WhereOpposite Highlanes Gallery St. Laurence Street Drogheda Louth
St Laurence Street forms, with West Street, the main east-west axis of the medieval town. A gently curving street, St Laurence Street stretches between the defensive medieval towers of St Laurence’s Gate and the urbane cupola of the mid-eighteenth century Tholsel.
In 1616 the Archbishop of Armagh built his palace (which has now gone) next to the gate. Over a hundred years later when the Lord Chief Justice of Ireland, Henry Singleton, built his Palladian house next door (c.1740), the archbishop’s palace, with its irregular windows and gables, looked old fashioned.
Although Singleton’s house and the equally impressive house of his other neighbour, Mr Clarke, the schoolmaster of Drogheda Free School (later Drogheda Grammar School) on St Laurence Street were demolished in 1989, many of the Georgian terraced houses, built by Drogheda merchants in the eighteenth century, survive. They transformed what became a wider and more regular street with their tall facades, each with an elegant pedimented doorway.
In the nineteenth century the street was enlivened with more highly decorated commercial and community buildings. There is the former Belfast Bank (south side of St Laurence Street, at the Tholsel end, now a commercial building, 48 St Laurence Street) with its pairs of polished granite colonettes and granite bosses.
The Bank of Ireland on the north side of St Laurence Street, is a palazzo built in 1876. There is also Whitworth Hall, built on part of the site once occupied by the archbishop’s palace.
Whitworth Hall was built by Benjamin Whitworth. Having established successful cotton mills in Manchester, he came to Drogheda and set up a large cotton mill at Greenhills in 1864. Whitworth Hall was intended as a place of entertainment, education and sociability. The highlight was the well-appointed curved and galleried hall for shows, exhibitions, and amateur theatricals. Whitworth’s architect, William Barre, produced an Italian palace, built in warm red brick decorated with stone and terracotta.