753-1827), a publisher and book-seller who became an Alderman that same year. He went on to serve as Lord Mayor of Dublin in both 1789 and 1800. He commanded the first regiment of the 1000-strong Royal Dublin Volunteers, also known as the Stephen’s-Green Yeomanry. On St Patrick’s Day 1797, the regiment met at 98 Grafton Street where it was presented with ‘Elegant Stands of Colour’ by Miss Exshaw.[45] During the United Irishmen’s Rebellion of 1798, Alderman Exshaw was briefly in command of the entire Dublin Garrison. He played a key role in arresting the College Green book-seller Patrick Byrne, who was forced into exile in Philadelphia, never to return. In 1809 John Exshaw moved his bookshop to 103 Grafton Street, opposite the Provost’s House, retiring in 1822.[46]

Meanwhile, in 1814, No. 98 was occupied by Henry Smith, a linen-draper, as well as George Faulkner, the City Printer.[47]   From 1816 until 1831, it was the shop of James Forrest, a thread lace manufacturer and mercer of French and English silk, as well as veils, ribbons and furs.[48] His heirs would later move to 100-101 Grafton Street but the company retained the lease from Dublin Corporation on No. 98 until 1883. In 1831, Mr Forrest sub-let the premises to Saunderson Spear, a lamp-maker and dealer in candles, wax and Spermaceti Oil, who was declared insolvent three years later.[49] The next tenant was Oliver Carleton, a seller of waterproof Macintosh coats and fishing frocks, as well as gloves, hosiery and umbrellas.[50] Mr Carleton died at No. 98 on 8 January 1838 but his business continued as Carleton and Co., completing ‘extensive alterations and improvements’ in 1844. The retirement of ‘the surviving partner’ just two months later prompted a closing down sale.[51] Part of the building appears to have been let to Miss Smith & Co. who opened a Dress and Cloak Wareroom three weeks after Oliver Carleton’s death, offering ‘the latest London and Parisian’ styles to ‘lovers of fashion, comfort and economy.’[52]

In 1845, William Dinning, a shirt-maker and hosier, sub-let the premises for a new ‘Gentleman’s General Fancy Trade’ shop; he had previously worked with Forrest’s and personally selected his stock of coats, shirts, scarves, cravats and such like in London.[53] However, he was immediately threatened with legal action by the Corporation of Tailors, as he was not a member of the guild; he was declared insolvent in 1847 and his ‘magnificent stock’ was sold at prices regarded as an ‘Immense Sacrifice.’ [54] At least part of No. 98 was then leased to Richard Longford, a seller of India Long-Cloth Shorts, who closed down in 1852.[55] Next up was Darby & Co., a seller of gentlemen’s clothes, who held a clear out sale in January 1857, followed by Mrs Cameron, a dressmaker, who held it until August 1859, when it passed to Seales.[56] Some of the upper rooms were used in 1861 by Mr E Sutherland, a dentist who ‘performed operations in the Making and Fitting of Teeth on the new patent Vulcanized Rubber principle.’[57]




By 1859, the lease on 98 Grafton Street had been taken up by Edward and William Seale, merchant and military tailors, who specialized as shirt-cutters, glovers, hosiers and Indian outfitters. Their company was to remain there for almost seventy years. In 1864 the Seale brothers married two sisters, Eleanor and Emily Carrington, daughters of William Carrington, Esq., of Brooklyn, New York, with whom they settled in south Dublin at Cottage Park, Kilgobbin, and Mount Aventine, Foxrock, respectively. [58] Two years later, No. 98 was given a new front by the architect John Joseph Lyons but, within a decade, the entire property was to be rebuilt.[59]

The Seales opted to stay on after the rebuild, although they leased out the upper floors. In 1883, for instance, the ladies of Dublin were informed that the Scientific Dress-cutting Association of Regent Circus, London, had established a Branch Office at 97-98 Grafton Street where Mademoiselle Emilio, ‘a competent teacher’, was on hand to offer instruction in a new system of dress-cutting, either in class or privately.

Edward Seale died in 1894, the year the company expanded into 99 Grafton Street. William passed away four years later. The company remained at No. 97-99 until March 1928 when they moved to new premises in Westmoreland Street from where they would ride out the economic depression that followed the Wall Street Crash of 1929.[60] Meanwhile, 97-98 Grafton Street passed to a new tenant, W.J. Kelly.




A fashionable woman in mourning dress.

