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The term 'fanlight' was coined around 1770 to describe the semi-circular over-door window, which had a number of panes radiating like a fan from a central floret.
Fanlights had evolved at this stage from a plain functional over-door window admitting light to a dark hallway, and these now became both a functional and a decorative feature of entrances.
This was made possible by improved methods of production. Glazing bars, initially made of wood, and later of lead and wrought iron, allowed more flexibility and scope for endless pattern variations.
The earliest fanlight designs were made of wood and based on carpentry forms such as Chippendale, neo-Classical, and neo-gothic.The fanlight was a prominent feature in the town houses of the Adam brothers.
The Adam Style fanlight is characterized by radiating spokes forming a central orb. The bottom left fanlight in the montage on the right is of an Adam style fanlight.
Each segment may be decorated with festoons and garlands. Here an inner double band contains rosettes intersecting with each spoke and a palmette design decorates the beginning and ending of each loop.
The influence of the Adam brothers encouraged increasing use of cast iron for delicate patterning. There came a steady flow of new ideas and manufacturers of fanlights began to issue catalogues of patterns.
In England such decorative fanlights were truly Georgian, because they originated soon after the accession of George I (1714), and disappeared early in the reign of Queen Victoria (1837-1901).
However, in Ireland, the use of fanlights as an architectural feature bridged both the Georgian and Victorian periods. There was a proliferation of fanlights in Dublin in the 18th century and in Rathmines, Dublin in the 19th century at the time of its development.
The typical shape of the classical fanlight, the sliced orange hemicycle with repeated patterns and intervals, provided for the creation of an infinity of original and unique designs and there is any number of these still to be seen in the Rathmines Township area.