Offaly History has organised a walking tour of Tanyard Lane on Sunday 18 August as part of Heritage Week at 2.30 pm meeting at the Library. The place has changed over 270 years right up to 25 July when the new Lidl store opened largely on site of the laundry, glass factory/wholesale and part of the creamery/bacon factory – the latter all post 1907.
Passing through Tanyard Lane, Tullamore today is to see almost total change since the 1970s. At that time it was full of old malting and grain stores the last of which to be built was also the first ferro-concrete building in Tullamore and one of the earliest in Ireland – that of Tarleton’s and now Oisin O’Sullivan Furniture, in about 1908. Beside it is another later grain store and now Robbins Limited of 1901. Below them is the plumbing store of zz, also housed in a former grain building. These are the only old buildings left now of an industrial legacy stretching back to 1750. Older photgraphs show the malting houses there with their louver chimneys (4).
Now it has been opened up by the new road provided by Lidl on the former bacon factory site. With the wide sweeping carpark and brightness it augurs well for those trading in the vicinity of the latest supermarket in Tullamore.
In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries the industries of country towns such as Tullamore were based largely on the processing of agricultural raw materials. Brewing, distilling, milling, tanning etc. provided employment for some, others were employed as domestic servants, but, of course, the majority was engaged in agriculture.
Industrial development depended on adequate supplies of water and water power. Until the 1950s much of Tullamore’s old industry was located near the river, for example, the Tullamore distillery and the Tanyard maltings. Tanyard Lane has always been an industrial rather than a residential area but that changed in the 1990s.
For the origin of the name Tanyard Lane we must look to the enterprising Thomas Wilson, a Quaker, of Mount Wilson near Edenderry. In 1750 Wilson took a lease from Lord Tullamore of a large house in O’Connor Square (demolished in 1936 to provide a site for the Vocational school, now Tullamore Central Library) and about five acres of land nearby. Lord Tullamore wishing to encourage local industrial development leased the property free of rent for the first seven years and thereafter at the low rent of six pounds per year provided Wilson ‘carries on the trade or business of linen or woollen manufacture’. Wilson does not appear to have been active in the linen industry but he did engage in the woollen and tanning industries. His tannery was situated in his garden, which ran down Tanyard Lane on the left side as far as the sharp turn or crank near the new carpark. In another lease of 1750 we hear of Wilson’s ‘stock in trade in the tan yard in Tullamore and all his hides, leather and bark therein and all vats and utensils, and all his stock in trade in the woollen manufacture consisting of wool worsted…’. Finding himself in financial difficulties in the late 1750s, Wilson sold his property and went to Montreal.
Sometime between 1759 and 1770 the Wilson house in O’Connor Square became the property of Gideon Tabuteau who hailed from Southhampton and was of French Huguenot extraction. It was in this house that Benjamin Yeats married Mary Butler. Benjamin Yeats was an ancestor of William Butler Yeats. Benjamin’s father was in the linen trade while Mary Butler had Huguenot ancestors. Tabuteau sold the house in 1788 to Joseph Manly, the son of a Quaker merchant. Manly erected a brewery and maltings on the garden. In the late nineteenth century the property was sold to Tarletons, the maltsters. The house was demolished in the 1930s to provide a site for the new Tullamore vocational school. At the back of the old school is a closed off bridge across the Tullamore river. All that now survives of the old property is the narrow walled access to the Rehab building from the Upper Tanyard.
The Wilsons, Tabuteaus, Manlys and Tarletons all contributed significantly to the economic development of Tullamore. The Wilsons departed for America; the Tabuteaus later built the house that was occupied by Hibernian Insurance and is on the corner of the square as one enters the Tanyard. Another branch of the Tabuteau family lived in Portarlington. There is a family vault in Lynally cemetery. The Manlys were the predecessors of the Goodbodys and were in Tullamore from at least the 1740s until 1871. Members of the family are recalled in Thomas (Manly) Street, Tullamore. The Tarletons are a distinguished family with roots in Killeigh from the mid-17th century. The name survived in Egan-Tarleton Ltd. until 1980. But that was a company name the family business in malting, that of J. & A. Tarleton Ltd, was sold by Bank of Ireland in a forced sale in 1912.
