WhereWest Street & West Gate Barlow House Drogheda Louth
How a generation reshaped Drogheda
Although Drogheda had suffered during the sieges of 1641–2 and Cromwell’s siege of 1649, by the early eighteenth century the town impressed visitors such as the political commentator William Molyneux. He found it to be in ‘every way like Dublin, than any I have seen in Ireland’.
Economic prosperity translated into fine houses, one of the finest being that constructed by Alderman James Barlow in c.1734.
An engraving of Barlow House appeared on Joseph Ravell’s 1749 map of Drogheda, along with six other impressive houses. Four of these were new classical houses with parapets, centrally placed entrances accessed by a short flight of steps, and symmetrically arranged windows. Mr Shepard’s house (later owned by the Ogle family) on Fair Street survives, much altered, but Lord Chief Justice Singleton’s house, and the neighbouring schoolmaster’s house in St Laurence Street are now both gone. Barlow’s House still addresses West Street with the same elegance as it did in the early eighteenth century.
An engraving of Barlow House appeared on Joseph Ravell’s 1749 map of Drogheda, Ravell’s map shows Barlow’s extensive formal garden that ran inside the west town wall down to the River Boyne. It was not the only garden bordering the river. The father of Barlow’s wife, Alderman Francis Leigh, had an older gabled house with a steeply pitched roof and garden beside the river. This house too was important enough to be shown on Ravell’s map. Placed inside the town wall at the end of The Mall on the eastern end of the town, it hindered the expansion of the north quays, until it was demolished in 1780.
Barlow House is the finest Palladian house to remain in Drogheda. How did it survive? By finding new uses. By the late nineteenth century it was a constabulary barracks – West Gate Barracks. With the formation of the Free State in 1922 it was converted to a Garda barracks. It was restored and reopened as the Droichead Arts Centre in 2003.