Limerick City Council — Destroying Your Heritage One Cellar At A Time

Destroying history in your name

Another big round of applause to Limerick City Council for smashing in the hidden treasures beneath our feet.  This is what happens when a local authority has no conservation officer, no archaeologist, no heritage officer and no architect.  It puts hundreds of years of history at the mercy of an ignorant lout with a digger.

Under our town, there’s another hidden city of subterranean caverns, 200 years old, which the city council is busy demolishing.  In a grown-up country, some official would see that this is a resource and would plan a way to use it for the common good, but not here in Ireland.

In this country, we give such decisions to roads technicians — people who wouldn’t know heritage from a hole in the ground.

And here are the same caverns filled with concrete.


64 thoughts on “Limerick City Council — Destroying Your Heritage One Cellar At A Time

  1. They may not have their own but when I needed to work on my house in the old English town they insist I had an archaeologist insure and dig my foundations by hand. What a system..

  2. Yes, but that’s not because of their rules. That’s due to a national requirement that everyone has to follow. I’ll check out the law and get back to you with details.

  3. Probably for a fraction of the cost of destruction they could have been turned into a variety of major attractions. Night clubs, restaurants, wine cellars? Who knows. Typical of small minded little people with power.

  4. Goes back to the 70`s really, Mike Murphy on the radio giving comments about road works around the country. Said there was a huge pothole on the Ennis Road and Limerick Corporation officials were looking into it!

  5. Have been speaking to an engineer in the City Council today , he is going to pull out the report on the conservation aspect and come back to me tomorrow. He said putting pressure on local councillors and getting local groups involved would be a start. He indicated that he would be supportive of looking at options. One he suggested would be to rebuild it in a museum as he has experience of doing this before.

  6. The arch construction isn’t particularly unusual. What is interesting is the fact that we have an entire underground city here, and our public officials are demolishing it. Rebuilding a sample in a museum would simply provide carte blanche to complete the destruction.

  7. yes, that is what I thought as well, but I think he was just putting some ideas out there. he wasnt directly involved on the decisions in this project- will keep contacting a few people and see what comes of it.. waiting to hear back from the Georgian Society – will keep you posted.

  8. One of the largest, if not the largest cavern in Ireland runs under William Street, just behind the ones in your photos Bock. It was originally the magazine attached to William Street barracks. I can’t believe that they are just filling them in. The ones in your photos were originally the coal cellars and surely must belong to the proprietors?

  9. There is usually a door at the end of those caverns that used to allow direct access to the sewer system. You can just make out where one has been filled in at the back of the left hand cavern. What will they do about the middle of the street? Can’t see them digging and filling the sewer in…… hang on…..

  10. This carry on has to be addressed or stopped before the other areas on William Street are excavated in the coming months…………and definitely before the partial pedestrianisation of OConnell street

  11. I have been to Prague a couple of times and on my first outing we came across a lovely little restaurant just off the main square. We thought all the tables were taken until the waiter brought us through and down some steps. I have to say, what a setup. Just like Darwin’s post above on Aubar’s Bar. And to think we have many of these in Limerick just being filled up with concrete.

    We have to be one of the most retarded countries that has ever existed.

  12. The owners of the shops are not being offered money for the cellars they are merely being threatened that if they do not hand them over and the road collapses after the council have tampered with it, they will be liable.

  13. Someone needs to mount an expedition into the underground, photograph and film it, and post the whole thing online in one big website. Anything less and the city council will drive up one day and fill the whole system in with (CRH) concrete simply out of spite. City officials can be very mean spirited.

    I’m just wondering whether or not the cellars are interconnected, or whether they are simply extensions to the adjacent buildings. Is there an underground road down there? Catacombs? Or are these all discrete structures. It’s never been made clear to me. If there really is a network down there, someone really needs to document it.

  14. Hi, and thanks for your documentation. Is there any group actively working to save/restore/use some of the cellars that are left? I’d like to attend a couple of meetings to find out how I might be able to contribute. While I don’t believe by any stretch that all of these underground structures are vital, I do agree that preserving a section of them, above and away from the river, to be actively used, is important for historical, archival and tourism interests. If there is anyone doing work with business and property owners, I’d like to offer my time.

  15. I don’t know of any organised group. I know somebody who contacted the Civic Trust and was fobbed off with nonsense. Someone else told me they wrote to the Georgian Society and got no reply. It’s a waste of time approaching councillors who are, for the most part, idiots and who, in any case, have no power to influence anything.

  16. The idiots and imbeciles are still with us.
    As for the Civic trust, they receive taxpayers cash from Government and accordingly will do nothing whatsoever to interrupt that flow of cash.
    Same old same hold.

