29 November 2017
On my way back from photographing the former Barracks and Dispensary in Askeaton yesterday afternoon, I noticed two other items of architectural interest that illustrate the way in which many architectural treasures that illustrate Askeaton’s past are often hidden from public view.
The gates that mark the entrance into Inchirourke House, for generations the home of the O’Grady family, have stood at the top of Barracks Lane for over 200 years.
This pair of square-profile limestone gates was erected about 1800. The piers have carved plinths, recessed panels and carved caps, with double-leaf spear-headed cast-iron gates.
These ornate piers and gates are built solidly, and the finely carved piers are typical of 19th-century craftsmanship.
The piers are especially worth noting because they retain their original cast-iron gates.
To the west of these gates, above the banks of the River Deel, the ruins of a rubble limestone limekiln date from about the same time as the gates.
The kiln was built about 1800 and was set into a natural slope in the field. It is now in disuse, but it is still possible in the fading light of the evening to pick out the coursed rubble walls and the elliptical-arched opening on the front or north side, with its brick voussoirs.
Kilns of this sort were once a common part of small-scale farming in Ireland. They were used to burn limestone to create quicklime for the surrounding fields to increase the alkalinity of the soil.
Limekilns represent agricultural traditions that are now lost, but this kiln is also an example of the quality of engineering and craftsmanship in the early 19th century.
After two busy weeks that included four or five days visiting Bologna, Ravenna, Rimini and San Marino, and some working days in London, Lichfield and Birmingham, I have been back in Askeaton, Co Limerick, since the weekend.
These are busy days, preparing for Advent and Christmas. But there are also beautiful, crisp winter days, with clear blue skies and low setting suns that create days that are as bright as summer.
They are good days for walking, and yesterday afternoon I strolled up Barrack Lane, behind East Square in Askeaton, to see the former barracks and dispensary, a building that is over 200 years old and an interesting example of Askeaton’s pre-Victorian architecture.
The Barracks is within walking distance of the shops, schools, and pubs in Askeaton, standing on an elevated site above the east bank of the River Deel. Yet it is in a part-hidden and almost secluded rural environment off Barrack Lane. This house has played a role in the history and social development of this part of Co Limerick as a Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) barracks.
The Barracks stands on an elevated but discreetly secluded site that once provided the police with a tactical location, giving them clear views across to the castle and above the town.
This detached, five-bay, two-storey former dispensary, was built around 1810. It has a two-bay two-storey extension with a two-bay two-storey lean-to and separate entrance at the west side and a porch at the front or north elevation.
The simple façade, which is typical of functional buildings like this, is enhanced by the ornate porch, and the rubble limestone castellations on the porch that add to the curiosity value of the house. The house still retains many of its original features, including the timber sash windows, the slate roof and the boundary walls.
The house has a pitched slate roof with rendered chimneystacks, and the lean-to has a flat roof. There are rendered walls and the square-headed openings have bipartite one-over-one pane timber sliding sash windows and painted stone sills.
The rubble limestone boundary walls have rubble cappings, and there is a single-leaf cast-iron gate on the west side at the front of the house.
Today, this house is regarded as having regional architectural, historic and social importance. In recent decades, it has been converted into four separate apartments and there are two on the market available to rent at the moment.