On 17th June 1765 John Wesley, founder of the Methodist denomination, wrote in his journal, ‘At seven I preached in the Market-house at Kilfinane [County Limerick]. Well nigh all the town, Irish, English and Germans, Protestants and Papists, presently gathered together. At first, most of the Papists stood aloof; and so did several of the genteeler people: but by degrees they drew in, and mixed with the congregation.’ Wesley returned to Kilfinane on several later occasions, each time preaching in the market house, of which these are now the sorry remains. Dating from c.1760 and of cut sandstone with three broad arches on its façade, the market house was described as ‘a large and commodious building’ by Samuel Lewis in 1837, having just been repaired the previous year. Having remained in use until the last century, how regrettable to see what was a part of the town’s history, and prosperity, for more than 250 years allowed to fall into such a shabby state.
The market house in the centre of Dunlavin, County Wicklow The building dates from 1743 when constructed for local landlord Robert Tynte who was keen to improve the economic prospects of the town. Entirely of granite, the market house is cruciform in shape, the base rising up to a cylindrical tower topped with fluted dome; each of the four corners is occupied by Doric colonnades. Originally the arches around the building were open, but these have since been filled in and today it serves as a library. The market house’s design was attributed by the Knight of Glin to Richard Castle, but Maurice Craig begged to differ, declaring ‘it seems to me for all its charm and merit too clumsy to be the work of an academically accomplished designer.’
Late last January it was reported that a structural engineer was unable to gain access to the Market House in Castleblayney, County Monaghan, following the collapse of an internal load-bearing wall. The building was declared a public safety risk, a safety cordon erected to prevent access, and then the roof removed in order to avoid further collapse. Occupying a prominent site in the centre of the town, the core of the market house dates from c.1790 when constructed by the 11th Lord Blayney to encourage the local linen trade. In 1856 the building was extended with the addition of a courthouse, the principal front which faces down West Street topped by a polygonal cupola with copper dome.
The property of Monaghan County Council, until the start of the present century Castleblayney Market House was used by the Court Services and also served as the town Library. However, failure to maintain the property meant that in 2003 the local authority had to condemn the market house as unsafe: it has stood empty and steadily more dilapidated ever since, so the collapse of an internal wall earlier this year should come as no surprise. A key building in Castleblayney, the market house is – naturally – listed by the county council, its owners, for protection. That protection does not seem to be forthcoming.
Set back from Main Street and perhaps the most significant building in Manorhamilton, County Leitrim, this is the former Market House. It dates from 1834 when the design was commissioned by Nathaniel Clements, second Earl of Leitrim from Dublin architect William Farrell. The latter is best known for the many churches he designed across Ulster. The building features crisp sandstone with rusticated groundfloor and a pediment in the tympanum of which are the Clements coat of arms and motto Patriis virtutibus (By Hereditary Virtues).
The old market house in Ballybay, County Monaghan. It was built in 1848 to replace an earlier building serving the same purpose which stood on another site but found to be in poor condition and demolished. Markets were held on the ground floor under the arches, while the space upstairs was used for a variety of purposes: a schoolhouse, a courthouse, a library and an assembly room for dances and concerts. Designed by William Walker, last year the building was offered for sale: now the old market house stands sadly neglected with the threat that it could yet go the same way as its predecessor.