23 May 2019

The Architectural Heritage of
Charleville, ‘An Outsider’s View’

Charleville Park was turned into flats in the late 20th century, but is now derelict, boarded up and fenced off (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Charleville Heritage Society,

23 May 2019,

8 p.m.
, The E-Centre, Baker’s Road, Charleville, Co Cork

The Architectural Heritage of Charleville, ‘An Outsider’s View’

Victorian decorative details at the former Madden’s Imperial Hotel on Main Street (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Personal introduction:

After 15 years as an academic theologian, specialising in liturgy and church history, and 30 years before that working as a journalist, including eight year as Foreign Desk Editor of The Irish Times, I moved in January 2017 to Askeaton, Co Limerick, as the Church of Ireland priest in charge of a group of four parishes scattered across West Limerick and North Kerry.

I am not sure whether it is an advantage or a disadvantage, but I have no real, tangible connections with this part of Ireland. My mother was originally from Millstreet in north Co Cork, and as a teenager I spent a summer in the Kerry Gaeltacht, but I really do not know this part of Ireland very well at all.

Because I do not drive, I have taken advantage at my age of the opportunity to use public transport on days off to acquaint myself with the towns I can reach on a day-return bus or train trip, and to get to know their architectural heritage.

One of my special areas of interest has been church architecture, and over the past two years or more, I have got to know the churches, buildings and streets of many cities and towns. Apart from Limerick, these include Adare, Newcastle West, Listowel, Ballybunion, Kilmallock, Tipperary, Thurles, Nenagh, Roscrea, Killaloe and Ennis.

Trust me, you can get to lot of places with a travel pass.

And I have been to Charleville, of course, returning to photograph the shopfronts, the houses and the churches.

As you know, Roger Boyle (1621-1679), 1st Earl of Orrery, founded the town of Charleville in 1661 and named it in honour of the recently-restored King Charles II.

Charleville became the centrepiece of a vast estate owned by the Boyle family, and the town was laid out in a formal plan with two parallel wide streets. It was granted a charter in the 17th century with a sovereign (mayor) and two bailiffs elected annually by the 12 burgesses or town councillors.

Like many Irish towns, Charleville went through a period of rebuilding in the late 18th early 19th centuries and most of its elegant streetscape dates from this period, along with the many side lanes that gave access to the areas behind the streets.

Charleville became an important market town with a weekly market on Saturdays and six fairs during the year, and with a number of industries, including tanyards, flour mills and a blanket factory.

Charleville Park was the home for generations of the Sanders family, including an Olympic gold medallist (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Sanders Park (Charleville Park):

The principle Boyle residence was Charleville House, built in 1668 and set in a vast deer park north of the town. It was regarded as one of the finest houses in Ireland at the time. It occupied one side of a large walled court and could be defended with 16 guns.

However, during the lifetime of Lionel Boyle (1671-1703), 3rd Earl of Orrery, Charleville House was burnt down by Jacobite forces under the command of the Duke of Berwick, after he had dined in the house in 1690. The house was later demolished and nothing remains of it today. All that remains of the ‘notable gardens and fine park’ are symmetrical fields, masonry walls and earthworks, including the site of four fish ponds.

Although the Boyles remained the lords of the manor, William Sanders of Charleville leased The Park ‘for ever’ from the Boyles in 1697.

The Sanders estates expanded through intermarriage with the Knight family, and in the late 18th century Christopher Sanders built Charleville Park, which was also known as Sanders Park.

Christopher Sanders’s son, William Sanders (1773-1819), was living in the house in 1814, and his son, Christopher Sanders (1808-1839), was living there in 1837. The estates were divided between his sons, Christopher Sanders (1808-1839), who inherited Deer Park, and William Robert Sanders (1810-1851), who was living at Charleville Park at the time of Griffith’s Valuation, holding the property from the Earl of Cork.

The third son, Colonel Robert Sanders (1814-1860) inherited Deer Park when his brother Christopher died and Charleville Park when his brother William died. But he too died without male heirs, and in 1860 the estates passed to another younger son, Thomas Sanders (1816-1892) of Sanders Park or Charleville Park, Charleville.

By the 1870s, he owned 1,024 acres in Co Cork and 942 acres in Co Limerick. A barrister, magistrate and landowner, he was boycotted by the tenant farmers in Charleville, who refused to pay the rents. It was said, ‘Not a blacksmith could be found to shoe his horse and not a living creature to cook his food.’

Robert Massy Dawson Sanders, a land agent, inherited Charleville Park from his father in 1892. He was an elder brother of Evelyn Francis Sanders (1864-1909), who in 1903 married Maria Elizabeth Coote Townshend (1865-1942), who was born in Ireland, and they lived in Calcutta.

Robert Sanders was educated at Trinity College Dublin and was High Sheriff of Co Cork in 1901. He managed the family estate at Charleville Park and a number of other estates, and in 1916 he inherited the Ballinacourty Estate in Co Tipperary from his mother’s uncle, Captain Francis Evelyn Massy-Dawson, a retired naval officer.

During the Irish Civil War, the anti-treaty Republicans occupied Ballinacourty House, but on the approach of Irish Free State soldiers the Republicans burned the house and made good their escape.

Ballinacourty House was never rebuilt, but the stables have since been restored as Ballinacourty House Restaurant. Robert Massy Dawson Sanders later rebuilt and extended an old schoolhouse and opened it as an hotel and convalescent home. The Glen Hotel now stands on the site.

During the Irish Civil War, Robert Sanders moved to Buckland Court in Surrey, which was owned by his elderly father-in-law, Francis Henry Beaumont, who transferred the estate to Sanders in 1923. Later, around 1932, Robert Sanders built a lodge on the Ballinacourty Estate where he could stay when he was in Ireland; the Aherlow House Hotel stands there today.

