Darley Collection

Repository: Royal Irish Academy

Identity Statement

TitleDarley Collection
Archive ReferenceIE RIA 3 C 34
Web Link to this Entryhttps://iar.ie/archive/darley-collection
Creation Datesc1757-1813
Extent Medium1 oversize box containing 98 items, including 90 drawings of chimney-pieces.


Creator(s): Darley, George, 1731-1813 Darley, Hill, 1735-1800

  • Administrative History ↴

    The Darleys were an important family of stone-cutters, sculptors, builders and architects who were active across two centuries in Dublin and Co. Down. Henry Darley (d.c.1728), was a stone-cutter and quarryman in Newtownards, Co. Down in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth century. Henry’s three sons, Moses (d.1754), Arthur (1692-1742) and Hugh (1701-1771), followed him into the stone-cutting trade, as would many of their children in turn. The middle son, Arthur Darley, married, firstly, Elizabeth Thompson (d.c.1725), by whom he had a son – Edward (1718-1794). Following his wife’s death, Arthur then married Mary Wirling, the daughter of a Presbyterian minister, and had four sons who survived into adulthood - George (1731-1813), John (1733-1785), Hill (1735-1800) and Arthur (1740-1818). All four were born in Newtownards. It is said that when Arthur died suddenly in 1742, leaving no will, his property passed to his first son Edward, who made no provision for Arthur’s widow and her family. It was therefore left to the eldest son of his second family, George, to support them and as such, aged seventeen, he travelled to Dublin. It has been suggested that George was most likely apprenticed to his cousin, Henry Darley, a successful contractor and son of Moses Darley. An examination of the lists of Ancient Freemen of Dublin shows that George Darley, mason, was admitted by special grace in Easter 1757. Craftsmen who were not born in Dublin and who were not members of a trade guild were sometimes granted admission in this way. Indeed, George’s uncles Moses and Hugh had gained admission by special grace in 1720 and 1738 respectively. Just a few months after George, in September 1757, Hill Darley, mason, was admitted following service with Henry Darley. In 1760, John Darley, mason, was admitted following service with Moses Darley and finally in Midsummer 1765, Arthur Darley, carpenter, was admitted following service though his Master is not named. From these beginnings, this branch of the Darley family prospered. By the 1760s, George, John and Hill were all working in Dublin as stone-cutters, while the youngest, Arthur, was both a carpenter and a builder. George is listed in Dublin directories as a stone-cutter from as early as 1761 when he was based on York Street. He moved in 1775 to 5 Mercer’s Street where he and his brother Hill operated a stone-cutting business together from 1785 until 1800, the year of Hill’s death. It should be noted that George was generally referred to as George Darley Junior, to avoid confusion with his cousin of the same name, age and occupation. It seems likely that John worked with George and Hill as he too is listed at York Street from 1768 and moved to Mercer’s Street in the same year as George, though he is not listed at the same address. Arthur operated his business from Dorset Street from 1773 until 1794, moving from no. 42 to no. 53 in 1787. He was declared bankrupt in July 1792. George married Jane Johnstone (1738-1806) in 1755 and had 17 children. In later years, the family lived in Springfield House, Stillorgan. One of his sons, Henry Darley M.D. (1770-1856) married Sarah Guinness in 1817 in St. Peter’s (COI), Dublin. They lived in The Grange, Stillorgan and were active in the parish there, with Henry acting as a churchwarden. It was this Henry Darley who appears to have given the Darley Collection drawings to Sterling Ballantine, the donor of the collection. George and Jane are buried in their son Henry’s grave in St. Brigid’s, Stillorgan. Interestingly, another son of George and Jane, Arthur Darley, was the father of the well-known poet George Darley. Indeed, as a child the poet stayed in Springfield House with his grandparents George and Jane from c.1795-1802, while his own parents were in America. Hill Darley appears to have died unmarried. John Darley married Frances Guinness (d.c.1795), a sister of the brewer Arthur, in 1763, though there appears to have been no issue. Following John’s death in 1785, she remarried to a Michael Raye. In 1766, Arthur Darley married Elizabeth Mason (d.1781). Their eldest son, Robert Darley (1767-1833) was a carpenter, sculptor and architect who worked in Dublin and London. Sterling Ballantine, who donated the collection to the RIA, was the son of Dublin stone-cutter, Robert Ballantine (fl. 1826-1850s), who had a business on Dorset Street. Sterling took over this business following his father's death. In 1863, a sheriff’s notice appeared in the newspapers advertising the sale of the stock-in-trade of Sterling Ballantine ‘an eminent sculptor’. Ballantine’s chimney-pieces, marble, stone, tools, furniture and even kitchen utensils were all to be sold due his being bankrupt. Sterling Ballantine died at the age of 75 in 1890, just over a year after donating the collection to the Academy.
  • Archival History ↴