  17. I spoke to a friend who works in the council, who told me that about 50 more cellars on William Street will be filled in with concrete. She said it would be possible to safely maintain the cellars if people were calling for this to be done …….but they’re not actually. Im looking for a contact for Thomond Historical society. They might be able to advise.

  18. It’s possible to maintain the cellars whether people call for it or not. There is no physical reason to destroy them.

  19. Kitty, if you can let us know who to contact I’ll also get on to them and rally a few others – have already spoke to several people about it but was meeting dead ends – thanks

  20. I have repaired several similar basements in Dublin. The owners/councils are concerned that the structures will fail under the public road causing injuries. Although these basements can be made structurally sound, it is far more expensive then simply filling in with concrete.

  21. Robin — Thanks for your contribution. Do you have information regarding the stability of the vaults in Limerick?

  22. This situation needs to be highlighted nationally. Frank Mc Donald, the environment correpsondent in the Irish Times is a good start. He would I’m sure, be interested in this story and would contact whoever the decision-maker here is to ask for explanations.

  23. That seems to be a big part of the problem. All we have so far heard are opinions rather than observations and measurements. Safety is always a great silencer of critics and I think in this case safety is being invoked in the interests of expediency.

  24. Much of our Georgian heritage was destroyed in the late 60’s due to the dangerous buildings act which was more powerful than any heritage legislation (with the developers taking advantage of it). Started with some people being killed by falling masonry from tenements in Dublin…. then the programme to rehouse in outlying new estates. Any bit of rattling door handle became an excuse to knock down ould buildings.. still continuing today. Europeans are used to crooked staircases etc and make a feature of them – like with wood quay, we use the concrete solution – one size fits all

    We ratified the Granada convention on heritage in 1991 – and we do have legislation but it is not always (hardly ever) acted on.

    Granada Convention for the Protection of the Architectural Heritage of Europe 1985

    Planning and Development Act 2000

    Derelict Sites Act 1990

    Architectural heritage (National inventory) and historic monuments (miscellaneous provisions) act

    National Inventory of Architectural Heritage

    UNESCO Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage, 1972. (Ratified by Ireland in 1991)

  25. “We have to be one of the most retarded countries that has ever existed”

    Well said Mike Turner. What a waste of a country run by un-cultured self-serving gangsters!!!

  26. I agree that its a shame that these cellars are being ruined and something should be done to stop it but what i am sick of is people who write thinking their better than people usually gardai and builders. Who are you to insult someones intelligence cause they picked a trade rather than sitting at a laptop bitching about the world.

  27. That should read “thinking they’re better”, not “their”. Also, you should have said “insult someone’s intelligence”, not “someones”. You left out the question mark as well.

  28. “what i am sick of is people who write thinking their better than people usually gardai and builders”

    In reply, I don’t think anyone is thinking they are better. We all have different experiences in life and some people are very good at doing their jobs, but others only see the job they do and don’t see a bigger picture. Other people who (possibly) communicate on the internet, or who may have travelled a little and experienced other cultures, have other perspectives. They can see the intrinsic value of protecting heritage and for proper planning.

    Limerick is/ was a beautiful Georgian City .. it is falling into disrepair. Dublin is just about hanging in there. There is huge interest in our Culture and built heritage is part of it. Increased tourism = jobs- not just for Gardai and builders (though they could retrain in restoration)

    Quote from Failte Ireland 2010: ““The World Tourist Organisation claims that Cultural Tourism represents between 35 – 40% of all tourism worldwide, and that it is growing at 15 % per annum – three times the rate of growth of general tourism.” – also worth 2 billion to Irish economy.

    great blog Bock

  29. These are just holes in the ground people. limerick has bigger problems to spend its money on.

  30. Who said anything about ‘gardai and builders’? They’re not the decision makers, It’s the people in power who are at fault, who care nothing for our cultural heritage, you know, the same people who brought us such ‘genius’ ideas as the M3 motorway and the proposed dual-carriageway to run 500mtrs from Newgrange. Those people who care more for financial gain than for our inherited culture. If it wasn’t for Bock ‘sitting at a laptop bitching at the world’ I certainly wouldn’t have been aware of the fact that another part of our heritage is being destroyed so thank you Bock. It would seem that this is not a case of ‘people who write thinking their [sic] better’ but rather a case of a ‘chip on the old shoulder’.

  31. “These are just holes in the ground people. limerick has bigger problems to spend its money on.”

    well the concrete is costing a good bit – doesn’t Limerick not have bigger problems to spend “its” money on ? and where does its money come from ? The Taxpayer ? Europe ? EU / IMF bailout? The Germans ? the 8 million tourists annually who come to Ireland to experience our heritage ? why do you think the go to Bunratty and bypass Limerick ?

