CHARLEVILLE is a busy market town in North Cork, located close to the border with Limerick. It is situated in a rich agricultural area known as the Golden Vale which spans parts of Counties Cork, Limerick and Tipperary. It is in the townland of Rath Luirc or An Rath, indicating that there was a settlement here in Early Medieval times, over a thousand years ago. The lands were purchased by Richard Boyle, one of the most successful Elizabethan adventure colonists in Ireland. Roger, his son and First Earl of Orrery and Lord – President of Munster, founded the town of Charleville in 1661 and named it in honour of King Charles II. The town was the centrepiece of a vast estate owned by the Earl. The town, as it is today, was laid out in a formal plan with two parallel wide streets. It was granted a charter in the 17th century with a Sovereign and two balliffs elected annually by the twelve burgesses. Boyle’s principle residence was Charleville House, a magnificent manor set within a vast deerpark. The house was located to the north of the town – it was burnt by Irish forces in 1690 and nothing of the house now remains.
Charleville, like most Irish towns, underwent a period of rebuilding in the late 18th/early 19th century and most of its elegant streetscape dates to this period. One feature of the streetscape, now almost entirely disappeared, were the many side lanes that gave access to the areas behind the main streets. Charleville was an important market town with a weekly market on Saturdays and six fairs during the year selling cattle, pigs, hardware and other merchandise. In the 19th century it had a number of industries including three tan yards, a blanket manufactory, and two large flour mills. The close relationship of the town with its rich agricultural hinterland continues to this day and is reflected in the success of the Golden Vale cheese plant (part of Kerry Group) the biggest employer in town.
- OLD PARISH CHURCH AND GRAVEYARD:
The fragmentary remains of the medieval parish church that was reputedly built in 1350 by Richard de Cogan and was in ruins by 1615. The associated graveyard, renamed Holy Cross Cemetery, has many interesting headstones and features including a monument to the Irish-language poet Sean Ciarach Mac Domhnaill (1691-1754) who was a native of the Churchtown area.
- SITE OF THE BRIDEWELL JAIL:
Now occupied by the Amber service station, marked the southern limit of the Borough of Charleville.
- FENIAN HALL:
Moloney Jewellers was used as a meeting house for nationalists and was known as the Fenian Hall. Outside the building stands The Republican Monument erected to the memory of those who gave their lives in the cause of Irish freedom. It was built on the spot where Padraic Pearse addressed a meeting in 1913 and was unveiled in 1923 by David Kent.
- JAMES’ CHURCH OF IRELAND:
Built in 1846 on the site of an earlier Protestant church built by Roger Boyle in 1663. It is built of limestone ashlar and is a fine example of the Neo-Gothic style so popular at the time. It was converted to a Library by Cork County Council in the 1990s.
- BRUCE FAMILY BURIAL VAULT:
A monument to the Bruce family who, in partnership with the Evans family, operated one of the first private banks in Charleville in the early 19th century.
- AIB BANK:
Built during the 19th century as a townhouse and according to local lore it was one of the first slated housed in town. The building features a fine classical portico.
- THE FORMER CHRISTIAN BROTHERS’ SCHOOL:
Opened in 1866, past-pupils included Eamon de Valera (President of Ireland 1957-73). Daniel Mannix and Bishop Henry Murphy of Limerick.
- REMAINS OF MEADOWVALE CREAMERY:
Creameries like this developed across Ireland in the late 19th century to accommodate the new technology of large scale separation of milk for making butter in commercial quantities.
- MALACHY O’ SULLIVAN BUTCHER SHOP:
Daniel O’Connell addressed a Monster Meeting here, organised by the Charleville Repeal Association in 1843.
- MARKET HOUSE:
A distinctive building built in 1769 to accommodate and control the buying and selling of local produce. The arcaded ground floor was originally open and used for the sale of farm and meat products from the adjacent Shambles Lane. The upper floor was used as a courthouse for many years until the 1980s.
