Monday 18 May 2015

Monuments of Power

Ages of Churches, Banking and Software

Welcome news as signs of life back in No. 63 O’Connell Street known as ‘The Bank Bar’ denoting its previous incarnation as a public house. The former pub which has been vacant for almost five years and was placed on An Taisce’s ‘Buildings at Risk’ list will now be converted to facilitate software development offices.  Also the former Bank of Ireland diagonally across the road has also been bought for re-use as a call centre. 
Colles' Map of Newtown Pery 17969
On the 19 April of this year permission was granted for the proposed works to this Protected Structure (RPS 240). The company behind it is Kestrel Stone Ltd (directors are brothers Gary and Nigel Hughes) who hired architect Noel Kerley to oversee the architectural work. The change of use is sympathetic to the history of the building from bar/restaurant to offices for a software development company. The former Munster and Leinster Bank was converted to a bar in 1998 with much of its interior features retained. The ground floor will retain the existing bar to be used as a staff canteen keeping both O'Connell Street and Mallow Street entrances. No alteration works proposed to the first floor with previous interventions 'retained as existing with no additional work except for decorative works.' The commercial kitchen on the first floor is to be stripped of kitchen equipment and used as a media room. 
St George's Church, Dublin
This site began life as a house of worship. The private chapel of St George first began in 1767 when the foundation were laid at the junction of Bedford Row and Thomas Street. The octagonal church can be seen in Christopher Colles' map of Newtown Pery in 1769. It was to have a pivotal centre lot and formed the centre of a polygonal piazza and would have been visible from the river. This might have given the street the same vista that is created by another St George's Church in Hardwicke Place, Dublin. The Crescent (formerly Richmond Place) and Pery Square are not included in the original 1769 plan. The siting of the chapel in the centre of the main thoroughfare George's Street (now O'Connell Street) reflected the importance of the Protestant Church within the society. A private chapel it would have served the original residents of Newtown Pery. This was back in the day of the Church of Ireland having a civil function with its vestry tax. For whatever reason the location of the church was changed to a site further southwards outside the city surrounded by green fields
Sauthier's Map of 1786
(as can be seen by 1786 on Sauthier's Map of Limerick). The chapel was finally built at the junction of O'Connell Street and Mallow Street in 1789 at a cost of £507. It was built by the Pery family as a chapel of ease to St Mary's Cathedral and was the predecessor to St Michael's Church on Pery Square which opened in 1840. The chapel contained a 13th century window from St Francis Abbey and could seat 300 people. At present St Michael's church stills hold the parish records for St George's. In these records Joseph Lindsey in 1897 described being married "[...] at a church called the Round Church. It was in the middle of a green field." The urban area soon grew around the church. 
Church on map of "Part of
South Priors Land", 1823
The building that stands today began c. 1829. On the 9th September 1831 the Limerick Evening Post and Clare Sentinel reported that 'St George's Church Limerick is to be forthwith taken down and on its site will be erected an edifice for transacting the business of the Provincial Bank.' The Provincial Bank of Ireland constructed a corner-sited, end-of-terrace, five bay, three-storey over basement limestone bank to the designs of James Pain on the site of the church. [1]  The money made from the sale of the chapel to the bank provided the bulk of the sum required to build St Michael's Church. 
St George's Church is indicated by '33'. McKerns Map, 1827
Between 1831 and the completion of St Michael's Church in Pery Square, there was no church in the Parish of St Michael's except Trinity Church in Catherine Place, and some of the parishioners met in the Primitive Methodist Preaching House until 1843. This meant that the rector of the parish had the spiritual care of the parishioners but was without a church. From the money received from the sales of St George's the walls of St Michael's Church were built. However, in 1843 the Methodists gave notice that they would withdraw the privilege granted to St Michael's parishioners and so application was made to the church commissioners and a sum of money was granted to complete the church. In 1843 £1,000 was advanced by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners to complete the church and the Rev. Pryce Peacock became chaplain appointed by Lord Limerick.

This landmark building is a very fine limestone facade adding some pleasant variety to upper O'Connell Street. This building to me will always represent the bar, my first college job. The significance that this building was once a financial institution was lost on me. I took it for granted that I could do laps of this wonderful building, gaining access to rooms off limits to the public. I remember my smirk when first spotting that the women's toilets were called 'Ladies' Deposits' in a kind of Augustan low-subject matter wit. It's sad that this building will no longer be open to the public but I am glad to see it come alive again. The big money-makers now demanding our collective reverence seem to be software computing. Talk of cloud computing is just too abstract a concept for my feeble brain to comprehend so I am grateful for the tactility of bricks and iron. 
The story of the moving of St George's is a great 'what if'; the octagonal square which could have possibly given Limerick a city centre. 

Here's the promo video made by of their new Limerick home 
The church would have been visible from Honan's Quay and the river. 

O'Connell Street entrance. Pair of scrolled console brackets supporting pediment above door

Door: double-leaf, flat panelled timber door with original handles. 

Limestone threshold step

Moulded limestone architrave

Arrow head cast-iron railing with bottom rail and corner posts set on a limestone plinth. 

A mock door by the looks of it to mirror the other breakfront for the purposes of symmetry. 

Red brick walls to side elevation laid in Flemish bond and smooth limestone quoins

Original rainwater goods

Delightful cast-iron bootscrapers on either side of Mallow Street entrance.

Elliptical-arched door opening to Mallow St flanked by a pair of half-fluted Doric columns on plinth blocks supporting a plain entablature. 

[1] David Lee & Debbie Jacobs, James Pain, architect (Limerick, 2005), p.237. 

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