Search billions of records on



Carlow County - Ireland Genealogical Projects (IGP TM)

Carlow Town Hall

The Beginning

By Sean O’Shea

The Town Hall, Carlow
Photo: M Brennan c1990
Photo c1895 Carlow Library
Photo: W Muldowney c2006

Carlow Town Hall - The Beginning

Today 120 years since its erection Carlow Town Hall is undergoing a refurbishment which no doubt will complement the original character of the building. As an employee of the Urban District Council, I witnessed the rejuvenation of the interior of the building in 1955/56, particularly the enhancement of the Main Hall or Concert Hall as it was referred to and where the Local Little Theatre Group performed many of their renowned productions. Again in 198 1/82 1 noted the incorporation of the adjoining building (Lanigans Solicitors) into the main building and construction of two additional rooms overhead. The photograph below taken in 1894, on the occasion of the laying of the foundation stone at Killeshin Water Works depicts the Town Hall in its original state, prior to the construction and incorporation of the adjoining building

The area where the Carlow Town Hall is erected is one of the most historical sites in the town. Tradition tells us that Cronine, a recluse, who was descended from Niall of the Nine Hostages, established her Cell in Carlow in the sixth century. The Cell Dr Comerford held was some where about where the Town Hall now stands.’ Cronine’s name is perpetuated in the name Templecroney which applies to the far side of Haymarket. Tradition also tells us St. Comghall built a substantial Church and monastery on the site of Cronine’s Cell. The erection of this Monastic Church is mentioned in the Four Masters.

In the eighteen hundreds it would appear that this area was the site of a Brewery as records show, Robert Farrell of Fruithill applied for registration as a voter in respect of a brewery and premises in Centaur Street (generally referred to as the “old Brewery”). The brewery was later used by the Guardians of the Poor of Carlow Union during the famine as an auxiliary work house and yard (Griffiths Valuation 1852). Inmates of the workhouse were predominantly girls including some women, and up to six hundred occupied the building on occasions. This site was subsequently acquired by the Town Commissioners for the purpose of erecting a Town Hall and Market Place. At that time

the Commissioners rented and occupied a building situated between Burrin Bridge and a public house at Pembroke Corner as an office and stores. They also rented stores at Cox’s Lane.

Negotiations to purchase the “Old Brewery” site by the Commissioners commenced early in 1879. The ownership of the property at the time had transferred to James and Sarah Pattison of Kingstown-on-Thames, whose Irish agent was Mr. Thompson. Originally the Commissioners intended providing a market place only on the site but over time it was agreed to erect a Town Hall and Market Place. Long pending negotiations with Mr. Pattison were not concluded until September 1 884, when the lease was signed. The site was leased in perpetuity (forever) at an annual payment of forty pounds.

The Commissioners in their wisdom had a number of years earlier appointed William Hague, Dawson St, Dublin, Architect to prepare plans and specifications for a Town Hall and market place in the area. The plans were furnished and adopted by the Commissioners prior to the purchase of the property, allowing the Commissioners to advertise without delay for a suitable contractor on completion of the lease. On 11th October, 1884 the following advertisement appeared in the local and national papers

Hereby invite

According to plans and specifications prepared by William Hague Esq.—, Architect which may be seen at his offices, 62 Dawson Street, Dublin, or at the Town Clerk’s Office, Carlow.

The Commissioners do not bind themselves to accept the lowest or any tender, and security will be required for the due performance of the contract

Sealed tenders, addressed to the Chairman of The Town Commission, Carlow, will be received at this office on or before Monday, The 10th November, 1884

(by Order).
Town Clerk.
Town Commissioners’ Office, Carlow.
7th October, 1884

 Twelve tenders were received and opened at Meeting of 11th November, 1884 in the order in which they were received:

George J. Crampton, Dublin   £2,853
Dodd, Beckett & Co, Dublin   £3,220
W. Connolly & Son, Dublin   £2,327
Daniel Carbery Athy   £2,550
J. P. Pemberton & Sons, Dublin   £3,300
T & J Pemberton, Dublin   £2,898
Patrick Nolan, Monaghan   £3,740
Thomas Tighe & Sons, Dublin   £2,790
B. Brady, Bray   £3,168
Breslan Brothers, Dublin   £2,800
M. Robinson, Carlow   £2,486
J. Redmond, Wexford   £2,681

It was agreed to award the contract to Messrs Connolly & Son, the lowest tenderer, subject to a report from the architect on the competency of the Dublin firm to carry out the contract. On receipt of the architect’s report, the contract was formally awarded to Messrs Connolly at a special meeting held on the 14th November. The contract documents were completed in mid January 1885.

