02 May 2017
After a busy morning and a working lunch preparing a presentation to the General Synod of the Church of Ireland in Limerick later this week, I went for a walk along the banks of the River Deel this afternoon.
Facing the entrance to the site of the former Franciscan Abbey, the derelict buildings of the Abbey Mills form an interesting feature on the east bank of the river, where they had a strategic and commercially advantageous location on the Quay.
The River Deel is navigable as far as the weir below the castle and the bridge, and the mill was built here in 1796, beside the abbey ruins that gave the mill its name.
This old mill is a detached, rectangular-plan, 10-bay, four-storey corn mill, with a multiple-bay single-storey extension and lean-to at the north elevation.
The three-bay, four-storey block to the east has a single-storey lean-to at the north elevation and a taller projecting end-bay to the south elevation. There is a hipped slate roof.
The mill has tooled coursed limestone walls. The square-headed window openings have brick block-and-start surrounds with the remains of some timber sliding-sash and cast-iron windows. The window openings to the west elevation are now blocked up, and most of the remaining glass has been shattered.
The square-headed opening to the lean-to has double-leaf timber battened sliding doors.
There is a hipped slate roof to the east block and the projecting end bay.
The coursed rubble limestone walls have tooled limestone quoins. The square-headed window openings have brick block-and-start surrounds and show the remains of bipartite windows. There is a square-headed opening to the east elevation, with a timber battened door.
The square-headed opening to the projecting end bay at its north elevation has timber louvered vents.
There is a mill race to the west with a round-headed arch that has limestone voussoirs and a keystone.
There are rubble limestone boundary walls to the east and the north.
The mill was built in 1796, and by the 1830s it was run by the Russells, a merchant family from Limerick. By the 1840s, it brought employment and new prosperity to Askeaton in the 19th century.
The Condensed Milk Company of Ireland bought the mill in 1909, and it was used as a creamery from 1927 until it closed in recent decades.
The former mill is now derelict, but it remains a picturesque feature when it is viewed from the Askeaton Pool and Leisure Centre on the opposite bank of the River Deel. It is a reminder of the industrial heritage of Askeaton. Although no longer in disuse, the building largely retains its original form and features, including brick surrounds, timber battened door and slate roofs.
South of the former Abbey Mill and on a height on the east bank of the River Deel, the former Tall Trees Nursing Home was built around 1810. As the miller’s house, this was an original part of the mill complex.
This detached, three-bay, two-storey, former miller’s house has a portico to the front on the south side, and a recent multiple-bay, single-storey extension to the south and a four-bay two-storey extension to the west. There is skirt slate roof with rendered chimneystacks, and rendered walls.
The square-headed openings to the front elevation have six-over-six pane timber sliding sash windows and painted stone sills. Those to the west elevation have replacement uPVC windows.
The portico has Doric-style render pilasters supporting a moulded entablature. The square-headed opening has a timber panelled door. There is pair of square-profile metal piers with ball finials and a single-leaf metal gate to east and rubble limestone boundary walls that have cut limestone copings.
Although the house is now vacant and has been on the market for some years, it retains much of its original form and character outside, despite recent additions and alterations. It remains a prominent feature in the landscape of Askeaton and is enhanced by its good quality boundary walls.
Further south along the Quay, there is a former warehouse that was built ca 1847. This is a semi-detached, gable-fronted, three-bay, five-storey former warehouse, and was known as Ryan Mill, and before that as Russell’s Mill.
The warehouse has a pitched slate roof, there are rubble limestone walls with roughly dressed limestone quoins, and square-headed window openings with brick voussoirs and timber battened fittings. There is a square-headed loading bay to the centre bay with brick voussoirs and timber battened doors.
This warehouse is an integral part of the surrounding group of mill-related buildings in this part of Askeaton. Its deep form is typical of such structures with its gable-ended loading bay facing the quay. Here corn was directly hoisted from the boats on the River Deel. At one time, the Russells proposed dredging and deepening the River Deel at this point, but commercial vessels have not docked at the Quay since 1952.
