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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

Tullamore in 1838: from Patrick Street to Harbour Street, Church Street and Henry/O’Carroll Street. No. 3 in the series to mark the 400th anniversary of township in Tullamore. By Michael Byrne

Barracks built in 1716 and destroyed in 1922

The barracks of 1716 was at the western end of Patrick Street and Hayes Hotel, dating to 1786, at the eastern end on the corner with Church Street and Bridge Street (now Boots Pharmacy). The barracks was destroyed in July 192 2on the retreat of the Republican soldiers from the town during the Civil War. Within fifteen years the site was fully taken up with urban council housing and a garda station built here in 1937 and rebuilt in 2002. The military barrack of 1716 brought about 100 soldiers to the town and is thought to have been a major factor in the town’s growth because of the increased demand for goods and services that followed its construction. After the 1870s, soldiers were stationed at Tullamore only at infrequent intervals.

Barrack/Patrick Street, Tullamore about 1910. The barracks dated to 1716 and destroyed in 1922.

The police moved into the old barracks about the year 1899. The building was occupied by the old I.R.A. in March 1922 when the British army quit the town as part of the Treaty settlement and was destroyed some four months later as the Republican soldiers left town in the course of the Civil War and before the arrival of the Free State army. Parts of the old walls survive and one can see the star-shaped fort pattern in the part of the wall opposite DNG Auctioneers.

Part of the old star-shaped fort style for the new barracks of 1716 erected in Tullamore

Tullamore in 1910-12 from OS. Copies available of the full town map and other Offaly towns from Offaly History.

Seventeen head leases or plots in Patrick Street (formerly Barrack Street) were granted by the Moore and Bury owners of Tullamore by 1786. The sites on the northern side were extensive and in a few cases pre-date the canal by sixty years. The lease dates of some of the houses such as the former Williams head office and De Brun’s are 1740s and 1750s while most of the others are 1786. This was the year after the balloon fire and would suggest that new leases were agreed with many of the tenants at this time on foot of earlier titles.

The Manly lease of extensive frontage to Pound/Colmcille Street and Barrack/Patrick Street in 1790. This is probably a new lease of an earlier holding, Most of the house property from south of Wolftrap to say the new Conway Coffee was single-storey up to about 1900.

The plot at the junction with William/Columcille Street (the former Gilson’s Corner) is L-shaped in plan and is of an early date (334 ft to Columcille Street and 101 ft to Patrick Street) Most of the houses on this plot on the William/Colmcille Street side from the Wolftrap pub (but not including) were originally single-storey. The gardens on this plot here were very small and were in line with the rear boundary to Offally Street east. The lease of most of the rest of Columcille Street was to Thomas Acres in 1790 suggesting a much smaller town before 1790 with most of the town north of the river concentrated about Patrick Street and the junction with Columcille Street. Patrick Street north had just one lane off it known as Swaddling/ Ruddock’s and later Brides Lane (behind what is now the Italian restaurants). Ruddock’s Lane was the site of mainly thatched cabins and was much damaged in the fire of 1785. The damage included that to the first Methodist (Swaddlers so called) church.

The mill house of George Hamilton in the late 18th century and later that of John Killaly and Michael Molloy

The town mill on the river and the malting houses on the south side of Patrick Street

The south side of Patrick Street is also of interest with the former Elvery/Kode plot much earlier in the 1760s while the next four houses as far as Tullamore Credit Union were built by the town’s owner Charles William Bury. This was unusual as Bury would generally have leased sites to developers save in regard to public buildings and utilities. It may well be that these houses were built in compensation for some destroyed in the balloon fire. The house on the credit union site is dated to about 1802 (demolished 1980). Most of the remaining houses on the south side formed part of B. Daly’s Tullamore Distillery and were let to tenants. These back on to the river and in the 1840s before the first Brosna Drainage Scheme of the that decade were liable to flooding. The town mill was behind the Omyia pub and was possibly the original mill referred to in the grant of Tullamore to John Moore in 1622. Connected with the mill was a strip of land running behind Tullamore Credit Union on which the ruins of warehouses are located. This strip was part of the mill property and it may be that the houses from the credit union to Elvery’s/Kode replaced cabins and  warehouses connected with the maltings. The cabins on this street and better houses are depicted on a surviving skeletal map of 1730 and may relate back to the cabins mentioned as constituting the town settlement in the 1620s and late 1630s.