Robert and Hilda Sanders were the parents of two sons, Charles Craven Sanders (1899-1985) and Terence Robert Beaumont Sanders (1901-1985), who were born at Charleville Park and educated at Eton and Trinity College Cambridge.

Charles Craven Sanders lived at Coolnamuck Court, near Carrick-on-Suir, Co Tipperary, up to the mid-1950s, and later lived in Whitechurch, Rathfarnham. His brother Terence was an Olympic gold medallist and a lecturer in engineering in Cambridge.

Terence Sanders was born at Charleville Park on 2 June 1901 and was educated at Eton and Trinity College Cambridge. At Cambridge, Sanders, Maxwell Eley, Robert Morrison and James MacNabb, who had rowed together at Eton, made up the coxless four that won the Stewards’ Challenge Cup at Henley in 1922 as Eton Vikings and the Visitors’ Challenge Cup as Third Trinity Boat Club.

Sanders stroked for Cambridge in the Boat Race in 1923, which was won by Oxford. The coxless four won the Stewards’ Challenge Cup at Henley again in 1923, the crew won Stewards’ at Henley again in 1924 and went on to win the gold medal for Great Britain rowing at the 1924 Summer Olympics in Paris. The British crew won comfortably over the 2000 metre course and winning, with Canada finishing second and Switzerland taking the bronze medal.

Sanders became a Fellow of Corpus Christi, Cambridge in 1925, and was appointed university lecturer in engineering in 1936. He was honorary treasurer of the University Boat Club from 1928 to 1939, and was in the Leander Club eight that won the Grand Challenge Cup at Henley in 1929. In 1929, he co-wrote The University Boat Race: Official Centenary History 1829-1929.

During World War II, he was active in Operation Crossbow that countered the threat of German V2 rockets. He was made a Companion of the Bath (CB) in 1950, and retired from the army as colonel in 1951. Sanders died at Dorking, Surrey, on 6 April 1985 at the age of 83, and is buried in Buckland churchyard near Reigate.

Meanwhile, Charleville Park was the residence of a Mr Binchy, a merchant in Charleville, in the 1940s. By the end of the 20th century, Charleville Park was turned into flats, and new housing estates were built on part of the land.

The octagonal gate lodge at Charleville Park is an interesting example of theatrical architecture (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The house is now derelict, boarded up and fenced off. But an unusual octagonal gate lodge still stands near the original entrance to the house and demesne.

This two-storey gate lodge was built around 1830, with one-bay faces. The projecting slate roof forms a shallow canopy at the entrance face, with carved timber bargeboards supported on carved timber brackets. There are rendered chimneystacks, rendered walls, square-headed openings with quarry glazed transomed and mullioned windows and rendered sills. An elliptical-headed opening has a raised brick surround and a timber panelled door.

This former gate lodge at Charleville Park is an interesting example of theatrical architecture, and its shape and size are unusual as gate lodge are typically single-storey structures, as can be seen nearby at the former gate lodge at Knight’s Lodge.

Holy Cross Church stands on a prominent site in Charleville, at the junction of the Main Street and the Limerick-Cork road (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Holy Cross Church:

With the fading grandeur of Sanders Park or Charleville Park in danger of crumbling and its site boarded up and fenced off, the dominant architectural feature in the town undoubtedly is Holy Cross Church, which was built at the north end of the Main Street in 1898-1902.

This Gothic Revival church was designed by the architect Maurice Alphonsus Hennessy, who worked mainly in Co Limerick and Co Cork. It stands on a prominent, elevated site at the junction of the Limerick-Cork road and presents a strong presence in Charleville.

Holy Cross Church is close to the parochial house, the Convent of Mercy and the first school run by the Mercy Sisters, and with the priests’ graveyard in front of the church they form a coherent church cluster or campus sometimes referred to as a ‘chapel village.’ The ornate piers and folding gates in front of the church continue the Gothic theme of this site.

Until Holy Cross Church opened in 1902, Catholic parishioners in Charleville were served by the small chapel in Chapel Street off the Main Street built in 1812, 17 years before Catholic Emancipation in 1829.

Inside Holy Cross Church, designed in the Gothic Revival style by the architect Maurice Alphonsus Hennessy (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

In 1896, the new parish priest of Charleville, the Very Revd Patrick O’Callaghan, and his parishioners commissioned a new church on an elevated site at the Limerick end of the Main Street. Early Ordnance Survey maps indicate the Zion Chapel, a Congregationalist church, stood on this site in the early 19th century.

Funds for building a new church were raised at home and abroad through the Irish emigrant network. Charleville residents who worked to raise funds and to support the project included Margaret and Isabella Croke, key members of the Sisters of Mercy, and Thomas Croke, later Archbishop of Cashel, as well as prominent Catholic families including the Binchy, the Clanchy and the Daly families.

The building committee sought ‘Architects of character and respectability’ to design a new church. Father O’Callaghan had been a curate in Cobh, and his first choice was AWN Pugin’s son-in-law, George Coppinger Ashlin (1837-1921), designer of many Gothic Revival churches throughout Ireland.

However, Ashlin declined the invitation, and instead the commission went to Hennessy (1848/1849-1909), who was the architect of several churches in Co Limerick and Co Cork.

Hennessy was born in Cork in 1848 or 1849 and died in Cork in 1909. But for much of his working life he lived in Limerick. He was working from 10 Glentworth Street, Limerick, from 1873 or before until 1887, and from 1888 or 1889 at 62 George’s Street (now O’Connell Street), Limerick. He published a pamphlet in 1875 that advocated the appointment of diocesan architects in the Roman Catholic Church, and he made this argument again in the Irish Builder.

The main entrance doors at Holy Cross Church (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Maurice Hennessy worked alongside his brother, S Hennessy, from 1878 or earlier, with offices in Cork and Limerick. In 1879, the Hennessy brothers collaborated on the design of a new tower and spire for Saint John’s Cathedral, Limerick.

