Over the years, Tullamore has been known as ’Towllaghmore’,‘Tullaghmore’ or ‘Tullymore’ -all anglicizations of ‘Tulach Mhór’ and most likely deriving from the high land to the south of the river. By the middle of the 19th c. the name of the now extensive town had morphed into ‘Tullamoore’- reflecting the influence of the Moore and later the Bury families and their ownership of all the lands around.
As urban developers, these skilled entrepreneurs with cultural pretensions reached their highest point during the overlordship between 1785 and 1835 of Charles William Bury, the first Earl of Charleville. Whether motivated by commercial considerations, a desire for social prestige and the admiration of his peers or by pure aesthetic sensibility, the development of Tullamore as promoted by Charles William, resulted in a coherent urban form which survived without much amendment into the middle of the 20th c., largely still exists today and will influence any future reconfiguration of the town centre.
While Charles William had seized the opportunities presented by the arrival of the Grand Canal and then successfully campaigned for the elevation of Tullamore to the status of county capital, his great uncle Charles Moore, Lord Tullamore, encouraged the commercial expansion of the town following the establishment of the military barracks in 1716. However, as evidenced by his sensible town planning, social concern and predilection for great architecture and landscape design, Charles William made the more significant mark.
His employment of Francis Johnston to design Charleville Forest, St Catherine’s Church and to lay out Church Street, John Claudius Loudon to design Bachelors Walk as well as the engagement of John Pentland to impose a gridded plan on the northern quarter of the town and deliver the magnificent Market House, showed the range of his taste and ambition. These works would create the civic qualities which still distinguish Tullamore.
Today, almost half of the pre 1840 buildings in the town which are listed for protection were carried out in accordance with the sound architectural principles of either Charles Moore or Charles William Bury.
End of an Era
With the death in 1835 of Charles William and of the dynamic land developer Thomas Acres the following year, the era of long term estate planning came to an end. The bankruptcy of the Second Earl of Charleville in 1844 and the death of the popular Third Earl in 1859 effectively ended the interest of these improving local landlords in the future growth of the town.
The final initiative of the family was the imaginative idea of Lady Beaujolais Bury in 1835 to exploit the real estate opportunity presented by the Classical facade of the County Courthouse. Her ambitious vision was encapsulated by the architect William Murray in his ‘ ‘Thoughts for a Square at Tullamoore Ireland facing the Court House to be called ‘The Beaujolais’. The layout comprised a new public square surrounded on three sides by thirty semi-detached and four detached dwellings of different designs. The intended buyers of these elegant villas would be the prospering middle class professionals and business people of Tullamore.
The Countess’s project never went ahead, but in 1950 the architect and town planner Frank Gibney resurrected the concept and proposed using the imposing facade of the Courthouse as the culminating vista at a major traffic junction on his circulatory route around the town. Gibney’s ideas got no support either and it was to be the very last time that anyone would dare to introduce civic design features into the planning of Tullamore.
Unlike the Blundells of Edenderry or the Parsons of Birr, the Moore and Bury families were extremely modest and left no public memorials or statues trumpeting their accomplishments.
Charles William Bury gave names to several streets of the town but shortly after national independence was achieved, these were erased in favour of local or more Gaelic references. Charleville Square became O’Connor Square and Charleville Place , Cormac Street. Charles Street was renamed Harbour Street. William Street became Colmcille Street and Henry Street became O’Carroll Street.
Today, apart from the name of Bury Quay and a roundel displaying their coat of arms on the tympanum of the Market House, there are no public reminders of the actual founders of Tullamore. However, despite their disengagement from any active planning role in its development, the Hutton Bury family have continued their interest in the welfare of its citizens, particularly by permitting generous access to locals to enjoy the woods of the Charleville Estate.
Hopefully in the not too distant future, Tullamore Municipal District Council will embark on creating the long promised link across the bridge at the back of the Library. Early sketches show a pleasant small urban park which will effectively unite the two most successful of the Moore/ Bury architectural set pieces of the town- O’Connor Square and Church Street.
Might this not be an appropriate location and opportunity to recognize in some small way, the legacy of the founding families of Tullamore? In the manner of Sir Christopher Wren’s memorial in St Paul’s ‘Si Monumentum Requiris,Circumspice’ might be appropriate but unlikely to be acceptable.
‘Páirc na Mbunaitheoirí’ b’fhéidir?