03 October 2018

Charleville has a rich
architectural heritage
from the Victorian era

The Imperial House on Main Street … a fading legacy of a once-elegant Victorian hotel in Charleville, Co Cork (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Patrick Comerford

Charleville is a busy market town in North Cork, close to the border of Co Cork and Co Limerick, in the rich farming expanse known as the Golden Vale.

The town was founded in 1661 by Roger Boyle, 1st Earl of Orrery and Lord President of Munster, who named Charleville in honour of the newly-restored King Charles II.

Charleville, as we see it today, was laid out in a formal plan with two parallel wide streets.

Like most Irish towns, Charleville went through a period of improvements and rebuilding in the late 18th and early 19th century. Most of its elegant streetscapes date from this period, and the town retains much of its historical character in these Georgian and Victorian buildings, including former hotels and shopfronts.

Victorian decorative details from the former Madden’s Imperial Hotel on Main Street (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

The Imperial House on Main Street, which has been divided into shops and a restaurant, was once a Victorian hotel, known as Madden’s Imperial Hotel and Posting Establishment.

In January 1916, three local Republicans, John O’Dea, Thomas Barry and Laurence Heddevan, were arrested after painting slogans on the walls of Madden’s Imperial Hotel, where a recruiting office was located and members of the Recruiting Committee for Co Cork were staying.

Evidence of the former hotel can be seen in the windows and the highly decorative façade, including the tiled panels and fluted capitals.

This building retains much of its mid-19th century character. The use of tiles in the decorations is a feature of the later Victorian period when the production of glazed and encaustic tiles increased dramatically, initiating a new approach to style and decoration.

The architectural details of the former hotel include decorative render surrounds, tiled panels over the windows and render cartouches above, flanked by short fluted pilaster details, round and elliptical-headed door and window openings, moulded render cornices including triangular pediment details in the fascia, timber half-glazed double-leaf door, and a keystone.

JP Moran’s drapery shop is one of the early shop developments in Charleville (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

JP Moran’s drapery shop on Main Street, facing onto Chapel Street, is one of the early shop developments in Charleville. This terraced, six-bay, three-storey house and shop was built around 1810 as two buildings, a four-bay building on the right (north) and a two-bay building on the left (south).

This is a substantial, commercial premises, with a long timber shopfront and render surrounds on the first-floor windows. The shopfront features include mosaic patterns and fine turned, decorative colonettes. The door on the north end are timber panelled doors with overlights. The recessed main shop entrance has timber glazed double-doors.

The diminishing windows are typical of the town’s streetscapes and the regular, elegant form is accentuated by the rendered quoins that add further life to the façade.

A brightly-painted house is one of a pair built at the south end of Main Street around 1880 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

At the other end and on the opposite side of Main Street, a brightly-painted, terraced, three-bay, three-storey house that is now for sale was built around 1880, as pair with the adjoining house.

This pair of tall buildings that form an imposing presence on the Main Street of Charleville. The strong decorative plasterwork on the window and door surrounds shows particularly fine Victorian craft work. The pilasters and eaves work add to the air of authority of the building, and the ornamental wrought-iron railings at the ground floor windows are a reminder of that until recently Charleville was an important and busy market town.

The architectural and decorative features of this house include a central doorway, channelled render pilasters, a decorative recessed panel surmounted by decorative panelled pilasters, timber sliding sash windows, segmental-headed window openings, hood-mouldings with decorative keystones, and decorative render consoles supporting canopies.

One of a pair of houses built around 1880, with an integral carriage arch (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

The Polish shop next door was also built around 1880 as a terraced, three-bay, three-storey house, and with an integral carriage arch. Despite the later shopfront, this house still shows fine craft work.

The architectural and decorative features of this house include channelled pilasters, a decorative recessed panel, decorative panelled pilasters, limestone window sills, decorative consoles, decorative render hood-mouldings, decorative keystones and stops, and a timber panelled door. The carriage arch is flanked by channelled render pilasters and has a decorative keystone and timber battened doors, with cobbles at the front.

Oriel House on Chapel Street displays hints of the Tudor Revival style (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

I also noticed two interesting, neighbouring houses in Chapel Street during my walk around Charleville last week.

Oriel House on Chapel Street is a late 19th century house and shop, built around 1890, and it has hints of the Tudor Revival style. Although Riordan’s shop is no longer here, this remains an impressive building, with a projecting roof line and a former oriel window with distinctive, painted carved timber details.

This is a three-bay, three-storey former house and shop, with a gable-front at the projecting first and second floor central bays. At the ground floor, there is a shopfront and a carriage arch that is no longer used.

There are decorative timber bargeboards and a finial on the gable-front, square-headed window openings with limestone sills, a carved timber name plaque surmounting a painted timber fascia with a chamfered cornice and decorative timber volutes supported on carved timber pilasters. The square-headed quadripartite display window has painted timber colonettes, and there is leaded glass over the rendered stall-riser. The timber panelled door has an overlight.

The house on Chapel Street with an oriel window and Arts and Crafts details (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

The house next door on Chapel Street was built at the same time, around 1890, as a shop and house and is noticeable for its timber canted oriel window on the first floor.

This is a charming building with a number of distinctive stylistic influences in its Arts and Crafts style timber detailing and the polychromatic, multi-paned, timber canted oriel or bay window on the first floor. There are interesting dormer windows above.

The former shopfront on the ground floor has a square-headed tripartite window with a moulded render surround and timber sliding sash windows.

The art deco house and shop with a bow front on Main Street (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

But by no means is the architectural heritage of Charleville confined to the Victorian and 19th century era. There is an interesting 1950s Post Office on Main Street, and a café on the same side of Main Street has an unusual and eye-catching Art Deco bow front.

This tall, narrow, single-bay, three-storey, bow-fronted house was built around 1930, with a shopfront on the ground floor. It makes an interesting contrast with the generally horizontally emphasised buildings on the streets of Charleville, with its bowed front, parapet railings and vertically emphasised windows.

Victorian decorative details at the former Madden’s Imperial Hotel on Main Street (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)


Michael O'Brien said...

Very interesting Patrick.i live near Charleville and often wondered about the history of the various buildings

aideen said...

So interesting!

I was brought up in the house with the Oriel window on Chapel Street. My Grandparents, Daniel and Elizabeth Coleman, had the Royal Hotel (1906-1950ies) just along from JP Morans.( Early Victorian (or v late Georgian) building with attractive iron railings and carriage arch leading to extensive outbuildings and walled garden. I have some photos. James Binchey, solicitors offices were and still are part of that terrace. They were my grandparents and parents solicitors.
Loved your article on Daniel Binchey.

Thank you very much for such a fascinating blog. Aideen Reid

Kevin Logan said...

My aunt, Bridget Crotty, worked in the Imperial Hotel during late 1940s. She always dreaded market day which was held in Main Street which would be full of cattle being bought and sold! The street would be full of cow dung which the farmers traipsed in to the Hotel on their boots. It was my aunt's job to clean the floors and the stairs.

Daniel J Coleman said...

I was really interested in the comment on Daniel and Elizabeth Coleman of the Royal Hotel. Elizabeth was an O Brien frpm Lombardstown. I am doing a family history at present and that Daniel Coleman is a descendant of a Daniel Coleman from Ballybahallow Freemount born in 1798 and died on 4th Oct 1882 . My name is also Daniel Coleman and I am a descendant of the same person in Freemount through a Patrick Coleman who emigrated to Australia after the famine and returned to Ireland. My email is munsterdan@gmail.com so if Aideen who made the post or anybody else can help me I would be grateful. Daniel J Coleman