10 May 2017

Rutland House and fading memories
of Georgian grandeur in Limerick

Rutland House, Limerick, stands on the site of an earlier building that may have been the tollhouse for Matthew Bridge (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Patrick Comerford

On my way through Limerick yesterday [9 May 2017-, I had planned to have breakfast in the Locke Bar, a gastropub on George’s Quay and close to Saint Mary’s Cathedral. Last week, during General Synod, I had notice a plaque associating the pub with the writer Robert Graves, a grandson of Charles Graves, Bishop of Limerick, and I hoped to explore these literary associations with Limerick.

On a beautiful early summer morning, this is a pretty setting by the banks of the Abbey River. However, Tuesday was a morning for staff training, and instead I found myself on the other side of the river, at Mathew Bridge on Charlotte’s Quay, admiring Rutland House on the junction of Bank Place and Rutland Street, close to the Hunt Museum.

Rutland House was built in the late 19th century, probably around 1880, but it looks older and it stands on the site of an earlier house that may have had the same name.

The house is marked on a map in 1840-1841, but its shape had changed three decades later in a map dated 1872.

It seems the original house was built around the same time as Mathew Bridge, which in turn replaced an 18th century bridge that was known as New Bridge.

Because of its relative isolation from other such structures, Rutland House may have had a function relating to the bridge, perhaps as a toll house. Today it is divided into apartments, and occupies a prominent site in the heart of the city.

This is a detached L-plan, three-bay, two-storey, rendered house, facing east and rising from the quay walls along the Abbey River and to the immediate south-west of Mathew Bridge.

Rutland House probably incorporates fabric from earlier houses on this site. It has a hipped artificial slate roof with terracotta ridge tiles, a gabled return and three rendered chimneystacks with terracotta pots and cast-iron rainwater goods. Painted rendered walls with rendered soldier quoins and plinth course. There is a central Venetian window opening to the first floor with a gable above, an architrave surround and a limestone sill.

Today, this house is divided into apartments.

Bank Place marks the beginning of part of the main central thoroughfare through the city, which runs along Rutland Street, and through Patrick Street and O’Connell Street.

Rutland Street and Bank Place feature some of Limerick’s earliest and oldest examples of Georgian architecture. Rutland Street was the first street developed as part of Edmund Sexton Pery’s plans for Newtown Pery and was the first part of the great Georgian expansion of Limerick south from the mediaeval city around Saint Mary’s Cathedral.

Both Rutland House and Rutland Street are named after Charles Manners (1754-1787), the 4th Duke of Rutland, who became Lord Lieutenant of Ireland in 1784 and visited Limerick in 1785. He died of liver disease brought on by heavy alcohol consumption on 24 October 1787 at the Vice-Regal Lodge in the Phoenix Park, Dublin.

Sadly, Rutland Street has been marked by dereliction and economic depression in recent decades, and some of the city’s earliest Georgian townhouses are now in real danger of dereliction and being lost completely.

Charlotte Quay and Matthew Bridge on the banks of the Abbey River (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

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