Waterford County Museum, Dungarvan, Co. Waterford, Ireland. Charity Reg: 17397
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Dungarvan's Ironwork Heritage Part 3 - Balconies

A feature of many Irish cities, towns, and villages is the wealth of ironwork to be seen. Lamp posts, boot scrapers, railings, balconies, post boxes, gates, bandstands, street name plaques, bollards, manhole covers and window guards.

William Fraher, curator of Waterford County Museum features balconies in this third part of the series of Dungarvan's ironwork heritage .  


These are rare features on Dungarvan buildings.  The largest is over the main door of Lawlor’s Hotel, there are five under the first-floor windows of the old Post Office (now Willow & Oak) on Grattan Square which date to the late 1860s, and one on the third floor of a house in South Terrace dating from the late 19th century.

Lawlor’s Hotel Balcony 

This balcony was made for the Devonshire Arms Hotel and was originally fixed further down the building, near Grattan Square.  There were a number of Devonshire Arms Hotels in Britain and some in Ireland.  There were three in Co Waterford at Lismore, Tallow and Dungarvan and one in Youghal and Bandon. They are usually found in areas where the Devonshire family have or had property.  The Dungarvan hotel was opened in 1824 and run by Margaret and Richard McGrath. 

The cast iron balcony was added in the late 19th century.  It was made by MacFarlane’s foundry in Scotland and is illustrated in their catalogue.  The central circular panel has a representation of the Cavendish arms with their motto - Cavendus Tutus (Safe through caution).  Beneath the balcony and over the main entrance was a large gas light which is no longer extant.  In recent years the decorative supporting brackets were removed.  Decorative ironwork was also added around the roofline of the hotel which no longer survives but is visible in photographs from the 1950s.


Not only was the balcony ornamental but it sometimes provided a platform from which political speeches were made.  Edmund Keohan in his Illustrated History of Dungarvan 1924 refers to its use by Michael Collins in March 1922. Collins was on a lorry in Grattan Square with other dignitaries when it was driven away by an IRA man.  The occupants of the lorry (including Keohan) survived the ordeal but it was decided that it was safer if Collins delivered his speech from the hotel balcony:

The balcony has a rather historic record.  From it Lord Llandaff, then Henry Matthews, addressed the electors at the end of the seventies, when he contested the borough against Frank Hugh O’Donnell.  And on the same occasion, when Matthews had finished, O’Donnell delivered his first speech in Dungarvan…Michael Collins and his supporters, which included some clergymen, came on the balcony, and they were met by a storm of boos and interruptions, mingled with cheers.  These disturbances came from a number of the I.R.A. stationed at the Court House railings…Michael Collins delivered a very forcible speech… 

Dungarvan's Ironwork Heritage Part 2 - Pillar Post Box

William Fraher, curator of Waterford County Museum continues this week to point out what can be seen in Dungarvan and Abbeyside.  So next time you are out for a stroll look out for these gems hidden in plain sight. Look up, look down, and look around!  

Pillar Post Box

Pillar boxes were first introduced in England around 1853.  The first boxes were introduced to Ireland in 1855 at Belfast, Ballymena and Dublin and most were painted a dark bronze green colour.  In June 1855 the House of Commons established a select committee to enquire into the postal arrangements for the south of Ireland. The chairman was Thomas Meagher, M.P. for Waterford.  The post office surveyor and author Anthony Trollope contributed 100 pages to the report of the committee.

