Friday, 2 August 2019

At one time, there was only
one bank in Dromcollogher

The former Munster and Leinster Bank is now the Post Office in Dromcollogher, Co Limerick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Patrick Comerford

Have you ever come across a post office with a night safe for customers?

The post office in Dromcollogher in Co Limerick has a night safe for the old Munster and Leinster Bank, one of the banks that merged to form Allied Irish Banks back in the heady days of 1966.

The night safe is still an integral part of this building, set within the sill of one of the ground floor windows. But AIB closed its branch in the West Limerick town in 2012, and the former bank building on the Square now serves Dromcollogher as the local post office, although the first post office in the town opened in 1831.

This four-bay, two-storey bank was built ca 1927. It stands on a prominent position overlooking the central square of Dromcollogher. It was designed by the architect Henry Houghton Hill and cost £6,840 to build.

The former bank is an important landmark in the small West Limerick town.

The striking use of tooled limestone of contrasting styles enlivens the façade of the former bank and distinguishes it from its neighbouring buildings. It is enhanced by the retention of original features such as the sash windows and many artistic details, including the platbands, a sill course and the decorative door surround.

A night safe in the façade of the Post Office in Dromcollogher (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

The building was designed by the Cork-based architect, Henry Houghton Hill (1882), who was born in Cork into 1882 into a well-known Cork architectural dynasty: he was the elder son of Arthur Hill (1846-1921), a grandson of Arthur Hill (1806-1887), and the great-grandson of Thomas Hill (1775-1851).

Hill attended the Merchant Taylors’ School at Crosby, Liverpool, and after working in his father’s office, studied at Liverpool University School of Architecture, where in 1905 he was the first student to receive the new degree of Bachelor of Arts with Honours in Architecture. He then studied at the Royal Academy Schools in London (1907-1910).

He was awarded the RIBA Silver Medal in 1909 and 25 guineas for his essay, ‘The Influence on Architecture of Modern Methods of Construction.’

Hill joined his father’s partnership, Arthur & Henry H Hill, at 22 George’s Street (now Oliver Plunkett Street, Cork), that year. During World War I, he held a commission in the Royal Engineers. He returned to Cork after the war, and like his father lectured on architecture at University College Cork.

Hill’s work is mainly commercial and industrial. He designed the School of Commerce and Domestic Science on Morrison’s Quay in Cork, and was the architect for the restoration work at Saint Multose Church, Kinsale, in the 1950s.

He was a Fellow of the Royal Institute of Architects of Ireland (FRIAI, 1923), and vice-president in 1924. He gave many public lectures on architectural subjects and was published in the Irish Builder, the Journal of the Royal Institute of Architects of Ireland and the Journal of the Cork Historical and Archaeological Society.

Hill lived at St Aubyn’s, Monkstown, Co Cork, for most of his life. He died at the age of 69 on 9 February 1951. The Irish Builder described him ‘as perhaps the most distinguished of a family group of architects who combined technical integrity and infallible artistic taste with debonair grace in social relationships.’

Henry Hill and his wife Elsie (Stoker) were the parents of Myrtle Allen (1924-2018), the Michelin star-winning head chef and co-owner of Ballymaloe House, and writer, hotelier and teacher.

Hill’s other bank buildings for the Munster and Leinster Bank include buildings in Mallow (1922), Tipperary (1931-1932) and Clonmel (1940). Despite the humour of Percy French’s song, there is more than one street in Dromcollogher. Although there may be no bank there any more, this building remains an important connection with one of Ireland’s great architectural dynasties.

Despite Percy French’s lyrics, there is more than one street in Dromcollogher (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

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