Survey Data

Reg No

15000011


Rating

Regional


Categories of Special Interest

Architectural, Artistic, Cultural, Social


Previous Name

Father Mathew Hall


Original Use

Hall


Historical Use

Town/county hall


In Use As

Library/archive


Date

1895 - 1900


Coordinates

203849, 241497


Date Recorded

06/09/2004


Date Updated

--/--/--


Description

Detached five-bay single-storey over basement former temperance hall, built in 1897, having a projecting single-bay gable-fronted entrance porch (later addition) to the north end of the main façade (west) and a single-storey extension attached to the south end. Later in use as a cinema (c. 1920 until 1940), a town hall (c. 1948 until 1979), and as a library (c. 1948 until 2004). Two-storey elevation to rear (east). Hipped natural slate roof with tall rendered chimneystack to the south end having ornamental clay chimney pots over. Main façade (west) has roughcast rendered walls with brick dressings and a brick eaves course. Three pairs of segmental-headed window openings with red brick block-and-start surrounds and replacement windows. Round-headed doorcases to projecting porch and towards centre of main façade having timber panelled double doors, brick surrounds, hoodmouldings over and large fanlights divided into small square panels. Small round-headed niche and plaque with inscription 'Father Mathew Hall 1897' above doorcase on projecting porch. Set slightly back from road on western bank of River Shannon with ashlar limestone wall to street frontage (west). Various extensions to north and south facades, interior refurbished c.1975.

Appraisal

An attractive and well-detailed public building, which retains most of its original form and fabric. The use of red brick dressings for effect and the small-paned fanlights are typical of the period and give an Arts-and-Crafts feel to the main elevation. It was reputedly built by the architect W.A Tanner, the architect responsible for the designs of a number of quirky terraced houses along the Ballymahon Road, Athlone. This building was in use as a temperance hall from 1897 until 1919, and was one of many such buildings constructed in Ireland during the second half of the nineteenth century. It was originally named after Theobald Mathew (1790 - 1856), a temperance reformer, who was popularly known as Father Mathew. It was later in use as ‘The Shannon Cinema’ (later the ‘Savoy Cinema’) from c. 1920 until the 1940s and was the first cinema in Athlone. It fell into disuse after the construction of the Ritz Cinema in 1939/40 (now demolished). The building was gifted to the town in 1947 and was converted from use as the town hall (c. 1948 until 1979). The lower ground floor was in use as the Athlone Town Library from c. 1948 and in 1979 the library took possession of the entire building after Athlone Urban District Council moved to new premises. It occupies a very prominent location on the west bank of the Shannon and makes a strong contribution to the historic character of Athlone Town centre. This building was the venue for a number of the first public concerts performed by the internationally renowned tenor John Count McCormack, including his first stage appearance with his future wife the soprano, Lily Foley.