Today, the warehouse still has its original structure, including the external and internal timber fittings, brick dressings and the slate roof.
In the 19th century, the Quay at Askeaton was painted by Richard Brydges Beechey (1808-1895) a painter and admiral. The painting was sold at auction by Whyte’s of Dublin in September 2006. Much the charm of this stretch of the River Deel at Askeaton can still be seen today.
The General Synod of the Church of Ireland is meeting in Limerick for three days later this week, from Thursday 4 May to Saturday 6 May.
In the past, I have attended the General Synod in Armagh, Belfast, Cork, Dublin, Galway and Kilkenny, but this is the first time for it to meet in Limerick – and this in the year that I have moved to the Diocese of Limerick, Killaloe and Ardfert, as Priest-in-Charge of the Rathkeale and Kilnaughtin Group of Parishes and Precentor of the cathedrals in the diocese, including Saint Mary’s Cathedral, Limerick.
The General Synod opens with a celebration of the Eucharist in Saint Mary’s Cathedral, Limerick, at 10 a.m. on Thursday, and the main meetings are taking place in South Court Hotel.
Since I moved to Co Limerick in January, I have enjoyed exploring the mediaeval and Georgian streets of Limerick, learning about its history, heritage and architecture.
This week, between today and Saturday, I thought it would be 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 am looking at five buildings that are no more than five minutes’ walking distance from the cathedral.
My first choice is the County Courthouse on Merchants’ Quay, which faces the west door of Saint Mary’s Cathedral. The courthouse is located on Merchants’ Quay overlooking the River Shannon from the north-east. The site ends at the river’s edge with a limestone block-faced quay wall.
This building was recently renovated redeveloped by Murray O’Laoire Architects, when much work was carried out on the interior and the exterior restored. While the exterior of the building retains much of its original form, the interior had been extensively remodelled in 1957 and any surviving historic details were lost at that time.
Like many provincial courthouses in Ireland, this a handsome building in the classical style. However, it is a less imposing building than many of its contemporaries because it is not elevated over a basement and because it is stands on a flat site.
The exterior is characterised by its finish of dark stone and rendered areas, giving it a distinctive appearance.
In the early 19th century, Lewis wrote: ‘The county court-house, on Merchants’-quay, an elegant structure, completed in 1810, at an expense of £12,000, is a quadrangular building of hewn stone, with a portico, supported by four lofty pillars, and surrounded by a light iron balustrade: it contains civil and criminal courts, jury-rooms, and other offices.’
The foundation stone was laid on 1 September 1807, and the building was still not completed when it was opened in 1809. The portico was completed by July 1814.
The courthouse was designed by Nicholas and William Hannan, who were provincial architects associated with Limerick, and financed by the Grand Jury. The alterations were designed and carried out by Nicholas Hannan in 1814.
The builder brothers Nicholas and William Hannan were active in Limerick, active in the first three decades of the 19th century. They also worked on the courthouse at Bruff, Co Limerick, Limerick County Gaol and Limerick City Gaol.
James Pain, the great Limerick-based architect, and his brother George Richard Pain, carried out the furnishing of the barristers’ room and other proposed alterations in 1820.
The building cost £13,000 and the portico cost a further £700.
This is a detached, quadrangular, five-bay, two-storey rendered courthouse with giant Doric pilasters. It was built in 1809 and the limestone ashlar tetrastyle Tuscan portico to the north-east facing front elevation was added in 1817.
This is an historically important structure in its own right and because of its location. When it was built, it marked the demise of the old port as anything other than a place for small boats to unload. But it also brought the county courthouse into the heart of the city – the earlier courthouse stood on the site a ruined abbey outside the city walls. Its location is further enhanced by its close proximity to Saint Mary’s Cathedral.
Tomorrow: Gerald Griffin Memorial Schools.