Humphrys genealogy

Genealogy research by Mark Humphrys.

My ancestors - Humphrys - Contents

36 Ailesbury Rd, Dublin

36 Ailesbury Rd.
The S front.
See larger and full size.
Photo 2007 courtesy of Lisney property. Used with permission.

Ailesbury Road, Dublin, is one of the most expensive roads in Dublin (indeed in all of Ireland).
36 Ailesbury Rd was built by the wealthy, widowed, revolutionary Nell Humphreys in 1920.
The builder was the republican Batt O'Connor.
It was built for £8000 (about £1m in today's money).
Nell originally had plans for a much larger house on a site on Shrewsbury Rd, but this was never built.
[P106/453] (454 in index) is planning permission granted for the site, 18 June 1920.
[P106/455] shows building works June 1920 to Feb 1921.
[Deed, June 1921] sets the ground rent on the site of £28/year, to be paid by Nell to the estate of the 15th Earl of Pembroke, payable for 150 years from 25 Mar 1920.
Nell's family were wealthy supporters of the Irish revolution, and the house was built with a secret room on the 1st floor to hide fugitives.
Perhaps the last house in Ireland built with a secret room.

Safe house in the War of Independence:
It was used as a safe house in the War of Independence 1920-21, sheltered many IRA fugitives.
Cathal Brugha, Minister for Defence in the underground government, used it as his HQ, and slept in secret room [P102/543].
The house was used for Cabinet meetings of the underground Republican Government 1920-21, meetings of Republican Courts, and meetings of IRA HQ staff.
[French Embassy history] says it was also used for meetings of the Dail itself (or those members who could attend).
Arthur Griffith, Michael Collins and Eamon de Valera were frequent visitors.
Despite many British raids the secret room was never discovered.
Brian Hogan tells a joke: "What did they find when they raided the Humphreys' house?" "They found Maud Gonne .."

Raid of Ailesbury Rd by the British, Easter 1921:
Two Volunteers arrived at Ailesbury Rd in the evening, nowhere to stay. Sighle went to look for safe house in Donnybrook, couldn't find one, they would have to stay the night. Emmet hid their guns.
After 10pm there were footsteps on the gravel, British outside. (The house it turned out had been watched.) Emmet rushed the two Volunteers up to the secret room. Nell tried to stall them at door. "How many men are in the house?" "Only two sons".
British searched the place, looking for hiding place, watching Anno's face in mirror, seeing if getting near. Couldn't find it, but found guns. Arrested Dick and Emmet.
British went away. Family didn't let Volunteers out, good thing too because British crept round the back to wait for them.
See account in [Mac Eoin, 1980].
This raid was meant to be Easter Sunday, 27 Mar 1921. But ["Irish Cyclist", 13 July 1921] says Dick was out on the Easter Monday motor trials. How could this be, unless he got free immediately?

Ironically, given that the house was already by then a revolutionary headquarters, [Deed, June 1921] says the house is not to be "used for the purpose of any trade, manufacture or business of any description, nor of any public body or society or religious or charitable institution ... nor to be party to any act or thing which might be or grow to be to the annoyance, damage or inconvenience of the neighbourhood".
Presumably having the house repeatedly raided by the security forces, one raid ending in a fatal shootout, would count as breaking these conditions!

Safe house in the Civil War:
The family took the Republican side in the Civil War 1922-23. Secret room still used to shelter fugitives.
In Sept 1922, Nell allowed Ernie O'Malley, the IRA Assistant Chief of Staff, age 25, to use the house as a safe house from which to co-ordinate the Republican war. The house was in effect the headquarters of the IRA.
Maire Comerford recalls acting as a courier to the house [Mac Eoin, 1980, p.48]. Ernie O'Malley nearly shot her when she called to the house late one night [O'Malley, 1978, p.175].

The house was raided by the Free State in Oct 1922 and nothing found. They did not seem to know about the secret room and did not look for it. Sighle said: "this raid gave us a false sense of security" [P106/978(1)].

Raid by the Free State, 4 Nov 1922:
The house was raided by the Free State on 4 Nov 1922. The Free State now knew about the room.
They went straight to outside the secret room, where Ernie O'Malley was hiding. They broke in. There was a shootout. Anno seriously injured, Ernie O'Malley captured, whole family arrested.
The family always wondered who told the Free State about the secret room. The builder Batt O'Connor had gone over to the Free State side, and Sighle in [P106/978(1)] says she saw him at a Free State barracks after her arrest on the day of the raid. But she says there and in [Mac Eoin, 1980]. that she does not believe he told.
In any case, other people knew there was a secret room, from workmen who built the house to War of Independence figures who stayed there, some of whom were now Free State.