In 1782, ‘No. 99, New Buildings, Grafton Street’ was the address of Laurence Ward, a woollen draper, who supplied the Duke of Rutland and several other Lord Lieutenants with their woollen needs, including ‘Part of his Grace’s Suit, of the Manufacture of this City.’ [61] Four years later, it was the home of Mary Darragh (née Newton), the widow of Alderman John Darragh, a china and earthenware merchant who had served as Lord Mayor of Dublin in 1781.[62] When Alderman Darragh died in August 1785, the Dublin Evening Post warned,

‘The cause of the late Alderman Darragh’s death should make gouty subjects careful of their situation, as it is said to have been occasioned by his standing for an imprudent length of time in a damp cellar, where he was getting some alterations made. The Alderman is deemed to have died worth 60,000 sterling, the whole of which, except some inconsiderable legacies, has fallen to the present Recorder.’ [63]

The Recorder (or chief magistrate of the City of Dublin) was Dudley Hussey (1741-1785), a popular member of the Monks of the Screw, who was married to the Darraghs’ only daughter, Susanna. However, just three months after the Alderman’s death, Mr Hussey contracted fever while visiting a jail and also died. Susanna herself had passed away by 1787 and, as the Hussey’s left no children, the inheritance reverted to Mrs Darragh. She continued to live at No. 99 until her death in the house in January 1799.[64] She was succeeded by her nephew, George Newton, a silk and poplin mercer, who cited No. 99 as his address from at least 1789 until 1800.[65] His first cousin Susannah Newton married William Lunell Guinness, the youngest son of Arthur Guinness, the brewer, who later became manager of the St. James’s Gate brewery.[66]

From 1804 until 1808, No. 99 was the base of Thomas Dixon, a hosier, who ran the Royal Stocking shop on Cork Hill and counted the Earl of Meath among his customers.[67] The Dixons were an exceptionally talented family, boasting several prominent engravers and painters at this time. From at least 1812 until 1813, the building was occupied by R. and H. Williams, silk mercers.[68] There then followed a run of over thirty years under the Sharpe family. The first of these was Ben Sharpe, who ran a Lace Warehouse, as well as a Chip and Straw-Hat Shop, from No. 99 in 1814. By 1830 he had changed his profile to silk mercer, haberdasher and importer of ‘Foreign Silks and Fancy Goods.’[69] The business later passed to his son, George Sharpe, a silk mercer, linen merchant and haberdasher to the Irish court at Dublin Castle.[70]

In 1847, No. 99 was remodelled and decorated as a ‘Maison de Deuil’, or ‘Mourning Establishment’, catering to the Victorian fixation with mourning and offered suitably sombre outfits to widows and other bereaved souls. [71]  Originally established by Burton and Company, this concern was subsequently absorbed into the empire of Alexander Ogilvy, the Scottish silk mercer, who also owned 3 Wicklow Street. He sub-let the property from Forrests of Grafton Street and ran it as ‘Ogilvy’s Family Mourning and Black Silk House’, selling a ‘large stock of black goods’, such as crepes, widow’s cloaks, bonnets, skirts and dresses. In 1877 Mr Ogilvy undertook to lay out £1500 on the rebuilding of the house. At the time, No. 99 was valued at £135 a year.[72] By the 1880s, it was occupied by R. Goodson, who sold ‘the latest designs of French, German and London productions’ of mantles, velvets and silks.  In March 1891, he was replaced by R. Field, a high class ladies tailor from Edinburgh,  who remained there until 1894 when it became part of E. and W. Seale’s empire.




IRA patrol on Grafton Street, 1922, shortly before W.J. Kelly opened his House of Men on the street.

On 13 April 1928, 97-99 Grafton Street was reopened for business by W.J. Kelly, a high-class tailor and outfitter, who had formerly run the famous House of Men at 87 Grafton Street.[73] He may well have been the W.J. Kelly, tailoring and outfitting specialist, who had a shop on O’Connell Street, Sligo, in 1920. If so, he had arrived in Dublin by 27 February 1923 when he opened the House for Men; by 1926, the shop was offering 1700 suits and 800 overcoats for sale. [74] Such volumes of turnover demanded a new building and a complete re-organisation of Mr Kelly’s business.

In 1933, acting as his own contractor, Mr Kelly initiated a major reconstruction project of No. 97-99. The Trim-born architect Vincent Kelly (1895-1975) was commissioned to rebuild the central portions of the Mitchell’s late Victorian block with five-bay facades of dark Ruabon rustic facing bricks, stone cornice and copings.[75] A bold new front was added, comprising three slender, round-headed central bay windows, supplied by Messrs. William and Watson Ltd. of Liverpool, which carried up to the third floor and produced what architectural historian Christine Casey described as:

‘… a handsome if thin machine-built Art Deco frontage, articulated as giant tapered piers flanking a three-storey, three bay applied arcade and surmounted by an attic with decorated paterae. The ‘piers’ are pierced by narrow vertical windows while the arches are filled with three deep bands of steel-framed glazing.’

