Building Offaly’s courthouses and prisons in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

Dr Richard Butler will showcase the building of Offaly’s courthouses and prisons in the years between roughly 1750 and 1850 in a lecture at Offaly History Centre, Bury Quay, Tullamore and via Zoom on Tuesday 12 July 2022. The presentation will place individual buildings in Tullamore, Birr, Daingean and elsewhere in the context of changing political and social events throughout Ireland in these years, highlighting local agendas alongside those of the British administration in Ireland. Illustrated with historic architectural drawings, old and new photographs, the lecture will also highlight schemes that were never built as it traces the ways in which the appearance of Offaly’s towns was transformed in these years by new public architecture. The lecture will incorporate new research on Offaly’s history undertaken in recent years by historians based in the county such as Michael Byrne alongside volumes such as Andrew Tierney’s new Buildings of Ireland guide for Central Leinster and the speaker’s recently published book, Building the Irish Courthouse and Prison: A Political History (Cork University Press, 2020).

This will be a fascinating lecture about public buildings that have made a significant contribution to the social, political and architectural landscape in the county. The principal courthouses were in Daingean, Birr and Tullamore. Daingean had the county jail until 1830 while Birr had a smaller prison from as early as the 1620s with the present-day courthouse built about 1810. That at Tullamore is now the best known and was completed in 1835 while the prison was completed in 1830. The two buildings were connected by an underground passage.

The Birr courthouse of about 1810

Tullamore courthouse and jail were burned by retreating Republicans on 20 July 1922 shortly before the Free State army arrived in the town.

The county courthouse and jail about 1910.

This lecture is supported by the Decade of Centenaries and is timed to mark the 100th anniversary of the burning of the county prison and county courthouse during the Civil War. We will publish a blog on this on 20 July 2022.

A plan for Tullamore jail in the 1820s

Tullamore jail in ruins before the construction of the factory for Salts (Ireland) in 1937.

Dr. Richard Butler is Director of Research at Mary Immaculate College, Limerick; he was previously Associate Professor of Urban History at the Centre for Urban History, University of Leicester. A native of Bantry, Co. Cork, his first monograph, Building the Irish Courthouse and Prison: a Political History, 1750-1850, was published by Cork University Press in 2020. His research on 19th- and 20th-century Irish history has appeared in The Historical Journal, Urban History, Rural History, The Journal of British Studies, Irish Historical Studies, and Architectural History. He is now writing a social history of religion in Cork city throughout the twentieth century.

Richard Butler’s book on this topic is as erudite as it is handsome. It can be read in the Offaly History Centre and we can order copies in request.

Our 12 July lecture will be in person and via Zoom.

All are welcome to come to Offaly History Bury Quay for the presentation.

All lectures will commence at the new time of 8. 00 p.m. (Unless otherwise stated).

For the Zoom link, please email                         ‘OHAS Lecture Tuesday 12th July 2022 at 8 p.m.