Where The Streets Have No Shame

Last January Drogheda, County Louth was named one of the dirtiest towns in Ireland in the annual Irish Business Against Litter report – placed 39 out of 40 locations surveyed, only Dublin’s north inner city was judged to be even filthier. Although obviously not an achievement worth celebrating, this information will come as no surprise to anyone who has been visiting Drogheda over recent years and watched the place sink further and further into degradation. In 1993, the Pevsner Guide to this part of the country, written by Alistair Rowan and Christine Casey, observed that ‘As is too often the case, the 20th century has not been kind to Drogheda. However, the problems of the town lie not so much in the lack of quality in its new architecture as in the neglect and lack of concern for its historic buildings.’ That was almost 30 years ago: the situation has only grown worse over the intervening decades. 

In contrast to its shameful present, Drogheda has a proud past: at the end of the 17th century, one visitor thought it a handsome, clean town ‘and the best I have seen in Ireland.’ Its location at the final bridging point on the river Boyne three miles before it joins the Irish Sea (the name Drogheda derives from Droichead Átha, meaning Bridge of the Ford) indicates strategic importance and from the Viking period onwards there was an important settlement here. In the Middle Ages, the Archbishop of Armagh, primate of all Ireland, lived here rather than in his titular seat, and six national parliaments were convened in the town between 1441 and 1494. A terrible disaster befell Drogheda in 1649 when it was captured and ransacked by members of Oliver Cromwell’s New Model Army, but by the beginning of the following century it was once again booming and many of the town’s finest buildings were erected over the next 100 years. Commercial decline had already begun by the middle of the 19th century. When Thackeray visited in 1842, he wrote of buildings on the main street being ‘in a half state of ruin and battered shutters closed many of the windows where formerly had been “emporiums”, “repositories” and other grandly-titled abodes of small commerce.’ He also described the town as dirty, a term still appropriate 180 years later. Over the past century, with improved transport links, not just the railway but even more the car, Drogheda’s relative proximity to Dublin, which is less than 35 miles away, has only added to its problems. 

There are many reasons why Drogheda should no longer enjoy the same prosperity as was once the case, but no reason whatsoever why the town should have been allowed to become such a sad, neglected, shabby mess. Everywhere one turns, there are empty buildings falling into ruin, historic properties which, in other countries, would be repaired and put back into use. Instead, no apparent effort has been made to preserve Drogheda’s outstanding architectural heritage. What could, for example, be a significant tourist destination – and therefore a source of revenue for the local community – is being wilfully ignored. At the moment, no visitor coming to Ireland could be directed to Drogheda, except to see how not to care for the urban environment. The local authority, Louth County Council, seems supremely indifferent to the condition of the town, showing absolutely no sense of pride in what should be one of the region’s finest assets. If there’s no sense of pride, there’s clearly no sense of shame either. Otherwise this situation would not be allowed to continue. Further words are redundant: the pictures shown today are sufficiently eloquent. Welcome to Drogheda, where the streets have no shame. 

23 comments on “Where The Streets Have No Shame

  1. Orla Ryan says:

    What a mess! In contrast, Dundalk is looking well. Louth CC have a lot to answer for.

  2. Dreadful to see but sadly a common theme among smaller urban areas. Globalisation and online shopping have a price to pay, tied in with poor planning and out of town ‘American’ retail parks. Drogheda also pays for its location, c50% of it is in another county.

    • Niall Gregory says:

      Not 50% by any stretch. The majority of the town and the streets / buildings shown here are in Louth and its the responsibility of LCC to maintain the streets.. The parts of drogheda in meath are housing estates and retail parks.

  3. sylvia wright says:

    How shameful! Surely SOMETHING could/should be done?

  4. Dom Gradwell says:

    There are many reasons. Greedy speculation from individuals, the fact that the largest town in Ireland is effectively split in two by an outdated county boundary and run by two competing local authorities, one based in Dundalk and one based in Navan, a complete lack of interest and meaningful investment from Central Government and our proximity to Dublin to name but a few. It’s not too late to turn this around, but there is serious work to be done.

  5. Eimear says:

    I have not ever been to Drogheda for one reason or another, but I do feel the same sense of sadness/horror when I pass through ballinrobe in mayo (one building even has netting on gutter to catch falling slates) ……leaving buildings vacant seems to be the starting point of the demise

  6. It may well be true that Louth County Council is indifferent to the condition of Drogheda. But the disrepair of the buildings of the town is the consequence of a total lack of interest by the people who own them.
    This is a fact throughout The Republic. Drogheda perhaps is one of the worst examples.
    Even if the building may be lucky enough to have been given ‘protected’ status. there is never any judicial consequence for ignoring this.
    The sad reality is that the most people simply have no awareness of the ugliness of our towns because they are NOT INTERESTED! There is not a single Main Street of any town in Ireland which has not been devastated by the replacement of timber framed ash windows with pvc, the wrecking of handsome eighteenth and nineteenth century door cases and shopfronts with poor quality pastiche replacements. On numerous occasions I have pointed out this type of behaviour to people and usually the response is along the lines of ” oh but haven’t they ‘saved’ the old place….” It is too late to save our towns now because too much which should have been treasured has been needlessly trashed.

