The Arthur’s of Limerick in the Eighteenth Century:


From the first member of the Arthur family to be mayor of Limerick until Patrick Arthur finished his term in 1648 as the last member of the Arthur family to hold the mayoral chair in Limerick there passed a period of 478 years. The Arthur’s were the rulers and prince merchants of Limerick. After this the penal laws begun to come into force and the Arthur family paid a terrible price for remaining Catholic as they began to have their lands and properties confiscated.

You may remember that Abbess Margaret Arthur and her family left Limerick for France in 1690 and that she died there in 1743. However the last member of the Arthur family to be buried in St. Mary’s Cathedral was Thomas Arthur who was interred there in the year 1729. A monument was erected above the grave in the Arthur chapel in the Cathedral. 

In a will dated 1765 made by Thomas Arthur his brother is mentioned as living in Mungret Street and the garden of his house was said to run to the city walls. Thomas was a brewer by profession and his uncle was Patrick Arthur.   

There is a record of a marriage agreement between William Arthur of Limerick  (ancestor of the Ennistymon Arthur’s) and Margaret Considine of Ennis, in this agreement there is a mention of a Joseph Arthur, a merchant of Limerick. 

In a will dated 1765 a Joseph Arthur is mentioned, this Joseph had three sons named John, Martin and Thomas. Joseph’s sisters were Anstorce and Mary. Mary Arthur married David Callinane and both he and Joseph Arthur were executors to the will of Thomas Arthur. Thomas, Andrew and John were the sons of the Calinanes.

A daughter of Patrick Arthur was married to the brother of Very Rev. Thady Lynch who was most probably P.P. of St. Michaels. Ellen the daughter of Patrick Arthur was buried in the graveyard of St. Michael’s in a tomb near one of the walls. The inscription on the tomb reads, “ Here lies the body of Ellen Arthur and her niece Elizabeth Lynch, July 9th. 1805”.

Now perhaps it is time to talk about one of our most famous ancestors I speak of course of Patrick Arthur 1717 – 1799 (Also known as Patrick Arthur – Patt Arthur – of Limerick).


Patrick Arthur 1717 – 1799


In 1653 after Cromwell’s victory in Ireland the Arthur’s of Limerick had all their estates and worldly wealth confiscated and they were banished to Co. Clare. They were dispossessed because they refused to convert to the Protestant faith and they were banished to Co. Clare where they were given new lands etc. in lieu of those confiscated. The new properties were given to them because most of them had not as Cromwell saw it backed the rebels. Those who had backed the rebels lost everything and were not compensated.

It seems likely that in spite of Cromwell’s efforts to banish the Arthur Family from Limerick some of them must have remained in the city or returned to the city soon after they were banished.

Thus it was that in the year 1717 Patrick Arthur was born to the best of our knowledge in the city. I have been able to find little information about his early years but is seems probable that his family were well to do. I saw a genealogy for another old Limerick family that seemed to say that his father or grandfather had been an aid de camp to Patrick Sarsfield. Patricks Father\grandfather was very probably a cousin of a Patrick Arthur of Cloonanna who died in 1675 ant it mentions that his cousin Patrick Arthur lived in Limerick in his will and is seems clear that Patrick Arthur of Cloonanna was himself wealthy. It would have been very difficult for him to have gone on and done the things that he did if he had to build up his fortune from scratch. It is certain that he was a very wealthy man indeed when he died in 1799.

After the Williamaite siege of 1691 when conditions returned to normality, it was agreed that the City Wall of Irishtown, which ran along the east side of Michael Street i.e. behind the present town hall and down to the river, should be pulled down. This opened up the slob land that was there and on which there were very few buildings. This land was subject to flooding when the Shannon overflowed. The walls were demolished in the 1760’s.


Patrick Street Limerick


Patrick Street Limerick.