The first record of a post box in Dungarvan is recorded in the minute book of Dungarvan Town Commissioners in February 1861.  Henry Anthony, Chairman wrote to the Postmaster General asking for a second pillar letter receiver to be placed in Abbeyside: ‘That the Municipal Borough of Dungarvan comprises two wards, first that of Dungarvan and secondly the Abbeyside Ward. That in the said Borough there is but one letter receiver…That the Abbeyside Ward contains over 300 houses with a population of over 900 inhabitants…is placed at a considerable distance from the post office in Dungarvan…That there are over twenty shops carrying on extensive business in the  flour, bread & grocery trade, besides several coal merchants, that a large portion of the sea faring population reside therein also several ship owners…there is a Roman Catholic Chapel, also a Police Station the fixed strength of which is ten men – the Parish Priest, the Resident Magistrate & County Sub Inspectors of Constabulary also reside there…That in the opinion of the memorialists one receiver is quite inadequate to supply the wants of a rising town of Dungarvan, and that a second is much required contiguous to Bridge Street’.

There is no further reference to this in the minutes so presumably Abbeyside remained without a pillar box.

The oldest surviving post box in Dungarvan can be seen in Church Street near Merrys.  According to Stephen Ferguson, author of ‘The Irish Post Box’ boxes bearing the monogram of George V (1910-1936) are uncommon.  These boxes were originally painted red, a colour introduced in 1874 as standard.  When the Irish Free State was established it was decided that all post boxes be painted green which was known as ‘Saorstát Green’. In February 1922 the Chief Clerk instructed postmasters around the country that: The Postmaster General of the Irish Free State has decided that in future all Letter Boxes are to be painted emerald green instead of P.O. red. The words ‘An Post’ in Gaelic character should be inserted in yellow over the doors of the Letter Boxes, black paint should be continued to be used for the bases of the Pillar Boxes’. Harrington’s of Cork supplied the green paint for all the Munster letter boxes.  A few months later the government ordered that the letters ‘S.E.’ be added. 

It is important that this rare survivor of our postal heritage be maintained and preserved.

Dungarvan's Ironwork Heritage Part 1 - Boot Scrapers

Many of us are off work due to the Covid-19 virus and are now walking much more.  For those living near or in the town centre this is an opportunity to observe and look at the detail of the streetscape while strolling around.  A feature of many Irish cities, towns, and villages is the wealth of ironwork to be seen.  Lamp posts, boot scrapers, railings, balconies, post boxes, gates, bandstands, street name plaques, bollards, manhole covers and window guards.
Most of what we see today is cast iron made from moulds in the 19th century. 

There is some hand forged ironwork to be seen but this is rare. There were ironworks in many large towns and cities in Ireland: The Perrott and Hive works in Cork, Benjamin Graham and J Moir in Waterford, Mallet, Turner, in Dublin, and Musgrave and Co., Belfast.  Many small local foundries were affected by the growth of larger firms such as Walter Macfarlane and Co. of Glasgow who produced work on a huge scale, exporting all over the world.  Much of the ironwork in Dungarvan was made by this firm.  How do we know this? They printed large hardback fully illustrated catalogues of the products which were distributed to hardware shops.  The customer looked through these and picked out the particular item they required which had a catalogue number.  The order was taken and then shipped from England, delivered probably by train to Dungarvan railway station and from there moved by local carters to the hardware shop.  These catalogues are works of art in themselves with every single component illustrated by engravings.

Walter Macfarlane and Co. of Glasgow catalogue

William Fraher, curator of Waterford County Museum will point out what can be seen in Dungarvan and Abbeyside over the next few weeks.  So next time you are out for a stroll look out for these gems hidden in plain sight. Look up, look down, and look around!  

             Boot Scrapers

This week we are going to look at boot scrapers.  There are references to boot scrapers from the 18th century but these were probably portable ones.  In the 19th century footpaths were more common in urban areas, so people began to walk more.  However, the streets were still dirty with horse dung and other dirt, so it was essential to be able to remove this before you entered your front door.  Boot scrapers were built into the front wall of the house by the entrance door or fixed in place on the front step by the door or sometimes incorporated into the ornamental railings. There were different designs, some plain, others in a classical or gothic style as we can see in front of the Old Bank Restaurant in Bridge Street. Examples of scrapers built into the house wall can be seen in Church Street, for instance on the side of Merry’s Pub.   This boot scraper in Church Street was made by Izons & Co, West Bromwich Works and these are pages from their catalogue c.1840. This boot scraper cost 1/6.

