Architect and surveyor, of Dublin. The Sproule family of Dublin, which was connected by marriage with the Johnston family of Armagh, had several members who were active in the Dublin building trades in the mid- and later eighteenth century. Samuel Sproule, who is said to have been eighty-seven years old at the time of his death in August 1831, appears to have been the son of another Samuel Sproule, a nephew of GREGORY SPROULE and JOHN SPROULE , and a first cousin of SAMUEL SPROULE . He was a pupil in the Dublin Society's School of Drawing in Architecture and was awarded premiums in 1759 and 1760. In 1768 'Myers & Sproule' entered the Dublin Royal Exchange competition. 'Myers' was presumably either CHRISTOPHER MYERS or his son GRAHAM MYERS , 'Sproule' presumably Samuel Sproule; they were awarded a piece of plate worth thirty guineas for their design, which was judged to have been one of the three best Irish entries. Five years later, in 1773, Sproule entered the Dublin Blue Coat School competition and was awarded the second premium. At this early stage in his career, of which little is known, he seems to have been as active as a topographical draughtsman as an architect. His view of Trinity College. Dublin, was published in the Hibernian Magazine in September 1771, and in 1776 he was asked by the select vestry of Clogher Cathedral to draw a 'view' of the unfinished tower of the church at Fivemiletown, Co. Tyrone. Later evidence of his capacity as a draughtsman is furnished by John Ferrar who records that a view of Merrion Square by Sproule was presented by Richard, seventh Viscount Fitzwilliam, proprietor of the square, to King George III. An engraving of this view forms the frontispiece to the first edition of Ferrar's View of Ancient and Modern Dublin (1796).
In 1778 Sproule married Ann, widow of George Fay of Dublin. Soon afterwards he became involved in the development of the Fitzwilliam lands which lay to the south-east of the city centre and extended as far as Blackrock. His 'Plan of present and intended course of the River Dodder', dated 1780, is among the Pembroke Papers in the National Archives. In 1780 he leased several plots of building ground from the Fitzwilliam estate, including plots on the east side of Merrion Square, in Holles Street and in Lower Mount Street. Further leases of plots in Merrion Square and Lower Mount Street followed in 1786 and 1791. Some of this land was developed according to the terms of the leases, some was sold on, while a one-acre plot fronting Grand Canal Street, leased in 1780 and still undeveloped in 1797 was the subject of an ejectment. By this time Sproule was badly in arrears with the rent on his various holdings, greatly to the exasperation of Lord Fitzwilliam's agent Barbara Verschoyle.
As well as his involvement in the development of the Fitzwilliam estate, Sproule was architect to the Bank of Ireland from 1783 to 1786, when he was succeeded by WHITMORE DAVIS. During these years he drew up plans for a new seven-bay, three-storey bank on an unspecified site. The designs presumably succeeded a proposal that Sproule should be employed to convert the Arsenal in Lower Castle Yard into new bank premises, announced in the Freeman's Journal of 10-12 December 1782. Sproule also worked for the Wide Streets Commissioners from 1783 until 1787 or later and for the Commissioners of the Circular Road.
In 1792 Sproule acquired a twenty-seven-acre estate at Ballinclea, Rochestown, Co. Dublin. He also farmed beside the Shanganagh River. It appears to have been at Ballinclea that - according to a memorial he presented to the Lord Lieutenant, the third Earl of Hardwicke, in October 1801 - he was attacked and robbed one night by 'three armed ruffians', one of whom he recognised. After he had recovered from the attack, he sent for the man and, by means of 'threats of punishment and promises of life,…obtained from him a discovery of the United Irish Plan, and regular organised system and many of the heads concerned in it'. He passed on this information to Henry, first Viscount Conyngham, and as a result was enlisted as a government spy in May 1798. For the next six months he sent regular information to the under-secretary in the Irish civil department, Edward Cooke, and also employed informers and interrogated suspects. For this he was paid £223.3s.4d. or more. However, as he claimed in the memorial, his activities on behalf of the Government had placed him in considerable personal danger. As a result he was forced to abandon his house in the country, which he later sold for 'less than half its value', and to neglect 'a valuable farm', which resulted in an ejectment. He was now living in Dublin in reduced circumstances and requested that some employment might be found for him: 'I trust from my knowledge of the Country - and of Business in generall, I would be found a usefull Man in many situations'. The precariousness of his situation is corroborated by the fact that in the same year he tendered for building the new barracks in Cork. Although his tender was the lowest by £707, he was unable to offer any security and the contract was awarded to another builder.
Little is known of Samuel Sproule after 1801. From 1820 or earlier he was living in Cowley Place off the north side of the North Circular Road. He died there on 19 August 1831, survived by his wife, who died in the same house on 12 February 1840. O'Dwyer believes that he may have had a son, also called Samuel, but there is no mention of him in Sproule's will of 3 January 1826.
'Mr Sproule, architect' was one of the subscribers to Robert Pool & John Cash, Views…of Buildings…city of Dublin (Dublin, 1780), to the second edition of Taylor and Skinner's, Map of the Roads of Ireland(1783) and to John Ferrar's View of Ancient and Modern Dublin (1796). His copy of Robert Wood's The Ruins of Palmyra (1753) is in the Irish Architectural Archive and that of Carlo Fontana's Templum Vaticanum et ipsius origo (1694) in the library of University College, Dublin. A portrait of him by Robert Lucius West was exhibited at the Royal Hibernian Academy in 1826 (no. 13). According to Strickland, the painter William Sadler executed some pieces in chiaro-oscuro for Sproule, 'presumably for wall decorations'.