After the Civil War, the die-hard republican Sighle remained an opponent of the Free State.
Ailesbury Rd was raided many times in 1927-31.
Ailesbury Rd raided, Sighle arrested, 1928, on charges of influencing juries.
Ailesbury Rd raided, Sighle arrested, 1931, for membership of (the now illegal) Cumann na mBan.

Nell died there 1939.
Nell left Ailesbury Rd to Anno while she lived, then after that to Dick (50 percent), Sighle (25 percent) and Emmet (25 percent).
Anno O'Rahilly died there 1958.
Emmet Humphreys then lived there (he bought out Dick and Sighle's shares),
Emmet living there as at c.1963, listed there in [Thom's, 1965] to [Thom's, 1969].
Emmet sold it 1968 to French Embassy.

French Embassy, 1968 on:
France had acquired the spectacular 53 Ailesbury Road as their Dublin embassy in 1930.
They bought 36 Ailesbury Road in 1968 to use as the working embassy.
Sighle in [P102/543] says: "The house also contained several under floor secret drawers which were never discovered by either British or Free State forces."
When in 1968 the French Embassy lifted the floors to install central heating, one of these hiding places was found under the floor, and it contained a bayonet of French make. See 26 Sept 1968 letter about this in [P106/152].

[Thom's, 1971] shows new French Embassy offices at 36 Ailesbury Road.
36 Ailesbury Rd is now the Chancery and Consular Service of the French Embassy (i.e. the working embassy).
Across the road is the official Embassy, 53 Ailesbury Road, where the French Ambassador lives.
See [French Embassy history].

In Jan 2008, France put up for sale both of its properties - 36 Ailesbury Rd (offered at €20 m)
and 53 Ailesbury Rd (offered at €60 m, the most expensive house ever put on sale in Ireland).
See Irish Times, 17 Jan 2008 (and property).
See 36 Ailesbury Rd and 53 Ailesbury Rd sales sites.
36 Ailesbury Rd was described as 9 bedroom, 3,700 square feet, standing on 1 Acre in Dublin 4.
The houses did not sell. See Irish Times, 14 June 2008.
The property market then collapsed.
Irish Times, 20 June 2012, says France no longer plans to sell no.53, but still plans to sell no.36. "A sale at this stage is unlikely to yield much more than €3 to €5 million."

36 Ailesbury Rd (satellite view), on N side of Ailesbury Rd.
It is the black-roofed building to the RHS of the red-roofed building.
Click to toggle map/satellite view. Click to zoom in/out. Drag to move.
From Google Maps.
See street view (green gate).

Map of the plot.
Attached to [Deed, 1921].
The deed says that water is to remain freely running through "the drain or watercourse" between points A and B.
See full size.

36 Ailesbury Rd being built, 1920.
This is [P106/513(31)].
See full size.
See photo of rear being built, in [P106/513(30)]. Date 29 Oct 1920.
See other photo of rear being built, in [P106/513(28)]. Original incorrectly reversed. Date 9 Nov 1920.

36 Ailesbury Rd after the raid in 1922.
The S front. Note no LHS extension.
From 1922 newspaper.

36 Ailesbury Rd, must be 1920s.
Note no LHS extension.
See larger and full size.
See undated shot at front door in [P106/674(13)].

36 Ailesbury Rd, must be c.1930.
Note LHS extension. Note wall.
See larger and full size.

36 Ailesbury Rd.
This is [P106/513(36)].
See larger and full size.

36 Ailesbury Rd.
The S front. From French Embassy.

36 Ailesbury Rd.
Shot from SW.
From The Struggle, 2003.

36 Ailesbury Rd.
Shot from SE.
From The Struggle, 2003.

36 Ailesbury Rd, sales images

Images courtesy of Lisney property. Used with permission.
Sales pictures taken Dec 2007 (for sale launch Jan 2008).

The site. S to top. N to bottom.

The site. Ailesbury Rd and S front of house to LHS.

Ground floor. Ailesbury Rd and S front of house to bottom.

First floor. Ailesbury Rd and S front of house to bottom.

Photo from SE.
See larger and full size.

The SW side.

The rear (N side)

The garden.

The Free State raid on Ailesbury Rd in the Civil War, Nov 1922


The drama-documentary The Struggle (2003)

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