Hennessy was appointed general engineer to the Limerick Union in January 1879, and later became engineer and architect to the Sanitary Board. He was invited to prepare plans in 1889 for new schools in connection with the Limerick Athenaeum, although there is no mention of the schools he designed being built.

His works include Saint Saviour’s Dominican Church in Baker Place, Limerick, houses on O’Connell Avenue, Limerick, a number of Roman Catholic parish churches and presbyteries in Co Limerick and Co Cork, and works on Saint John’s Cathedral, Limerick.

An inscription in a much later church at Timoleague, Co Cork, unfinished when Hennessy died in 1909, says it was designed by the Hennessy brothers. The undated chapel at Mount Saint Laurence cemetery, Limerick, is also said to be their work.

By 1896, the year he received the commission to design Holy Cross Church, Charleville, Maurice Hennessy was back in Cork and working from Trinity Chambers at 60 South Mall. He remained in Cork for the rest of his life, living at Dunkereen, Ballymurphy. He was appointed consulting engineer to Bandon rural district council in 1902 and worked from 74 South Mall, Cork, until he died in 1909.

In his design for Holy Cross Church in Charleville, Hennessy developed the Gothic Revival style made popular in Ireland by AWN Pugin (1812-1852) and JJ McCarthy (1818-1882). Hennessy’s plan was to accommodate a congregation of up to 1,000 people, and the church was built by the Fermoy-based contractor Denis Creedon.

The statue of the Good Shepherd above the entrance at Holy Cross Church (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Holy Cross Church is oriented west-east rather than east-west, so that the liturgical east is at the west end of the church, allowing the entrance to face the Main Street.

The church has a four-bay nave with a lean-to porch at the front, a four-stage tower, a single-bay, single-storey mortuary chapel, transepts and chancel at the west end, a three-bay, single-storey over basement sacristy.

There are carved limestone eaves brackets, copings and cross finials, a cut limestone chimneystack, copings and cross finials, decorative pinnacles, rock-faced rusticated limestone masonry walls with plinth course, string courses, and buttresses at the corners.

There are carved limestone plaques and a frieze at the front, and the façade is enlivened by alternately coloured voussoirs at the doors and windows. The carved limestone statue of Christ as the Good Shepherd over the entrance has an ornate limestone canopy flanked by trefoil-headed, double lancet windows surmounted by carved limestone quatrefoils with hood-mouldings that have label-stops with heraldic motifs. The inscription below this larger-than-life statue reads, ‘I am the Good Shepherd: the Good Shepherd giveth his life for his sheep.’

The Lamb on the Throne … a ‘Vesccia’ design in one of the upper transept windows (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The front gable also has an interesting rose window or Vesccia window, best seen from inside the church. It is oval in shape, a style seen in many English churches and cathedrals, including York Minster and Lincoln Cathedral, but rarely seen in Ireland. The ‘Vesccia’ design is also seen in the upper transept stained glass windows.

Inside, the length of the nave and chancel is 136 ft, the height form the floor to the apex of the nave is 60 and the width of the church across the transepts and nave is 80 ft.

The chancel in Holy Cross Church, including the Hardman or Meyer window, the Oppenheimer mosaics and the Earley High Altar (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The highly decorated interior reflects the Gothic Revival style of the exterior. The details include ornate tiling on the floor, elaborate carpentry in the timber-braced scissors-truss roof, mosaics in the chancel by Ludwig Oppenheimer, an original High Altar by John Earley and stained-glass windows from the workshops of John Hardman of Birmingham, Meyer of Munich, and the Harry Clarke studios.

The arcade of finely carved marble columns adds to the richness and colour to the interior. The side aisles have double lancet stained-glass windows, and clerestorey has cinquefoil windows.

The marble mosaic decorations in the chancel, in the Lady Chapel and the Sacred Heart Chapel were designed by Eric Newton in 1918-1921 and installed by Ludwig Oppenheimer of Old Trafford, and cost £1,500 at the time.

The steel cross in the chancel, decorated with the instruments of the Passion and hanging from the ceiling, is the work of Dom Henry O’Shea OSB of Glenstal Abbey, Co Limerick.

The East Window, designed by the Hardman studios in Birmingham or the Meyer studios in Munich, depicts the Exaltation of the Holy Cross (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The ‘East Window’ in the chancel is the largest and most handsome of all the windows in the church. It depicts the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, and was the gift of the Men’s Confraternity in 1900. There are differing accounts that the window is the work of John Hardman and Company, the Birmingham studios that were founded in 1838 and that worked closely with Pugin, and by the studio of Meyer and Company in Munich.

The other stained-glass windows in the church work include 12 windows from Joshua Clarke and Sons of Dublin, established in 1886. The project was overseen by Harry Clarke (1889-1931), and the windows were installed in 1919-1922. Local and global donors are named in the window dedications, including the Mannix, Daly, Cagney, Moran, Buckley, Binchy, and Lincoln families.

There are eight Clarke windows on the south side (liturgical north side) of the church:

The window depicting the Angel Guardian and the Good Shepherd (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The Angel Guardian and Good Shepherd;

The window depicting Saint Michael the Archangel and Saint Columbcille (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Saint Michael the Archangel and Saint Columbcille;

The Mannix window depicting the Sacred Heart and Saint Joseph (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The Sacred Heart and Saint Joseph: the Mannix Memorial Window showing Saint Joseph recalls Daniel Mannix, Archbishop of Melbourne, who was born in Charleville, and is dedicated ‘In Memory of Joseph D Mannix/Ballydrheen [sic] Charleville RIP’;

The window depicting Saint Finbarr of Cork and Saint Catherine of Siena (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Saint Finbarr of Cork and Saint Catherine of Siena.

