On the southern bank of the River Liffey at the corner of Parliament Street and Essex Quay is the Sunlight Chambers, one of Dublin’s many architectural treasures. The most distinctive feature of the romantic Italianate style building is two highly colorful terracotta friezes that extend across the length of the facade. The friezes depicts the history of soap manufacture, with images including farmers tilling fields, newly washed children and ladies at their laundry.
This theme was chosen by the Liverpool architect Edward Ould who designed the building as the original offices of Lord Lever of Lever Brothers, the laundry magnates and makers of Sunlight soap. Ould also designed Port Sunlight, a village built for workers at the Sunlight factory outside Liverpool.
The charms of the Sunlight Chambers were not always recognized, and although it is hard to understand now, when it was built in 1901 there were many who thought it a blot on the river bank. It was described as the ugliest building in Dublin in the Irish Builder architectural magazine. In recent years, and especially since the friezes were cleaned in the late 1990’s, the building is one treasured by Dubliners and visitors alike.