According to the Irish Times:

‘The main structure internally is carried out by a novel process of steel and concrete, known as the Ogmensteel process. It is in common use in other countries, where is chief advantage lies in economy in time and material. By the use of Ogmensteel in hospitals, schools, warehouses, bridges etc., there is a saving of 55% in weight of steel as compared with a steel frame building in cased in concrete for fire protection purposes.

The ground and under floors, which were to be devoted to outfitting and clothing, were equipped with the latest ventilation and central heating technology, installed by the Hayden Engineering Company of Pearse Street, as well as tailormade electric lighting by Mulligan Bros. of Harcourt Street. The showroom on the first floor was painted and decorated by a team from nearby Switzer’s, while Messrs Dockrell Limited supplied the plate-glass windows. The Irish Times hailed the project as ‘the most up-to-date and attractive premises in the country … an interesting example of how originality may be achieved without vulgar display or interference with the amenities of the adjoining buildings.’


WJ Kelly, Irish Independent,1950




The New Premises of Messrs W. J. Kelly Ltd-The Irish Times, 17 August 1933.

The new building, which opened on 18 August 1933, evidently caught the eye of Lillian Howarth Maskew, a woman who was clearly ahead of her time. The following year, bucking the trend for austerity, she commissioned the architect George Luke O’Connor to convert the rooms above Kelly’s into a remarkable spa operation. Mr O’Connor was well-known for his work on cinemas, as well as the International Bar on Wicklow Street. He laid down maplewood floors through the interior, painted in mellowing shades of green and primrose, with a hint of mauve, as while the premises were also kitted out with insulated rubber sofas, soft towels, radiant blankets, deck chairs and baths of such weight that it necessitated reinforced steel on each floor.

Known variously as the Turkish Russian Baths, the Dublin Spa or Maskora House, the spa offered a myriad of cutting-edge health treatments, including face-lifts, skin cleansing, slimming remedies, Swedish massages, solarium baths, colonic irrigation and chiropody, as well as high-class hairdressing by Frederick Hussey and Daniel McDonald. They were open for ladies on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and men on all other days.[76] By the end of 1936, Madame Maskew and her partner Eileen M. Hill had opened a branch at 13 Donegall Place, Belfast, near to the Sharman D. Neill shop run by George Weir. Unfortunately, the Dublin baths did not last long and Madame Maskew had been obliged to close by May 1937.




Mr Kelly’s 1930s reconstruction meant that No. 97-99 Grafton Street now comprised of four floors, each boasting five fine, well-lit rooms, with a combined floor-space of 116,425 ft.³ Separate access by staircase and lift to the upper floors rendered them ‘unusually suitable for suites of offices’, well lighted from front to rear. With the main outfitter’s shop at street level, each floor above had plenty of space for tenants, along with ‘ample lavatory accommodation.’ By the end of the Second World War, there were almost a dozen tenants occupying the second and third floors, including Owen J. Toole (a stockbroker who married Jim Weir’s daughter, Noelle), Alfred Clancy (a textile produce merchant), H. J. Christie & Co. (manufacturers of hair-drying equipment) and McMahon & Co. (auditors and accountants), while William Montgomery & Son (auctioneers and estate agents) took over the top floor.

After the war, the floors above Kelly’s became a powerhouse for Irish advertising, with two leading agencies on the upper floors. Padbury Advertising (now part of the Doherty Advertising group) was established by Frank Padbury, a Waterford-born printer and photog­rapher, while Tim O’Neill’s Sun Agency (now part of the Irish International Company) secured a number of government contracts, including Aer Lingus and Córas Iompair Éireann (CIÉ), respectively Ireland’s national airline and public transport provider.[77]

By the late 1950s, the rooms above Kelly’s were occupied by nine tenants, including C.N. Hearn (an oil importer and distributor), M.C. Hughes (a solicitor), Currans (road sign manufacturers) and the Enterprise Permanent Building Society, while Montgomery’s, the estate agent, remained on the top floor into the late 1960s. Among the other notable tenants by the mid-1960s was Lett Brothers, highly regarded wine and spirit shippers and agents.

Another latter day tenant of the second floor of 97-99 Grafton Street was Bonavox, the hearing aid supplier, which derives its name from the Latin for ‘good voice.’ In the late 1970s, the company’s name inspired avant-garde Dublin artist Guggi to suggest ‘Bonavox’ as a good stage name to his musical pal Paul Hewson. Mr Hewson liked the idea and would be known ever after as Bono. [78]

The closure of W.J. Kelly Ltd. in 1976 brought an end to this concept of a ground floor shop with a miscellany of small firms above it.   Over the next few years, Weir & Sons would spend over £300,000 refurbishing the complex in order to create the present store.[79]




[1] ‘Encyclopaedia of Dublin’ by Douglas Bennett (Gill and Macmillan, 1991), p. 197.

