14 September 2020
The Mall: an elegant
terrace of Georgian
houses in Cahir
Cahir is best known for Cahir Castle and the buildings designed by the Regency architect John Nash. But when we returned to Cahir after this summer’s ‘Road Trip,’ there was an interesting variety of heritage buildings to enjoy last weekend.
Between Saint Paul’s Church in Cahir and the bridge on the River Suir below the Cahir Castle, the Mall is a terrace of Georgian houses by the riverbank that adds to the architectural beauty of this town in south Co Tipperary.
When the Butler family was restoring Cahir Castle in the early 19th century, the town was also transformed in a short period through an unprecedented building and rebuilding programme initiated by Richard Butler (1794-1858), 2nd Earl of Glengall.
Lord Glengall became personally involved and he personally bore many of the costs. He poured money into the Cahir estate in the 1820s and 1830s, giving his more important tenants long leases on strict conditions that they build according to his plans.
Michael Burke built most of the East Side of the Square; John Cusack built Old Church Street; John Egan built parts of Castle Street; Michael Blake built the Parish House; John Chaytor built the current AIB bank; and Dr Thomas Beale, John Chayotr’s brother-in-law, built the houses on the Mall. There was an unprecedented amount of building and rebuilding activity, and the town was transformed in a short space of time.
The Mall is a terrace of four, three-storey over basement houses close to Cahir Castle. The land on which they stand was leased by Lord Glengall to Dr Thomas Beale in 1820s, with specific purpose of building an hotel and a row of townhouses.
The first three of these houses were completed by 1830, and initially two of them served as the Cahir Castle Hotel. However, the Famine in the 1840s put paid to the completion of this scheme and other similar developments planned for the town. During the great famine in 1847, the Cahir estate was declared bankrupt, and the remaining six of the 10 houses planned on the Mall were never completed.
The Mall House is the first house on the left or north end of this elegant terrace, and was built ca 1830. A railed area to the basement provides privacy from the street, and access by a flight of steps creates an air of grandeur. High quality craftsmanship can be seen in the fanlight and sidelights.
This is an end-of-terrace, two-bay, three-storey over basement house, with a lower lean-to addition at the rear. Its features include a pitched slate roof, a rendered eaves course, a rendered chimney-stack, cast-iron rainwater goods, square-headed windows with stone sills, timber sliding sash windows, and decorative wrought-iron box window guards.
The elliptical-headed entrance is in a slightly concave opening with stone steps, a timber panelled door, cobweb fanlight and sidelights with decorative glazing. There are 12 ft high ceilings, sash windows with window shutters, ornate cornicing and coving, and original fireplaces and doors. This five-bedroom Georgian century family home retains many of its original features, with the original walled garden.
The first resident of the Mall House was James Barry, solicitor and seneschal to the Manor of Cahir. Later in the 19th century, the tenants of the Mall House included a variety of military and gentry figures. From 1900, it was home to Ned Smith, local millers and bank officials. It was bought by Paddy Walsh in 1969 and renovated. The house was sold in 1983 to Nora Curling, mother of the equine artist Peter Curling, and was later bought by Carmel Kerins.
The end house at the right or south end of the terrace has a full-height bowed south gable and a round-arched carriageway on the south side of house, making it the grandest house on the Mall. A railed area to the basement provides privacy from the street, and access by a flight of steps creates an air of grandeur.
Once again, high quality craftsmanship can be seen in the fanlight and sidelights. The arched carriageway on the south side gives access to Mall Lane, with mews buildings at the rear of the terrace.
The details of this two-bay, three-storey over basement house include the red-brick chimneystack, cut sandstone quoins, a smooth rendered plinth at the south side, acting as a buttress to each side of bow, square-headed windows with limestone sills and timber sliding sash windows, the recessed timber panelled door, cobweb fanlight and half-length sidelights with decorative glazing, the limestone steps.
Remodelling Cahir cost Lord Glengall in the region of £75,000. However, with this lavish spending on the eve the Great Famine, Cahir’s owner became heavily indebted. Despite his marriage to a wealthy heiress, Margaret Lauretta Mellish, the family’s fortunes never recovered from his spending on Cahir, and he was declared bankrupt in 1849.
On the instructions of the Encumbered Estates Court, an estate of almost 30,000 acres was advertised for sale in November 1853. The sale included lots in the towns of Cahir and Clonmel, the Manors of Cahir, Rehill and Castlegrace, all in Co Tipperary and Redmondstown and other property in Co Waterford. He remained a bankrupt until he died on 22 June 1858, and much of the land was later bought back by the family.
However, the Mall continues to form a significant part of the architectural heritage of Cahir and the quadrant arrangement of this formerly gated street remains intact.