On the Market


A further example of urban decay in Ireland: the Market House in Portarlington, County Laois. Standing in the centre of a square from which radiate four roads, the building dates from the early years of the 18th century and reflects the town’s prosperity at the time. Readers outside Ireland may be startled to know that for several decades this significant monument to Portarlington’s past operated as a garage where cars were serviced and repaired; for Irish readers, the information will come as no surprise, since it is typical of how we are inclined to treat our architectural heritage. Last July the local authority came to an arrangement with the owners of the market house, taking it over on a long lease. The intention, presumably, is to restore the building and put it to more sympathetic use. But much more needs to be done if such a project is to realise its full potential. At the moment, there are several substantial properties around the surrounding square in various stages of neglect and decay, most critically Arlington House, a five-bay, three storey 18th century house currently vacant (and with a long-time empty lot beside it), also the former Church of Ireland church, and adjacent to that a former cinema dating from the 1940s. Much of the square’s space is given over to car parking, and near-constant traffic discourages pedestrians from exploring the site. If this square and market house were elsewhere in Europe, their full potential would be exploited as a centrepiece for urban renewal and as a means of encouraging visitors to Portarlington. Let’s wait to see what the county council now does with the building and what is for now a bleak and desolate setting…
Incidentally, the Irish branch of the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB) is now running a Maintenance Week with plenty of advice and help for owners of historic properties. Find out more through the organisation’s twitter account (@SPABIreland) or Instagram page (@spabireland). 


6 comments on “On the Market

  1. Cate Morgan says:

    Particularly sad, being so central and so (formerly) crucial to the town’s very existence. Fingers crossed…again.

  2. Toby C says:

    Hey, at least it’s intact and was recently occupied instead of abandoned years ago and left to crumble. Hopefully the funds and a proper plan for the future can be realized.

  3. I would take a working garage, though hardly ideal, over its present situation. Sad to see. Portarlington has an interesting history, well covered in Goodly Barrow.

  4. maursathenry says:

    Artists are ‘used’ to rejuvenate buildings & towns all the time. This is the kind of building one puts an artists co-op into….

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