There are four Clarke windows on the north side (liturgical south side) of the church:

The window depicting Saint Anastasia and Our Lady of Lourdes (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Saint Anastasia and Our Lady of Lourdes;

Saint Augustine and Saint Monica, signed, ‘J Clarke and Sons, 33 Nth Frederick St, Dublin’ (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Saint Monica and Saint Augustine.

The two other pairs of windows on this side of the church are:

The window depicting Saint John the Evangelist and Saint Veronica (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Saint John the Evangelist and Saint Veronica;

The window depicting Saint John the Evangelist and Saint Elizabeth (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Saint John the Evangelist and Saint Elizabeth.

The ornate timber gallery has quatrefoil motifs over the entrance at the end of the nave.

The new church was consecrated and opened on 4 May 1902 by Robert Browne, Bishop of Cloyne, who was born in Charleville.

The elaborate, tall tower with a spire and belfry, reaching a height of 150 ft, was not completed until 1910.

The mortuary chapel was added in 1918 and the label stops to the doorway are carved with the initials RIP. It was added to the church in memory of Father Patrick O’Callaghan, Parish Priest of Charleville (1895-1918), who had commissioned the church and who died that year. Since 1989, this chapel has been used for private prayer as the Adoration Chapel.

Later work in the church includes the organ base designed by Ashlin and Coleman. The organ has a total of 1,421 pipes.

The new and the old … the new altar and the old High Altar in the sanctuary, redesigned and enlarged in 1986 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The chancel area was redesigned and enlarged in 1986 by the architect PL McSweeney of Cork and the sculptor Michael Sheedy of Midleton, Co Cork. The Altar at the front of the chancel is formed of two solid blocks of masonry, engraved with images of the loaves and fish. The paving on the chancel floor and the chair are made from limestone, and the original High Altar can still be seen.

The church and tower, with their unifying Gothic theme, continue to provide the town of Charleville with a spiritual and architectural focus.

Details of the mosaics in the chancel (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Saint James’s Church, Charleville … built in 1846, and converted into a library in the 1990s (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Saint James’s Church (Library)

Charleville Library is located in the former Church of Ireland parish church on Main Street.

Saint James’s Church was built as a Gothic Revival Church in 1845-1846 on the site of an earlier Church of Ireland parish church that had been built in 1663 by Roger Boyle (1621-1671), 1st Earl of Orrery and the founder of Charleville after the Restoration of Charles II.

Boyle had been a supporter of Oliver Cromwell during the Civil Wars of the 1650s, and just as the choice of Charleville as the name of his new planned town was a declaration of his new-found loyalty to Charles II, his choice of Saint James as the patron of the parish church was also a declaration of his loyalty to the restored House of Stuart: Charles II was a grandson of James I, and his brother and heir was James Stuart, Duke of York, who later succeeded as James II.

The Very Revd Jonathan Bruce (1681-1758), who was Vicar of Charleville and Prebendary of Ballyhea in Cloyne Cathedral from 1709 to 1758, was also Dean of Saint Fachan’s Cathedral, Kilfenora (1724-1758). He was descended from a Scottish family and a son of Saul Bruce, twice Provost (Mayor) of Bandon, Co Cork, in the 17th century.

Dean Bruce was the grandfather of George Evans Bruce, who founded the Bruce Bank, which traded in Limerick and Charleville, in 1806. He lived at the Hermitage, Castleconnell, and was High Sheriff of Co Limerick in 1800. The Bruce Bank closed after financial difficulties in 1820.

Canon William Dunn (1757-1834), who was Rector of Charleville in 1821, was also the Sovereign or Mayor of Charleville.

The 19th century church built as a successor to Boyle’s Caroline-era church, was consecrated in 1846. It is built of limestone ashlar and is a fine example of the Neo-Gothic style that was popular at the time. The ornate limestone dressings are finely carved, displaying quality work by 19th century craft workers.

The church had a five-bay nave with a shallow chancel projection at the north-east, a link bay, an elaborate, square-plan, three-stage, bell tower with a tall octagonal spire at south end of the main, east elevation, and a porch at the west gable of nave.

The tower and spire of the former Saint James’s Church in Charleville (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Outside, the architectural features of this former church include limestone walls, buttresses, hood mouldings and carved stops. The tower has a clock, there is a three-light window in the chancel, lancets in the nave, and double lancet windows in the tower.

There are pointed arch door openings, a timber battened door, and inside the former church was altered in the 1990s, a century and a half after it was built, to accommodate the town library.

Some of the interior work in the 19th century was designed by the architects James Franklin Fuller and Charles William Harrison, including a Caen stone pulpit. A brass eagle lectern was presented by the Sanders family of Charleville Park in memory of Thomas Sanders.

The Bruce family tomb in the plaza between the former church and the Main Street (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The surrounding churchyard still retains many graves, with grassed over barrel-roofed burial vaults behind the church and a carved limestone tomb of the Bruce family, a prominent banking family in Charleville and Limerick, in the plaza area that has been created between the library and the Main Street.

The building breaks the street-line of the town because it is set back from the Main Street, and it provides a green space in the centre of Charleville.

Saint James’s Church fell into disrepair after the Church of Ireland population in Charleville declined in the 1950s and the 1960s. It was converted to a library by Cork County Council in the 1990s, and it retains much of its early character and form as a church.

Today, this former church stands out as an example of how an historic church building in a vibrant provincial town can be put to an appropriate use again after years of neglect.

Many of the early graves in the churchyard can be seen behind the library (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The Community Centre on Chapel Street in Charleville was built as the Roman Catholic parish church in 1812 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The Community Centre, Chapel Street (former chapel)

The Community Centre on Chapel Street in Charleville, looks for all the world like an old Welsh chapel, with its matching pair of doors that could be separate entrances for men and women, its high, almost austere, Georgian Classical façade, and its decorative bellcote with a decorative urn and obelisks.

