Seeking Asylum



After Monday’s post about Skiddy’s Almshouses in Cork, here is a similar institution in Kilkenny city: St James’s Asylum. This dates from 1803 when established by James Switzer (then spelled Switsir), a Quaker builder responsible for constructing the nearby military barracks on land provided by the Earl of Ormond; seemingly, when he had completed this job, there was sufficient material left over to erect the almshouse. A charity was accordingly established by Act of Parliament, and the relevant deeds stated that there were to be 20 beneficiaries, all female, twelve Protestant and eight Roman Catholic. Furthermore, the residents were to be ‘decent and respectable persons, the widows or daughters of respectable persons resident in the county or city of Kilkenny or county of Carlow for ten years or more.’ To ensure decent respectability, none of the women who secured placed could ever have been a servant, ‘or the widow or daughter or niece of a servant.’ Today run by a charity, the building is of fifteen bays and two storeys with a central pedimented three-bay breakfront. Unfortunately, during a renovation of the premises, uPVC windows were installed to replace the six-over-six timber sash older models. Two other features are notable, the first being a large statue of the asylum’s founder looming over the garden from his recessed stone niche; the figure here was carved by Benjamin Schrowder, otherwise known for having assisted Edward Smyth in carving the emblematic keystones on the Custom House, Dublin. And then there is the splendid stone gateway which would not be out of place at the entrance to a country house, not least because the pedimented outer sections suggest a pair of identical lodges.


2 comments on “Seeking Asylum

  1. Andrew McCarthy says:

    What a handsome building!

  2. Stephen Barker says:

    The entrance is excellent as the the main building apart from the replacement windows. They are not the worst examples I have seen. I can’t help thinking that the Quantity Surveyor for the barracks was not very good at their job if so much material was left over on completion.

Leave a Reply to Stephen Barker Cancel reply