    It’s not about them being “holes in the ground”, this represents a disregard for heritage that ultimately shoots you in the foot because valuing heritage pays back in the long run in jobs, attracting tourism, business, better places to live which means less crime etc etc.. you wouldn’t be looking for handouts from someone else. Why do you think so many people travel to Paris? Rome? Are the catacombs just “holes in the ground” – o yeah just pour concrete in them.

    I am sure that the “builders” who constructed these “holes in the ground” 250 years ago would be insulted by their handiwork being disregarded like this.

  32. ” catacombs” ? lets not get too carried away folks, The are old coal bunkers not Ancient burial places

  33. And as for that ridiculous old pile of stones we call a a castle, what use is it any more? Let’s knock a hole in it and build houses.

    Oh wait. We did!

  34. theres a cave just outside kilkenny city…not like the alwe caves but pretty good, they do school tours etc-we were told there used to be a massive Stalactite down there-until a farmer used dynamite to blow it off the ceiling..he then hauled it topside and used it as a gate post, this happened a long time ago-but seeing the pictures above with the vaults filled in with cement reminded me of it…pretty sad…did this get any national media coverage yet?

  35. Someone asked about the cost of the concrete. This is a very crude estimate, but, on the basis of €70 per cube, I reckon it cost about €3500 per cellar to pour the concrete, in addition to the hire of the machinery and the daily labour. Therefore, demolition costs and backfilling cost in the region of €5,000 per cellar, at a guess. When gross costs, insurances, overheads and contractor’s profit are taken into account, I think the figure was significantly greater.

  36. David,
    Limerick, like every other city and county has bigger problems – no-one doubts that. Can I ask what it is that YOU are doing about that?

    By stating that you think the gardai and a bunch of builders should know best (though no-one here is blaming them) you seem to have a vague idea that there are people there who do know better.

    This couldn’t be further from the truth – Limerick City Council got rid of the person responsible for considering the implications on the city and county’s heritage. Now a small number of individuals (petty chiefs) with safe jobs and pensions (not elected representatives or national government) decide for themselves to do whatever they wish.

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t this exactly the cause of many of the problems this country is currently facing – and also those (vaguely referred to) problems which beset Limerick?

    There IS national guidance and policy and legislation in place to protect Ireland’s heritage, it is not being followed by individuals in local government who think they know better.

    It is perhaps time that local government positions are performance related in some way – so that such petty chiefs are not bound to their chairs with an air of self-importance.

  37. Does Limerick City have no conservation officer, no archaeologist, no heritage officer and no architect, really?

    If so that is a disgrace!

  38. It sounds like the city needs to re-instate the role of city architect and/or heritage officer. It’s astounding that in a city with such a rich architectural heritage there is no such role.

    It would be up to the new Minister for the Environment to make the call on this. Surely, with nine Fine Gael councillors (a majority) on the city council a lot of pressure could be brought to bear on the Minister?

  39. Really? Tell us more.

    I have some experience with taking on the vested interests in the council, and what struck me afterwards was just how easy they wilt in the face of a concerted effort. Whatever about the immediate issue of the Georgian cellars (a battle that may be already lost), it should be possible to get the council to fill that role.

  40. As far as I know, the roles of heritage officer, conservation officer and archaeologist are defined in statute. There was traditionally a city architect, but that role was by custom and practice.

  41. Classic Independent piece. No information. No analysis. Two quotes from city council people and no hard questions.

  42. Rubbish piece. The only good thing is it might get more people asking questions, although the boys in the council seem to have settled on an answer designed to repel such peskiness.

  43. Kudos to Bock and supporters for raising and continuing this important issue. These may be just coal cellars and sewers but are an integral part of our Geogian city’s construction and history, Im sure there are stories from the civil war era relating to these cellars waiting to be uncovered, I’ve been in the cellars underneath Ellen Street and found it amazing to think what may have gone on in them over the years.
    I was looking the other day at the removal of the chute covers and noticed some were cracked by the “builders” (commas because today’s building proffession is nothing related to the men who built our city’s foundations) Further up the street and this historical piece of street furniture is nowhere to be seen on the new and improved pavement. It beggar’s belief how a study group can decide to pour mass concrete into these cellars for health and safety reasons. I work for the City Council, in a differnt capacity, and am ashamed of my employers destruction of my city.
    More like brown evelope reasons

  44. “Nice bit of analysis there Paulie. Well researched.”

    I was referring to Barry Duggan’s piece in the Independent.

    I have done as much within my power as other concerned citizens regarding the destruction of those vaults.


  46. I am an architecture student in University of Limerick and I must say that i am fascinated but these cellars and bunkers. Does anyone know if any maps, drawings or sections that exist? or how one would gain access to these areas?

  47. Hows it going….what’s the latest on this issue….? are the scoundrels responsible still in their jobs….?

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