It was built over 200 years ago, in 1812 as a Roman Catholic church in the days before the last of the Penal Laws were finally abolished. For almost a century it served as the parish church of the north Cork town, and it was here almost 200 years ago that Eliza Lynch, the doctor’s daughter who would become ‘Queen of Paraguay,’ was baptised in 1834.

This former church was built in 1812 in the Classical style, and it retains its grand and splendidly composed façade. The fine details include a cut limestone clock face and polychrome glass.

The building is unusual as a Roman Catholic church of this size and style built before Catholic Emancipation. The Georgian Classical style was more popular in building 18th century dissenting chapels, including those for Presbyterians, Methodists, Congregationalists and Baptists.

This is a free-standing gable-fronted multiple-bay two-storey building, with multiple-bay two-storey extensions at the rear corners.

The ground floor has an elliptical-arched entrance opening flanked by round-headed window openings, with cut limestone block-and-start surrounds and timber panelled double-leaf doors. There is a fanlight and a keystone with the date 1812 at the central opening.

The elliptical-arched central opening on the first floor is flanked by segmental-headed openings, with cut limestone block-and-start surrounds, cut limestone sills, and margined timber framed polychrome glass with a double lancet motif in the central window.

The ashlar limestone bellcote at the apex was added in 1829, the year of Catholic Emancipation. It is designed like a triumphal arch, with free-standing columns supporting the lintel over a round-headed arch, and it is surmounted by a carved limestone urn and flanked by obelisks.

Local lore claims the bellcote was the first erected and the bell the first tolled in the immediate aftermath of Catholic Emancipation.

This building continued to serve as the Catholic parish church in Charleville for more than 90 years until Holy Cross Church was built in 1898-1902. It then became a Parochial Hall, and is now Charleville Community Centre.

A plaque on the façade of the former church recalls that this is the place where Eliza Lynch, ‘National Heroine of Paraguay’, was baptised on 2 May 1834.

The former Market House once provided a social, historical and architectural focal point for Charleville (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The Market House

The former Market House on the Main Street provides architectural testimony to the way this town was once an important market town and commercial and economic centre in north Co Cork in the 18th and 19th centuries.

This imposing Georgian civic building on the corner of Main Street and Broad Street, is one of the earliest buildings in Charleville, built almost opposite Saint James’s Church, the Church of Ireland parish church, and it continues to provide a social, historical and architectural focal point in the town.

The two-storey, three-bay Market House is a distinctive building on a prominent street corner, with a colonnaded arcade that was once open to the street. It was built in 1769 to accommodate and control the buying and selling of local produce, and farm produce and meats from the adjacent Shambles Lane were sold here.

In the 19th century, the Market House had a copper-domed roof, and the lower two-storey extension behind the building was added around 1850.

The neo-classical design includes round-headed openings and labour-intensive ashlar stonework. The architectural features of the building include terracotta ridge tiles, dressed limestone walls, punch-dressed and tooled stones, a limestone string course, raised stone quoins, projecting dropped keystones, a dated keystone on the centre arch, and limestone steps on the south-east corner.

In the 19th century, the building functioned as a potato market, and the upper floor was used as a courthouse for many years until the 1980s.

In the past, this building had an important civic function in Charleville for the best part of two centuries. It appears to be vacant and unused today, but obviously offers considerable potential for the future.

The former Market House had an important civic function in Charleville for the best part of two centuries (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The Georgian houses on Clanchy Terrace include the first Mercy convent in Charleville and the house where Eliza Lynch was born (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Clanchy Terrace

Clanchy Terrace has many interesting buildings, including the former rectory, the first convent of the Sisters of Mercy in Charleville, and two terraces of 19th century houses.

There are two interesting terraces of houses here: a Georgian terrace on the west side dating from the 1830s and a Victorian terrace on the east side dating from the 1880s. The Clanchy family were a well-known business family in the Charleville and gave their name to this terrace.

The first house at the south or left end of the terrace on the west side of Clanchy Terrace is an end-of-terrace, three-bay, three-storey house, built ca 1830. It has a hipped artificial slate roof with carved limestone chimneystacks and a render eaves course.

The rendered walls have painted render edging and a plinth. The square-headed openings have painted render surrounds, painted stone sills and replacement uPVC windows.

The square-headed door opening has a render surround, a replacement uPVC door with sidelights and overlight, and is approached by flight of cut limestone steps. However, looking at the two other houses on the terrace, this house has lost its carved timber engaged columns that originally supported a timber pediment with a spoked fanlight and carved cornice.

Like the other houses on this terrace, it is set back from the street with a painted rendered stone wall, cast-iron railings, and square-profile dressed limestone piers.

This fine house is prominently sited and presents a strong façade to the streetscape. The form of the building and its elevations are classically inspired and heavily influenced by the 19h-century fashion for diminishing windows, a common feature of town houses such as this in Co Cork.

Along with much of its original form, the house also retains notable features such as the cut-stone steps and the carved limestone chimneystack.

The second, mid-terrace house is also a three-bay three-storey house, built ca 1830. It too has a pitched artificial slate roof with a carved limestone chimneystack and a render eaves course.

There are square-headed openings with render surrounds, painted stone sills and timber sliding sash windows, which are 6-over-3 pane windows on the second floor and 6-over-6 pane windows on the ground floor and the first floor.

The house has a square-headed door opening, approached by a flight of cut limestone steps. The replacement uPVC door is flanked by carved timber engaged columns supporting a timber pediment with spoked fanlight and cornice. The form of the handsome house is embellished by the decorative doorcase, with classical features such as the pediment and engaged columns, providing a focus for the façade.

The house retains its six-over-six pane timber sash windows, that are typical of terraced 19th-century houses in Ireland. The site retains cut stone steps, piers with simple caps, and cast-iron railings, which illustrate the skill of masons of the time, as does the carved limestone chimneystack.

