The online contemplation and observations of an architectural historian specialising in the documentation of historic environments. I am by no means an expert on anything I write about and welcome feedback and collaboration. My main interests are in the appreciation and conservation of early-mid twentieth century Irish architecture, building technology and materials. Writing initially on my hometown of Limerick but will turn my sights from time to time to other places.
Tuesday, 29 March 2016
Image taken from limerickleader.ie
The Land of Milk and Money
Limerick's Co-operative Creameries
With the news thatLimerick City and County Councilis to redevelop the formerCleeve's Factorysite I decided to revisit the first job I officially work on with my
father with my MUBC under my belt, the former Glin Co-operative Creamery. I also
like to think I have managed to find the most tenuous of links between
creameries and Easter (milk,,,,,chocolate....Easter eggs!) and even to Nationalism and Home Rule. My father's
practice carried out an historical report and photographic survey of this
former co-operative creamery, a building type completely alien to me. The Cleeve's Factory site was bought from Golden Vale by the local authority in 2014.
Thanks to it being a location for eva International in the same year I got to
walk around this impressive complex so close to the city centre.
In 1889 Ireland's first Co-operatives were established in Doneraile Co.
Cork and in the same year Limerick has the title of having the first
co-operative creamery inDromcollogher. The site is now aNational Dairy Co-operative Museum(For contact details
click here). The importance of
the practice and rituals of the dairy farmers conveying their milk to the
co-operative creameries is recorded in papers such as this excellent one by Dr
Maura Cronin of MIC 'Remembering
Creameries'. The delivery of your cows' produce was your opportunity to catch up
with the daily news (before the invention of Twitter). Even as we get more
urbanised we cannot forget Ireland's bovine servitude; we assist in their
conception, birth, milking, feeding, death. It was this job that I got to meet
the wonderful Tom Donovan, an authority on the history of the area (and much
more) and editor of theOld Limerick Journalwhich I have been honoured to contribute to on two occasions and
hopefully more in the future. I have yet to ask him how much this city girl
shocked him asking why the creamery laid off staff during December and my
complete ignorance of the fact that dairy cows did not natural produce milk all
year round. There is no farming on either side of my family. The closest anyone
came to a cow was the short spell my grand-uncle Tommy spent in his late teens
in the tannery. He described the hellish smell to me as a child to help me
understand who he could not move to Dublin fast enough. Perhaps it is why he
settled in Howth with its freshest of air.
Image taken by Declan Gilleece.
Glin Co-operative Dairy Society was one of the first co-operative diary
societies to be established in County Limerick in 1891. The official opening was attended by the
Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, Horace Plunkett, and the Knight of Glin, R.A
Anderson, Lord Emly and Lord Monteagle. Addresses were also read from the
committees of the Ballyhahill and Castlemahon Co-operative Dairy Societies. The idea was that it would be owned and
managed entirely by the farmers who have taken sharesserving a radius of approximately 3
miles. This predates the founding of the Irish Agricultural Organisation (now
ICOS) in 1894, the brainchild of its President Horace Plunkett set up to help
and advice the fledgling co-ops. Limerick had a formidable tradition of
dairying, being a stronghold area in the Golden Vale region. Glin was a natural
choice logistically for the site of a creamery as there were several large
dairy farms and an established butter market held in the town as well as nearby
Limerick and Cork cities in the nineteenth century. The railway and port of nearby Foynes
along with the Glin pier built in 1876 and the addition of the jetty on the
banks of the Shannon in 1895facilitated the exportation of the
butter to the Irish and English market.
The first manager of the Glin Co-operative creamery was Thomas Normile
of Killacollaand the committee had eleven members.
