Superb print of The Exchange Limerick from Ferrars History of Limerick,first published in 1787.There are very few copies still in existence and these 5 prints were generously taken from 16 original engravings in the first edition .
35cm x 40cm Limerick
rcaded six-bay single-storey limestone exterior wall forming the remains of the former Exchange, originally built in 1673, rebuilt in 1702 and again in between 1777-78. Forms part of the wall which surrounds Saint Mary’s Cathedral graveyard and faces onto Nicholas Street. Historically in use as an evening national school. Now much obscured by vegetative growth. The blind arcade of seven arches is formed by half-engaged Tuscan columns standing on limestone base, breaking to centre arch and end bay to west. Profiled archivolts unseen. Entablature to parapet obscured. Roughly squared and coursed rubble limestone infill between arches. At either end is an ashlar limestone pier engaged with end columns, giving strength of composition to the broad intercolumniation. Plaque to Cathedral wall reads: This Exchange Was Rebuilt At Expense Of The Corporation Of Limerick The First Year Of The Reign Of Queen Anne Anno Dom 1702 William Davis Esquire Mayor Rawley Colroys Robert Wilkinson Sheriffs’.
What remains of this impressive architectural composition is an important and enriching palimpsest to the site and complex of Saint Mary’s Cathedral. The secular use of which shows the economic importance of the building given its proximity to the cathedral. Henry Denmead was responsible for the reworking in 1777-78. James Pain was paid £432.17s 5d for repairs and alterations in April 1815, while George Richard Pain carried out further repairs in June 1819 to the cost of £182.1s 2½ d. On the 1872 Ordnance Survey the building was in use as a national school, and the floor plan represented was of a single unified space opening onto Nicholas Street and three small secondary rooms to the rear. A passage or corridor to the west appears to have given access to the Church grounds, and the building to the rear looked onto a walled graveyard. A lane, now gone, called Grid Iron Lane, ran along the east side elevation of the structure, returning at right angles to meet Bridge Street.
The History of Limerick by James Ferrar published in 1787 is a history of Limerick city from ancient times until the late 18th century. Limerick was an important medieval stronghold, became an important port and trading centre, was subject to a series of sieges in the 17th century and finally experienced a brief golden age of prosperity during the Georgian period of the late 18th century.
Limerick or Luimneach was an ancient settlement long before the Vikings captured it and established their own town there in the 9th century. They used it as a base for trade and also to launch raids up the River Shannon against monastic sites like Clonmacnoise and other wealthy Christian centres. However in the 11th century the last Viking king of Limerick was defeated by King Brian Boru.
In 1174, the Norman conquerors who had already seized Dublin , Leinster and Munster captured the city of Limerick . It was given its city charter by King Richard I in 1197 and a castle fortress was built by King John about 1200. The medieval city featured a walled town known as Englishtown on the north side of the River Shannon. Irishtown was inhabited by the Irish and Vikings was on the south side of the river. Both were eventually walled and linked by bridges over the Shannon .
Limerick would retain formidable defenses until the 17th century when it experienced four separate sieges during the period of the English Civil War and the Williamite Wars. Catholic rebels forced the English garrison to surrender in 1642 and a Parliamentarian Army in turn forced a Catholic and Royalist garrison to surrender in 1651. It was twice besieged in 1690 and 1691 by the forces of William III of Orange who forced Jacobins fighting on the sides of the Catholic James II to surrender and go into exile.
From the late 17th to the 19th centuries an Anglo-Irish Protestant elite controlled Ireland . In Limerick in the late 1700s Limerick merchants prospered and Edmund Pery, 1st Viscount Pery had much of the south side of the city redesigned with a grid of Georgian brick terraces and neo-classical stone buildings. The Georgian area still survives in the 21st century and Prey Square is named in Edmund Prey’s honour.
Unfortunately the Irish economy declined in the early 19th century as the Irish Parliament was switched from College Green, Dublin to the House of Commons in London and Ireland remained a near feudal agricultural society as Britain rapidly industrialised. Like Dublin , Limerick ‘s best days were behind it as slums flourished and in the 1840s the city population swelled as the poor fled from the land after the failure of the potato crop.