This house was given to the Sisters of Mercy by the Clanchy family. The Sisters of Mercy arrived in Charleville and set up a house here on 29 October 1836. This was the order’s third house, and Catherine McAuley, Sister Mary Angela Dunne and two novices came from Baggot Street, Dublin, to Charleville on the invitation of the parish priest, Father Thomas Croke, and Mary Clanchy, whose family gave their name to Clanchy Terrace.

The nuns continued to live in this house until a new convent was built a few years later. These nuns in Charleville went to the Crimean War in 1855, and also established convents in Buttevant and Midleton, Co Cork, New Inn, Co Tipperary, Kilmallock, Co Limerick, and Bathurst, New South Wales, Australia.

The house at the right or north end of this terrace on Clanchy Terrace stands on a prominent corner site. This end-of-terrace, three-bay, three-storey house was also built ca 1830, and, like the other houses on this terrace, it has a hipped artificial slate roof with carved limestone chimneystacks and a render eaves course.

There are square-headed openings with render surrounds, limestone sills and replacement uPVC windows. The square-headed opening with a timber panelled door is approached by a flight of limestone steps and is flanked by carved timber engaged columns that support a timber pediment with a spoked fanlight and carved cornice.

This end-of-terrace house presents a symmetrical and regular façade to the streetscape of Charleville, continuing the form of the adjoining houses. The provincial Georgian style doorcase provides a decorative focal point, the diminishing windows emphasise the vertical thrust of the building, and the house retains interesting and well executed features such as the chimneystack, surrounding wall and cast-iron railings.

This is the house where Eliza Lynch (1833-1886), the heroine of Paraguay, was born in 1833. Her father was Dr John Lynch, and her mother, Jane Clarke Lloyd, came from a long line of naval officers.

On the opposite side of the street, a less imposing but equally elegant terrace of houses was built half a century later, ca 1880. The terrace begins at the left or north end with a two-bay three-storey house with attic accommodation.

This substantial house retains its one-over-one pane timber sash windows. The gate and railings are examples of late 19th and early 10th century metalwork and the round-headed window and its unusual slated sill to the rear add interest to the rear elevation.

The second house on this terrace is a six-bay, three-storey house, with a square-headed integral carriage. This large house provides a structural contrast to the terraces of mainly two and three-bay houses on the street and retains much of its handsome and regular form.

The terrace ends at the right or south end with a pair of three-bay, three-storey houses.

The Victorian terrace of houses on Clanchy Terrace dates from the 1880s (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

The Imperial House on Main Street … a fading legacy of a once-elegant Victorian hotel in Charleville (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Victorian streetscapes

Like most Irish towns, Charleville went through a period of improvements and rebuilding in the late 18th and early 19th century. Most of its elegant streetscapes date from this period, and the town retains much of its historical character in these Georgian and Victorian buildings, including former hotels and shopfronts.

The Imperial House on Main Street, which has been divided into shops and a restaurant, was once a Victorian hotel, known as Madden’s Imperial Hotel and Posting Establishment.

In January 1916, three local Republicans, John O’Dea, Thomas Barry and Laurence Heddevan, were arrested after painting slogans on the walls of Madden’s Imperial Hotel, where a recruiting office was located and members of the Recruiting Committee for Co Cork were staying.

Evidence of the former hotel can be seen in the windows and the highly decorative façade, including the tiled panels and fluted capitals.

This building retains much of its mid-19th century character. The use of tiles in the decorations is a feature of the later Victorian period when the production of glazed and encaustic tiles increased dramatically, initiating a new approach to style and decoration.

The architectural details of the former hotel include decorative render surrounds, tiled panels over the windows and render cartouches above, flanked by short fluted pilaster details, round and elliptical-headed door and window openings, moulded render cornices including triangular pediment details in the fascia, timber half-glazed double-leaf door, and a keystone.

JP Moran’s drapery shop was one of the early shop developments in Charleville (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

JP Moran’s drapery shop on Main Street, facing onto Chapel Street, is one of the early shop developments in Charleville. This terraced, six-bay, three-storey house and shop was built around 1810 as two buildings, a four-bay building on the right (north) and a two-bay building on the left (south).

This is a substantial, commercial premises, with a long timber shopfront and render surrounds on the first-floor windows. The shopfront features include mosaic patterns and fine turned, decorative colonettes. The door on the north end are timber panelled doors with overlights. The recessed main shop entrance has timber glazed double-doors.

The diminishing windows are typical of the town’s streetscapes and the regular, elegant form is accentuated by the rendered quoins that add further life to the façade.

A brightly-painted house is one of a pair built at the south end of Main Street around 1880 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

At the other end and on the opposite side of Main Street, a brightly-painted, terraced, three-bay, three-storey house that is now for sale was built around 1880, as pair with the adjoining house.

This pair of tall buildings that form an imposing presence on the Main Street of Charleville. The strong decorative plasterwork on the window and door surrounds shows particularly fine Victorian craft work. The pilasters and eaves work add to the air of authority of the building, and the ornamental wrought-iron railings at the ground floor windows are a reminder of that until recently Charleville was an important and busy market town.

The architectural and decorative features of this house include a central doorway, channelled render pilasters, a decorative recessed panel surmounted by decorative panelled pilasters, timber sliding sash windows, segmental-headed window openings, hood-mouldings with decorative keystones, and decorative render consoles supporting canopies.

One of a pair of houses built around 1880, with an integral carriage arch (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The Polish shop next door was also built around 1880 as a terraced, three-bay, three-storey house, and with an integral carriage arch. Despite the later shopfront, this house still shows fine craft work.

The architectural and decorative features of this house include channelled pilasters, a decorative recessed panel, decorative panelled pilasters, limestone window sills, decorative consoles, decorative render hood-mouldings, decorative keystones and stops, and a timber panelled door. The carriage arch is flanked by channelled render pilasters and has a decorative keystone and timber battened doors, with cobbles at the front.

