There’s no denying that Dublin is a beautiful city filled with great architecture, but I always find myself most taken aback when I look up. At eye level there are many beautiful buildings spread amongst the city’s streets, but you’ll find yourself pleasantly surprised the further you crane you neck upwards. There are gorgeous turrets, ornate stonework, elaborate murals and graffiti all waiting to be discovered. I always find myself curious about some of the buildings in the city, wondering who lived there before, or why they have such stunning brickwork when sandwiched in between run of the mill stone facades.
A building in particular which I have always been intrigued by is the Sunlight Chambers on the corner of Essex Quay and Parliament Street. It has two frieze panels running the length of the building depicting some kind of story board. What with Ireland’s history so steeped in Catholicism, I’d always just assumed there was something biblical going on in the images but never really looked any further into it. So it wasn’t until recently when I overheard a passing Viking Splash tour mention them that my curiosity was reignited.
It turns out that the building itself was designed by Edward Ould for the Lever Brothers from Liverpool in 1899. After a bit of research and pestering, I discovered that the story told along the walls of the Sunlight Chambers is actually the history of hygiene. I know what you’re thinking – ‘a wall dedicated to not being filthy?… you’re having a laugh’. Seriously though, the Lever Brothers were British manufacturers of soap, so the exterior walls of their Dublin headquarters represented exactly how they made their money!
If you look closely at the walls there’s a lot of people in the nip, plenty of wash-baskets and people working the land (most likely to extract ingredients for the product). It’s mental to think that in this modern age of electric showers and 72 million different types of scented shower gel, this building acts as a hundred year old advertisement for the Lever Brother’s business of soap and cleanliness. Now I wonder what the Lever lads would have to say on the matter of water charges?