Our Built Heritage: 3 Hidden Gems on the Clonakilty Streetscape

May 7, 2018
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We look at the history of 3 interesting pieces of architecture and the history behind them:

  • What is the oldest building standing in Clonakilty?
  • Intact 19th century street kerbing!
  • Clonakilty’s forgotten Freemasons Lodge.

Ever wonder what are believed to be the oldest buildings on the Clonakilty streetscape?

We believe it to be the row of buildings (pictured below) numbered 35 to 38 Ashe Street which are thought to date to circa 1750 but could be as early as 1730. The ‘National Inventory of Architectural Heritage’ highlight the steeply pitched roofs as suggesting the early construction date.

Anyone know of anything older? Here are two possibilities:

  • Numbers 12, 13 and 14 Rossa Street (‘A Cut Above’ and the buildings either side). They are also characteristic of buildings built circa 1750. The logic for Rossa Street buildings being later than the buildings on Ashe St. is that they likely date to the same time as the bridge with the river flowing underneath these buildings. This would date them closer to 1780 and the turn of the century. The steeply pitched roofs are again highlighted.
  • The Market House on McCurtain Hill was first referenced in 1642 and then again as being rebuilt in 1696. The ‘National Inventory of Architectural Heritage’ cite the building as built between 1780 and 1820 but “possibly incorporating fabric of earlier building”. With the upturn in Clonakilty’s fortunes between 1800 and 1840 (the period from which a significant percentage of central buildings date from), it is probable that the Market House was renovated in line with the findings of the study.

Clonakilty’s 19th century street kerbing

We all walk over it without paying this paving even the slightest bit of notice. It is believed however that the people of Clonakilty could be walking over this kerbing for up to 190 years.

It is one of the more random yet interesting findings of the ‘National Inventory of Architectural Heritage’. They date the kerbing to 1850 but could be as early as 1830. Their description is as follows:
“This rare surviving section of historic limestone kerbing is an interesting example of nineteenth century street furniture. This subtle feature forms an integral element of the built heritage of Oliver Plunkett Street and compliments the surrounding buildings”.

Clonakilty’s forgotten Freemasons Lodge

This simple, elegant, and unassuming building on Kent Street has had a varied and interesting history. Like much of the Clonakilty streetscape, it is likely built in the 1820’s as Clonakilty thrived with the linen industry, the brewery and the adjacent mill providing much employment.


The earliest recorded history of the building is as a Protestant infant school run by the Episcopal Church. It was loaned to the Methodist community and served as a temporary church while the present-day church located on the same street was being rebuilt in 1860.

In the years that followed, the building began to be used as a Masonic Lodge. The Masons had been in Clonakilty on and off since at least 1806. The meetings were suspended during the famine and again between 1864 and 1876 before the meeting was finally disbanded in 1943 due to war time rationing.

In 1953, the Clonakilty Town Council was transferred from the Old Town Hall to Kent Street. From that date until the mid 1980’s, the building doubled as the town library before the mill next door was converted. With the Town Council disbanded, this interesting building requires a new and hopefully interesting purpose to add to its unique history.

 

Sources:

National Inventory of Architectural Heritage, available at: http://www.buildingsofireland.ie/niah/search.jsp?type=search&county=CO&method=quick

Fáilte Romhat: ‘History of Methodists in Clonakilty’, available at: http://www.failteromhat.com/clonmethodists.php

Munster Freemasons: ‘Warrants’: http://www.munsterfreemason.com/history/warrants/