Prior to commencement of the contract it was found that the frontage of the Old Brewery site exceeded the original measurements submitted by 4 feet 6 inches. Following consultations with the contractor and architect the Commissioners agreed to increase the length of the Town Hall from 69 feet to 71 feet and the width from 26 feet to 30 feet 6 inches. This extension together with erection of walls at the Swan Hotel side, at rear adjoining property of the National Bank, and blocking up windows and improving wall, on west side, property of Mr. McWey added to the cost of the contract. James Byrne Borough Surveyor agreed to oversee the contract as clerk of works for a sum of fifty pounds.

During the course of the construction period difficulties arose between the Clerk of Works and the contractor, resulting with Mr. Byrne resigning in July. Mr. Mullins was then appointed Clerk of Works from early August and remunerated at the rate of £2 per week. Apart from this hiccup the construction proceeded with a minimum of controversy and was completed in little over a year. The final cost of providing the Town Hall and Market Place was three thousand eight hundred pounds odd.

Official Opening 1886

The official opening of the building took place on Tuesday 30th March 1886 with a lunch provided by the Chairman of the Town Commission, John Hammond and served in the main Hall. The following guests attended:

Very Rev. E. W. Bourke, President Carlow College; Rev. P. Cosgrave, Adm;
Rev. James Byrne C. C., Rev. Joseph Mooney C. C.,
Rev. John Cullen C. C., Rev W. Maher C.C., (Graigue-);
Dr T. O'Meara J.P., Robert Malcomson (Solicitor),
Paul A. Brown (Solicitor), P. D. Shackleton T.C.,
W. McDonell, F. S. Haughton,
Dr. W. O'Meara, Stanley Johnson, T. C.,
M.W. Dunne (Solicitor), Dr. M. H. Kelly (Castledermot),
John Whelan T. C., P. Hanlon (Grange).
Thomas Murphy T. C., William Duggan T. C.,
Albert Morris T.C., Thomas Connolly (Dublin),
James Connolly (Dublin), M. Governey T. C.,
Benjamin Coleman T. C., Michael Kelly T. C.,
Charles McGrath, (Bagenalstown), Patrick J. Kehoe, (Bagenalstown),
John Kelly, P. Lawlor T. C.,
James Bolger T. C. James Byrne, (Borough Surveyor),
Edward Morris, Joseph O'Brien,
G.J. Bourke, E. T. Mulhall, T. C.,
John Keating T. C., L. McCaul T. C.,
Michael O'Reilly, Michael Tynan,
Thomas Byrne T C, William Bacon T. C.,
J. McMahon, Michael McDonnell,
G. Langran.

The following is a description of the Town Hall at that time:-

The area of the Town Hall and Market enclosure averages 120 feet along Centaur Street by 112 feet in depth. The former occupies the East side of the plot and its exterior fronting the street is finished in fine cement and raised quoins, and moulded reveals and arches of the windows and entrance doorway. The cave cornice is formed of buff terracotta with moulded corbels and moulded gutters and the ridge has an ornamental Metal Cresting. On entering from the street there is a spacious vestibule ten feet square, partitioned from the staircase and inner balls ten feet wide each - by a framed and moulded screen with folding doors, side lights and transom lights, glazed with plate glass. The floors of the halls are laid with encaustic tiles of a neat pattern. To the right of staircase hall is the Town Clerk’s Office - a commodious apartment -26 feet by 19 feet and 13 feet high lighted by two large segment headed transom lights.

The Mantle piece is of Cork Marble with register grate and buff and black tiled hearth. Passing through staircase hall you enter glass doors to superintendent’s apartments and kitchen fitted with large first class close range for public use. The Principal staircase is of Portland Stone with Oak-polished hand-rails and metal balusters of suitable pattern. At top of first flight there is a spacious landing, off which you enter, through a pair of plate glass swing doors, the Public Hall.

Ascending by return flight to top landing where lavatory, etc., accommodation is provided, the door on right of landing leads into the spacious and lofty Boardroom of the Commissioners, 36 feet by 19 feet, and 17 feet high, lighted by three large semi circular headed windows. The crowning feature in the building is the public room, or Town Hall Proper, entered as already described. The room is 71 feet long by 30 feet 6 inches and 28 feet high with cored panelled and coffered ceiling in five bays, with five large windows on each side and one segment- headed mullioned window at northern end.

The bays subdivided by pilasters with moulded bases and foliated caps supporting the moulded entablature and cornice enriched with modillieres and soffite rosettes from which spring the panel and cove mouldings and transverse panelled beams and segment arches to each bay. The building is lighted with three Wenham patent lamps in the public hall and with suitable lamps and pendants in the several apartments and halls, the gas fittings and plumbing work having been executed in a most satisfactory manner by Mr. B. Hutchinson of this town. Electric bells are provided and also fire mains to be supplied from cast iron cistern, capable of holding 2,000 gallons, erected on roof. The open market yard is provided with two street entrances, and there are open-sheds on western and northern sides carried on metal pillars and wooden breast summers supporting framed principals with corrugated iron roofing.