The earliest known President is recorded as Patrick Fitzgerald and the venture
was financed by loans from the Munster & Leinster Bank in Tarbert. Along
with the manager they would decide the price band for the milk. Unlike many
early creameries the local clergy had no involvement in the committee. The main
product manufactured by the creamery was slightly salted sweet cream butter
with cheddar cheese production commencing around the 1930s when a second
building was constructed on the site as store room, cheese room and poultry
rearing. The cheese made by the Glin creamery was known as Country Squire and
turkey plucking took place in the adjoining room to the main store. The managers over the years after Normile were Timothy Donovan,
Michael O’Connor, Maurice Fitzgerald, Donie Cusack, Patrick Roche and Davie
The butter produced by the Glin Co-op creamery was of a renowned high
quality partly due to its cooling which was aided by the importation of ice
from Norway for the ice houses built for the thriving Glin fish market where
salmon taken locally were bought and then sent directly from there to
Billingsgate, London for sale. Ice was needed to pack the fish to keep them
fresh. A dairy inspector report dated 13 August
1897 confirms thisAs the creamery is now receiving ice
daily and I gave them information how to use this to the best advantage, I
expect good results in the future both in quantity and quality.The idea was to set
up a factory where farmers could bring their surplus milk and dispose of it for
so much a gallon. In the creamery the milk would be separated into whey (or
backmilk), which the farmer received for calf and pig rearing, and butter milk.
This separation was achieved by separators powered by steam engines run by coal
brought in through Foynes. Large amounts of uniform colour, texture and flavour
was produced and exported.A lease was signed
between the Glin Co-operative Dairy Society Ltd and the Knight of Glin on the
15 April 1925 for the yearly rent of £11.10.0 and stating that the term of the
lease was 70 years from 29 September 1919. The property is described as ‘the
parcel of ground and yard with a creamery and buildings therein having a
frontage to Church Street of 111 feet.’ This replaced the original lease
between the creamery and James O’Driscoll who was owed money by the Knight of
Glin and therefore sub-letted the house and garden at the back to recoup his
money. This co-operative creamery was successful in its day with the
participation of 149 dairy farmers at its height as well as employing fifteen
people. The milk was delivered by horse,
donkey, jennet and cart in wooden churns which were made locally by the coopers
Mangans, O’Briens, Culhanes and Lynches. The farmers would queue up Church
Street in their carts from 7am until 11am to get their milk processed and on
the train to the Dublin and British markets by the evening. This was not only business but an
important social aspect to rural life for the dairy farmers to keep up with the
local news and goings on. The creamery constructed the commercial premises
across the road in 1948 as a co-op farm store to sell goods such as feed and
fertiliser and remains as one to this day.
The original creamery building as it stands today is simple in
appearance consisting of a long, gable-fronted, multiple-bay, detached
double-height building with a pitched roof with cast-iron louvered vents and
two metal rooflights. Its cast-iron rainwater goods and slates have been
replaced in recent yearsas well as the square headed casement
windows. Exterior walls constructed with locally quarried stone and smooth
rendered. Internally the ceiling was lined with plain rebated timber for
hygienic purposes. A sliding timber battened door to
weightbridge platform was added later to the side of the creamery accessed by
Image taken by Emma Gilleece
The creamery was extended thanks to the designs of Limerick born architect Conor O'Brien who I wrote about back in June 2015 in my post on the AK Ilen- Concrete Stew. O'Brien was a Home Ruler and in 1910 he was elected a council member of the Dublin Industrial Development Association, which promoted Irish manufacturers and the Irish Agricultural Organisation Society (I.A.O.S.). Left is a plan attached to letter from I.A.O.S. secretary in the National Archives to the creamery manager in 1912 for extension of main building at the gable end up to the boundary line to provide an office designed by O'Brien.
