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Offaly History (short for Offaly Historical & Archaeological) was first formed in 1938 and re-established in 1969 and is located at Bury Quay, Tullamore, Co. Offaly since 1993(next to the new Tullamore D.E.W Visitor Centre).

We are about collecting and sharing memories. We do this in an organised way though exhibitions, supporting the publication of local interest books, our website , Facebook, open evenings, our library and offices at Bury Quay.

Our Mission
To promote Offaly History including community and family history

What we do:

  • Promote all aspects of history in Co. Offaly.
  • Genealogy service for counties Laois and Offaly.
  • Co. Offaly photographic records for study and sale in addition to a limited number of publications on Laois and Irish general historical interest.
  • Purchase and sale of Offaly interest books though the Society’s book store and website.
  • Publication of books under the Society’s publishing arm Esker Press.
  • The Society subscribes to almost all the premier historical journals in Ireland.

Our Society covers a diverse range of Offaly Heritage:

  • Architectural heritage, historic monuments such as monastic and castle buildings.
  • Industrial and urban development of towns and villages.
  • Archaeological objects and artifacts.
  • Flora, fauna and bogs, wildlife habitats, geology and Natural History.
  • Landscapes, heritage gardens and parks, farming and inland waterways.
  • Local literary, social, economic, military, political, scientific and sports history.

Offaly History is a non-profit community group with a growing membership of some 150 individuals.

The Society focuses on enhancing educational opportunities, understanding and knowledge of the county heritage while fostering an inclusive approach and civic pride in local identity. We promote these objectives through:

  • The holding of monthly lectures, occasional seminars, exhibitions and film screenings.
    Organising tours during the summer months to places of shared historical interest.
  • The publication of an annual journal Offaly Heritage – to date nine issues.
  • We play a unique role collecting and digitising original primary source materials especially photographs and oral history recordings
  • Offaly History is  the centre for  Family History research in Counties Laois and Offaly.
  • The Society is linked to the renowned Irish Family Foundation website and Roots Ireland where some 900,000 records of Offaly/Laois interest can be accessed on a pay-per-view basis worldwide. Currently these websites have an estimated 20 million records of all Ireland interest.
  • A burgeoning library of books, CD-ROMs, videos, DVDs, oral and folklore recordings, manuscripts, newspapers and journals, maps, photographs and various artifacts.
  • OHAS Collections
  • OHAS Centre Facilities

The financial activities of the Society are operated under the aegis of Offaly Heritage Centre Limited, a charitable company whose directors also serve on the Society’s elected committee. None of the Society’s directors receive remuneration or any kind. All the company’s assets are held in trust to promote the voluntary activities of the Society. Our facilities are largely free to the public or run purely on a costs-recovery basis.

Acting as a policy advisory body –  Offaly History endeavors to ensure all government departments, local authorities, tourism agencies and key opinion formers prioritise heritage matters.

Meet the current committee:

Our Committee represents a broad range of backgrounds and interests. All share a common interest in collecting and promoting the heritage of the county and making it available to the wider community.

2017 Committee

  • Helen Bracken (President)
  • Pat Wynne (Vice President and Joint Treasurer)
  • Niall Sweeney (Vice President)
  • Michael Byrne (Secretary)
  • Lisa Shortall (Deputy Secretary)
  • Dorothee Bibby (Record Secretary)
  • Charlie Finlay (Joint Treasurer)
  • Darrell Hooper
  • Brian Pey
  • Fred Geoghegan
  • Noel Guerin
  • Henry Edgill
  • Peter Burke
  • Angella Kelly
  • Rory Masterson
  • Shaun Wrafter
  • Ronnie Matthews
  • Oliver Dunne
  • Ciara Molloy
  • Stephen Callaghan (Heritage Items)

If you would like to help with the work of the Society by coming on a sub-committee or in some other way please email us or let an existing member know.

+353-5793-21421 [email protected] Open 9am-4.30pm Mon-Fri

Exploring 48 High Street, Tullamore: From Col. Crow to Colton’s Hotel, Hibernian Insurance, Galvin Auctioneers, Sambodino’s and Jade Inn Chinese. A contribution to the Living in Towns series promoted by the Heritage Council and a Heritage Week Special (no.2 ). By Michael Byrne.

If walls could talk and archives survived, what would we learn about GV no. 48 High Street, Tullamore. A lot over its 275-year history so far. The number in the first printed valuation map of 1854 was no. 48. It is convenient to use this as the street was built by 1820, expect for the Presbyterian church of 1865.

