Well Schooled

The former Erasmus Smith schoolhouse in Cahir, County Tipperary. Erasmus Smith was a 17th century English merchant who acquired large amounts of property in Ireland running to over 46,000 acres. He then decided to use some of the income from this property to establish a trust, granted a royal charter in 1669, the purpose of which was to further children’s education in this country, not least by the establishment of a number of schools here. But over time the organisation also provided financial assistance for the creation of other schools, including that in Cahir, which was completed in 1818 at a cost of £1,034: the Erasmus Smith Trust providing £600 and local landlord Richard Butler, first Earl of Glengall paying the balance. Thought to have been designed by John Nash (who was also responsible for the adjacent Church of St Paul, see Figures of Mystery « The Irish Aesthete), the neo-Gothic building is constructed of cut limestone with a three-storey teachers’ residence in the central section and a classroom on either side. Open to children of all denominations, from the start the school was very successful, in 1824 having 131 pupils, of which 90 were Roman Catholic and the rest members of the Established Church. Due to the need for additional classrooms, the building was subsequently extended to the rear. It continued to operate as a school until 1963 after which it became a sawmill and steelworks, railway museum and warehouse before falling into disrepair. More recently, the former school has been restored by the local authority for use as an area office. 

5 comments on “Well Schooled

  1. Patrick says:

    The Irish Aesthete almost always uses the word “acquired “ when referring to the ownership of large estates.
    Some readers may confuse this this word with “bought “ or “purchased “ , or a transaction where money changed hands . Sadly this is generally not the case and Erasmus Smith is no different .
    Acquired by force is perhaps a more accurate meaning . The Irish left the land only when a gun was pointing in their direction. Though less delicate , but nonetheless respectful to our forefathers, , Robbed , stolen , illegally confiscated are words that could also be used .

  2. David Parks says:

    Somehow I knew what this item was going to be about before I opened the email! I owned the schoolhouse (1989/93) and rescued it from dereliction at my own expense. No help from anybody – Heritage Council, Bord Failte, County Council or latterly Tipperary Enterprise. I sold it on, for about half what it cost to restore, to a local businessman who went on to lease it for use as a temporary school. As far as I have been able to ascertain he was paid for a three year lease what he had paid me for the property.

    Latterly the Council purchased the building and spent over €1.25 million on its ‘restoration’ https://deatonlysaght.ie/dla_projects/erasmus-smith-school/ Suffice to say that the whole experience has left me with a sour taste in my mouth and my only interest today is in self-preservation and somebody else can look after our heritage.

    • Patrick says:

      Sorry to hear this David . Besides not receiving any help or support did the planners not try to add to your burden .

      • The planners did try and stop our work at one point by saying that it was a listed building but gave up when I pointed out that it was the gentleman that I had purchased the house that had got it listed whereas the Council allowed the building to be wrecked by the steelworks company.

  3. Bryan ROGERS says:

    The finn like decoration on the gables and the parapets was used by Francis Johnston on Skeagmore (Dysart) RC church, Co. Louth and his plans for an unexecuted church at Barmeath, Co Louth both dating from the late 18th century. Where did this style of decoration originate .

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