16 June 2020
As I strolled along the banks of the River Shannon in Castleconnell on Saturday afternoon, at both World’s End and Fairy Woods, I also enjoyed the opportunity to take another look at some of the early 19th century houses and buildings in the town that remain an important part of the architectural heritage of Co Limerick.
At the north end of Castleconnell, on the way towards World’s End, a pair of semi-detached houses at Brooklands, one with a green door, the other with a yellow door, illustrate the Regency and late Georgian elegance that remains part of the architectural legacy of Castleconnell.
The house on the left is the most intact of the pair. These are semi-detached, five-bay, two-storey houses, built ca 1830. They have roughcast rendered walls and a rendered plinth course, timber sliding-sash windows and painted concrete sills.
Each house has timber sash windows, an ornate, cast-iron fanlight over the timber panelled doors and sidelights with cast-iron panels and timber risers that enhance their original character. There are rendered steps with cast-iron boot-scrapers at the front doors.
These two houses, Edmonds and Dundons, have façades of balanced proportions, slate roofs, rendered chimney-stacks and share a continuous line of cast-iron ridge crestings.
The square-headed openings have six-over-six pane timber sliding sash windows and painted concrete sills.
In addition, the house on the left has a pair of interesting gates, decorated with Celtic revival images, including Erin with her stringless Harp and an Irish wolfhound, a Celtic harp, and a round tower beside a ruined church.
Beside these two, Glenbrook is an attractive, well-proportioned house, also built ca 1830. Its distinctive features include the overhanging eaves that enhance the architectural value of the house.
This is a three-bay, two-storey house, with bay windows at the ground floor, and a hipped slate roof with rendered chimneystacks and overhanging eaves with timber brackets. The entrance has a spoked fanlight over double-leaf timber panelled doors, and brick steps.
On the Main Street, the Worrall’s Inn stands opposite Saint Joseph’s Church. This is an earlier building, dating from ca 1820.
This a five-bay, two-storey house is a former pub and family residence. Although it is now boarded-up, it retains many typical features of early 19th century urban architecture, including the ordered façade of balanced proportions, the regular rhythm of the windows and the decorative timber bargeboards.
The bay window, which once had one-over-one pane timber sliding sash windows, is now boarded up. But it is still particularly ornate, with its dentilated cornice and flanking, timber engaged columns.
The entrance and front door are also blocked up, but this is a round-headed opening with a render surround, Doric style pilasters and a hood-moulding and it once had a glazed overlight and double-leaf timber panelled doors. The shopfront comprising has Doric-style pilasters supporting the fascia and cornice. The square-headed display openings had timber mullions.
In front of the former pub, the boundary walls have decorative wrought-iron railings and a gate, although part of the railings are now missing.
Across the street and behind the church a former Gothic-revival school has been divided and converted into two private houses, although one of these houses is now vacant and boarded up.
This former school was built to a standard simple design, but it is distinguished by its Gothic Revival features such as the lancet window, the timber front porch, the rendered chimney-stacks, the tooled limestone quoins, buttresses and a trefoil motif. The window surrounds are cut with a high degree of precision. A name plaque reads ‘Stradbally National School’ and a date plaque reads ‘1853.’
A second former school, the former is near the river at Ferry Park. For 14 years, from 2002 to 2016, this was the Irish Harp Centre, a residential harp college and music school directed by Dr Janet Harbison and Malcolm Gullis.
It was built as a six-bay, two-storey cruciform-plan school in 1867. It has gable-fronted breakfronts at the front and rear elevations, a timber portico, a hipped slate roof and red brick chimney-stacks.
The former school retains many of its original despite the changes of use over time. It was built on the site of the former Roman Catholic church, and is an attractive feature in the landscape of Castleconnell.
Next door, overlooking the river, Shannon View was built in the early 19th century as the residence of the local land steward.
It is a three-bay, two-storey over basement house. There is an elliptical-headed carriage arch with limestone copings.
Castleview House is a well-proportioned middle-size house in the centre of Castleconnell. It still has its original form and fabric, with a simple shopfront.
This three-bay, two-storey house was built ca 1870, and has a late 19th-century shopfront, a pitched slate roof with overhanging eaves that have timber brackets. An impressive feature is the round-headed opening with a spoked fanlight and timber-panelled door.
The house takes its name from the ruined castle that gives its name to Castleconnell. The castle ruins sit at the top of a steep rocky plateau overlooking the river at the south-west edge of Castleconnell.
