Limerick is full of interesting buildings. The following buildings are not just old run down looking buildings that you can easily walk past without a second glance, but are also full of history, architectural wonder, stories and life itself.
The remnants of the last remaining tower house in Limerick city is that of Fanning’s castle, which is situated just off Mary Street. Although it is known by name as Fanning’s Castle, it was not in fact a castle, but a late medieval fortified town or tower house. Dominic Fanning, a former mayor of Limerick city, reputedly built the tower for himself in approximately 1641.
The walls of the tower were built of roughly squared limestone blocks of varying sizes. It was originally five stories high; the first storey is now, due to the passage of time and building development in the area, almost at ground level. On the last almost intact standing wall we can still see the remains of one flat-headed window divided by one mullion, on the first floor. On the second and third floor there are two ogee windows which are placed one floor above the other, the third floor windows being slightly smaller than the second floor. Finally on the top floor is a single round-headed window. The doors on the upper levels suggest that at some point the tower would have had external balconies or stairs. The tower house would have originally incorporated a turret staircase and battlements and would have been an impressive sight on Mary Street.
Kilrush Church is known as Old Church, St. Munchin’s or St. Mainchin’s Church. St. Munchin is the patron saint of Limerick. The name Munchian was not an actual birth name but a play on “little monk”. This small Early Christian church is situated in the grounds of Old Church, near Barrington’s Pier on the west side of the Shannon. It is first mentioned in 1201, and is listed in the Papal Taxation of 1302-7, but is generally believed to be much older, possibly dating from the tenth century. It is a rectangular building with walls and gables almost intact. Inserted in the south wall is a rectangular window said to have been taken from the Franciscan Chapel in the City which is inscribed with Gothic lettering in false relief. The building was restored in the early 1900s. It is now situated in a cul de sac just off the North Circular Road.
Thatch in the City
In the early 2000s the galvanised roof was removed from two abandoned cottages on the Dublin Road. Underneath was discovered the remains of thatched roofs. These were some of the last traditionally thatched cottages within the city boundaries. The cottages have since been demolished.
The Old Abbey Area
There are only a handful of the Abbey houses remaining, the are in the Long Lane (pictured below), and Athlunkard Street area. At one point in Limerick history this area would have been the most populous, sometimes with families of 10 or more sharing these small cottages. The other street names from the Abbey area were Sheep Street, Ahern’s Row, Gaol Lane Bow, Clancy Lane, Fish Street and Meat Market Lane. The 1907 “Sale of Limerick” Map for the area shows the extent of the streets and lanes, and how closely packed the houses were.
In 1901 taking Sheep Street as an example the majority of the houses in this street only contained two rooms and two windows at the front making them 2nd class houses. While two of the houses in the street were considered 3rd class, one of these contained two rooms but no windows at the front. This was the home of John O’Mara, his wife Mary and their seven children with ages ranging from 18 years to 2 years.
Many of these streets and lanes of the old Abbey were demolished to make way for a new road bypassing the city centre. Sheep Street was knocked entirely, though its name is kept alive in the form of an apartment complex. Others have been redeveloped, such as Sir Harry’s Mall, where the Absolute Hotel and Gaelcholáiste Luimnigh stand today. During this redevelopment excavations took place and the remains of a long since forgotten graveyard were found. The new bridge that forms part of the bypasses is named The Abbey Bridge, to commemorate the Abbey Fishermen who once made their homes in this area.
About the Author: Sharon Slater is the owner and operator of the Limerick's Life website. She has been researching and collecting information regarding Limerick history and genealogies since her early teens. She obtained a Masters degree in Local History at the University of Limerick.
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