Henrietta Street, 8 October 2011. We are in theatrical surroundings: a short, sloped cul-de-sac in an unloved part of Dublin’s northern inner city, lined with thirteen enormous, stark Georgian houses of which a few have been restored, while the others are intact but tottering. There is a crowd of people, nervous and excited as befits the drama of the place, and jostling to be among the first to have access to number 10. Probably built in the late 1720s, this was the townhouse of Luke Gardiner, the developer who created some of the most important urban set pieces of Dublin, including this one, the city’s grandest residential street from the early eighteenth century (...

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