09 August 2018

Two surviving reminders
of the Georgian corn
industry in Limerick

The former corn store on Robert Street, with Saint Michael’s Church to the right (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Patrick Comerford

When Edmund Sexton Pery and his family built Newtown Pery as the new town for Limerick from 1765 on, part of their plans included building stone corn stores within the grid of the new town.

Many of these corn stores and large mill buildings were concentrated in the area near the River Shannon, they often faced the rivers where the quays had been built, and there was another concentration of mill buildings on the east end of the new town.

These stone corn stores were generally built of uncoursed limestone rubble with small, brick-formed arched windows and timber loading doors. Some are set in large courtyards, others were built adjacent to terraces, and others could be found within the grid of the new town.

Two interesting examples of these corn stores and two of the largest to survive to these days are the large, six-storey building on Robert Street, close to Saint Michael’s Church on Denmark Street, and the former Newsom’s building nearby on Denmark Street.

Nearby landmarks include Saint Michael’s Church, Smith’s Bar and Nightclub, and Flannery’s Bar.

The former corn store on Robert Street is an imposing building (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

The former corn store on Robert Street is an imposing limestone warehouse, and – with its heavy massing and large scale – it maintains a link with the economic and industrial past of this part of Limerick. Today it stands in a large open area in the city centre that is used as a car park.

This six-bay, six-storey warehouse was built around 1800 with random coursed stone. Facing south, it has two hoist bays on the front facing Robert Street and nine-bay side elevations.

The building has squared and tooled random coursed limestone walls with random rubble limestone on the other elevations. There are cast-iron wall tie plates, squared quoins all the corners, and gauged red brick flat-arched window openings with fixed-pane timber windows. The camber-headed red-brick arch loophole openings have been boarded up.

There are voussoirs in the stone flat-arched openings at the ground-floor level, with timber windows and two door openings with double-leaf timber doors. At the sides, there are gauged red brick segmental-headed window openings with square-headed bipartite timber windows.

The M-profile natural slate roof has gables hidden behind the high parapet wall with stone coping. The building has Metal and plastic rainwater goods.

Inside the building, the open floors were supported by timber posts and beams.

More recently, this former corn store was in use as a gallery and home to Limerick Printmakers. However, they have since moved to Saint John’s Square, and the building is now locked and appears to be vacant. Although it faces Robert Street, it is best viewed from Ellen Street when there are few cars in the car park beside the former corn store.

Close by, at 20 Upper Denmark Street, the former Newsom’s building is next door to Nancy Blake’s, a landmark pub at No 19. This three-bay, seven-storey former corn warehouse was also built round 1800, and a central hoist opening rises the full-height of the front of the building above the ground floor level.

A single-pitched replacement roof was added around 1960, resulting in the front elevation being cropped at eaves level. The random rubble limestone walls have a red-brick eaves course, and there are squared quoins at the corners. A central camber-arched brick-framed loophole has been blocked up at the sixth-floor level.

There are tongued and grooved timber-panelled doors at the third, fourth and fifth floor levels, and modern windows at the first and second floor level. There are segmental-arched window openings throughout the building, with red brick arches and reveals and timber casement windows.

This substantial former stone corn store remains relatively intact, despite the loss of the original roof structure. Along with other its companion building on Robert Street and other surviving industrial buildings in the area, it stands as a testimony to Limerick’s industrial and economic past.

The former Newsom’s building on Upper Denmark Street (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Did John Cruce ever cruise
through the ‘Siege of Venice’?

Cruise’s on Abbey Street … one of the oldest pubs in Ennis, Co Clare (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Patrick Comerford

I was wondering earlier this week whether there was any connection between Portobello, Rialto and the Grand Canal in Dublin with Rialto and the Grand Canal in Venice. And as I found myself on the train between Limerick Junction and Ennis yesterday, on my way back from Dublin, I wondered in a whimsical sort of way whether there is any link between Ennis and Venice.

Ennis in Co Clare was voted the ‘Friendliest Town in Ireland.’ But Ennis is also famous for the ‘Siege of Ennis.’ However, if you think that was a battle you would be mistaken.

Historians are familiar with both the Siege of Derry and the Siege of Limerick during the Williamite Wars. But to say there was a Siege of Ennis in the 1680s or the 1690s would be to mispresent history, I think.

Like the ‘Walls of Limerick,’ the ‘Siege of Ennis’ is a ceilidh favourite and one of the finest jigs in Irish dancing.

But it too suffers from mispresentation, and it is frequently known – mistakenly or in humour – as the ‘Siege of Venice’ … or even, at times, as the ‘Sea of Guinness.’

These mispronunciations may also help explain why Cruise’s Pub in Ennis takes its name from someone called Cruce.

The Annals of the Four Masters record that in the year 1584 the name of the sheriff of Co Clare was named Cruice.

John Reagh MacNamara of Rossroe, who died in 1613, was survived by his widow whose name was Margaret Crues.

But neither of these helps me to identify the John Cruce who built the house that is now Cruise’s Pub, that is part of the Queen’s Hotel in Ennis.

A plaque to the right of the name panel records: ‘This House was bilt in the yeare of our Lord God 1658 by John Cruce.’

Although somewhat modernised and well maintained, this building dates from the 17th century. The exposed stonework on the left indicates how it looked originally.

Ove time, the name of John Cruce has become more modern, hence ‘Cruise’s.’

I wonder did he ever dance the ‘Siege of Ennis’ – or even cruise through the ‘Siege of Venice’?

A pillar box beside Cruise’s on Abbey Street dates from the reign of Edward VII and is over 100 years old (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)