This was the site of fortified structures from 1174. At times it was held by the O’Briens of Thomond and the Bourkes of West Clanwilliam. The castle was blown up in 1691 after it fell to General Ginkel and his besieging Williamite, and remains of the south-west and north-west towers can still be seen.
Today is Bloomsday and today – at least in their mind’s eyes – many Joycean scholars and fans are going to spend the way retracing Leopold Bloom’s perambulations around Dublin in Ulysses and wishing they could stop off in Davy Byrne’s ‘moral pub’ in Duke Street for a Gorgonzola sandwich and a glass of burgundy, and other closed pubs for refreshments.
Some of the other Dublin pubs associated with James Joyce include Mulligan’s of Poolbeg Street, where the Back Room provides a setting for a scene in The Dead; Kennedy’s pub on Westland Row, mentioned in Ulysses as ‘Conways’ pub, across the road from Sweny’s pharmacy; the Bailey on Duke Street, where the first Bloomsday celebrations began and which for 30 years displayed the door from No 7 Eccles Street, where Leopold Bloom begins his journey; the Lincoln Inn on Lincoln Place, which stands on the site of Finn’s Hotel where Nora Barnacle worked and where she first met James Joyce on the day celebrated as Bloomsday; the ‘Sirens’ episode is set in the bar of the old Ormond Hotel; and there is the nationalistic Citizen holds forth in Barney Kiernan’s of Little Britain Street.
But as I was walking along the banks of the River Liffey between Islandbridge and Chapelizod last week, I was reminded that James Joyce set his last great masterpiece, Finnegans Wake, in Chapelizod.
Mullingar House, a 300-year-old coaching house in the heart of the village, features in Dubliners and more centrally in Finnegans Wake, where the hero, Humphrey Chimpden Earwicker, is described as its owner.
Chapelizod is also the place where James Duffy lives in the Dubliners story, ‘A Painful Case,’ which opens: ‘Mr James Duffy lived in Chapelizod because he wished to live as far as possible from the city of which he was a citizen and because he found all the other suburbs of Dublin mean, modern and pretentious.’
Dublin Tourism has placed a plaque on the front of Mullingar House that reads: ‘Home of all characters and elements in James Joyce’s novel Finnegans Wake.’ The bridge crossing the Liffey in front of the pub has been named ‘Anna Livia Bridge.’
Joyce finished writing Finnegans Wake on 13 November 1938, and it was published on 4 May 1939 by Faber & Faber in London, and by Viking Press in New York.
Joyce had been working on Finnegans Wake for almost 17 years and this was his final novel. He told the literary critic Eugene Jolas that Finnegans Wake was the story of a Chapelizod family.
Writing in My Friend James Joyce, Jolas recalled how Joyce told him: ‘I might easily have written this story in the traditional manner … But I, after all, am trying to tell the story of this Chapelizod family in a new way. Time and the river and the mountain are the real heroes of my book.’
Most of Book Two of Finnegans Wake takes place in and around a pub, run by Humphrey Chimpden Earwicker. Joyce’s father, John Stanislaus Joyce, worked for almost three years 1873-1876 as secretary of a distilling company in Chapelizod and regularly frequented the Mullingar House, then known as the Mullingar Hotel, drinking and playing bowls.
The character of Humphrey Chimpden Earwicker, or HCE, was based on the then publican, Robert Broadbent (1826-1896). Joyce says in Finnegans Wake that HCE ‘owns the bulgiest bung-barrel that ever was tip-tapped in the privace of the Mullingar Inn.’
In later years, after he had squandered his inheritance, John Joyce looked back on his days in Chapelizod as a lost golden age.
Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu’s novel, The House by the Churchyard (1862), is set in Chapelizod where his father, the Revd Thomas Philip Le Fanu, was the Rector, and the book is a major source in Finnegans Wake. Many of the scenes take place in a village inn called the Phoenix.
For many years, the Mullingar House was owned by the Keenan family, who were very conscious of the Joycean connection, but it was sold in recent years to a consortium of pub owners. The Mullingar House also has a James Joyce Bistro, although both are closed during the present Covid-19 lockdown.
To celebrate Bloomsday this evening (16 June 2020), the Hellenic Community of Ireland is presenting Ulysses of Dublin online at 7 p.m.: https://www.facebook.com/events/241217513842268/
Paddy Sammon will talk about the Greek influences on Joyce’s Ulysses, Fran O’Rourke will discuss James Joyce’s relationship with music and present some of the songs the writer loved and incorporated into his writings; and Polymnia Drakopoulou will present an extract from ‘The Sirens,’ the most musical episode in Ulysses. This event is in the Greek language.