08 November 2017

Three surviving houses
in a Georgian terrace at
Bank Place in Limerick

Bank Place … only three of the original seven Georgian houses have survived (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Patrick Comerford

Bank Place takes its name from the Bank of Limerick, popularly known as Maunsel’s Bank, which was located at No 6 Bank Place. The bank was established in 1789 and after a number of partnership changes, finally failed in 1820. No 6 was demolished in the 1960s, but despite the failure of the bank and the demolition of its Georgian premises, the name of Bank Place survives on one of the most visible corner sites in the city.

Bank Place was laid out and developed by Philip Roche, who also laid out Rutland Street. He probably conceived of this Georgian development as a staggering and grandiose gateway to the Georgian new town from the predominantly mediaeval English Town.

Philip Roche, son of John Roche, was an 18th century ‘merchant prince’ in Limerick. He was an adventurer, exporter of flax, cereals and seeds, and one of the most successful business figures of his day, and also gave his name to Roche’s Stores in Limerick.

The careful architectural conceptions and ideas for Roche’s terrace of Georgian houses at Bank Place and Rutland Street can be seen in the streetscapes, particularly in the proportions of the houses and in the doorcase architraves.

Originally Bank Place was a terrace of seven four-storey-over-basement houses. But four houses to the east of the terrace (to the left of the photograph) were demolished in the 1960s, along with many other buildings in this area.

No 7 Bank Place is now at the left or east end of the terrace of surviving Georgian houses, which were built around 1775. This house has a fine painted limestone doorcase and channel rusticated ground floor level that opens onto the railed front-site basement area.

The house retains its original distinctive raised and fielded panelled timber door leaf and tripartite overlight. There is a limestone front door platform with nosed limestone steps, bridging the front site basement area from which it is enclosed by a limestone plinth wall and replacement wrought-iron railings.

In 1872, the building housed the Mechanics’ Institute. The Mechanics’ Institutes were educational establishments formed to provide adult education, particularly in technical subjects, for working people. They were often funded by local business interests in the hope that they would benefit from more knowledgeable and skilled workers.

Next door, between No 7 and the Sarsfield Bar, 8 Bank Place is another surviving terraced two-bay four-storey over concealed basement red brick building. It too was built around 1775 as part of this terrace of three houses of similar design.

The building has mid-19th century replacement timber sash windows with ogee horns. Many of the original Georgian details survive, including the limestone doorcase, door leaf and overlight.

The last surviving house in the terrace is the Sarsfield Bar at 9 Bank Place, on the corner with Rutland Street. This is an ‘old-world’ premises on a prominent corner-site location, opposite the Hunt Museum and within easy walking distance of Saint Mary’s Cathedral, the Courthouse, City Hall, Barrington’s Hospital, King John’s Castle and Limerick’s city centre.

Although it has been closed for some years, the Sarsfield Bar is a handsome Georgian building at the end of this Georgian terrace on Bank Place. The discreet integration of its shopfront enhances the architectural heritage of this building.

Seen from Rutland Street, this this is an end-of-terrace, five-bay, four-storey over concealed basement red brick building, It was also built around 1775, and the part of the building that faces onto Bank Place is a two-bay, four-storey over concealed basement north-facing side elevation that faces Bank Place.

The red brick walls are laid in Flemish bond with rusticated limestone ashlar quoins to the corner. The rendered shopfront at ground floor level terminates at the first floor sill level with a rendered platband.

The 18th century building incorporates a rendered shopfront at the ground-floor level of both elevations and that dates from around 1880. There is a rendered fascia nameplate to both elevations from this time, with raised lettering that reads ‘Spirit Store’ on Bank Place and ‘The Sarsfield Bar’ on Rutland Street.

The hipped natural slate roof has a ridge that is parallel with Rutland Street but partially concealed by a parapet wall.

The vacant pub is currently on the market to let as licensed premises with a seven-day licence. The agents’ description says it is on four floors over basement and has traded for many decades as residential licensed premises.

But the Sarsfield Bar has been vacant for a number of years. The agents point out that this is a listed and protected structure and it requires redecoration, upgrading and renovations.