The Ross dwelling house at 6 High Street, Tullamore. Part of Tullamore 400th series, no.8 By Michael Byrne

The Ross dwelling house in High Street, Tullamore is a five-bay, two-storey, late-eighteenth-century house set over a high basement. It has a rough-cast walls and large windows with nineteenth-century glazing-bars. The round-headed doorcase, which is set up a flight of steps with moulding nosing, has a blocked-architrave dressing and a keystone. Fronting the house is a low wall with moulded coping and cast-iron railings. Beside the house is an elliptical-headed carriage-arch topped by a cornice. According to the Garner Tullamore: architectural heritage for An Foras Forbartha survey of 1979 the house has regional status (Garner, 1980). Thanks to Tanya and George Ross the house is now in excellent shape and one of the few town houses in Tullamore lived in as was intended by those who built it. The house is one of the few in Tullamore to be featured in national magazines and has been the subject of two articles.[1] The other two were Charleville Castle (Country Life, twice) and Shepherds Wood. The house is now called 6 High Street. In Griffith’s valuation of 1854 it was no. 45 High Street. This piece is also a contribution to the Heritage Council programme on living in towns.

The Hill house of 1786 c. 2017. Courtesy of Tanya and George Ross

In 1786 Charles William Bury, the young improving landlord of Tullamore, conveyed to Thomas Hill of Portarlington[2] the plot of ground in High Street formerly held by Richard Ledbetter at a yearly rent of £3 with half a year’s rent as a renewal fee. The front of the site measured 58 ft 9 inches and the whole was 2 rds 12 perches. The lives included in the 1786 lease were Wm. Hill, attorney,[3] the second son of the lessor and George and James Hill the third and fourth sons. It is not clear whether Hill built the house for his own use or for speculative purposes, but in any case the house passed to Thomas Norris who conveyed it to Rev. William Eames in 1806 in consideration of £113.15.0 sterling and a yearly rent of £68.5.0 sterling.[4] A clause was added that if Eames should pay a further sum of £113.15.0 within two years the rent would be reduced to £57.17.6, this Eames did. In 1817 Anne Norris of Tullamore, on becoming entitled to the house by the death of Thomas Norris made a similar agreement with Eames whereby he agreed to pay a further £250 so that the rent would be reduced to £31.17.6. In 1832 Eames, now of Tyrrellspass, sold the house to Charles McDonald of Tullamore, a saddler and harness maker, for a yearly rent of £29.10.0.  He was also have been a postmaster and may have been the first such in Tullamore. McDonald was in occupation in 1843 and at that time the judges and barrister lodged at the house when visiting the town for the assizes. It was not, of course, there only habitual resting place when in Tullamore as judges such as Norbury also stayed at Charleville Castle. They were, later in the century, to stay at Tarleton’s in what is now O’Connor Square. It was noted that McDonald held from Mr Norris of Clara and purchased the property subject to a small rent. McDonald died in June 1843. [5] By 1854 the property was occupied by Dr Michael J. Moorhead who had moved from the less satisfying Crow Street (now Tara Street).[6] Moorhead was the physician at the new Tullamore Workhouse that was opened in 1842.

The first valuation map of Tullamore in the 1840s

The 1843-54 valuation records contain the following:

45. (17)      Charles McDonnell private dwelling. [Doctor Michael J. Moorhead] McDonnell holds from Mr Norris of Clara he purchased the concern subject to a small rent.  The judges and barrister lodge here. The premises are well enclosed There is a large garden belonging to the concern connected by a narrow passage, the garden containing 0.3.24. (good inside, roof not so good)

                   Front.42.0, Height.20, Quality Letter L. 1B+ (to be let) (small rent)

46. (18)      Charles McDonnell postmaster and baker (to be let) [Vacant George McMullen]. McDonnell holds this house from Mr McMullen next door – there is a very small, confined yard in the rere – no garden. McDonnell holds both nos 17 and 18 – situation very good.

                 Dwelling/bake house

                   F.21, H.21, Q.L. 1B (1B-) Y.R …….£16.00 [13.00] L.R 13.00

On 28 May 1859 the Norris family sold the property on a 999-year lease to George Ridley of the medical and hotel-owning Tullamore family for a yearly rent of £29. In 1899 Ridley died and the Norris family, now of Clara sold the house to the Bank of Ireland to serve as a residence for an agent or sub-agent (manager). Part of the house to the south was later occupied by A & L Morris for a shop (now the spectacles company, Eye Contact).

In 1901 the sub-agent was Thomas Blackham (42) who occupied the house with his wife, son, daughter and two servants.[7] 1n 1911 the sub-agent was William Lawrence who was living in GV 45 (no. 6 in the 1911 census) with his wife, four children and one nurse/housemaid.

In 1956 Dermot Kilroy, a hardware merchant, exchanged a house in Bachelors Walk, Tullamore for the High Street house inclusive of a payment to Kilroy of £400. The following year Kilroy bought out the Norris ground rent interest. Kilroy’s father came to Tullamore from Wexford about 1908 and opened a hardware shop across the road in 1910. The shop building was destroyed by fire in 1915 and rebuilt soon after.[8] It will now serve as the new arts centre from late in 2022.

The Kilroy family occupied the house until 2011 and sold the property in 2016 to George Ross and Tanya Ross who have made considerable improvements to the house. Reviewing the ownership of the house it appears that the McDonald, Bank of Ireland agents, and the Kilroy family occupied the house for over 150 years. Thanks to Tanya and George Ross the house is now in excellent shape and one of the few town houses in Tullamore lived in as was intended by those who built it.

An interior view to a design by Tanya Ross. Courtesy of House and Home Magazine.
The 1912 OS map of Tullamore. Part of the original garden was built on in the late 1980s for the Roselawn scheme of houses by John Flanagan

[1]  House and Home Magazine Jan/Feb 2021; Homeowners: George and Tanya Ross; Digital Editor: Louise Dockery; Editor: Ciara Elliot; Photographer: Philip Lauterbach;

[2] The name Thomas Hill Jun. is recorded on a house in Main Street, Portarlington.

[3] A William Hill qualified in 1788, E. Keane and ors, King’s Inns Admission Papers (Dublin, 1982), p. 228.

[4] William Eames, 1818 was a Church of Ireland curate in Tullamore. His wife was buried in Lynally in 1811.

EAMES The body of Alicia Eames is committed to this earth.  She was married to the Rev. William Eames, to whome she had been united 4 years 7 months 8 days.  When it pleased Him, whoes Ways are not as our ways, to command a most    unexpected    temporary separation.  Inscriptions are thought to flatter, and the bias of affection has no doubt that tendency, yet it is most true that some persons have eminently adorned the doctrine of Christ Our Saviour, that no epitaphs can do them justice.  She was one of these. She died in Tullamore on the 14th day of January 1811 aged 31.  (64). Lynally

[5] Freeman’s Journal, 12 June 1843.

[6] 24 March 1786, Bury to Hill, lease with the late Mr Dermot Kilroy; Registry of Deeds, 30 July 1808, Norris to Eames, memorial no., 607/500/417442; 20 June 1817, Norris to Eames, memorial no., 717/70/490206; 1 November 1832, Eames to McDonald (or McDonnell), memorial no., 889/186/588187; MS valuation, Tullamore, 1843, property no. 17

[7] 1901 census Ireland, online, no. 41 High Street.

[8] Tullamore and King’s County Independent, 27 Feb. 1915. 6 Mar. 1915.

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