In 1602, the great Bull Inn was built.
The Inn of Irishtown
This building dates back to the year 1602, and was located on the south side of St. Canice's Place. It embraced Renaissance-influenced architectural styles and features and was a three-storey gable-fronted stone building surmounted by a stone chimney. There were four windows in the north gable, each with a hood-moulding; a doorway was centrally placed at ground level. The building fell into a ruinous state by the end of the seventeenth century, a time in Kilkenny where many historic buildings suffered the same fate. In 1862, it was taken down from a three-storey building, to a two-storey.
In carrying out the improvement of a narrow thoroughfare in the Irishtown, designated Bull-alley, a portion of the ancient hostelry, the Bull Inn, which derived it's name from the alley, was removed, on the plea of it being in such a ruinous state as to be calculated to be dangerous to passers-by. In 'The Journal of the Kilkenny and South-East of Ireland Archaeological Society', John G. A. Prim refers to the removal of the inn as 'being subjected to the crowbar of the grand jury contractor' possibly suggesting that it was destroyed to be built upon.
Many people may not have heard of this building but it is engrained in the history of Kilkenny. Those who have heard of it and know it's location may not realise, but fabric of the building still exists. The east wall partially survives, up to first-floor level, with a cut stone, square, chamfered window at ground level. To the left of the surviving wall is an entrance into the brewery site. This would have once been a gated arch similar to the entrance at the 'Smithwicks Experience'. The fact that there is still an entrance and nothing has been built there since, suggests that it has always been in use as an entrance ever since it was first constructed and must have been a gateway of high importance.
The Bull Inn and the adjoining arch would have added much character to Irishtown, something that it is rather lacking in of late. The Brewery Site Development will require new public entrances once put in place. The position of the arch would be the ideal pedestrian entry point to the Brewery. If we rebuilt the arch here and added the wooden gates, we would add real character to the brewery site from the moment you enter it. It would be a huge tip of the hat to our history and build upon the planning of the Kilkenny people of old.
The surviving wall, will for the first time be properly viewable to the public when the masterplan is put into action. Although being a protected structure, it is currently in a sad state and any reinforcement work completed to date had taken away from the structure as it was done in concrete. Hopefully, the site of the famous Bull Inn will be recognised, repaired and a plaque placed in it's honour.
Update: As part of the St. Francis' Abbey brewery masterplan, the surviving wall will have any vegetation on it removed, be properly conserved and restored, be monitored for movement, and sensitively incorporated into the plans for the site. This is great news for the Bull Inn and exactly what we were hoping for.