From the 1838 OSI Atlas. Courtesy Offaly Libraries

The canal engineer, John Killaly (see an earlier blog) owned the mill in the early 1800s and it is clearly depicted on his useful town map of Tullamore of 1804 (see the first blog in this series). It is also shown on the 1838 map as having a mill pond, flour mill and brewery. By early 1850 this mill had been removed as part of the deepening of the river.

Reflecting its early development as a street beside the river, as a source of power, and with the barracks for trade and consumption Patrick Street had in the late eighteenth century the flour mill, malt houses and brewery on the southern side backing on to the river and another brewery behind what was later the Williams’ head office described on the leaseholders’ map of 1869 as the old brewery. By the 1820s this old brewery on the northern side was gone, to be replaced by a timber merchant’s yard and beside this house at nos 4 and 5 the tanning and leather business of Michael Mulready.

The Ridley leashold now Elvery/Kode and to the left the four houses erected by Charles William Bury after the balloon fire of 1785. Pic about 1950.

The fact that only a few pre-1786 houses survive suggests that building in the street before that time was haphazard and that generally only a few of the buildings were of a substantial kind, intended to last and to make a contribution to the streetscape. Neither Bridge Street nor High Street was subject to the same re-leasing policy of 1786. Most of the houses now standing in Patrick Street were erected in the 1786-1812 period, but the former D.E. Williams’ head office, now the Academy of Music is earlier, and probably from the period 1755-65. The house to the west of it, lately De Brúns’s bar dates from the 1740s, but may have been rebuilt before 1843. So too the house which stood on the corner at the junction with Water Lane and built on the Ridley leasehold. The original house here would likely date from the 1750s. The barracks pre-dated all with the 1716 date. Part of the old wall of this leasehold or of the distillery survives in the Bridge Hotel carpark behind the Captain House.

The lower half of Church Street is post the fire and from 1788 to 1815. The Methodist church of 1889 is on the site of the 1788 – 1820 churches. St Catherine’s Church replaced that in the Shambles.

The junction of Patrick Street, Bridge Street, Pound (Columcille Street) and Church Lane (later Church Street was known for at least 100 years as Hayes’ Cross following on the purchase of the old hotel, the Charleville Arms, by James Hayes, in 1875. The hotel, later the Phoenix Arms, was demolished in the year 2000 to make way for the new bar and restaurant – # 1 (now Boots Pharmacy shop). This crossing point and confluence of four roads remains the centre of the town. Was Patrick Street always so wide? It is hard to say. The hotel was built by Bury after the fire and was opened in late 1785. It was an ideal site and much as with the infirmary building in lower Church Street it closes off a vista from Barrack/Patrick Street to some extent.

The Corn Market/ Market Square in 1838 from the OSI Atlas. Courtesy of Offaly Libraries

Church Lane later called Church Street is more problematic. The map of 1730 shows a chapel or church and besides we have other sources including the date stone (1726) now in Offaly History Centre, Was there a graveyard beside it? Probably yes but the only memorial surviving is that to the first earl of Charleville. This was moved to the new St Catherine’s church in 1815. From about 1820 the site of the church was used for a new shambles for Tullamore. At the same time the Market Square was developed for warehousing, fairs and markets. The gardens of Church Street, Harbour Street and Henry Street were all curtailed to facilitate the making new market place. It was a nice piece of town planning. Further down the Church Lane towards the river was a linen factory built in the 1750s. This was also removed in the laying out of the new Church Street from 1786 to the 1820s. New buildings here included the infirmary of 1788 and the second Methodist church in the same year. The Charleville Schools and St Catherine’s followed in 1811 and 1815. The site that had been intended for the new Protestant church was instead used for the new Pentland distillery in 1822. The water supply for it must have been via a drain from the river or the harbour.

Next piece in this series will be on Bridge Street and O’Connor Square.

The site for the sessions house in Pound Street (Colmcille St) at what became the opening for Harbour Street absorbed three housing sites. It was planned in 1790 but nine years later the market house was opened in O’Connor Square and the county courthouse in 1835.

Next Wednesday the grant of Tullamore to Sir John Moore, 23 April 1622 (Old Style)

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