Pearce, Edward Lovet (DNB00)

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PEARCE, Sir EDWARD LOVET (d. 1733), architect of the Irish parliament-house, was a captain in Neville's regiment of dragoons, and represented the borough of Ratoath, co. Meath, in the Irish parliament which met in 1727. In January 1728 Chichester House on College Green, where the parliament had formerly assembled, was pronounced unsafe, and it was demolished in the following December to make way for a new building, the first stone of which was laid on 3 Feb. 1728–9. The designs appear to have been made by Pearce for Thomas Burgh, who held the office of director-general and overseer of fortifications and buildings in Ireland. Pearce succeeded Burgh in 1730, and was knighted in the same year; and he superintended the works until they were sufficiently advanced to excite general admiration. Pearce is described as both the ‘contriver and projector’ and ‘the architect of this work’ (Constit. of the Free Masons, Dublin, 1730, p. 37), and it is plain that the credit of this ‘noble piece of architecture’ was mainly due to him. The committee appointed to inquire into the progress of the work having submitted their report on 22 Nov. 1729, the commons unanimously voted the payment of 1,000l. to Pearce for ‘his care and pains.’ In December 1731 this was supplemented by an additional payment of 1,000l. Another work, carried on simultaneously by Pearce, was the theatre in Aungier Street, Dublin, designed in 1732, at which time the architect was also contemplating the construction of a theatre at Cork. He died at his country house in Stillorgan, co. Dublin, on 16 Nov. 1733, and was buried in Donnybrook church on 10 Dec. following. His brother, Lieutenant-general Thomas Pearce, governor of Limerick, who had served with distinction under Galway in Spain, was subsequently buried by his side. Shortly after Pearce's death the parliamentary committee appointed to inquire into the state of the building found that ‘Sir Edward Lovet Pearce, late engineer and surveyor-general, and his executrix, Anne, lady Pearce, had faithfully and honestly accounted for the sums received by them.’ The building—now the Bank of Ireland—was ultimately completed by Arthur Dobbs [q. v.] in 1739, and was subsequently embellished by James Gandon [q. v.] and Robert Parke [q. v.] Delany's contemporary poem, entitled ‘The Pheasant and the Lark,’ contains a complimentary allusion to Pearce's architectural skill, and, although the structure on College Green was incidentally ridiculed by Swift in his ‘Legion Club,’ it was highly praised by the English artist Thomas Malton the elder [q. v.] in his work on Dublin. The rumour that Pearce obtained his plan from Richard Castle [q. v.], the architect of Leinster House, has been traced to a pseudonymous pamphlet privately printed in 1736, the author of which avowed that Pearce had incurred his enmity by opposing him in a lawsuit.

[Dict. of Architecture; Gilbert's Hist. of Dublin, iii. 74–7; Webb's Compend. of Irish Biogr.; Gent. Mag. 1733, p. 663; Harris's Hist. of Dublin, 1766, p. 410; Mulvany's Life of Gandon, p. 117; Builder, 1872, pp. 410, 451, 511; Redgrave's Dict. of Artists; Lenihan's Hist. of Limerick; Members of Parl. ii. 664.]

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