03 May 2017

A pair of interesting houses
by the bridge in Askeaton

An interesting cluster of houses beneath the castle and by the bridge in Askeaton, Co Limerick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Patrick Comerford

Although the castle in Askeaton is generally closed to the public as the Office of Public Works continues its restoration work, there are two interesting buildings below the castle at the bridge crossing the River Deel.

During my walk along the banks of the River Deel yesterday and today, I found both thees houses on the bridge were charming, despite their contrasting state of survival.

The former gatehouse and its limestone arch over the River Deel at the entrance to Askeaton Castle, Co Limerick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

The former gate house, which is now boarded up, was built ca 1780 and may have served originally a gate lodge to the castle site. Half the building is inside the castle site, and half the building is stands on top of the very structures of the bridge itself.

This is a detached, three-bay, two-storey-over-part-basement house, with a chamfered corner to the north elevation facing onto the street at the bridge.

The house has rendered walls, a pitched slate roof with rendered chimneystacks, terracotta ridge tiles and render copings.

The former gatehouse at the entrance to Askeaton Castle, Co Limerick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

The square-headed openings have bipartite one-over-one pane timber casement windows and painted stone sills. There is a square-headed opening with a half-glazed timber battened door. The elliptical-headed arch to the rear west elevation stands over a branch of the River Deel and has dressed limestone voussoirs.

This simple, modest building retains much of its original form, including features of note such as the chamfered corner and the limestone arch to the rear. Many of the features are typical of 18th century domestic architecture, including the gable-ended chimneystacks and the small window openings.

This three-storey house by the bridge in Askeaton maintains its classical proportions and form (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Across the street, a large house stands at the north-west corner of the bridge. This semi-detached, three-bay, three-storey house and former shop was built ca 1850. It has rendered walls and a pitched slate roof with rendered chimneystacks.

The square-headed openings have three-over-six pane timber sliding sash windows to the second floor, six-over-six pane windows to the first floor and there is a fixed window on the ground floor. All these windows have painted stone sills.

There is a square-headed opening at the ground floor with a render surround and a multiple-pane glazed overlight over the timber panelled door, and a limestone threshold to entrance.

This house maintains its classical proportions and form along with many original and early features, all adding to its character and architectural interest, and it is a reminder of the small-scale commercial activity that was once part of life along the Quay in Askeaton in the 19th and early 20th century.

The castle gate lodge and the three-storey corner house seen from the bridge in Askeaton this afternoon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

General Synod 2017 and
five buildings in Limerick:
2, Gerald Griffin Schools

The Gerald Griffin Schools, Limerick, face the main entrance to Saint Mary’s Cathedral (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Patrick Comerford

The General Synod of the Church of Ireland is meeting in Limerick for three days this week, from tomorrow (Thursday 4 May) until Saturday (6 May).

This week, from Tuesday to Saturday, I thought it would be interesting to introduce readers to some of these buildings in Limerick. I have written about Saint Mary’s Cathedral and other Limerick churches and buildings in the past. But this week, I am looking at five buildings that are no more than five minutes’ walking distance from the cathedral.

Today, for my second choice, I am looking at Gerald Griffin Memorial Schools or Old City Courthouse, on the corner of Bridge Street and Court House Lane, and facing the main entrance to Saint Mary’s Cathedral.

This former courthouse was built in 1763-1766. An earlier courthouse on the site was built in 1640 on the derelict site of a former Augustinian abbey.

This is a detached four-bay, two-storey, limestone, building, standing over a concealed basement. It has a central pedimented breakfront and round-arched window openings to the ground and first floor level. The original architect is unknown.

The building was bought by the Christian Brothers in 1845, and substantial alterations were carried out when the building was remodelled and opened as a school in 1846.

Further work was carried out in 1906-1908, with the addition of another storey to provide four new classrooms. This work was designed by Joseph O’Malley and the contractors were Kennedy & Son, Limerick.

There is a parapet entablature and pediment with a blind lunette and a Celtic cross finial to apex. The central bays at the first-floor level have a window pier and a niche with white marble bust of Gerald Griffin. The raised lettering above reads: ‘Gerald Griffin Memorial Schools.’ Relief lettering over the main door reads: ‘Christian Brothers Schools.’

This former City Courthouse and Christian Brothers School is a fitting backdrop to the entrance to Saint Mary’s Cathedral and the former Exchange across the street. It is a fine classical building, which is somewhat incongruous with its association with the Christian Brothers, whose schools and buildings were generally more aesthetically ascetic and functional.

In more recent years, this building has been used as a Gaelscoil.

But who was Gerald Griffin who has given his name to this building?

Gerald Griffin (1803-1840) was a Limerick-born novelist, poet and playwright. His father, Patrick Griffin, a brewer,

emigrated to Pennsylvania with most of his family when his business ventures in Limerick failed. However, Gerald Griffin remained in Ireland with an older brother, Dr William Griffin (1794-1848), and he went to live in Adare, Co Limerick. He would never again see his parents.

At the age of 16, Gerald Griffin began working as a reporter with the Limerick Evening Post, where his uncle was the proprietor and editor. He was still in his teens when he acted briefly as editor of the Limerick Advertiser.

In 1823, Griffin went to London and became a newspaper reporter. Later, he turned to writing fiction. His novel The Collegians is based on a trial he had reported in Limerick, and was adapted for the stage by Dion Boucicault as The Colleen Bawn.

He returned from London in 1829, and for a time lived with his brother William, who was in practice in Pallaskenry, Co Limerick.

In 1838, Griffin burned all his unpublished manuscripts and joined the Christian Brothers at the North Monastery, Cork. He was known as Brother Joseph until he died there of typhus fever in 1840.

There are streets named after Gerald Griffin in Limerick and in Cork City, and Loughill/Ballyhahill GAA club in west Limerick plays under the name of Gerald Griffins.

Yesterday: the County Courthouse, Merchants’ Quay.

Tomorrow: the Hunt Museum.