The functions of the
creamery would have been in a typical linear arrangement such as the mechanical
separators, centrifugal pump to elevate skim milk, water pump, rolling churns,
measuring drum (used before the advent of scales), test churns and a butter
worker. The engine room had to be separate from the dairy because of all the
coal dust and fumes. Initially seven people were employed full time; a
secretary, manager, manager’s assistant, manager’s helper, fireman (to stoke
the steam engine), dairymaid (whose wages were second to the manager) and the assistant dairymaid. The yard
is substantial as it was required for deliveries. Along with the main creamery
building later additions included the 'cheese house' for the manufacturing of
cheddar cheese in 1928 and in the mid thirties turkey rearing. The cheese
factory building is a single story construction with asbestos slate roof with
the verge pointed in cement, metal roof lights and a small atrium. The original
terrazzo floor can be seen in the entrance hall which runs halfway up the
walls, employee toilets and underneath the modern flooring in the main part of
On the 24th of Sept 1928 Glin Co-operative Dairy Society Ltd amalgamated
with Turraree Co-operative Creamery Ltd, a small creamery 3 miles away which
began in 1902 on the land belonging to Daniel Geoghegan. Glin Co-operative
Dairy Society joined Golden Vale Co-operative Creameries, Charleville, Co. Cork
in 1973. It established a processed cheese plant with the objective of
providing a centralised outlet for the cheddar cheese being produced by the
smaller co-ops in the Golden Vale hinterland. Ireland’s entry into the EEC in
1973 lead to two rounds of rationalization resulting in amalgamations that
reduced the number of creameries substantially throughout the country. This situation was compounded by the
introduction of milk quotas in 1984. This intensified the movement out of small
scale milk production and led to the concentration of milk supplies on a
smaller number of larger holdings. After the amalgamation with Golden Vale,
the Glin no longer functioned as a creamery but instead milk was now delivered
to this branch by local suppliers where it was chilled and, in the summer,
transported daily to the factory at Charleville. Instead of milk separation it
now just pasteurised about 30 gallons of milk a day for sale to local people.
The first bulk collecting lorry came in the same year with Joe McGrath and Joe
Buckley as the collectors. This was deemed an uneconomic and troublesome
exercise by Golden Vale for the benefit of the locals and so the company
decided that this would cease during the summer of 1975. Shortly after this
decision was made the Glin Development Association approached the company to
see if the decision could be reversed but, in spite of further consideration,
the company decided that the operation would have to stop from September 1st. On being informed that there was no
pasteurised milk for sale local man Mortimer McElligott positioned himself
outside the creamery and lay on the road so as to obstruct the lorry taking
milk to Charleville and had to be removed by the gardaí. The premises remained
unused and were sold for £20,000 in 1988to Seamus Danaher who set up a
furniture business there.
A year after this report I was given the task of getting objects for the Ranks Exhibition put on by Limerick Museum & Archives in collaboration with the Hunt Museum with no money as budget did not stretch that far. When I saw the old photograph of the flour being weighed I remembered the butter scales abandoned in the Glin Co-op creamery and rang the current owner who was more than happy to give us a loan of it for the duration of the exhibition. It wasn't an exact match but it gave visitors an idea of how far industrial machinery has come. I quite like the old machines and the original idea of the co-operative movement.
There are calls by councillors to give this huge site a single use, as a convention centre. It is the hope of this blogger that somebody influential might stumble across this article online- I ask you to please consider donating part of the complex to the Ilen School ilen.ie/ to help continue a part of Limerick's heritage. Please do not allow the history of Cleeve's to dry up, continue the co-operative spirit.
The Limerick City & Counties of Limerick and Clare Directory,
1891-2. The title of first co-operative creamery in Ireland belongs to
Drumcollagher in Co. Limerick which was established in 1889 and the second one
was in Ballyhahill again in Co. Limerick (Carla Keating,Plunkett and co-operatives; past, present and future, p.92).
‘The Lord Lieutenant in the South’, 16 May 1891,The Irish Times.
Pat Bolger,The Irish Co-operative Movement: its
history and development, (1977), p.183.
Cormac O’Gráda, ‘The Beginnings of the Irish creamery system, 1880-1914’,
inEconomic History Review, vol.30, no.2,
‘The land around the town is very fertile...There are several large
dairy farms; a large butter market is held in the town, and great quantities of
butter are made here and sent to Limerick and Cork for exportation.’ Samuel
Lewis,Topographical Dictionary of Ireland,vol.1,1837.
