Crow Street/Tara Street, Tullamore in the past 200 years. A contribution to the Historic Towns Series

Now what would Edward Crow say if he came back 200 years after his death to view the street that he created in the 1800–1815 period. That was during the time of the wars with Napoleon and before Waterloo. After the war Pensioners Row (now O’Molloy Street) was built for the army veterans by the Crow family. Crow Street was on a grander scale but is now no more than a parking lot on one side and the other is occupied by the Town House pub building. This road off High Street was greatly widened in the early 1990s to facilitate access to the new Bridge Centre opened in 1995. About 90 residential properties have been built since the mid 1990s on lands beside the Bridge House carpark and on the long garden behind the Round House and its neighbours each side in High Street. Three of the four residences on High Street (west) now form part of the Direct Provision facility. Part of the old garden of the former Goodbody & Kennedy house on High Street was used as a site for the Central Ballroom/Garden of Eden in the 1970s. It was at the foot of Crow/Tara Street and was adapted for a cinema in the early 1980s. The dancehall/cinema was demolished in the late 1990s to make way for the Altmore apartments.

 In summary the  building boom of the 1994-2007 period saw the construction of:

Tara Court, River Court and the old mill on the Tullamore river – 54 apartments

Altmore House and large office block  – 36 apartments

Altmore House at the foot of the old Crow Street. Crow Lane was, we understand, one of the names suggested for the new arts centre!

Tara Court and River Court were built on Tullamore distillery lands known as ‘the turf field’ and Altmore on the old Crow estate property. Who was Edward Crow (or Crowe) who gave his name to this former residential street of what were mostly quality houses.

In search of a lost street

Crow was the son of a Dublin linen merchant and a nephew of Colonel Thomas Crow who built a large house in High Street in 1750 where Sambodino’s was until recently. Edward Crow was agent of the Digby estate at Geashill in the last decade of that century. It was only after 1800 that he began to lay out his property for building. The Crow Estate was one of the largest blocks of property in Tullamore, held under a common lease, and having a street frontage of 336 (Irish) feet from the junction of High Street with Crowe/Tara Street to Acres Hall (now the town hall), and also eleven acres of land, mostly on the western side of the river in what is now Marian place and Pearse Park. The centrepiece of the High Street front to the estate was the ‘Round House’ (GV 24) in High Street and dating to the 1750s. The other and equally interesting part was the big house of Revd Daniel Jackson beyond what is now the railway line. What might be termed now as a lost demesne and about which more in a later blog.

Crow’s long lease to Andrew Joseph O’Flanagan of the large plot called GV 27a and 28 High Street (on the Griffith valuation map of 1854) facilitated the development of the flour mill and the corn mill on the river at the western end of Crow Street in what came to be known as  the Sallow or Sally Grove. The mill had its access via the gateway at 27a (formerly Marron’s) on High Street. As can be seen on the 1838 map this led down to a flour mill and a corn mill. The Crow Street Sally Grove roads let on to the Crow gazebo and the road to Daniel Jackson’s house. The vacant site to the south of these houses and adjoining Acres Hall was used for the new Presbyterian church in 1865. Two of the three houses at the junction of High Street with Crow Street, and erected early in the eighteenth century, were demolished to provide for a wider access to Tara Street and the new Bridge Centre opened in 1995.

It is difficult to say how old the Crow houses are in High Street. House numbers GV 19–21 may date from the 1720s to the 1740s and GV22–26 perhaps from the middle of the eighteenth century. The last two houses (GV 27a and 28) north of  the Presbyterian church are probably about 1800. The Presbyterian church was built in 1865.

Centrepiece of the 336 ft frontage to the Crow Estate in High Street from the junction with Crow Street to the town hall

The dwelling known as the Round House (GV no. 24) being the central portion but by 1800 the house was divided into two to four units. Crowe let the northern portion (no. 22–23, formerly Goodbody and Kennedy, solicitors, and also possibly the former Joyce family home) to Captain Lestrange of the King’s County Militia and the remainder – the Round House to the coach entrance and (now the ‘Round House’ and ‘Florence’) to James Meagher, a brewer from Clara.[1] Perhaps Lestrange was renting to the army in the build-up of soldiers in Tullamore around 1800 during the Napoleonic Wars. As noted earlier it was a good time to have property to rent and the houses from the corner of Tara Street (formerly Crow Street) to the Round House (no. 24) were used as officers’ houses and a barrack guardroom. The former Joyce house was later used by the RIC.