[2] Freeman’s Journal, 19 December 1877, p. 3; Dublin Daily Express, 8 February 1881, p. 7.

[3] ‘Street Improvements’, Freeman’s Journal, 26 January 1882, p.3.

[4] Irish Times – Wednesday 07 December 1881, p. 6.

[5] ‘Street Improvements’, Freeman’s Journal, 26 January 1882, p.3.

[6] ‘Street Improvements’, Freeman’s Journal, 26 January 1882, p.3.

[7] Christine Casey, The Buildings of Ireland: Dublin (2005), 522-523. This information comes from and William Mitchell, architect, also designed a smaller block just north at 105-106 Grafton Street, which was built by Messrs. Collen Brothers. Mitchell & Son of 10 Grafton Street were confectioners to Her Majesty and to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. Designed by W. M. Mitchell’s sons and completed in the 1920s, Mitchell’s restaurant continued to be a popular rendezvous in Grafton Street through until the 1950s, while a branch of the Mitchell family owns the wine firm still going strong in Kildare Street. See

[8] One wonders if Mitchell had joined Deane and Woodward in time to help with their great work with the Long Room Library at Trinity College in 1858-1860.

[9] Freeman’s Journal, 26 January 1882, p. 3.

[10] Irish Times, 9 August 1881, p. 4.

[11] Mr Heron composed a popular piece called ‘The Volunteers’, described as ‘a favourite lesson for the harpsichord.’ He also co-directed a series of subscription concerts held at the Rotunda in 1790. Saunders’s News-Letter, 26 July 1804. p.3 states that No. 5 was the base of Goslin & Healy, shoe-makers, by 1804, but the Gentleman’s and Citizen’s Almanack of 1815 says they were at No. 6.

[12] The Moore era is complicated. Thomas Moore had a fall out with his brothers Charles and William, whose former name was Clarkson. Charles ran the shop at 4 Grafton Street under the name of Charles P Moore. There was also a Mary Moore / Clarkson, haberdasher, who had moved into No. 5 by 1810. They held a closing down sale  in 1819. The details of the fall out are at Saunders’s News-Letter – Saturday 16 April 1814, p. 2. The Treble Almanac, 1804, p. 28; Saunders’s News-Letter, 20 January 1809, p. 2. The Clarkson name is also referred to in 1815. Saunders’s News-Letter, 1 January 1810, p. 4; Saunders’s News-Letter, 29 May 1819, p. 4.

[13] Dublin Evening Post , 10 May 1821, p.1. M’Naghten personally selected each hat during visits to Paris, London and Florence.

[14] The Sheriffs were T. C. Yates and Henry Bunn, Sheriffs of Dublin. Saunders’s News-Letter, 27 April 1827, p. 3.

[15] Saunders’s News-Letter, 6 March 1828, p. 2.

[16] The Dublin almanac, and general register of Ireland, for 1847, p. 893. Dublin Almanac and General Register of Ireland (Pettigrew & Oulton., 1848), p. 553, 889. Also present in 1847 was Mrs McArdle, who operated a lady’s fancy workshop, and Miss Murphy, a milliner and / or dressmaker

[17] Warder and Dublin Weekly Mail – Saturday 15 November 1851, p.1.

[18] Dublin Evening Telegraph, 4 December 1871, p.1. Charles J. Mayfield lived at “Larkvale”, Leicester Avenue, Rathgar.

[19] Freeman’s Journal – Tuesday 29 September 1874, p. 8.

[20] Weekly Irish Times, 10 August 1878, p. 7; Irish Times, 25 September 1886, p.8. The auction was hosted by George P Boyle & Co.

[21] Freeman’s Journal, 21 February 1900, p.1.

[22] Dublin Daily Express, 24 June 1910, p.4.

[23] Tresham at Saunders’s News-Letter – Thursday 12 March 1778, p. 3; Wisdom at Saunders’s News-Letter, 10 December 1779, p. 3.

[24] Saunders’s News-Letter, 15 December 1784, p. 2. Campbell also had 70 Sackville Street in 1790, as per Dublin Evening Post, 25 February 1790, p. 3. His son Peter advertised himself as a glove maker from 57 Sackville Street in March 1803.