Boot scraper in Church St., Dungarvan

Drawings from Waterford County Museum in newspapers

Dungarvan Park with Bandstand and Memorial to United Irishman Edmund Power.
Photo by R.E. Brenan c. 1910

Tom Kelly mending nets at Helvick Pier c. 1952.

Waterford County Museum is delighted to continue to provide drawings based on images in our collections for children to colour in. The drawings were created by museum staff member and artist Tony Hayes and appear weekly in the Dungarvan Leader and Dungarvan Observer.

Why not photograph your finished drawing and email it to: info@waterfordmuseum.ie.  We will put them up in a gallery on our facebook page.

As the museum is closed we are thinking of ways to engage with our audiences. We hope to produce short films about our next exhibition and focus on objects in our collections and the story behind them. Watch out for further details on this and other initiatives.   

Ballygagin House

We have no information on when the house was first built. It is marked on the 1841 Ordnance Survey map which also shows an ancient ringfort close by. Griffith’s Valuation 1851 records that the house was owned by Thomas Garde who was leasing it to the occupant John Slattery. It was valued at £15.  Garde may have acquired it from the Dukes of Devonshire who had other land in the area, but this is not proven.

The Garde family are associated with Cork , Youghal and West Waterford. In the late 18th century a Thomas Garde was Irish law attorney to the Duke of Devonshire and lived at Garryduff House.

The Slattery family continued to live in Ballygagin and the Waterford Standard of 15 December 1897 reported that Thomas Slattery of Ballygagin was declared a bankrupt. However, the family held on to the house and were there in 1911 according to the census returns.

The census records the occupants as – Thomas Slattery, Poor Law Commissioner aged 67, his wife Johanna aged 65 and their three children: William aged 27, Robert aged 26 and Michael aged 24. They are described as ‘farm servants’. Patrick Dower aged 71 was employed as a servant. 

The house was described as 1st Class and had seven rooms with four windows to the front. The census also records Thomas and Mary Egan as living nearby or possibly on the farm. The Egan name is of interest as the Dungarvan Observer published an advert in its edition of August 1939 offering the ‘splendid country house’ of Ballygagin  and 143 acres for sale. The vendor was Patrick Egan.

In the late 1950s it was acquired by An Foras Taluntais as a Pomology Research Centre and it was known by local people as ‘The Institute’.

Stories from Old Newspapers

Dungarvan Observer 3 May 1930

Entertainment at Lismore

For the purpose of providing pensions for the Jubilee Nurses in Ireland in aid of the Queen’s Institute for District Nursing, a grand variety entertainment was held in the New Hall, Lismore, under the kind patronage of their Graces the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire. The Duchess of Devonshire and Lady Blanche Cobhold and her daughter Pamela, Lady Rachel Stuart, Lord and Lady Bentick, were present from Lismore Castle, and the hall was full on the occasion, and the entertainment proved a most successful one from every standpoint. The programme consisted of a play in four acts entitled: ‘The Princess and the Monster’, presented by the Camogie Choral and Dramatic Society, a fairy phantasy by a troupe of children and a display by the Lismore Gymnastic Club. Various items were introduced into the play and fairy scenes. Irish step dancing and the Irish pipes, banjo duets and songs. At the interval her Grace the Duchess of Devonshire addressing the audience availed of the opportunity of thanking Dr D Healy, M.O., for the use of the hall…She also thanked the following: - Mrs Kate O’Connell (organizer), Mr James Goulding, Mr & Mrs Guest, Mr Roe, Mr Horace Villiers-Stuart, and the many friends who have helped, as well as all those who have provided such an excellent entertainment. 

Photo of the Week

Can you identify anyone in this photo taken in Grattan Square at the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in 1975 with members of the Dungarvan Rowing Club? If so, please let us know. 

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