Thomas J. Donoghue, ‘Glin in the early century’, inBallyguiltenane Rural Journal,(Christmas, 1987),
Cork people seem to be natural boasters, an innate self-confidence that often grates against the rest of us cynical, flaw-seeking folk. One thing they can certainly show off about is having the first Modernist church in the land, Christ the King Church at Turner's Cross. Furthermore it holds the title of being first ever concrete church in Ireland. It is hard to find fault with this magnificent expression of a nation that has aligned itself with the Catholic church while also boldly throwing its arms open to welcome the rest of the twentieth century. The power of the church to strike awe in the viewer emanates from the Christ statue at the doorway. Its staggered bays of the front and side elevations remind me of Giants Causeway, as if Jesus rose from the bedrock and these impressive concrete shards sprung up with him. Sculpture was designed by American sculptor and painter John Storr, who had been a student of Rodin and had worked with Frank Lloyd Wright and Louis Sullivan. Local sculptor John Maguire made the finished sculpture and worked on the marble altars (you can see a picture I took of the altar below beneath the altar cloth. It's such a shame altars get hidden). From his arms are these jazzy rays of concrete light. His upper arms starting off the chevron shape of the Art Deco age. Chicago architect Barry Byrne got the commission to design the church for this new parish in 1928.
St Francis Xavier.Image from Wikipedia
After seeing a Chicago Architectural Club exhibit in 1902 he sought employment with the aforementioned Frank Lloyd Wright and worked as an apprentice in his Oak Park studio, Illinois until 1907. Byrne's style moved away from the Prairie School becoming more simplified but yet he undoubtedly took away Wright's appreciation for the uses and the aesthetic of concrete. Christ the King is considered the first of Byrne's important ecclesiastical trio; Church of St. Francis Xavier in Kansas City, Missouri(1949), and St. Benedict's Abbey in Atchison, Kansas (1951-1957). Evidently Byrne was so devoted to concrete that he ceased to design brick edifices after Cork. The foundations were blessed on 21 July 1929 and the church opened on 25 October 1931 with one of the largest suspended-ceiling churches in Europe. The building is larger than you would expect standing on the outside, with a seating capacity of 1200. The stepped form is carried through to the interiors including the plaster ceiling and the altar reredos. I kept having to remind myself that this church was designed in the late twenties. I say thankfully the original brick and wood church envisaged could not be achieved with the £30,000 budget (inclusive of interiors) allocated for it hence concrete as the main construction material with wonderful results. The economy of funds let to an economy of materials and a simplicity of the bright open internal space matched by few Irish churches. The black marble terrazzo floor is as stylish as any luxury hotel and the sparing use of stained glass windows and marbles is effective. Ready mix concrete was unheard of at the time so it's raw material was equally as radical as it's design. Today the church retains much of it's original character and layout after renovations in 2002. The Irish Architectural Archives hold copies of the drawings for Christ the King Church which were donated by Shane O’Toole. Christ the King is a landmark for Irish architecture let alone modern church building. However the design of the church was controversial and received with a mixed response at the time. For whatever reason Christ the King church did not immediately influence Irish church design
which continued in imitation of earlier styles of architecture well into the
1960s. Modernist architecture was regarded as suitable for hospitals, factories
and the like; however there were doubts among some of the clergy about its
suitability for ecclesiastical buildings.The Catholic Church and Church of Ireland staunchly continued their reverence of the revived Classical and Gothic styles of the previous century. A year after the opening of Christ the King saw the International Eucharistic Congress held in Dublin with J.J. Robinson (of Robinson, Keefe Devane) as its architect. The pageantry of this event was done in a Palladian setting. Ireland would have to wait until the likes of Liam McCormick 's(Corr & McCormick Architects) design for The Church of Our Lady & St Michael in Ennistymon, Co. Clare to see another concrete beauty to worship.
There is an excellent history and archive of photographs of the church at turnerscross.com