[25]  ‘Alexander Campbell, 96, Grafton-street, intending to retire from business, will dispose of his extensive and valuable Stock of Haberdashery at and under first cost. He will also dispose of his House and very extensive Premises. The situation is contentedly the first  in Dublin for any business, but particularly established in the haberdashery. The back premises consist of a very large house, coach-house, and two stables.’ (Saunders’s News-Letter, St Patrick’s Day 1804)

However, the property did not sell and he was obliged to hold a second sale in January 1805, the particulars of which read:


No. 96, Grafton-Street,

Retiring from trade,


On the premises (if not previously disposed of)  On Thursday the 17th January, 1805,Precisely at two o’clock, His House and Concerns, which are the most valuable both for extent and situation of any that have been offered for sale in Dublin this length of time. The house consists of four stories over the shop, in perfect and complete order.

There is a large dwelling house at the rere, containing six rooms, two of them very large. There are two stables, one of them large enough for six horses, the other smaller; a coach-house for two carriages, an extensive flagged yard, with capital vaults underneath; the entire in thorough repair.

The entrance to the rere is from Exchequer-street. Immediately after the sale of the house, the remainder of the very valuable stock of haberdashery, hosiery, &c. will be sold, together with the shop fixtures, and few articles of furniture.

  1. M’KENZIE, Auctioneer.

(Saunders’s News-Letter, 17 January 1805, p 3.)

Mr McKenzie was ‘continuing’ to sell both Mr Campbell’s house and haberdashery stock five days after the sale. Saunders’s News-Letter, 22 January 1805, p. 3.

[26] Saunders’s News-Letter, 24 February 1810, p. 3.

[27] Edward Butler recorded at 96 in The Gentleman and Citizen’s Almanack, 1815, p. 27. All their property had to be sold, including, notably, lands at Roebuck (where the Newton family also had an interest), a per Saunders’s News-Letter – Friday 12 February 1819, p. 4, via

[28] Saunders’s News-Letter, 4 December 1820.

[29] Saunders’s News-Letter, 12 December 1820, p. 3;  Dublin Morning Register, 30 April 1831, p. 1.

[30] Bennett and Roche Partnership, Saunders’s News-Letter, 13 April 1836, p.2.

[31] Saunders’s News-Letter, 15 November 1836, p. 3.

[32] Hetherington and Barber had a warehouse at 9 Castle Street, Dublin, and appear to have been closely allied to the Jennens and Battridge manufactory in Birmingham. Dublin Evening Packet and Correspondent, 25 June 1842, p. 1.


ALSO, The Shop Fixtures, Glass Cases, Spring Clock, large Chimney Glass, &c.

TO be peremptorily SOLD by AUCTION, on the Premises.

On FRIDAY next, the 3d November, At One o’Clock precisely,

The Interest In the Lease of the House and Premises,

No. 96. GRAFTON-STREET, And Corner of Wicklow-street,

Lately occupied by Messrs. Hetherington and Barber;

Which in point of situation, accommodation, and appearance cannot be exceeded for any General or Fancy Trade. It presents a chaste and showy Plate Glass Front to each street, and is in perfect and substantial repair, both inside and out. It is held for the residue of a term of 45 years [until 1888?]and subject to the annual rent of £184 12s.

THE FIXTURES Consist of several excellent upright Glass Cases, with Mahogany frames and sashes, air tight. Counter ditto with Plate Glass, Mahogany top Counters, Show Tables, Shelving, Fittings, Brass Window Guards, a superior Spring Clock, large Chimney Glass, Oil Cloth, Drawers Trays, Stools, &c.


Saunders’s News-Letter – Monday 30 October 1843. P. 4.

[34] Asken’s death, Irish Times, 23 June 1877, p. 2.

[35] Dublin Daily Express, 11 March 1863, p. 3. Charles Mayfield’s wreath at No. 5 Grafton Street comprised of a star, with the letters “ A. E. A.”

[36] Irish Times, 5 November 1864, p. 1.

[37] Irish Times, 17 Nov 1870. This coincided with the asphalting of the street, prompting much mockery from the likes of Zozimus who likened the results to a skating rink. There is a humorous account of Grafton Street at p. 205 (16 March 1872) of ‘Zozimus’ (The Office, 1871)  via

[38] Irish Times, 21 February 1881. In 1869, 1 Wicklow Street was a small tobacconists’ shop, run by John Fullam. By 1894, Forrest and Sons Ltd, drapers, were at 4 and 5 Wicklow Street. For details of Mallett’s ancestry, see

[39] Dublin Daily Express, 28 May 1884, p.4. John Boon died before 28 December 1893 when his widow, Ellen Boon (nee Goodison of Heathfield, Rathgar), died at 11 Grosvenor Road, Rathmines. Letitia Boon (1844-1870), daughter of John, married Robert Mitchell, a Wine Merchant, who lived at Clapham Villas, Terenure. However, she died in 1870. Mary Ellen Boon, hosier and glover, was recorded at 96 Grafton Street in 1896.

