The ‘flamboyant three-storey Ruskinian Gothic warehouse’ in Tullamore. Tullamore 400th series, no. 6. By Michael Byrne

As part of the Tullamore 400th series and also in the context of research as part of a survey of Tullamore’s heritage in O’Connor Square and High Street, Tullamore we are pleased to present this article on one of the most attractive of the buildings of O’Connor Square. This is the building described by Andrew Tierney in Central Leinster in the Buildings of Ireland series (Yale 2019, p. 628) as ‘a ‘flamboyant three-storey Ruskinian Gothic warehouse’. The number 12 is from that in Griffith’s printed valuation of 1854 (GV 12). The number 71 (noted below) was part of the running series for the entire town of Tullamore in the manuscript valuation of 1843. the brick building was the first in Tullamore to be restored as to the facade (but not the interior) and incorporated in the Bank of Ireland Tullamore branch in 1979. It set a high standard for such work and wile not residential at least is well used and contributes to the streetscape, and very much so since one-third of O’Connor Square has now been pedestrianised.

O’Connor Square in 2020

To cite the Heritage Council’s own words on the Historic Towns Initiative:

Many of our city, town and village centres are historic places with their own distinct identities. Sustaining these is a complex process that in many cases involves the conservation and re-use of existing buildings, the care of public spaces and the provision of community facilities. The conservation and interpretation of this heritage makes our towns interesting, unique and attractive to residents and visitors. In support of the Town Centres First policy set out in the Programme for Government: Our Shared Future (2020), the Historic Towns Initiative (HTI) is a joint undertaking by the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage and the Heritage Council which aims to promote the heritage-led regeneration of Ireland’s historic towns.

A remarkably colourful yellow brick

The yellow brick building in 2020

A three-storey five-bay Gothic-style building in yellow brick and ‘remarkably colourful’ with a restored façade only and the interior used as a banking hall (since 1979) with numbers 10, 11 and 12 Bridge Street. The present front is the result of an extensive rebuild by T. P. and R. Goodbody in the early 1870s. It was first new building in O’Connor Square in eighty years and it was 1909 before the next house was rebuilt – the former post office at GV 4 O’Connor Square. The Goodbody brothers purchased the house no. 12 from Robert Whelan, a Tullamore solicitor, in 1871 as an adjunct to the business they had across the street at GV 1 High Street (but forming part of the square). That store was demolished after 1992 for the Bridge Centre development. The rear of the old house in the square was very confined having only a small yard and the Goodbody brothers sensibly decided to incorporate warehouse features as part of the frontage. These features have been retained as part of the reconstruction of the late 1970s and consist of a hoist below the gable. The brick finish was in keeping with the style in the 1860s and 1870s and similar work was carried out for Lord Digby at Geashill and also for the new whiskey distillery in Banagher, the gardener’s house at Charleville and also that of the gamekeeper. Nol 12, likes it immediate neighbour the market house, were the only houses in the square with no provision for residential occupiers.

From a model in Offaly History Centre, Bury Quay, Tullamore, formerly in Tullamore Dew Visitor Centre.

William Garner in his Tullamore: architectural heritage (Dublin, 1980), in which I, as a youngish student, assisted with the historical data, described the buildings as:

          Between the Market House and the Bank of Ireland is a remarkably colourful warehouse of circa 1870. It has a facade of five bays and three storeys with windows which are square-headed on the ground floor, canted on the first floor and pointed on the second floor. On the east side of the facade is an advanced bay which has a high-pitched gable with pierced barge-boards, the hoist (still in place) and large openings on each floor. The walls are of yellow brick with blue and red brick banding and limestone sills to the windows. A band of limestone crosses the building (windows included) at the eaves level of the Market House. This individual gothic house has been cleaned recently [1979] and adapted for use by the Bank Ireland.[Garner (1979), pp 19–20].

Charleville Square in the late 1880s with the Griffith Valuation 1854 numbers superimposed. See no. 12

The original house on the site may date to 1786

As to the original building, Charles William Bury gave a long lease (three lives renewable for ever) of a plot to Margaret Ridley in 1786 on which she erected a dwelling house. We assume the house was erected at this time and that the new lease came with the new build and not some years after. The adjoining plot on the corner of Bridge Street was leased to Francis Ridley. Almost 200 years later the two plots with others being (the Hibernian Bank Wakefield’s and Berrill’s, GV 10, 11 and 12 Bridge Street)) were brought together as to ownership for the Bank of Ireland. The bank celebrated its 150th anniversary in Tullamore in 1986 having first opened in High Street.