O’Connor Square and High Street were the principal streets in Tullamore from the 1740s to the 1960s. Charles Moore, the second Lord Tullamore, and from 1757 to his death in 1764 earl of Charleville, gave leases for substantial houses in High Street and these included the former Motor Works , the Round House, Mr Price building and Colonel Crow’s (no GV 48).

Most of the surviving houses in High Street date from the 1740s to the first fifteen years of the 1800s. Yet there is evidence of the commencement of a street here from 1713 with the building of houses GV 1, 2 and 3, followed in the 1740s and 1750s by GV 4, (O’Connor Square west for our purposes, from Bridge Centre entrance to the Brewery Tap) and GV 5 and 6 High Street (Conway and Kearney and Anthony Kearns). Both the northern and southern ends of High Street face important open spaces: the northern end forms the west side of O’Connor Square, and the southern end broadens out to form a triangular open space at the junction of O’Moore Street and Cormac Street.

High Street has been known by its present name since the early 1700s. However, until the early-nineteenth century High Street also included what is now Bridge Street. The street is uniformly wide throughout even allowing for the fact that some of the houses had railed-in areas to the front. Most of these, but not all, were destroyed by the 1970s.

This photograph of O’Connor Square and High Street was taken about 1900, or a little earlier (and preserved courtesy of the National Library), and shows the fine corner building erected by the distiller Joseph Flanagan in 1787 with its original glazing bar/windows and Georgian doorcases. This is the large building from the former Willie and Mary Dunne’s shop (GV 49) to the William Hill bookmaker’s office, beside Gray Cuniffe Insurance. Like the Adams-Tullamore House at the junction of O’Moore Street and Cormac Street it is a substantial three-storey house closing off the square on the southern side with some ten bays to O’Connor Square and six to High Street. The building was carefully planned as can be seen from this lovely old photograph, courtesy of the National Library of Ireland. This is the earliest surviving view of the building. South of it is no. 48 (with carriage outside).

Col. Crow’s is a fine three-storey, seven-bay house with a Gibbsian door-case and open-bed pediment. The building, for many years known as Colton’s Hotel, has now two shopfronts and the original railings and low wall fronting the basement were removed in the mid-1970s.The building has lost its original glazing bars. From the early Lawrence photograph of c. 1900 we can see that a third storey was added soon after the existing hotel was purchased by Abraham Colton. It was then that a pediment to the roofline was removed and the third floor added. It was not so unusual to add a floor and there are examples of it in Columcille Street with Galvin’s and Dolan’s.

This house was built in 1750 for Colonel Thomas Crowe and survived intact until about 1974. Part of the large garden was used in the building of the Rose Lawn housing scheme in the late 1980s. The house to the south was demolished in 1940 to make way for the new Ritz Cinema  opened in 1946 and demolished in 1980. Roselawn of 21 houses was completed about 1990.

The Crow Colton site is based on a lease for lives renewable given by Lord Tullamore to Captain Thomas Crow for a yearly rent of £2.10.0 and a half year’s rent as a renewal fee. It was described as a house and garden with a road or pass through Francis Beddoes kitchen garden, leading in a direct line to Matthew Moore’s garden and then along a passage to the south end of Francis Beddoe’s garden. (By a coincidence the owner of 1901 Abraham Colton had moved to no 3 O’Connor Sq (the Moore leasehold) before 1911 and his daughter Pauline lived there until 1983. Soon after this 1743 house became an insurance brokers. The lives recited in the 1750 lease were Thomas Crow, Margery Crow his wife and Charles Crow, the eldest son of Baldwin Crow of Belmont, King’s County. Crow married Margery Baldwin of Coralanty (Curralanty) County Offaly. The Crow family had extensive property including the Round House in High St.

The house passed to Charles Sadleir by the will of Margery Crow, widow, proved in 1777. In 1798 Mary Anne Moore had the house by virtue of the will of her aunt Dorothy or Dorothea Green, and she sold it to Richard Deverell, a dealer and chap man for a yearly rent of £30. T.P. & R. Goodbody were paying Mrs. Deverell of Kingstown, now Dun Laoghaire £40 a year for the house in 1843, but the building was unoccupied and ‘going to ruin’.  The Goodbody brothers now had their business at GV no. 1 High Street with the exception of the flour stores next door in GV no. 49 High Street (later the house of Mary Dunne). John Wilcox, a resident magistrate held GV 48 from Revd Richard Deverell in 1854.[1]  

A photograph of c. 1914 with nos 47-49 High Street. Courtesy of Offaly Archives

The 1843-54 valuation records recite the occupation of the Goodbody brothers and that the immediate lessor was Mrs Deverell. By 1854 the occupier was John Wilcox.