- BRUDAIR’S COFFEE SHOP:
Has a notable traditional shop-front. It is the birthplace of Daniel A. Binchy, first Irish Minister to Germany from 1929 to 1923.
- GRAIN STORE:
This substantial three story building is one of a number of 19th century grain stores in the town, many of which were used by Morrisey Millers.
- FEVER HOSPTAL:
An imposing two-story building built in the 1840s for Kilmallock Poor Law Union. It is now incorporated into St. Mary’s Secondary School and is known as the Mannix block.
- FORMER NATIONAL BANK (now the Credit Union):
Officially opened by Daniel O’Connell in 1835. The Banking system developed in Ireland in the 19th century and bank buildings were usually architect designed to reflect an atmosphere of stability, prosperity and honesty.
- FORMER CATHOLIC CHURCH:
Built in 1812 and now serves as the Community hall. It was built following the collapse of an older thatched chapel on or near the present site. The adjacent priest’s house was where An t-Athair Peadair O Laoghaire taught his extra-curricular and much sought after, classical studies.
- CLANCHY TERRACE:
A terrace of fine early-19th century townhouses. The middle house was occupied by the Mercy Nuns when they first came to Charleville in 1836 at the invitation of Ms Mary Clanchy. The corner house is the birthplace Eliza Lynch (1835-1886) whose family fled to Paris to avoid the famine. A woman of renowned beauty she had an intriguing life as a Paris courtesan and mistress to the president of Paraguay where she was revered and is still regarded as a national heroine.
- THE OLD PAVILLION CINEMA:
Built by local business men in 1925. It was popular venue. Rebuilt again following a fire in 1942 and finally closed its doors in the 1970s.
- THE FORMER POST OFFICE:
Known locally as Corny Graham’s Post Office. It has an elegant fanlight door with a key stone bearing the date 1823.
- NATIONAL SCHOOL:
Built in 1833, it opened in 1837 with boys on the first floor and girls on the ground floor. In the 1940’s the girls moved to St Anne’s School and the present building continued as the boy’s school until 1972. The building is now the home of the Schoolyard Theatre.
- CONVENT OF MERCY:
Built in 1839 for the Mercy Nuns who were part of a wide-scale religious movement at the time to provide education for all levels. The former convent chapel now houses the Mercy Order Provincial Heritage Museum which presents interesting information on the history and heritage of the Order. Access on request.
- HOLY CROSS CATHOLIC CHURCH:
An outstanding example of a late-19th century Neo-Gothic church. The style and scale of the building reflect the growing confidence of the Catholic Church in the late – 19th century Ireland. The foundation stone was laid by the Bishop of Cloyne Robert Browne, a native of Charleville, in 1898. The Gothic features such as pointed windows, buttresses and finials give an air of an ancient building.
- MOATVILLE HOUSE:
An interesting and unusual historic house built on the grounds of Charleville House. It was the birthplace of Bishop William Reeves and of Dr Marie Ryan, the owner of the painting “The Taking of Christ” by Carravagio (currently in the National Gallery, Dublin)
- SITE OF CHARLEVILLE HOUSE:
Built by Roger Boyle in 1668 as his main residence, it was regarded as one of the finest houses in Ireland at the time. It occupied one side of a large walled court and could be defended wit 16 guns. The house was burnt in the 1690’s by the Irish under the command of the Duke of Berwick after he dined in it! The house was subsequently demolished. All that remains of the ‘notable gardens and fine park’ today are symmetrical fields, masonry walls and earthworks including four fish ponds.
- WEAVERS’ COTTAGE:
An interesting pair of single storey vernacular houses that were formally thatched. According to local information they were built by Roger Boyle for weavers whom he brought to work in the flax mill he established here.
- CHARLEVILLE PARK HOUSE:
Originally known as Sanders Park after the family who built it in the late-18th century. The house is currently in ruins. An unusual octagonal gate lodge is located near the original entrance to the house and demesne.
- DEERPARK HOUSE:
The birthplace of Daniel Mannix (1864-1963). Archbishop of Melbourne 1917-53 and one of the most influential public figures in Australia at the time.