    The collection was donated to the Royal Irish Academy in April 1889 by Sterling Ballantine, a Dublin stone-cutter. Ballantine sent the drawings, unsolicited, to an Academy member along with a letter which is now in the collection. Ballantine suggests that the Academy might be interested in the drawings as a record of ‘the high state of workmanship existing in Dublin more than a century ago’. It is not clear with whom he initially made contact as his letter is merely addressed ‘Dear Doctor’, though it may have been Dr. Stephen Myles Mac Swiney who presented the drawings at a meeting of the Academy in May 1889. The minutes note: ‘Dr. S. M. Mac Swiney exhibited a series of Drawings of Dublin Ornamental Marble Work of the last century which were presented to the Academy by Mr. Stirling Ballantine. A special vote of thanks was passed to Mr. Stirling Ballantine for his Donation.’ The drawings have a fairly clear provenance in that Ballantine noted that it was the ‘late Henry Darley of Stillorgan’ who gave him the drawings. This Henry Darley was George Darley’s grandson. However, it is not known how this transaction came to pass as there is no evidence of a business or personal connection between the Darley and Ballantine families. Interestingly, Henry Darley died in 1856, while there is evidence that Ballantine had possession of the drawings from at least 1848 so perhaps the drawings had transferred into the Ballantine’s ownership soon after the death of George in 1813. The drawings have remained in the care of the Library of the Royal Irish Academy since 1889 and were conserved in two lots in 2013 and 2015.
  • Immediate Source Acquisition ↴


Content & Structure

  • Scope & Content: Darley, George, 1731-1813 Darley, Hill, 1735-1800 ↴

    The collection consists of 90 drawings of chimney-pieces of varying designs, done largely in ink and watercolour. The drawings in the Darley Collection would most likely have been working documents, created to show potential clients the variety of designs and materials the Darleys, and indeed later the Ballantines, could provide. It is for this reason that a number of the drawings show chimney-pieces with different marble and decorative options on either side. One design (3 C 34/3/17) has a note from Hill Darley indicating the impressive speed at which the business could work – ‘‘This chimneypiece [or] either of them I can have finished in three weeks from the time the drawings are returned’. The working nature of the drawings is further apparent from the various pencil annotations which feature – scale rules, measurements and even price. The majority of the designs are noted as costing between £20 – £75, a huge sum of money for the period.

    Being as a number of the drawings bear the signature of ‘Hill Darley of Mercer St’ (3 C 34/3/17) and the fact that he was never listed individually in directories as a stone-cutter, it seems likely that the drawings were created by both George and Hill Darley in the course of their work together. One drawing (3 C 34/3/25) bears the name of Arthur Darley, suggesting that he occasionally worked with his brothers, presumably in his capacity as a builder.

    It is clear from one drawing (3 C 34/3/40) that by 1848, Sterling Ballantine not only had possession of the drawings but was in fact using them in his own work. The drawing is signed ‘Hill Darley, Mercer Street’, with a later inscription noting ‘This design is in Mr. Ennis’ House on Merrion Square, altered by S. Ballantine for the Music Room. 1848.’ The Mr. Ennis in question is possibly Sir John Ennis (1800-78), 1st baronet, businessman, landowner and politician, who lived at 9 Merrion Square East until his death in 1878. Additionally, there exists one drawing (3 C 34/3/27) with the signature of a John Keane. An architect of this name worked with the Ballantines on the porticos of the Pro Cathedral in Dublin.

    A number of drawings are annotated with names and addresses. This might conceivably refer either to the client or one of the craftsmen working on the chimney-piece. Among those named are: Mr. Cooper (3 C 34/1/2 and 3 C 34/3/1), Patt McLoughlin (3 C 34/1/6), [Patt] Ryan of 36 Bishop Street (3 C 34/2/2), Lord Desart (3 C 34/2/11), John Sheane (3 C 34/3/5), John Kiley (3 C 34/3/23), Mrs [Walter], Merrion Square (3 C 34/3/31), Mr. Stawell (3 C 34/3/36) and Dan Murphy (3 C 34/2/20). One particularly interesting document (3 C 34/4/1) is a bill for work carried out on the home of William Ashford (1746-1824), a well-known landscape painter. The house in question, Sandymount Park, was designed by Ashford’s close friend James Gandon. The villa is still in existence and is today called Roslyn Park or the Gandon Villa.

  • Appraisal Destruction ↴

    Permanent Retention
  • Arrangement ↴

    The collection was arranged into five different series and this arrangement has been maintained. Series 1 comprises seven architectural (i.e. un-carved) drawings. Series 2 comprises nineteen drawings featuring running friezes. Series 3 comprises sixty-two drawings of chimney-pieces with centre tablets. Series 4 consists of miscellaneous correspondence and notes, some of which relates to when the collection had been transferred to the ownership of the Academy. Series 5 consists of two drawings which were once in a frame but which have now been conserved and mounted separately.

Conditions of Access & Use

Access Conditions Available by appointment to holders of an RIA Library reader’s ticket.
Conditions Governing ReproductionContact RIA Library for reproduction information.
Creation Datesc1757-1813
Extent Medium1 oversize box containing 98 items, including 90 drawings of chimney-pieces.
Material Language ScriptEnglish
Finding Aids Descriptive list. Archive Web Link →

Allied Materials

There are no Allied Materials

Descriptive Control Area

Archivist NotePatrick Pilkington, Petra Schnabel and Sarah Allen. Identity Statement and revisions by Karen de Lacey.
Rules/ConventionsIGAD: Irish Guidelines for Archival Description, Dublin Society of Archivists, Ireland, 2009. ISAD (G): General International Standard Archival Description, 2nd ed., Ottowa, International Council on Archives, 2000.
Date of Descriptions2013 & revised 2015