Sproule's pupils and assistants included his kinsman FRANCIS JOHNSTON , who is believed to have worked in his office from 1782 to 1784.
Addresses: Holles Street, <=1780->=1786; Rathfarnham, 1787-1792; Dundrum, 1793-94; Rochestown, 1795 (also 9 Hamilton Row and 6 Wentworth Place, circa 1798); Cowley Place, North Circular Road, <=1820 until death.
See WORKS and BIBLIOGRAPHY.
Sproule is the subject of a very brief entry in APSD, S, 119, which cites Anthony Pasquin, Artists of Ireland (n.d.), 22, as its source. The fullest account of his life and activities is by Alex Maguire, 'Who was Samuel Sproule?', Dun Laoghaire Journal no. 8 (1999), 28-38. Information about Sproule's later years, death and will (see notes 1,21-23,25) was provided by Kieran Owens, Jan 2014.
Evening Packet and Correspondent, 13 Sep 1831.
MS. sketch family tree, compiled by F. O'Dwyer, 1988, in IAA, Jones file S103.
Gitta Willemson, The Dublin Society Drawing Schools 1746-1876 (2000), 90; in Royal Dublin Society proceedings 77/148 he is referred to as an ex-pupil (IAA, Edward McParland files, Acc. 2008/44) . See also J.D. Herbert, Irish Varieties (1836), 56 (IAA, Edward McParland files, Acc. 2008/44).
B 27, 2 Oct 1869, 781.
Faulkner's Dublin Journal, 21-23 Mar 1769.
Freeman's Journal 2-4 Mar 1873 (IAA, Edward McParland files, Acc. 2008/44).
Information from Jack Johnston (IAA, Edward McParland files, Acc. 2008/44). Frederick O'Dwyer believes that the family came from Co. Tyrone (typescript notes on Nos. 39 & 40 Merrion Square by F. O'Dwyer in IAA, Jones file S103).
John Ferrar, A view of Ancient and Modern Dublin(1796), 135.
Maguire, op. cit., above, 28; the will of her husband, George Fay, gentleman, was granted in the Prerogative Court in 1777 (Arthur Vicars, Index to the Prerogative Wills of Ireland 1536-1810 (1897), 164); a transcript of his will and grant is in the National Archives (Eneclann Index of Irish Wills 1484-1858 (CD), Document ID 22495).
NA, Pembroke Estate Papers, 2011/2/1/11.
NA, Pembroke Estate Papers, 97/46/2.
Eve McAulay, 'Some problems in building on the Fitzwilliam estate during the agency of Barbara Verschoyle', Irish Architectural and Decorative Studies 2 (1999), 111-114.
Bank of Ireland minutes (IAA, Edward McParland files, Acc. 2008/44); Maguire, op. cit., 29.
E. McParland, 'The Bank and the Visual Arts', in F.S.L. Lyons, ed., Bicentenary Essays Bank of Ireland 1783-1983 (1983), 97-98(illus.); the handwriting on these drawings is undoubtedly Sproule's.
For Sproule's work for the Commissioners, see E. McParland, 'The Wide Streets Commissioners: their importance for Dublin architecture in the late 18th-early 19th century', BIGS 15, No. 1 (Jan-Mar 1972), 11. According to Edward McParland files (IAA, Acc.2008/44) there are no references to him in the Commissioners' minutes after 1 May 1787, but Maguire, op.cit., 29, cites a reference in May 1792, when it was decided to adopt 'Mr Sproule's plan for widening Dame Street to 66 feet, from Palace Street to George's Lane'.
JHCI 2, cccl (IAA, Edward McParland files, Acc. 2008/44).
Maguire, op. cit., above, 31-32.
A map of Sproule's Shanganagh holding, dated 1793, is in NLI 16.G.42
Maguire, op. cit., 35, writes that 'he received £500 from Mr Cooke, although the Secret Service Money Book reveals £223.3.4 in total.'
NLI MS. 1122 (IAA, Edward McParland files, Acc. 2008/44); Maguire, op. cit., above, 35-37.
He advertised leases of ground in Wentworth Place, Dublin, and adjoining Taney church in Dundrum Co. Dublin, from this address in 1820 and 1821 (Freeman's Journal, 27 Jul 1820, 3 Apr 1821).
Will of Samuel Sproule, NA, Irish Wills Register IWR/1831/F/502 (microfilm); the announcement of his death in the Evening Packet and Correspondent for 13 Sept 1831 gives his age as eighty-seven.
NA, Charitable Wills, 1832-1844, Vol. 12, p. 416.
See note 22, above.
See note 1, above.
This volume later belonged to Albert E. Murray.
IAA, Edward McParland files, Acc. 2008/44.
W.G. Strickland, A Dictionary of Irish Artists (1913), II, 316.
From Wilson's Dublin Directory and Maguire, op. cit. above, 29,31,34, unless otherwise indicated.
See note 9, above.
See note 22.