Two stages in the making of Tanyard Lane
The making of Tanyard Lane was carried out in two stages. The first part of the lane from O’Connor Square to the sharp turn in the Tanyard (beside where O’Connor fuel merchants used to be in the 1970s and now a carpark) was made in the 1750s and the section of the road from the sharp turn to the Geashill road was laid out in 1786. In the 1780s the property now occupied by Robbins and O’ Sullivan’s Furniture (earlier J. A. Lumley A Sons) was leased to Joseph O’Flanagan the Tullamore distiller. O’Flanagan got a lease for 999 years of the large site now occupied by Robins and O’Sullivan and also the corner property in O’Connor Square where now the tourist office is located. In the Tanyard a malt house and a brewery were erected. How long this survived is not clear but by the 1840s the same property was occupied by Patrick Alyward a provision merchant who was described by an 1840s valuation surveyor as ‘being very extensive in the provision trade’. South of Aylward’s holding and near the corner was an old malt house out of use in the 1840s. This was owned by Richard Deverell the brewer. The Deverell brewery at the rear of the Brewery Tap was sold to Henry and Patrick Egan in 1867. In the area occupied by the late John Burke stood a tannery owned by Michael Mulready but in the 1840s this was out of use. Egan’s acquired further property in the Tanyard that was sold to John Flanagan for a small industries development in 1968. The first of two or three such centres in the town established by him.
Mulready was Tullamore’s leading tanner in the nineteenth century and operated principally from his premises in Patrick Street (latter the Copper Urn). His name could be seen on the face of stores at the rear of the former Copper Urn public house. These stores were demolished in the 1970s or 1980s. It is doubtful that his Tanyard Lane premises had any connection with the Wilson tannery of the 1750s. Generally, the account of the place provided in the valuation report of the 1840s is a gloomy one reflecting the economic depression of that period.
Further study would allow the pinpointing of the closure of Manly’s brewery and Aylward’s provision stores. By the late nineteenth century the Tanyard was packed with malting concerns. In 1901 there were nine malting houses in the lane and just one thatched house. A good deal of rebuilding took place at this time which was clear to the observant student looking for date-stones. Since the 1970s most of these stores have been demolished.
Tanyard Lane in 1901
The 1901 Census confirms that the lane was never a strong residential area. At the time a family of three lived in a thatched stone-walled house which was placed in the third class division. The outbuildings in the lane included nine malting houses, a piggery and a fowl house.
The first apartment block in Tullamore was completed there in 1994 and known as Tarleton Hall. Following on from the liquidation of Midland Butter and Bacon in 1989 a field owned by the creamery was sold to Galvin Fitzpatrick for the building of Arbutus Court. About the same time Flanagan Properties completed a terrace of houses and some apartments. From perhaps one house in the Tanyard from 1901 to 1990 it would now have upwards of 35 households.
It would be nice to be able to say more about the Tanyard and its business men but the absence of business records makes this difficult. To the modern business man we would say that if you would like someone to write about you and your successful entrepreneurial decisions, leave records in a dry place for transfer to Offaly Archives (opening in October 2019) when old enough to arouse historical interest, and harmless enough not to result in private embarrassment.
Possibly the first published review of the businesses in the Tanyard was that in the Midland Tribune of 12 November 1977. It included the following:
‘John McDonald, who hails from Killeigh, has been Manager for Advance Tyre Co. Ltd, in The Tanyard for the past six years – so he is one of the oldest inhabitants of John Flanagan’s Industrial Estate. His assistant is Tony Reynolds, and he has recently ‘enrolled’ a new truck-fitting machine to cut down on the amount of time which may have to be spent on each individual job. Hitherto the really tough wheel has involved literally hours of work. Now even the most troublesome can be fitted in less than 15 minutes.’
Others mentioned were Jody Betson of Ballinagar (Tullamore Fire Surrounds); Tom Roach who was then specialising in crafted mahogany; Tullamore Rewinds; Doyle Photosetting Malachy Corcoran, Seamus Waters, Thomas Bolger, Tom Clarke, Sean Sweeney; Sean Daly of Clonminch who was making staircases; John Burke Central Heating; O’Shea’s Bakery; Irish Sugar Company and Erin Foods; John Flanagan & Sons; Bond-Tex Ltd; Tullamore Carpets; Barry Woodnut; Smith Bros.
Interesting times and always a great welcome from Tullamore’s hive of industries and services.
Old Industries of Tullamore
Sunday 18 August at 2.30pm from the library in O’Connor Square. finish about 3 30 to accommodate televised games.
The tour includes talks by Noel Guerin and Dan Geraghty on the Tullamore Bacon Factory; John Flanagan on the Tanyard Lane industries from the 1960s; and Michael Byrne on tanning, malting and brewing..
Venue: Tullamore Central Library, O’Connor Square, Tullamore
Organiser: Offaly Historical and Archaeological Society