06 May 2017

General Synod 2017 and
five buildings in Limerick:
5, Barrington’s Hospital

Barrington’s Hospital on George’s Quay is a few minutes stroll from Saint Mary’s Cathedral, on the banks of the Abbey River (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Patrick Comerford

The General Synod of the Church of Ireland is meeting in Limerick for three days this week, beginning with an opening Eucharist in Saint Mary’s Cathedral on Thursday (4 May) and concluding today (6 May).

This week, from Tuesday to Saturday, I thought it was 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. So this week, I have been looking at buildings that are no more than five minutes’ walking distance from the cathedral.

This morning, for my fifth and final choice, I am looking at Barrington’s Hospital on George’s Quay, just two or three minutes’ walk from Saint Mary’s Cathedral.

Barrington’s Hospital is a detached, five-bay three-storey over basement limestone hospital building, built in 1829-1830.

The building is particularly noticeable for its elaborate, centrally placed arcaded portico on a raised podium, with paired piers sharing impost blocks which support arches and a parapet entablature above. There are medallions to the two central spandrels. Lettering to frieze reads: ‘Barrington’s Hospital. Erected 1829.’

This stone building, facing the Abbey River, was built for the Barrington family at a cost of £10,000. The architect Frederick Darley was paid for the plans on 18 July 1829 and the hospital was completed in 1830.

The Dublin-born architect Frederick Darley (1798-1872) was a son of the architect Frederick Darley, and was a pupil of Francis Johnston. In 1833-1843, he was the Ecclesiastical Commissioners architect for the Church of Ireland Diocese of Dublin. From the 1830s until about 1850, he was also architect to Trinity College Dublin. He was also architect to the Royal Dublin Society, the Board of National Education and in the Board of Works.

In 1860, he was one of four architects appointed to inspect and report on the restoration of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin. He practised from 187 Brunswick Street, Dublin, until he died in 1872.

Several hospitals had been built in Limerick before this, but Barrington’s Hospital has a particular place in the hearts of people in Limerick. The building adds significantly to the architectural heritage of Limerick, and stands is a monument to the philanthropic endeavours of the Barrington family.

The raised podium and arcaded portico of Barrington’s Hospital (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

The classically composed formal front elevation is ennobled by the raised podium and arcaded portico. A four-bay east wing with a breakfront end bay is a later addition.

In 1837, the original building was joined by a temple-like structure with a conspicuous dome. This was the Mont de Piété, a charitable pawn shop built to support the running costs of the hospital. It was demolished in 1892.

In an attempt to match this wing, a stone clad, four-bay three-storey wing was built to the west in 2004, and prolonged to west with a glazed bay rising to a recessed fourth floor level. The rear elevation faces onto Mary Street.

The Barrington family has been associated with Limerick since the arrival of Francis Barrington in the 1640s. Samuel Barrington survived the Siege of Limerick in 1691, was a clock-maker in the city, and when he died in 1693 he was buried in Saint Mary’s Cathedral. His son Benjamin Barrington, was Sheriff of Limerick in 1714, was survived by his son, also Benjamin Barrington, who was Sheriff of Limerick in 1729.

Sir Joseph Barrington (1764-1846), was a key influential figure in Limerick, and one of his most important achievements was the foundation of Barrington’s Hospital and infirmary in Limerick, to serve the slums of Irishtown and Englishtown in the 1820s and 1830s.

Barrington’s Hospital was incorporated by an Act of Parliament. In 1831, George IV made Sir Joseph Barrington a baronet. He died in 1846. Sir Matthew Barrington, 2nd Baronet and Crown Solicitor for Munster, built Glenstal Castle, Co Limerick. The title is held today by the eighth baronet, Sir Benjamin Barrington. The family vaults are in Saint Mary’s Cathedral.

Barrington’s Hospital closed in 1988, and today a private hospital occupies the building. But the building still bears the Barrington name.

Yesterday: Baal’s Bridge.

A Barrington family monument in Saint Mary’s Cathedral, Limerick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

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