Architectural urban myths: mixing up the plans in Dungannon and Enniscorthy

Reading the Wikipedia page on Dungannon, Co Tyrone I came across this:

An interesting feature of the town is the former police barracks at the top right-hand corner of the market square which is quite unlike any other barracks of a similar vintage in Ireland. A popular but apocryphal story relates that the unusual design of this building is due to a mix-up with the plans in Dublin which meant Dungannon got a station designed for the Nepal and they got a standard Irish barracks, complete with a traditional Irish fireplace.

There’s a picture here at Geograph (the project to photograph every OS grid square):


The plans-mix-up story rang a bell, for I have heard the same said of St Senan’s Psychiatric Hospital. Supposedly somewhere in the Raj an asylum designed for County Wexford was erected. The National Inventory of Architectural Heritage is having none of it:

A lunatic asylum erected to a design by James Bell (1829-83) and James Barry Farrell (1810-93) representing an important component of the nineteenth-century built heritage of County Wexford with the architectural value of the composition, one unusually deviating from the Tudor Gothic standard seen across the country, confirmed by such attributes as the near-symmetrical footprint centred on an elegant arcade; the construction in a vibrant red brick offset by silver-grey Kiltealy granite or yellow brick dressings producing a lively polychromatic palette; the slight diminishing in scale of the openings on each floor producing a feint graduated visual impression; and the Osborne House (1845-51)-like Italianate towers embellishing the roofline as prominent eye-catchers in the landscape: meanwhile, aspects of the composition clearly illustrate the continued development or “improvement” of the lunatic asylum to designs by Charles Astley Owen (c.1855-1922) of Marlborough Street, Dublin (Irish Builder 15th September 1895, 218; 15th August 1900, 451). Having been reasonably well maintained, the elementary form and massing survive intact together with substantial quantities of the original fabric, both to the exterior and to the interior, thus upholding the character or integrity of the composition. Furthermore, adjacent outbuildings (extant 1903); a chimney (see 15604055); and a nearby burial ground (extant 1903), all continue to contribute positively to the group and setting values of a self-contained ensemble making a dramatic visual statement overlooking the River Slaney. NOTE: The firm attribution to Bell and Barry puts to rest the local legend that the designs for the lunatic asylum were mixed up with those for an army barracks in Pretoria or a palace in India during, variously, the Crimean War (1853-6) or the Franco-Prussian War (1870-1).

Hmmm, I wonder where else this urban legend has spread? Perhaps any unusual building from a certain era was assumed to be incongruous to the locality .. and I note were buildings linked with social control in different ways, so perhaps this allowed a certain mockery of intimidating local institutions (and linking them with Imperial power)

I wonder if it ever worked the other way and local traditions in India of in South Africa claim a building was “actually” intended for far off Ireland.

On a less exotic scale there is an (uncited) story of a Newry-Dundalk mix up:

Incidentally, Thomas Duff also was the architect for the Cathedral in Dundalk, a town just over the border in County Louth, and it is said that he mixed up the plans for both cathedrals and sent Dundalk Cathedral to the builders in Newry, and Newry Cathedral to the builders in Dundalk.

Perhaps Newry and Dundalk are more foreign to each other than Enniscorthy and the Raj after all…Something not dissimiliar is reported in “local tradition” in Lincolnshire



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