Carlow County Ball 1886

On Tuesday night 10th August 1886 the first Ball took place in the Town Hall. The following report is taken from the Sentinel at that time: -

Our new Town Hall was utilised for the first time for the purpose of a Ball on Tuesday night last, when a numerous and fashionable gathering assembled within its portals. The large public room, where the ball was held, looked its best on the occasion. The Dais at the end was converted into a conservatory and used as a retiring room, while at the opposite end light refreshments were dispensed, leaving ample space in the centre for dancing. A very fine supper was provided in the Board Room, Mr. Mills, Merrion Row, Dublin being the Caterer, the wines of choice brands having been supplied by Mr. William H. Boake of this Town, Shortly after ten o’clock the company (which numbered nearly 120) commenced to arrive and soon after that hour dancing commenced to the enlivening strains of Mr. Merryn Brown’s String Band, and was kept up with much spirit until an advanced hour next morning. The arrangements were admirably carried out under the supervision of Mr. Charles H. Butler and Mr. Steuart J. C. Duckett

Amongst those present were:

Sir Thomas Pierce Butler, Lady Butler, Miss Butler,
Mr. Henry Bruen, Miss E. Bruen, Miss E. M. Bruen,
Mr. E. F. Bruen, R. N., Mrs. Kavanagh, Mrs. Stack,
Mr. Whelan Miss Kavanagh, Lord Henry Fitzgerald,
Lord Charles Fitzgerald, Mrs. I.F. Lecky, Mr R. St. C. Lecky R.H.A;
Mr. F. J. S. Leckey, Miss Roberts, Captain and Mrs. Stack,
Mr. W. Keane, 68th Regt: Mrs. Standish O'Grady Roche, Miss Audrey Wilson,
Mr. C. Pack-Beresford, Miss A. Pack-Beresford, Mr. Arthur Pack-Beresford,
Mr. Whibble, Miss A. Whibble, Miss Maud Griffith,
Mr. H. Herring Cooper Jnr Miss Herring Cooper, Miss E. Radcliffe,
Lieutenant Colonel Sir Clement and Lady Wolseley, Mr. R. M. Gamble 10th Regt; Mrs. Persse and Party.
Captain and Mrs. McNeill, Mr. W. Leonard, Mr. J. O. Hyde, R. I. C;
Mrs. R. Clayton Browne. Mr. R. Clayton Browne Jun, Mr. A. Short R. H. A;
Mr. And Mrs. William Clayton Browne, Miss Clayton Browne, Mr. Raymond Beck,
Miss Annette Clayton Browne, Mr. C. H. and Mrs. Engledow, Major Tanner and Party,
Mr. A. Bell, Mr. C. Alexander, Mrs. Casey, Mrs. McDowell,
Mrs. Burton, Miss Burton, Miss Gertude Burton,
Mr. Darcy, Mr. Hardy Eustace and Party, (3), Captain Douglas,
Mr. Charles Butler, Major Hutchinson R. M; Major Rochford,
Mr. and Mrs. Robert McMahon, Lieutenant F. A. Winter R. N, Mr. and Mrs. Charles Duckett and Party.
Mr. W. E. Grogan, Mr. H. L. Crosthwait, Mr. B.W. Bell, Sherwood Foresters;
Mr. Thomas M. and Mrs. C. Vigors, Mr. E.T. Venables 10th Regt; Mr. R. Arthur Batton,
Miss Emily Leathby, Miss Shakerly. Mr. Inglis Brady,
Mrs. B. C. Butler, Miss Amy Butler, Mr. James H. Butler,
Mr. and Mrs. Forbes Watson, Mr. and Mrs. Steward Duckett, Mr. and Mrs. Steward Duckett,
Mrs. Emely B. Butler, Miss Etta Lewis, Mr. Fitzgerald Dalton,
Captain Oliver Bellasin, Mr. C. B. Balfour, Mr. R. L. Pike,
Mr. E. T. W. Thorp, Mr. Robert Watson, Mrs. Watson,
Mr. H. Melville Thomas, Miss Bolton, Miss G. Bolton,
Mrs. Colonel Alexander. Mr. S. G. Alexander, Miss C. Alexander.

The Carlow Town Commission (1855 - 1898)

The Carlow Town Commission (1855 - 1898) at the time of erection of the Town Hall was a very progressive Local Authority. Apart from erecting a Town Hall, they were instrumental in providing a piped water supply from Killeshin to the Town, which up to 1896 relied on pumps as the main source of water for the citizens. The Commissioners were also responsible for providing St. Mary’s Burial Ground, which is very much in use today, and made Carlow the first inland town in Great Britain and Ireland to be lighted throughout with electricity (1891).

This article appeared in the CARLOVIANA 2005 Edition.

The information contained in these pages is provided solely for the purpose of sharing with others researching their ancestors in Ireland.
© 2001 Ireland Genealogy Projects, IGP TM