In 1843 a valuer for the primary valuation reported that the Ridley house at 12 O’Connor Square was owned by a niece of Margaret Ridley, a Miss Printer, and to be let at £20 a year, but was ‘shut up and going out of repair’.   

12. (71)      [vacant] Miss Printer to be let

                   D.F.33.0, H.26.0, 1B (IC+)

This house was let at £20 a year. The rere is very confined, having only a very small yard – the house is shut up and going out or repair.  (In bad repair).

This Miss Printer or Prenter may have been a niece of Francis Ridley the owner of the plot GV .In 1854 the building was vacant and in bad repair. It was sold by Robert Whelan, the solicitor, to T.P. & R. Goodbody in 1871 for use in their farm supplies business.[1]  The Goodbody partnership already had the tobacco factory at no. 1 High Street (later G. N Walshe garage, no 1 High Street) and were probably the richest men in Tullamore at the time in the third quarter of the nineteenth century.

10, 11 and 12 Bridge Street, Bank of Ireland and the square as a carpark.

The Bank of Ireland opened a ‘second class branch’ in Tullamore in the 1836 in High Street and it was after the merger of Bank of Ireland with Hibernian Bank that this building, now no. 12 O’Connor Square and 10, 11 and 12 Bridge Street, came to be used as a Bank of Ireland bank branch. The bank made considerable improvements to the building in 1979 for the local merger of branches with Hibernian. The latter had opened in Tullamore in 1864 and improvements were made  in 1866.[2] Further improvements were made for the Bank and designed by W. H. Byrne, architect, in 1908’.[3] However, a picture of 1902 shows the original part of the bank building much as it is today.[4]  The Berrill shop and that of Wakefields in Bridge Street were incorporated in the late 1930s and in the 1970s.

Charleville Square about 1910. GV in the back. The fountain of 1895 and the gas lamp of c. 1860 in the centre of the square. Thanks to NLI for saving these plates.

The original title for 10 Bridge Street is a lease of March 1786 from Charles William Bury to Francis Ridley of ‘the plot of ground adjoining Margaret Ridley’s house [12 O’Connor Square] to the corner of High Street [Bridge Street] twenty six feet, ten inches and in front to High Street [Bridge Street] forty nine feet, six inches and in the whole three perches’ for three lives with perpetual renewal at a yearly rent of £2 and £1 renewal fine.[5] A house was erected on this site which Francis Ridley sold to James Ryan in 1796.[6] Richard Ryan, grocer and spirit dealer, was in possession in 1843. The surveyor remarked that it was ‘an excellent situation for business’.[7] Mrs. Mary Ryan occupied the building in 1854 and she leased it to the Hibernian Bank in 1864 for sixty years at a yearly rent of £45 zz and then described as a dwelling house and premises together with a small house adjoining same but now forming one premises.[8] A certain Francis Ridley, shopkeeper of Tullamore, who died in 1862 gave his interest in his O’Connor Square – Bridge Street house to his niece, Mary Ryan, widow of the late Richard Ryan ‘all my interest in the house in which she at present resides’ with the remainder of his property to another niece, Mary Prenter. Mary Ryan, now of Belfast, in her will of 1896 (she died in 1902) left her interest in the bank property at Tullamore to her son James Francis Ryan. The rest she divided equally between her sons James Francis, Richard and her daughter Arabella Charles.

The square in the 1930s before the use as a carpark. The brick building was then used by the Gaelic League and very much by the GAA for meetings. It was again sold about 1942 and in the 1960s was Kelly’s Sunshine Cafe.

Francis Ridley, the builder of the house at Bridge Street was of an old Tullamore family with other extensive property interests in Tullamore in Patrick Street and Columcille Street. They also were the owners of the Charleville Arms Hotel (later Hayes’s Hotel) from the 1820s to the early 1860s. The names of Francis Ridley and Elinor Ridley appear in the prerogative wills for 1782 and 1796 respectively while in other sources for Tullamore are the names of Francis (from 1765 to 1816 presumably father and son); John Ridley (1788–1876) and Robert (1776-1789). The adjoining plot at 12 O’Connor Square was taken by Margaret Ridley. The family survived in Tullamore until the early 1900s and were for many years (1859–1906) surgeons at the infirmary and the gaol. Maurice Egan has provided material on the Ridley family history in his Merchants, Medics and the Military etc (Tullamore, 2021) and published by Offaly History. An article on the county infirmary to be published in Offaly Heritage 12 (forthcoming) will look at the contribution of the family to the town’s medical history over the period from the 1840s to 1906.