Patrick and his son Francis were very quick to take advantage of this development opportunity and they acquired the slob land. ( There is a question as to whether Francis was Patricks first son. Francis was born in 1758 when Patrick would have been 41 years old. This seems very old at that time to be having a first child more likely however is that Francis was the son of a second marriage with the children of the first marriage as was the way of the time being pushed aside by the second wife to protect the succession of her children. The fact that he did not continue the use of the name Patrick for the first son as was the custom in the family is very unusual.) In the registry of deeds the name Patrick Fitz Patrick which means Patrick the son of Patrick appears this could be a reference to this Patrick being the son of Patrick of Limerick and therefore most likely the Patrick Arthur who was born around 1743 possibly to a first marriage of Patrick of Limerick this Patrick was the ancestor of the Ennistymon Arthur's and died in 1841 at the age of 98. This age would fit in with him being the son of a first marriage of Patrick of Limerick as he would have been around 26 when this Patrick was born much more normal for the time. Patrick and Francis built a quay for the double purpose of carrying out this development scheme and the berthing of their ships as among their many enterprises they were timber merchants, which required the ships. A very good reason why they were happy to develop this slob land was because it was outside the old city walls and because of this they were not subject to tax and it was much less expensive to develop this land than to develop an area that had been inside the old city walls.

They laid out streets and lanes and named them after themselves e.g. Patrick Street, Francis Street and Ellen Street. Francis and Ellen were his children. Prominent were the fine row of residential houses Patrick Arthur had erected along the quay facing the river. These houses quickly became the popular residences of the elite and wealthy of both the English and Irish towns. The position was superb, looking out on the river Shannon, which, when the tide was in looked like a beautiful lake or when the tide was out there was the musical roar of the Curraghgower Fall. The quay itself was enlivened with sailing ships coming and going. Across the river (there were no rows of houses on the Clare side) the view stretched away over woods and hills to the beautiful old mansion of the Arthur’s at Glenomera, backed by the Broadford hills and the great horseshoe forest reaching nearly to the mountain top.

Patrick and Francis built the houses to get the full benefit of the afternoon sun and when viewed from the Clare side on a summer afternoon, presented a fiery red no artist could do full justice to. The houses that Patrick and Francis built were tall, narrow with stately hall doors and of Spartan simplicity. It is believed that this style of house building was only carried out by the Arthur’s. Patrick had lived in a house in Nicolas street which was very similar to the houses that he built. Patrick finished his life in a house he built on the quay at the corner of Francis Street.

Here is a description of what life was like on Arthur’s quay it said, “ Gaiety was the life of the residents. A military band played every afternoon on the quay and the handsomest of women in all Ireland strolled about on the quay with the English officers. A favorite occupation was to drive to The Spa generally in a coach, to Castleconnell, where they met members of the Castleconnell club”. An old record says “ The Castleconnell Club was composed of the first persons of rank, fashion and landed property in the country. They were of the prime class of bon-vivants and played high and drank deep. They wore a uniform of scarlet with gilt buttons, green silk waistcoat and breeches, a green ribbon on the breast with three c’s in gold which stood for Castle Connell Club. They never quarreled among themselves, which in those days of claret and swords would have proved fatal if they had been inclined to quarrel”.

There were some sad sights on the quay as well, cruel exhibitions of dancing bears, performing dogs, monkeys and jugglers. Perhaps the worst sight of all on the quay was during the cholera outbreak of 1832 and 1833 when the dead cart made its daily rounds accompanied by the terrible cry “any dead here, any dead here”.

The Arthur’s had the right to be buried in St. Mary’s Cathedral but no member of the family had been buried there since 1729. Patrick who donated the land on which St. Michaels is built was buried there when he died on the 16th. Of December 1799 when he was 82 years old  The marble memorial over his grave reads thus: “To the memory of Patrick Arthur Esq. Who died on the 16th. Of Dec. 1799 in the 82nd. Year of his age. . In him the poor have lost a liberal benefactor and society an example of every Christian value, and his affectionate family a kind and tender parent. R.I.P.”

Ellen Arthur was buried there in 1805



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