[40] WINDOW DRESSING IN GRAFTON STREETAs a result of an interesting competition in window dressing promoted by Jaeger Company Limited, producers of the famous Dr. Jaegers pure wool clothing and bedding, first prize has been awarded the firm of Messrs. John Boon and Co., 96 Grafton Street. Those who saw the window greatly admired its artistic appearance., and the proprietors are to be congratulated on their success. It may be mentioned that within the past few months the Messrs. Boon have made extensive alterations for the purpose of opening a department specially for the ladies in connection with their Jaeger agency, and it is now in full working order. Dublin Evening Mail – Thursday 31 January 1907, p.2.

[41] Dublin Evening Post – Tuesday 13 February 1787

[42] J and P Boylan, merchants of paper-stain, floor-cloth and house paint. The Treble Almanack, 1804, p. 21.

[43] McMaster & Sons was established at 102 Grafton Street, opposite the Provost’s House, as Peter and McMaster, circa 1800, as per this article in Saunders’s News-Letter, 26 January 1804: ‘MAXWELL M’MASTER, takes this opportunity of expressing his most sincere thanks to the respectable Watchmakers of this City, whom he has had the honour of manufacturing for these few years past, and grateful to his friends and the public for the kind patronage he has met with since his commencement in business, under the firm of Peter and M’Master, 102, Grafton-street, opposite the Provost’s, where every article in the Watchmaking line is manufactured in the most extensive manner, and a fashionable assortment always ready, which, from being finished under his own immediate inspection, the public may be assured of being served on as good terms as any other house in this kingdom. All Watches sold at the above house, warranted; if not approved of exchanged at the original value alter six months trial. The earliest record found of McMaster at 99 Grafton Street is in Saunders’s News-Letter, 18 May 1810, p.2. In 1832, the business was run by watch-maker Howell McMaster, as per The Treble Almanack, p. 105. Details of the move to Dawson Street were in the Dublin Daily Express, 1 April 1880, p. 4.

In 1877 the company was run by George McMaster. Freeman’s Journal, 19 December 1877, p. 3.

There may have been other tenants at 97 in the early years. For instance, The Gentleman and Citizen’s Almanack, 1812, p. 26, 69, suggests it was the base of Edward Butler, a linen-draper. In 1813, it was also the given address for John and David Clarke, Esquires, who were on the Committee of the South East District School Society. (First Report, South Eastern District School Society (1813), p. 4.)

[44] They also won the AAI Downes medal and numerous other Awards, while their work is exhibited widely including: RIAI in 1999; Milan Urban Centre 2002; Mies van der Rohe Award Exhibition 2003; Bergamo and Rome 2006; Dessa Gallery, Ljubljana 2006; Lisbon Triennale 2007; Venice Biennale 2002 & 2008.

[45] Sir John Thomas Gilbert, ‘A History of the City of Dublin, Volume 3’ (J. Duffy, 1861), p. 217. John Exshaw was the son of Edward and Sarah Exshaw, music publishers of Exshaw’s London Magazine, formerly based at The Bible on Cork Hill.  Further details at

[46] DEATH OF ALDERMAN EXSHAW Died, on Saturday night, at his seat at Roebuck, Alderman John Exshaw, aged 76, Senior Alderman and the oldest Magistrate in the County of Dublin. Alderman Exshaw was elected to Aldermanlc Gown in the year 1782. In 1790 he contested the Election for the City of Dublin in the Irish Parliament, but did not succeed. During the disturbances in 1797 and 1798 he commanded the Stephen’s-Green Yeomanry, which formed a fine and well-disciplined battalion, upwards of 1,000 strong; he was likewise Adjutant- General to the entire Yeomanry forces of the Dublin District, and was considered an excellent officer, reversing the adage, cedant arma togae. On one occasion, during these disturbances, the command of the Dublin Garrison devolved upon him for a short time, in the absence of the troops of the line. Alderman Exshaw was one of the Police Magistrates of the 2d Division; this office, by late arrangements, dies with him; he was likewise the publisher of the “Hue and Cry,” the emoluments of which, we understand to be about £1,000 a year. An active canvass has already commenced for the vacant gown ; we understand that Mr. Ex-Sheriff Moore is likely to be the successful candidate. Belfast Commercial Chronicle, 10 January 1827, p. 2.

