A Bird’s Eye View of Dublin

A Bird's Eye View of Dublin

A Bird’s Eye View of Dublin


So last night I put one of my Christmas presents up on the wall. It is a copy of an amazingly detailed drawing of Victorian Dublin, dating from 1890.

“A Bird’s Eye View of Dublin” was a present from my “Secret Santa” (as is now the tradition among the six Cullen siblings) and the Geographer in our family, Declan.

Amazingly, this panoramic of Dublin was issued as a supplement to “The Graphic” newspaper 123 years ago. Kind of puts the countless churned-out supplements you’ll get in the Sunday newspaper today into perspective, eh?

This drawing is by H.W. Brewer, who (according to the information I have found on Old Irish Maps, where they are selling an original copy of this map) was named by RIBA (Royal Institute of British Architects) as the finest of all Victorian architectural draughtsmen.

Unsurprisingly, Mr Brewer was also a perfectionist. There is incredible clarity and detail in “A Bird’s Eye View of Dublin”, which the image above does not do justice to. Especially as it was taken late last night under artificial light  – Mr Brewer would not have approved!

As pointed out on Old Irish Maps, this is “an incredibly detailed original topographic panorama, church spires and street-scapes are shown with exacting precision. To look at the scene in High Street, as the eye is drawn from St. Audoen’s to Christchurch is akin to stepping back in time, with the minute detail of each house, window, door etc. delicately rendered”.

I’m writing this post from just in behind the Four Courts, the impressive building dominating this small section of the overall map, which, as well as the Four Courts, shows The Liberties, High Street and Christchurch in the foreground, and stretches out to include the Liffey as it flows into Dublin Bay, with Howth and Killiney also clearly visible in the background.


How Mr Brewer achieved this fantastical view of Dublin before the age of helicopters and aerial photography has apparently been a matter of some conjecture since it was first produced.

According to Old Irish Maps, “that he invented it all using ground-level sketches and a bit of imagination is highly probable. And indeed would be a correct assumption, except for the fact that five years before this Dublin panorama was completed he produced a “Bird’s Eye View of Liverpool – As seen from a Balloon“, (1885). We guess it will remain a mystery!”

Oh and, on a final note, I have to say, Declan set the bar pretty high this year, as I also got this amazing book!

Posted on January 6, 2013, in Architecture, Art, Dublin, Environment, Family, Ireland and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 46 Comments.

  1. Interesting, I am getting influence by the power of History,thanks for sharing!Cheers!

  2. Hello Conor, I have nominated you on “Beautiful blogger Award” please visit http://pleisbilongtumi.wordpress.com/2013/01/06/beautiful-blogger-award. Congrats !

  3. simonsundarajkeun

    Reblogged this on Simon Sundaraj-Keun.

  4. Amazing. I loved it, Conor 🙂

  5. incredible work, such precision.

  6. Amazing detail. With all the technology we have at our fingertips I’m not sure that anyone in todays world would attempt such a complex drawing. What great presents!

  7. Terrific looks at this map and very interesting commentary.

  8. If you have t already read Edward Sutherland Ireland and Dublin, you should.

  9. What wonderful gifts – both very “you.” The detail is amazing for the time and the Potrait book looks like it’s one to give you ideas for your own portrait photos.

  10. Truly amazing sketches, mores when enlarged. Thanks for sharing.

  11. Beautiful and thoughtful gift!

  12. Both of them… I’m a bit envious. (:

  13. I have nominated you for a ‘Very Inspiring Blog Award’ see http://jahnosecret.wordpress.com/2013/01/08/very-inspiring-blogger-award/ if you wish to participate. Peace.

  14. A really interesting read and enjoyed, too, looking at the drawings – great post! I know nothing about Dublin except I have met so many Dubliners in my work in tourism in Sydney that I feel I know much of the culture from my encounters! Great presents to receive!!

    • Thanks Keith! I imagine you’ve learned a lot about us over there, I think half of Ireland is now lviing in Australia – or planning to! I’m going to content myself with a holiday! Hopefully this year.

  15. I love maps at the best of times but this is spectacular and utterly fascinating. What a great present ( and the portraits book!).

  16. It’s a pity so much of Victorian Dublin has disappeared. Great to see some of it in this drawing… stunning Christmas gift so :D)

  17. Hello- Just wanted to stop by & let you know that I nominated you for “Blog of the Year 2012!” http://fictionalmachines.com/2013/01/14/blog-of-the-year-2012-five/ Keep up the great work! 🙂

  18. Great post! I really love to visit Ireland someday, Dublin and the countryside. For now, I’m contented admiring the beautiful photos you took. 🙂

  19. Fantastic drawings and what a great present.

  20. Your brother has great taste. I do love a good axonometric map;) You did well!

  21. Carole McNamara

    Just want to let you know, I have an original “Liverpool from a hot air Balloon 1885” that I found in one of my Dad’s book’s after he died. Got it framed and hanging in my living room.

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