Oriel House on Chapel Street displays hints of the Tudor Revival style (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

I also noticed two interesting, neighbouring houses in Chapel Street during my walks around Charleville.

Oriel House on Chapel Street is a late 19th century house and shop, built around 1890, and it has hints of the Tudor Revival style. Although Riordan’s shop is no longer here, this remains an impressive building, with a projecting roof line and a former oriel window with distinctive, painted carved timber details.

This is a three-bay, three-storey former house and shop, with a gable-front at the projecting first and second floor central bays. At the ground floor, there is a shopfront and a carriage arch that is no longer used.

There are decorative timber bargeboards and a finial on the gable-front, square-headed window openings with limestone sills, a carved timber name plaque surmounting a painted timber fascia with a chamfered cornice and decorative timber volutes supported on carved timber pilasters. The square-headed quadripartite display window has painted timber colonettes, and there is leaded glass over the rendered stall-riser. The timber panelled door has an overlight.

The house on Chapel Street with an oriel window and Arts and Crafts details (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The house next door on Chapel Street was built at the same time, around 1890, as a shop and house and is noticeable for its timber canted oriel window on the first floor.

This is a charming building with a number of distinctive stylistic influences in its Arts and Crafts style timber detailing and the polychromatic, multi-paned, timber canted oriel or bay window on the first floor. There are interesting dormer windows above.

The former shopfront on the ground floor has a square-headed tripartite window with a moulded render surround and timber sliding sash windows.

The art deco house and shop with a bow front on Main Street (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

But by no means is the architectural heritage of Charleville confined to the Victorian and 19th century era. There is an interesting 1950s Post Office on Main Street, and a café on the same side of Main Street has an unusual and eye-catching Art Deco bow front.

This tall, narrow, single-bay, three-storey, bow-fronted house was built around 1930, with a shopfront on the ground floor. It makes an interesting contrast with the generally horizontally emphasised buildings on the streets of Charleville, with its bowed front, parapet railings and vertically emphasised windows.

Professor Binchy’s house:

The former Binchy shop on Main Street, Charleville … the birthplace of Irish diplomat Daniel Binchy (Photograph Patrick Comerford)

Professor Daniel A Binchy (1899-1989) from Charleville was the first Irish Minister to Germany from 1929 to 1932, and an uncle of the author and The Irish Times writer Maeve Binchy. With Osborn Bergin and RI Best, he is famously the subject of a comic verses by Flann O’Brien.

Brúdair’s Coffee Shop and its traditional shopfront on the Main Street is a significant landmark as the birthplace of Daniel Binchy.

This is a terraced single-bay, three-storey house, and on the ground floor there is a limestone and marble shopfront with the carved name Binchy and the date 1849.

The arcaded three-bay shopfront has engaged polished red stone columns with moulded bases and ornate composite capitals, over square-plan carved limestone plinths and a supporting central elliptical arch and flanking round arches, all with moulded archivolts.

Above, there is a limestone facing and fascia with a moulded limestone cornice above and string course below. The raised limestone lettering ends with foliate motifs.

This carved stone shopfront is a fine example of the quality of 19th century stone carving, with an interesting and colourful combination of red columns and grey stone. The timber six-panelled door is original. The contrasting style of the upper floors adds to the character of the building, which is a local landmark and forms a significant part of the streetscape of Charleville.

The Binchys were an affluent, shop-keeping family with a tradition in medicine and the law. They are thought to have originally come to Ireland with Cromwell but became Roman Catholics in the dying days of the penal laws. The Binchys were committed Anglophiles, and conservative and Catholic in the Redmondite tradition.

Daniel Bincy was born in the Binchy house on the Main Street in Charleville in 1899, a son of William Patrick Binchy, shopkeeper, and his wife Annie (nee Browne). William Binchy took the pro-Treaty side in the Irish Civil War in the early 1920s, and dismissed and refused to rehire workers who had taken the anti-Treaty side. One of those dismissed John Higgins. For the rest of his life, John Higgins lived in hardship, and he was the father of President Michael D Higgins.

During his student days in Munich, Daniel Binchy became a first-hand observer of Hitler and on ‘a murky November evening in 1921,’ when he was invited by a Bavarian fellow student to a meeting of ‘a new freak party’ in a beer cellar.’ It was his first – but not his last – encounter with Hitler, and he was not impressed.

He was struck by Hitler’s ‘strange mixture of intellectual inferiority, slatternly appearance and rhetorical genius.’ He remarked to his friend that Hitler was ‘a harmless lunatic with the gift of oratory.’ His German friend, with rather more prescience, retorted: ‘No lunatic with the gift of oratory is harmless.’

He later recalled: ‘His countenance was opaque, his complexion pasty, his hair plastered down with some glistening unguent, and – as if to accentuate the impression of insignificance – he wore a carefully docked ‘toothbrush’ moustache. I felt willing to bet he was a plumber: a whispered query to my friend brought the information that he was a housepainter.’

Binchy later became Professor of Roman Law and Jurisprudence at UCD in 1925, and then held senior positions in UCD, Corpus Christi College Oxford, Harvard and the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies.

From 1929 to 1932 he was also the equivalent of Ireland’s ambassador to Germany.

His reports to Dublin were sharp and prescient. He predicted the consequences of the failure of the democratic parties to work together and had no illusions about the brutality, cynicism, anti-Semitism and murderous racism of the new regime. Binchy reported all of this to Dublin with great clarity.

In March 1933, just weeks before Hitler accessed absolute power in Germany, Binchy published an analysis of Hitler and the Nazis in a 20-page paper in Studies, the Jesuit journal published in Dublin, drawing on his student days in Munich and his experiences as the Irish diplomat in Berlin.

In his assessment of Hitler, Binchy refers to his ‘fanatical belief’ and writes, ‘there are only two barriers to megalomania in public life: intelligence and a sense of humour. Either of these qualities would suffice to prevent it, but I believe Hitler to be lacking in both.’