The first agent or manager of the new Hibernian branch was Richard Butler. Among more recent managers were the late Gerry Burke Kennedy and Des Power. Managers of the combined Hibernian and Bank of Ireland branch included Claude Hill, Christy Lennon and George Manzor. Alterations were made to the Hibernian building in the 1860s which resulted in an increased valuation.[9] The three-storey part of the Bank on the corner side was remodelled in 1908 for a sum of £776 with W. H. Byrne as architect and Kevin Toole, building contractor of Upper Dorset Street, Dublin. The valuation increased from £32 to £40 by 1911. Further additions of adjoining premises at 11 and 12 Bridge Street (the four bay two-storey portions in white Portland stone, GV 11 and 12) were made c. 1940-51 and 1971–77.

Occupancy in 1901 and 1911

No 12 O’Connor Square was a Goodbody warehouse in 1901 and 1911 with no occupiers. Neither was anyone living over the shop at GV 1 High Street – the main Goodbody hardware store and steam saw mill (post 1930 the G.N. Walshe garage).

In 1901 the Hibernian bank house was occupied by  manager James Dunne and had nine rooms and a family of seven in addition, a stable, a coach house and harness room. The last manager to ‘live over the shop’ may have been Des Power in the 1970s. The occupiers in 1901 were as follows:

NameReligionOccupationMarriageWhere Born
James DunneR.C.Bank OfficialMarriedKing’s County
Margaret DunneR.C. MarriedCo. Meath
Mary DunneR.C. Not marriedKing’s County
Nathaniel DunneR.C. Not marriedKing’s County
Stanislaus DunneR.C. Not marriedKing’s County
Anne HoganR.C.General ServantNot marriedKing’s County
Margaret T. TiernanR.C.Nurse, Domestic ServantNot marriedCo. Westmeath

It should be noted that the Hibernian manager in 1901 was a Catholic. The Bank had been founded in 1824 by Roman Catholics, among others, with Quaker assistance.

As stated above the first bank branch in Tullamore was that of the Bank of Ireland opened in 1836. Athlone had its first bank branch in 1827, Birr 1833, Banagher 1839, Moate 1836, Longford 1834, Mountmellick 1836. In Tullamore the second bank branch was Hibernian in 1864 and it was 1893 before Ulster Bank opened what was the third branch of a national bank. In O’Connor Square a locally managed loan fund bank was opened in 1821.

In 1911 the manager was T.D. Costello (58) and living over the bank with his wife, two of his three children and one servant. Beside him at GV 11 in Bridge Street was the staunch nationalist Michael Berrill (aged 53) with five draper’s assistant and one general servant.

The deep cleaning of the exterior of the Goodbody warehouse in 1978–9 was a landmark for Tullamore. It came after demolition jobs at Ulster Bank, Tullamore in the 1960s, the canal hotel in the 1970s and of course the Tarleton building back in 1936. The benefits of that work are now appreciated in the partly pedestrianised O’Connor Square. The warehouse adds vibrancy and colour to the square and is making a contribution that the Goodbody brothers would be proud of.

Bridge Street c. 1905 with the Goodbody hardware store to the left

[1] Valuation Office, Tullamore town, 1870-83, p. 168; Registry of Deeds, Whelan to Goodbody, 22 April 1871, memorial no. 1871/12/210; 24 March 1786, Bury to Ridley, memorial no., 546/478/360892; MS valuation Tullamore, property no.71.

[2] Ordnance Survey, name books to accompany Ordnance Survey, King’s County, XVII, nos 42-3, 52-3 (Tullamore town, five-foot scale, 8 August 1888), p. 13.

[3] Bank of  Ireland, Tullamore, Toole and Hibernian agreement.

[4] King’s County Chronicle, 13 December 1902.

[5] Registry of Deeds, Bury to Ridley, 24 March 1786, memorial no., 546/478/360890.

[6] Ibid., Ryan and Scully, 19 August 1811, 635/446/438849.

[7] MS valuation, Tullamore, property no. 92.

[8] Bank of  Ireland, Tullamore, lease in branch, Ryan to Hibernian Bank.

[9] Valuation Records Tullamore town