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Building of the Month - November 2008

Ballyduff Garda Síochána Station, BALLYDUFF LOWER Td., Ballyduff, County Waterford

FREDERICK O'DWYER describes the construction of fortified police barracks by the Board of Works in the aftermath of the Fenian Rising, exemplified by the example at Ballyduff, County Waterford, which remains in use as a Garda Síochána Station.

Ballyduff Garda Siochana Station 01 - Representative View Ballyduff Garda Siochana Station 02 - Setting or Streetscape

Figures 1-2: Designed by Enoch Trevor Owen (c.1833-81) with assistance from James Higgins Owen (1822-91) the constabulary barrack in Ballyduff is a fine example of the Scottish Baronial style

In 1831 legislation was enacted at Westminster to consolidate Irish public works departments under a new body, the Commissioners of Public Works in Ireland, commonly known, like its Georgian predecessor, as the Board of Works.  However it was not until after the retirement of its first architect, the Welshman Jacob Owen (1778-1870), in 1856 that its remit was extended to building police stations nationwide.  Progress was slow and, as late as 1878, the overwhelming majority of the 1,465 barracks in the country were still in rented premises, only forty-five being under the Board's charge.  Owen, whose fourteen surviving children included several architects, had arranged for one of them, James Higgins Owen (1822-91), to succeed him.  Later, in 1863, an assistant architect, the apparently unrelated Enoch Trevor Owen (c.1833-81), was appointed.

Ballyduff Garda Siochana Station 03 - 1915 

Figure 3: An archival photograph showing Ballyduff Constabulary Barrack in 1915.  Courtesy of the Office of Public Works

E.T. Owen was born in Shropshire and brought up in Liverpool where his father was a shopkeeper.  He was in private practice in England before joining the Board as a drawing clerk in 1860.  From 1863 he was effectively the Board's chief designer, while James acted administratively.  After the Fenian Rising in 1867, the Board took immediate steps to design new police stations capable of defence.  However, these were not were publicly announced until January 1870 when perspectives of a 'sketch design for a second class Royal Irish Constabulary Barrack', devised by the two Owens and bearing the date February 1868, were published in The Irish Builder.  Between 1869 and 1872 a dozen barracks of varying sizes and degrees of fortification were built.  No two were alike.  Among the earliest were Ballyduff (1869-70) and Errismore (1870-1), in County Galway, each designed to house a head constable and five men.  Both had diagonally opposed twin towers, designed to provide raking fire along all four walls and to protect the front and back entrances.  Larger and more elaborate baronial barracks were built in Cahersiveen (1871-2; burnt 1922; rebuilt 1991-6), County Kerry; Rochfortbridge (1872; destroyed), County Westmeath; and Skibbereen (1871; destroyed), County Cork.  In addition five fortified coastguard stations were erected in 1869/70 before the whole programme was abruptly terminated by the Treasury in 1872, following a confidential report, compiled by a committee chaired by the Marquess of Lansdowne.  It considered that 'the expense might be greatly reduced if there were less attempt at architectural display...the prevalent policy of making those buildings defensible, as to which we offer no opinion, certainly adds to their cost, but it is a matter for consideration whether this might not be done more cheaply than with machicolated towers.  It is hard to understand too, why, if a common dwelling house with iron shutters be considered sufficient in the county of Westmeath, fortified castles should be required in such towns as Killarney and Dungannon.'

Ballyduff Garda Siochana Station 04 - 1923  

Figure 4: An archival photograph showing the burnt-out shell of the constabulary barrack following its destruction by arson during "The Troubles" (1919-23).  Reconstructed in 1926 it serves as a Garda Síochána Station to this day.  Courtesy of the Office of Public Works

Frederick O'Dwyer, Senior Architect, Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government

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