  7. A shame and such a rich heritage of architecture! Don’t forget the Grammer School on Laurence Street, which was illegally knocked in the early 80’s and the developer brought to the high court in a landmark case which changed the ruling for protected structures in Ireland! Unfortunately the rebuild has a lot to be desired and a poor example of a promised reinstatement

  8. Josephine Walsh says:

    The people of Drogheda care a lot about our town. Unfortunately we have been totally ignored by both local and national government, and any applications made for any kind of funding have been turned down, in favour of Dundalk, Ardee, and smaller villages and townlands. As people of this town we do not have the power to restore buildings we do not own. Louth County Council has been moved to Dundalk, who have recieved plenty of funds and Meath Co Council is in Navan. Since Drogheda has been deprived of the benefit of having the Council sitting here, the town has rapidly fell into its current state.

  9. Joseph Woods says:

    Thanks to the Irish Aesthete for highlighting this wilful neglect –
    I’m originally from Drogheda and have lived abroad for the past decade. Last summer I took my ten year old daughter on a walkabout around the town centre to show her the sights and we soon had to cut short our preamble, confronted by the dereliction, decrepitude and general filth of the town – Narrow West St was completely derelict, the buildings around St Peter’s C of I, have all been abandoned and vandalised and the sexton’s house, which I rented as a student has been demolished etc. etc. It’s a disgrace when you think of how the town looked in the so called deprived 1980’s? The town council and the Lord Mayor should resign.

  10. Elizabeth Printy says:

    What a pity!

  11. Irene Wynne says:

    I visit Drogheda every summer on my trip home from abroad. It has the makings of a successful tourist destination once the powers that be decide to focus on it. The comments here explain why there is no focus on it !! Yes, what a shame.

  12. Rachel Greatorex says:

    This is so sad to see. Drogheda has such potential a lot of beautiful period properties. I now live in the UK in a beautiful tudor town where old buildings are maintained to a high standard as in most of the rest of Europe . It seems corrupt to me as most other Irish towns do not seem to have the same extent of neglect.
    Tourism could bring so many benefits to Drogheda as there are world famous sights in the region but the tourists I’m afraid would be very disappointed with the town centre. Shame on Louth council.

  13. Kieran White says:

    Out of town shopping centres which then morph into local communities are responsible for taking the life out of our towns. We’ve seen it everywhere eg France, UK, USA and yet we copy their trends blindly.

  14. Liam Lambert says:

    Wow! I never realized how awful it was. Thanks for highlighting the plight of Drogheda.

  15. Brian Condra says:

    To stop the decay and perhaps address it Drogheda needs three things happening in tandem.

    1. The Drogheda Burrough Council needs to reach out to other councils and develop a strategic and coordinated campaign to have the local government act amended, and power returned to the local institutions. This should be backed by a public campaign that ignores political and 19th century revialries.
    2. A campaign to have the Drogheda Burrough reinstated, whereby Drogheda Louth and Drogheda Meath act as one autonomous authority with the right to raise and spend funds independent of other county council’s.
    3. A local campaign to restore pride and interest in the town be organised, this should include celebration, education and social agitation.

    The town deserves better, it’s time people acted to make it so.

  16. jbc625@msn.com says:

    Bravo! Situation is truly pathetic.

  17. Brian Walsh says:

    Both of the above comments are very apt, another solution might be for the burghers of Drogheda to reach out to somewhere like Clonakilty and see how they started the process of rejuvenation. Another issue requiring attention is the Heritage Act which appears to allow properties to be designated as listed but without providing either CPO provisions or funds for restoration, they simply languish without progressive solutions. A fine mess!

  18. Stephen Barker says:

    As someone who is not a resident of Ireland, does not Drogheda given it’s proximity to Dublin have the potential as a commuter town or are the transport links by train or bus not good enough. It is disappointing to see the level of decay, will it reach a point of no return. It must be dispiriting to live there.

    • Niall Gregory says:

      It’s proximity to Dublin is a massive handicap on the town as it receives zero investment and a huge amount of people commute to the capital on a daily basis. We have a proud heritage and where an industrial power house for decades but new roads and rail had turned us into a commuter town that government don’t give a toss about

  19. […] the neglect of historic buildings in Drogheda, County Louth attracted quite a lot of comment (see: Where The Streets Have No Shame « The Irish Aesthete) but its miserable condition is by no means unique. Everywhere one travels in Ireland, the same […]

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