In the 1930s, he warned Fine Gael against ‘any flirtations with fascism in any guise.’

Today, Daniel Binchy’s main claim to fame may be that he was a rather remote and awesome uncle of the author and The Irish Times writer Maeve Binchy (1939-2012), William Binchy, Regius Professor of Laws at Trinity College (1992-2012), and other remarkable members of the Binchy family.

(Revd Canon Professor) Patrick Comerford is priest-in-charge of the Rathkeale and Kilnaughtin Group of Parishes (Church of Ireland) and Precentor of Saint Mary’s Cathedral, Limerick, and Saint Flannan’s Cathedral, Killaloe

How Limerick’s ‘House of Industry’
survived change and the Civil War

Castle Court, a housing development on Clancy’s Strand, Limerick, has been a ‘house of industry,’ a barracks, and council stores (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Patrick Comerford

Clancy’s Strand on the west bank or Co Clare side of the River Shannon in Limerick, has a number of interesting buildings, including Saint Munchin’s Roman Catholic Church, Castle Court or the former Strand Barracks, and some elegant Victorian and Edwardian terraces of houses.

Today, Castle Court is a modern development of apartments and houses dating from 1990s. But it was first built not as a barracks or as housing but as a ‘house of industry’ in 1774, and it has interesting connections with Saint Mary’s Cathedral.

Legislation was passed in 1772 to establish houses of industry in all counties in Ireland. These would become known as the poorhouses or the workhouses, and Limerick’s ‘house of industry’ was built two years later, in 1774.

The house was designed by the Revd Deane Hoare (1724-1800), an amateur architect. Deane Hoare was born in Cork in 1724, a son of Robert Hoare of Cork and his wife Jane (née Newenham). He began studying at Trinity College Dublin in 1740, and after ordination became a curate at Saint Mary’s Cathedral, Limerick, and Rector of Killeely in the north liberties of the city.

In Killeely, Hoare ‘designed and built a handsome house on the glebe grounds for the Incumbents’ of the parish in 1768. Hoare is also said to have designed the Assembly Rooms in Limerick in 1769.

He was described as a ‘gentleman of great benevolence and philanthropy, under whose superintendence the cathedral of Limerick was much improved and beautified in 1752.’

Hoare designed the House of Industry on what was then called the North Strand in Limerick. The foundation stone was laid by the Mayor of Limerick, Joseph Johns, on 10 March 1774, and the building project was completed under Launcelott Hill, Registrar of the Diocese of Limerick. As the House of Industry, this was supposed to help destitute people in Limerick city.

Deane Hoare married Susan Ingram and their two sons were also priests in the Church of Ireland. He died in Limerick in 1800.

Hoare’s ‘House of Industry’ on North Strand was effectively a workhouse, a poorhouse and a prison. Although it was designed with a capacity for 200 people, by 1827, just half a century after it opened, the number of residents or prisoners accommodated there had risen to 450.

Following the Irish Poor Relief Act of 1838, A new workhouse that would later become Saint Camillus Hospital was built in 1841, and Hoare’s ‘House of Industry’ had outlived its use.

The premises were bought in 1841 by William Burgess and Sons, who set up a foundry there. Two decades later, the Limerick Grand Jury bought the place for £1,200 and converted it into the Strand Barracks for the Limerick County Militia. The colonel of the regiment from 1864 to 1894 was William Monsell (1812-1894), Liberal MP for Limerick (1847-1874), a cabinet minister as Paymaster General and Postmaster General, and later Lord Emly.

The militia continued to use Strand Barracks until 1918, when it was handed over to regular army regiments. The last British regiments to leave the barracks were the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry 1st Battalion and the Royal Army Service Corps, consisting of No. 1166 Motor Transport Company and Divisional Supply Column.

After the War of Independence and the Anglo-Irish Treaty, the Strand Barracks was handed over to troops of the Irish Free State on 1 March 1922.

During the Civil War, the barracks was taken over by Republican forces on 5 March. By the end of March, the barracks was commanded by Connie (Mackey) McNamara.

The barracks was besieged by Free State troops under Commandant General Michael Brennan on 15-20 July 1922. Late in the late evening on 20 July, Captain McNamara surrendered the Strand Barracks to the Free State forces.

The Strand Barracks was then used as a training depot, and troops there were used in the Cork and Kerry landings in August 1922. The barracks was used by the Free State Army through the remainder of the Irish Civil War and later was home to units of the Southern Command of the Irish Defence Forces.

When the new hydroelectric power station was being built on the River Shannon at Ardnacrusha, the premises were used by a German firm of contractors, Siemens Bauunion, in 1925-1930. Later, the Strand Barracks was handed over to Limerick Corporation in 1935, and became a works yard, store and offices.

Limerick Corporation sold off the former barracks around in 1990, and it was developed around 1995 as the Castle Court complex of two-storey houses and apartments.

The building is a detached, U-plan nine-bay two-storey limestone former workhouse, with a central entrance breakfront with a carriage arch.

The architectural features include a hipped artificial slate roof, multiple skylights, rendered chimneystacks, a limestone ashlar façade with rusticated quoining, a cyma recta profiled limestone ashlar eaves course, camber-headed window openings, each having limestone voussoirs, keystone, and sills, brick formed window openings at the courtyard elevation, and a relieving arch with a keystone over the window at the third and seventh bays. The camber-headed door openings have limestone voussoirs, a keystone and threshold steps.

This remains a substantial stone building enclosing a courtyard accessed through a central carriage arch, forming a symmetrical-designed sombre classical composition. It is of great social and historical significance and it adds to the streetscape along the banks of the River Shannon, facing Saint Mary’s Cathedral and King John’s Castle.

Clancy’s Strand, Limerick, has many elegant Victorian and Edwardian terraced houses (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)