The 1885-8 five ft scale map. The elaborate gardens led down to a gazebo to be seen on the 1838 map below. The corn mill was smaller then, while the corn mill (Cooke’s) was demolished in the early 1990s. The flour mill of the 1885 map now holds six apartments. The mill stream has since been piped underground.

The 1838 map with the Primitive Methodist church, gazebo, and the road to the demesne of Daniel Jackson. The mill stream service the first brewery behind the later McGinn’s and also the flour mill. Only part of the old brewery remains in the form of the later ‘dog pound’ building.

The Crow/Tara Street houses, now all demolished since the 1950s and 1960s, were built about 1810 and almost all formed part of the Crow estate. Like Offally Street, off Columcille Street, side streets or back streets off the main thoroughfares did not prove popular for quality residential areas and were soon converted to tenement properties. In Crow Street/Tara Street, off High Street on the western side, a real effort was made by Edward Crow to build an attractive street to a proper width and street line. But the new street did not lead to anywhere save to Sallow Grove, below Crow Street, which was a dead end, albeit allowing for a passageway to a gazebo, Water Lane and a large house there in the eighteenth century, that of the Revd Mr Jackson. Housing development here took place after 1800 and was fitful with perhaps no more than nine to ten houses over the period from 1800 to 1820. Nonetheless Crow Street was more successful than the other back street housing development at Wheelwright Lane/Offaly Street where only two large houses were built and the rest were cabins. As late as 1840 Crow Street was still able to attract a doctor to live there, although Dr Moorhead was gone by the 1850s having moved to High Street (GV 45). But as the 1843 valuer noted Crow Street was ‘a retired part of the town’ and did not attract the better-off after 1850.

Crow Street as it was up to the 1950s. The Methodist church had the lancet windows. It was later a trade union hall. Some of these houses accommodated several families up to the 1950s

The house comprised of two shops was demolished to widen the street in early 1991. The car park first created in 1970 was later enlarged.

In the mid-twentieth century conditions were poor with overcrowding and eventual demolition in the 1960s to provide a carpark and site for the new Central Ballroom/Garden of Eden of 1970.[2] Apart from Kenny’s ballroom in High Street of the 1940s which was on a small scale the Central Ballroom marked the entry of commercial interests into dancing and took it out of the control of voluntary groups and the Catholic Church. The new dance hall was not licensed, unlike the Bridge House night club opened later in the 1970s. This building was converted into three cinemas about 1982 and demolished in the 1990s when a new cinema with six screens was opened by the same people in the Bridge Centre in 1995.

About the year 2000–02 the large Altmore apartment block of some thirty-six units was built here to a design of Leighton Johnston, a firm of Belfast architects, who also designed the large office block, Castle Buildings, to the rear.

Crow Street was part of the estate of Edward Crow which included Nos GV 19–26 High Street and eleven acres of land at the back of the High Street property running along the northern side of the river toward the railway line. By the mid-nineteenth century the street had some twelve houses which varied in height and frontage, but there is evidence of a plan. The first four houses on the south side (GV12–8) were all about 15 ft in height and two-storey, but the next building was the single-storey church and followed by three three-store houses (nicely accommodating the fall in the land). What is clear is that some of the sites were sold to tradesman such as Deane and Larkin who once they had the house completed sold on to buyers.

This aerial shot of 1950 would suggest there were three three-storey houses in Crow Street (GV 3, 4, 5,6 below). The flour mill is to the extreme right and now the site of River Court apartments. The single stores buildings were to the back of what is now the ‘Town House’ formerly William Adams. The Adams and Bannon private houses can be seen in the background.

Evidence of site sales by Edward Crow in Crow’s Lane (later Crow Street) is available from the Registry of Deeds and includes:

  1. Edward Crow to Samuel Collins of Tullamore, merchant, the plot of ground south of the passage leading from High Street to the lands at Sragh, measuring in front including the gateway, 33ft 4 ins, yearly rent £5.
  2. Edward Crow to James Molloy, a similar site of 34 ft 4 ins at Crow’s Lane, for three lives, renewable for ever, £5. 3s.
  3. Edward Crow to Peter Larkin, a mason, 1 July 1812, a plot of ground south of the passageway from High Street in Tullamore to the lands at Sragh, together with the dwelling house, measuring in front 72 ft, front to rear 48 ft. The house was sold in 1814 to Michael Handy, a tobacconist of Tullamore. Larkin also had two sites in Harbour Street.
  4. Larkin had two other sites in Crow Street on which two houses were built, Crow to Larkin 9 July 1812, yearly rent £12. 4s. Patk. Larkin, son and heir of Peter Larkin, assigned one of the houses (that occupied by John Dempsey) to Michael Handy, the tobacconist of Tullamore.
  5. A lease from Crowe to Barth. Deane of Tullamore, painter and glazier, of two sites, 5 and 6, resulted in a plot of ground with a dwelling house, being sold to Michael Handy for £230 16s 3d. Deane is recalled now in Deane Place where the Old Harbour Bar is located.
The Griffith Valuation map of 1854 for Tullamore town. GV 2 was Doctor Moorhead’s when he came to Tullamore in the late 1830s. GV 8 was the church.