48. (20)      T. P. & R. Goodbody grocer and general dealer (Mrs Deverell) (to be let) [Mr John Wilcox zz].  These premises are not now occupied by the Goodbodys, they are in business in Charleville Square but still have possession. Mrs Deverell who lives in Kingstown near Dublin is the landlady – the rent was £40 – the concern is going to ruin. There is a large garden and stores in the rere – the garden is connected to the house by a long narrow passage – the garden containing 1.0.26. The situation is very good. (Not occupied and getting out of repair)

       F.51, H.21, 1B

The house was advertised by William Deverell and F.G. Deverell for lease in 1845 as a large and commodious dwelling house, with  yard, out offices and walled-in garden, having lately undergone thorough repair.[2] Given the times it may well have been empty until the early 1850s when Magistrate Willcocks was posted to Tullamore in the aftermath of the Killoughy Barracks shootings. At the time the house was valued at £25. He retired in the early 1860s and by 1864 the house had been acquired by the Browne family for use as a hotel.[3]

The Browne family sold to Abraham Colton about 1900 and he in turn sold to P. & H. Egan’s Midland Hotels Group of Hayes Hotel, Colton’s and Dooly’s in Birr. Looking at the 1901 census it would seem that most of the clients of the hotel were Protestant, as those in Hogan’s (now the Town House in High Street) were Catholic.

Abraham Colton and his wife in a nice studio shot.

A surviving schedule of the deeds of the Charleville Arms Hotel, Tullamore and that of Colton’s Royal Arms Hotel recites title of Maria Brown as, 2 Sept. 1882 a sixty-year lease and 22 July 1942 a 99-year lease of 1 May 1942 from Susan Deverell and another to Midland Hotels Company Limited.

The ivy clad hotel to the right and no. 47 demolished in 1940. The steps are those of no 45 formerly Kilroy residence.

The agreement for a takeover by the Tullamore Hotel Company Ltd of 16 July 1908 also survives[4] and mentions that the sixty–year lease from 1882 was from Frederick George Deverell and William Ponsonby Deverell to Mrs Maria Brown at £30 per year. Abraham Colton paid Mrs Brown £2,000 for her interest on 24 Dec. 1900 to include all household furniture, horses, cars and everything about the hotel. In 1908 it was agreed that Colton would be paid £2,000 of which £1,000 was in cash and the balance in shares.

The shareholders were:

D.E. Williams      200

R.H. Goodbody      200

Malachy Scally     200

Patrick Adams      200

Hoey & Denning  100

E.J. Graham         100

In the 1930s and ‘forties Colton’s hotel was something of a private club for some of the solicitors and business people of the town such as Joe Kearney, Harry Brenan and the visiting district justice of the area. Rumour has it that the district court cases were settled in advance The property was sold to the late Joseph Galvin in 1974 and developed for commercial purposes.

Beginning of change in the mid to late 1970s. Cinema to the right.

Occupants of Colton’s Hotel in 1901 and 1911

GV 48, Census 1901 No. 44 High Street 1st class, Hotel occupied by Colton family, husband and wife, two daughters, three sons, six servants and three boarders staying on the night of census. The house had twenty-four rooms and fifteen windows to the front with extensive out offices and sheds. Protestant bank officials were the principal guests on census night in 1901.

AndersonFredericBoarderPresbyterian22Bank OfficialNMCo LeitrimLawWilliamBoarderCOI20Bank OfficialNMCo FermanaghJohnstonWilliamBoarderMethodist21Bank OfficialNMCo FermanaghColtonAbrahamHead of FamilyCOI37Hotel ProprietorMKing’s CoColtonMargrateWifeCOI28–MKing’s CoColtonAdelaide SDaughterCOI8ScholarNMKing’s CoColtonPauline GDaughterCOI6ScholarNMKing’s CoColtonRichard GSonCOI5ScholarNMKing’s CoColtonFrederick WSonCOI4ScholarNMKing’s CoColtonEdward JSonCOI2–NMKing’s CoGormanElizaServantRC26WaitressNMKing’s CoSheridanJohnServantRC45PorterNMDublinCoffeyEllenServantRC23House MaidNMKing’s CoLawlorHannahServantRC35CookNMDublinDuffyMary AnneServantRC21Bar MaidNMCo West MeathMarleJohnServantRC34Farm ServantNMKing’s Co

GV 48, 1911 census High Street (no. 62) The Nora M O’Connor lived in 1st class hotel with sixteen windows to the front and twenty-one rooms. The hotel had fourteen out-offices which were seven stables, one coach house, one harness room, two cow houses, one fowl house, one workshop and two sheds. On census night the household was comprised of the manageress, four servants (waitress, housemaid, cook and boots), one boarder and a visitor.