Alderman Exshaw was also foreman of a Special Jury when John Magee, proprietor of the Dublin Evening Post, was tried for Publishing an Historical Review of the Duke of Richmond’s Administration in Ireland.  See: John Magee, ‘The Trial of John Magee’ (1813)

[47] The Gentleman and Citizen’s Almanack, 1814, p. 96, 157; The Treble Almanack, 1815, p. 101, 190.

[48] Dublin Evening Post, 17 February 1816, p. 3; Saunders’s News-Letter, 28 October 1820, p. 3.

[49] Dublin Mercantile Advertiser, and Weekly Price Current, 31 March 1834, p. 3. He had moved to 98 from Westmorland-street, as per Dublin Morning Register, 10 September 1831, p. 1.

[50] See advertisement at

[51] Dublin Morning Register, 13 January 1838, p. 4;  Saunders’s News-Letter, 14 June 1844; Saunders’s News-Letter, 28 October 1844, p. 4.

[52] Warder and Dublin Weekly Mail, 3 February 1838, p. 4.

[53] Warder and Dublin Weekly Mail, 5 April 1845, p. 1.

[54] Warder and Dublin Weekly Mail, 22 November 1845, p. 1. He was duly obliged to dissolve his partnership and host a closing down sale in April 1846. He managed to order a fresh stock that winter but, after he was declared insolvent in May 1847, there was a sale of his ‘magnificent Stock of Gentleman’s  Outfitting Goods, Perfumery, Foreign Eau de Cologne &c.’. Saunders’s News-Letter, 16 April 1846, p. 3;  n,  27 May 1847, p. 1.

[55] Possible link to Boon family. ‘At St Patrick’s Church, Dalkey … Henry Longford, L.K.Q.C.P.I , L.R.C.S.I, & c.  Camotherly, Northallerton, Yorkshire, elder son of John H. Longford, Blackrock, Dublin, to Martha, youngest daughter of the late John Boon, of Coolock. County Dublin.’ Irish Times – Thursday 09 November 1876

[56] Warder and Dublin Weekly Mail, 3 September 1853, p. 4. Darby & Co. were also based at Waterloo House, 77 Great Britain Street. They closed in order to go into ‘another line of business.’ Freeman’s Journal, 28 November 1856, p. 2.

[57] Dublin Daily Express, 9 May 1861, p.1. Seale’s recorded at 98 Grafton Street in ‘City of Dublin election, List of Electors, May, 1859’, and also in Irish Times, 30 March 1860, p. 2.

Further details of Seale in ‘Reports from Commissioners’, Volume 40, 25 April 1877, p. 225, via

[58] Edward Andrew Seale of Cottage Park, Kilgobbin, Sandyford, County Dublin, died on 25 August 1894. His will was proved by his widow Emily, who died on 3 April 1900. William Henry Seale died in 1898. William Henry Seale, Esq. was married on 4 Jan (or Feb) 1864 at St. Peter’s Church, Dublin, by the Rev. George A. F. Patton to Eleanor Jeannette, eldest daughter of William Carrington, Esq., of Brooklyn, New York. [No cards.] Saunders’s News-Letter – Friday 05 February 1864, p. 4. Edward married Emily, the second Carrington daughter, in the same church on 16 June 1864.

SEALE—August 17, 1898, at his residence, 25 Grosvenor road, William Henry Seale, aged 64 years, formerly of Mount Aventine, Foxrock, Co Dublin. Funeral will leave Grosvenor road this Friday morning at 9 o’clock for Dean’s Grange. No flowers. Dublin Daily Nation, 19 August 1898, p.1.

[59] DB 8, 1 Mar 1866, 66; Dictionary of Irish Architects 1720 – 1940: John Joseph Lyons.

[60] In September 1926, they held a clearance sale of their entire stock of outfits for boys, while they were also selling bags and trunks for an increasingly mobile population.

[61] Hibernian Journal; or, Chronicle of Liberty, 19 April 1784, p. 4. Mr Ward retired in September 1784. Saunders’s News-Letter, 13 September 1784, p. 3.

[62] The Newton and Darragh families had been in business since at least 1758 when they leased the Three China Lyons on Bachelor’s Quay, and later at 11 Lower Ormond Quay. Pue’s Occurrences, 4 February 1758, p. 2.

[63] Dublin Evening Post, 9 August 1785, p. 2.

[64] Saunders’s News-Letter, 21 January 1799, p. 1. Susanna Newton Darragh married Dudley Hussey in 1775.

[65] It is not clear whether the Darraghs actually owned 99 Grafton Street; a summary of the Alderman’s property in June 1799 listed 46, 65, 91, 92 and 93, but not 99. Saunders’s News-Letter, 13 June 1799, p. 3. George’s inheritance also included the Darragh home of Darraghville (now St. Patrick’s Convent) at Kilcoole, Co. Wicklow.