In 1821 Crow Street had eighty people and sixteen houses.

In the 1850s only one house was valued at £10 and the rest were in the £2 to £3 range. This was low but not so bad as O’Neill Place (across on High Street, and now a carpark) where many houses were valued at only 5s. The Primitive Methodist church was valued at £5. The occupant of the house valued at £10 was likely the clergyman serving that church. The houses were on the Crow Estate with Revd E.F. Berry the immediate lessor save four houses owned by the Molloy family of GV 4 and GV 5 High Street. Of the twelve rated units in Crow Street eleven were houses and one was an institutional building being the exempt from rates Methodist church.

In 1901 the street had eighty-five occupants, eleven houses and nineteen families. Of that number eighty were Roman Catholic and five, in one family, Church of Ireland. The houses  were all of stone walls and slated and were placed in the secondclass. The out housing included one coach house, three stables, one cow house, three piggeries, and one fowl house and a turf house. One house had four families, another three and two houses had two families each. The house with four families was comprised of four rooms for nine persons. The street was inclusive of the non-residential old Methodist church which was by 1901 a trades union hall.

In 1911 Crow Street had ninety people with seventeen families and eleven inhabited houses. All were Roman Catholic. One house had three families and fifteen people, another two families of twelve people. Three families with a house each had between eleven and nine in the family. The circumstances of some of the same families had deteriorated with one family of twelve now in three rooms and another with eleven in four rooms. Families, even when crowded, might have an in-law or boarder living with them.

Occupations in 1901 ranged from butcher (2), bottle store (2), labourer (10), postman (1), servant (1), van driver (1), blacksmith (3), farmer and dealer (1), farm labourer (1), bank porter (1), dressmaker (1) and shop messenger (1).

This street was known as Crow Street or Crowe Street until 1905 when the urban council changed its name to Tara Street although the original name persisted in use down to the 1970s.

  1. The house numbers below are those from the printed Griffith Valuation while the numbers in brackets are from the MS valuation of 1843. In the printed valuation just eleven houses and the Methodist Chapel are listed. One house was valued at £10, the chapel at £5 and the other ten houses less than £4 each with none less than £1.5s. Of the twelve properties the house in the entrance area to what are now the Altmore apartments, was  occupied by Dr Michael Moorhead in 1843 and the Rev William Anderson in 1854 and held from Miss Crow. Moorhead was described as a surgeon and came to Tullamore in the late 1830s to take a position in the new workhouse. The valuer noted that the premises were not compact and in a retired part of the town. The rental value was in the region of £20. The house was 47 ft in front and 18 ft in height. Anderson may have been the pastor to the Primitive Methodists with a church in this street. The house was valued at £10 in 1854. Moorhead moved to High (later Kilroy’s house) and in the late 1850s to no. 33 High Street (later the hostel and now a direct provision house).
  2. The other property was the Primitive Methodist Chapel.  This was a long single-storey building of some 47 ft and a height of 15.6 feet in good repair. This property was built after 1810 and used as a church until the late 1870s. The building was considered by the Tullamore Freemasons Lodge for its purposes in the 1870s, but in 1884 the lodge opted for its present building in O’Moore Street. It was later used as a trades union hall. Up to the 1970s the remains of a window could be seen in what was the southern end of the old church.

Crow Street had eleven houses in 1864, but that valued at £10 was then vacant and by 1879 its valuation had been reduced to £6 while most of the other ten houses were slightly up on the previous valuations.

Occupancy of the street had greatly reduced by the 1950s when people living in crowded conditions were able to secure the new council houses of the 1930s and the second  wave from 1950 to 1956  when about 250 new houses were built.

Crow Street about 1950

More essays in the series will follow in 2023. If you have recollections of living in High Street or O’Connor Square send your article to

copyright: Michael Byrne with thanks to Breda Kenny, Georgina Gorman and Brian Cleary.

[1] 11 March 1806, Registry of Deeds, Lestrange to McMullen, memorial no., 574/414/390941; 25 February 1800, Crowe to Meagher, memorial no., 560/126/374166.

[2] Westmeath Offaly Independent, 28 Mar. 1970.