Wednesday, 4 December 2013


Clare Roots Society

Book Launch

                                     The Mayor of Ennis, Mary Coote Ryan, will launch a new Book

"A Broad History of a Narrow Street" by Brian Spring.

The history of Abbey street and it's people going back to the 13th Century. 

The book will be launched at the Queens Hotel at 8pm next Thur. 12th Dec. 
All are welcome.


A Broad History Of A Narrow Street:
There is something special about walking through Abbey Street Ennis where the gentle curve of the path leads you towards the Height. Fellow pedestrians nod in greeting while slow moving traffic passes you by. Along the way your eye is drawn to attractive shop windows, historic laneways, and brightly coloured buildings. The silhouette of O' Connell statue of Abbeyfield House all reveals stories from the past. This narrow street has a broad history which is unravelled within the pages of Brian Spring's new book on Abbey Street.
Next Thursday 12th December at 8.00 p.m. in the Queens Hotel, Mayor of Ennis, Mary Coote-Ryan will launch the book. This the latest book on The Clare Roots Society publication list, brings together the history of the buildings and the people going back to the 13th Century. It contains some of the usual historical features you would expect-a chronology of the street's growth and accounts of some of its most famous events, a collection of 19th century photographs and invoices and a shop by shop account of the buildings and the people associated with these. Brian has reconstructed the life story of every single builing on Church Street / Abbey Street from newspapers, commercial directories, and valuation revisions, and then tops the entry for each building with a vintage photograph where available or modern photograph as an alternative.

For anyone who knows the present street, an entirely new dimension is made visible.

There have been many great times and many troubled times in the vicinity of Abbey Street over the centuries. In 1306 the town of Ennis was destroyed by the forces of Dermot O'Brien and almost three centuries later it suffered the same fate at the hands of Hugh O'Donnell. The Abbey or Franciscan friary that gives the street its name was spared at this time," in honour of The Lord". Cromwell's forces were not so generous, as they tore the roof of the building and destroyed much of the interior in October 1651. Many of the early settlers of the town had connections to Limerick City and this connection remained strong over the centuries. The Fergus-Shannon river system was the lifeline between the two trading centres. Improved road networks and the introduction of the railway ensured that this connection would endure.

Among the seventeenth century residents and property owners of Abbey Street were Maurice Cuffe, John Cruise, James McNamara and John Cooper (husband of Máire Rua). One of the earliest recorded houses on the street is mentioned on Henry Ellsworth's map of 1638. It is possibly the house of the Fanning family of Limerick. Simon Fanning of Limerick sold wine and aquavit in Ennis under a license from the Earl of Thomond.

Eighteenth century Abbey Street had plenty of hustle and bustle about it. The streets were filled with pedlars, hawkers and animals on market days. Sanitation was a problem and street was almost certainly filled with odours from the tan-yards and piled with dung and waste material on a regular basis. During the Penal Laws members of the Franciscan community took shelter at the home of Miss Clancy on the street. One Abbey Street resident was Pierce Butler who was responsible for keeping the town clock in good repair. His shop was broken into in 1799 and a number of silver watches were stolen. The Bindon Family had many associations with Abbey Street and David Bindon leased part of Cruise's in 1707. The Shambles or meat market was erected by Henry Bindon at the back of his tenement, Nicholas Bindon ran a Brewery along with Richard Brew and Francis Bindon is reputed to have designed the Courthouse at the "height" of the street. The Finnucane family had property in the town of Ennis and Dr. Andrew Finucane had a premises at the junction of Abbey Street and the Causeway. The Georgian era brought a period of relative prosperity and this was reflected in the shops and businesses of the merchants. Education became more important and a number of school were in operation including a classical school run by Nicholas Dermody, father of the famous poet Thomas Dermody. During the period of unrest by the United Irishmen, the Longford Militia were stationed in Ennis and the officer's mess was located in Abbey Street.

The highlight of the Georgian era has to be the Clare Election and the victory of Daniel O'Connell. The election took place in 1828 in O'Connell Square and O'Connell, along with many other political figures, is reputed to have stayed in Carmody's Hotel in Abbey Street, on many occasions.  The end of the Georgian era and start of the Victorian era is characterised by poverty, sickness and famine. Many of the merchant families on the street were affected by cholera and among those who died in the 1830s were John Kelly, grocer and wine and spirit dealer, Miss Molony, daughter of Andrew Molony, grocer and wine and spirit dealer, Charles Trousdell, china and glass dealer and James McNamara. The famine too had a devastating effect on the street. Trade was very poor and few animals were sold at the local fairs. The old brewery in Abbey Street carpark was possibly used as an overflow for the workhouse. Trade improved again in the 1850s and many businesses advertised regularly in the local press. Among these was that of John McGrath. His shop front at 15 Church Street, now 17 Abbey Street, was sketched in the 1850s and also shows the entrance to the Friary Bow. Abbey Street was a hive of activity in March 1867 during the Fenian Rising. The notorious Fenian Colonel Godfrey was at Tom Halloran's in the street. The Land War was a tense time in the history of the street and trade was difficult.

Trade improved at the turn of the century and the shops and businesses are recorded in the 1901 census and 1911 census. The numbering on the street varies a lot and businesses advertisements show the street name Church Street and Abbey Street being used interchangeably. Sixty feet of the street surface was torn up in a gas explosion in 1911. During The Great War the recruiting office for the British Army was located on the site of Enzo's Fast Food. The Army was stationed in Abbeyville House. The War of Independence brought the destruction of T.V. Honan's premises. The British Army placed six bombs in the building and blew it up. The front and side were destroyed but the cellar remained intact as it had not been packed with explosives. Eight people lost their lives in the Carmody's Hotel Disaster in January 1958. The floor of the room the auction was in collapsed and resulted in the loss of the eight lives.


  1. WOW!!! Abbey Street absolutely fascinated me when I visited back in 1994 and 1995. Will I be able to purchase a copy Chris?

  2. I would think that there would be a way... I will let you know when I find out.

  3. Have you see the other books available online through Clare Roots Society?

  4. Thanks Chris... much appreciated.

    1. They will be available through the secretary of Clare Roots Society when released.

  5. Hi all, we now have the price... it will be €15 local and €20 international including p & p.

    You may order through Clare Roots Secretary, Clara Hoyne

    Thank you for your interest.

  6. Clara Hoyne secretary at clareroots dot org


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