[66] John Darragh and Mary Newton were married on 17 Sept 1750 (or 1748) at the Church of Ireland parish of St. Mary’s in Dublin. Mary was the daughter of George Newton, a glass & china merchant, and a sister of both Isaac Newton, the hosier, and James Newton (a glass and china merchant on Aston Quay, who was father of George Newton, mercer, of 99 Grafton Street. George Newton married Grace Pallin of Francis Street and was variously based at 13 Francis Street, and 33 and 43 Dame Street. (Saunders’s News-Letter, 4 June 1773, p. 1; Hibernian Journal; or, Chronicle of Liberty, 8 November 1780, p. 1.) Grace was evidently his cousin as two years later he was named as heir to his aunt, also Grace Pallin, nee Newton, of The Peacock (Dame Street?). (Hibernian Journal; or, Chronicle of Liberty, 10 March 1775, p. 4). I think George was the father of another George Newton, attorney, of Stephen Street, and, possibly Baggot Street.

Mary Darragh’s brother Isaac Newton (born 1750) was a hosier on Grafton St., who started in the china trade and served as her agent in 1789. (Dublin Evening Post, 25 August 1789, p. 3). He may be the carver, gilder and looking-glass seller who opened a shop and warehouse at 4 Essex Bridge in 1778. (Hibernian Journal; or, Chronicle of Liberty, 11 February 1778, p. 2). He married Anne Pallin (born 1761). Their daughter Susanna Jane Newton (1779/90-1842), who is buried at Mount Jerome Cemetery, married William Lunell Guinness (1779-1842), youngest son of Arthur Guinness, the brewer, who became manager of the St. James’s Gate brewery. William and Susanna had one son, the Rev. William Newton Guinness (1810-1894), Rector at Collooney, County Sligo, who married Harriette Trench (daughter of of Rear Adm. Hon. William Le Poer Trench), and a daughter, Anne Rebecca Guinness (1819-1881), who married William C. Beatty.

[67] The Treble Almanack, 1804, p. 36. The 8th Earl of Meath bought worsted hose at the Royal Stocking in 1779. The present Lord Meath has an image of the bill-head for the sale which was published in ‘Eighteenth Century Ireland’, Volumes 1-4 (1986). Thomas Dixon also had premises at 60 Dame Street.

[68] The Gentleman and Citizen’s Almanac, 1812, p. 103.This was perhaps Henry and Robert Williams, active linen and silk makers at this time.  They relocated to the Irish Silk Warehouse on Parliament Street in 1813.

[69] Wilson’s Dublin Directory, 1830, p. 123.

[70] The Gentleman and Citizen’s Almanack, 1814, p. 94. Saunders’s News-Letter, 3 June 1818, p. 2. ‘A Case of Real Distress’;  Saunders’s News-Letter, 24 February 1820, p. 3, Grand Fancy Ball, Rotunda.

[71] Extensive details of Burton’s funerary offerings appeared in the Dublin Evening Mail, 31 March 1847, p. 2. Burton called the premises the ‘City of Dublin General Mourning Establishment.’

[72] Reports from Commissioners, Volume 40, 25 April 1877, p. 228, via

[73] Irish Independent, 4 April 1928, 25 April 1928, House of Men moves.

[74] Dublin Evening Telegraph, 27 February 1923, p. 2. Evening Herald, 1 March 1926, p.2.

[75] Irish Times, 16-17 Aug 1933 (illus). ‘By continuing the cornice line of the neighbouring buildings into the new façade on each side, and returning it upon itself, the initial difficulty of providing an extra floor in this building without disturbing the main cornice line of the street was overcome. Three slender round-headed bays carried up to the third floor level provide the main fenestration … The Ogmensteel Representative in the Free State is Mr George Pinkerton, Pearse Buildings, Pearse Street, Dublin.’

Vincent Kelly, B.Arch, FRIAI, FRIBA, 87 Merrion Square, was closely involved with hospital improvement schemes at this time, as well as Electricity Supply Board. In 1934 he was appointed consulting architect for Grangegorman mental hospital in Dublin. Dictionary of Irish Architects 1720 – 1940.

[76] The baths started at the Royal Hibernian Hotel on Dawson Street in 1931.

[77] Frank Padbury worked for the O’Kennedy Brindley advertising agency for many years before setting up his own agency in the empty offices at 97 Grafton Street, remaining there until about 1956. Sun occupied offices at 97-99 Grafton Street from 1945 until about 1949.

[78] Bonovox origins revealed in Evening Herald (Dublin), 21 June 2005, p. 11.

[79] It thus became the second largest privately-owned premises on Grafton Street after Brown Thomas.