O’ConnorNora MHead of FamilyRC29ManageressSKing’s CoRyanAnnieServantRC25WaitressSQueen’s CoFletcherMaryServantRC24HousemaidSWestmeathWrafterMargaretServantRC26CookSKing’s CoSheridanJohnServantRC–BootsSDublinKennedyJohnBoarderRC35Law ClerkSBelfastMackintoshDonaldVisitorRC46FarmerSScotland

GV 48 passed into the ownership of the Midland Hotels Group after 1907 and was discontinued as a hotel probably in the late 1930s. The hotel licence was retained for another forty years. The building was sold about 1974 to the auctioneer Joseph P. Galvin and later housed Hibernian Insurance (from 1961 until the office was moved to O’Connor Square in 1982), Galvin Auctioneers and what was the first Chinese restaurant in Tullamore.[5] It was sold in about 2022 to the present owner and continues as two shop units with overhead accommodation.

Some family connections for GV 48

The Deverell family had connections with Tullamore’s brewing industry in High Street (south of the Quirke pharmacy) and later in the Brewery Tap property at GV 3 High Street. The Egan brothers, Patrick and Henry, took over the business in about 1866-7. The Tullamore Deverells are connected with Ireland’s first fully practising woman barrister, in that Robert Deverell, the Tullamore brewer who died at an early age in 1866, was grandfather to Averil Deverell of Greystones, County Wicklow (called to the Bar in 1921).[6]

The Goodbody brothers were well known for their Tullamore tobacco factory (destroyed by fire in 1886) and the shops in O’Connor Square (GV 12) and GV1 High Street.

The Willcox and Browne families have been briefly mentioned. One of the sons, of Magistrate Willcox, Captain John Willcocks of Chapelizod, married Annie Biddulph of Rathrobin, Mountbolus in 1867.[7]

The house was acquired by James Browne from 1864 and was known as Browne’s Hotel (valuation £25).[8]  James Browne, the proprietor of what was now described as the Royal Arms Hotel was accidently drowned in 1873, aged 52.[9]

Abraham Colton of Killeigh bought the hotel about 1900.

Abraham Colton, died in 1930 aged 66. His wife Margaret not until 1967 and aged 95. Frederick William Colton was a scholar of just 14 in 1911 and seven years later he was killed in the First World War. (February 22, 1918, killed in action, Frederick William, Private (I.H.), Royal Irish Regiment, second and well-beloved son of Abraham Colton, Charleville Square, Tullamore, aged 21 years.  “The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.)[10] His sister Pauline Colton lived at 4 O’Connor Square until her death in 1983 at the age of 88.[11]

Joe Galvin, the purchaser of no. 48 High Street died in 1984. Joe Galvin was from a distinguished Tullamore-based business family headed by his father Michael (of the gravel business, later Readymix), and brothers John and Andy, and Brendan (among others) also in business in Tullamore. Joe Galvin died at the early age of 54.[12] His auctioneering business was continued for a time by his brother Andy and Enda Soden.

Part of the ground floor may have served as Tullamore’s first Chinese restaurant. It was also used by Hibernian Insurance.

Staff of the Midland Hotels Group lived upstairs in the 1950s and 1960s. The upper floors were later used by P. Mulryan Solicitor and later Johanna McGowan.

[1] Registry of Deeds, 13 April 1750, Tullamore to Crow, memorial no., 139/346/94435; for a copy of the original map of the plot, Offaly Archives, Charleville to Deverell; P.R.O.N.I., copy of the will of Margery Crow alias Baldwin, 1777, T633/29; 17 February 1798, memorial no., 518/290/341744; MS valuation, Tullamore, 1843, property no., 21.

[2] Leinster Express, 29 Mar. 1845.

[3] King’s County Chronicle, 3 Nov. 1852.

[4] Both documents are now in Offaly Archives.

[5] Tullamore Tribune, 18 May 1996.

[6] See Liz Goldthorpe Offaly Heritage 12 (2023), pp .forthcoming

[7] Michael Byrne, Rathrobin and the two Irelands: the photographs of Middleton Biddulph, 1900–1920 (Offaly History, 2021), p. 42.

[8] Valuation Office, town of Tullamore, 1862–70. It was then valued at £21.

[9] King’s County Chronicle, 16 Sept. 1873.

[10] King’s County Chronicle, 22 Feb. 1918.

[11] Offaly Independent, 3 May 1930; Tullamore Tribune, 19 Feb. 1983.

[12] Midland Tribune, 16 June 1984.

The block is 1750 to 1787

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