Looking west on Shop Street, c120 years ago

The first thing you notice about this image is the state of the street surface with its animal droppings and puddles. You had to be careful crossing the street, which is why they laid down cobbles between footpaths, you can see them at the entrance to Church Lane and Churchyard Street.

The tramlines in the middle of the street were laid down in 1879, and the trams started operating in October of that year. The single track was two and a quarter miles long with eight passing loops, and cost £15,590 to build. The gauge was three feet wide. The depot was in Forster Street and the western terminus was at the Eglinton Hotel.

The impressive early 19th century seven-bay building on the left was Donnellan’s ‘Fancy Warehouse’, Galway’s leading house for stationery and fancy goods, cutlery, electro plated ware, musical instruments, portmanteaus, travellings and trunks, perambulators, mail cars, and fishing tackle. They later opened a furniture emporium with the best and most modern descriptions of household furniture ‘fit for the mansion and the cottage’. Donnellan’s was there for about 100 years before it sold out to Anthony Ryan. The ground floor has since been modernised.

Both this building and the one at the top of High Street and Mainguard Street look quite modern, but those across the street look very old and tired. The corner building, later occupied by Hollands, has the name ‘Reardon’ over the door, but it seems as if Reardon’s was closed down as there is a temporary wall of billboards in front of it. At one time, it was occupied by “Duffys, the Warehouse”. It was later built up to three storeys, and was a news agents run by the Holland family.

The building on the far right was known at this time as ‘The Arches’ or ‘The Stannins’. It was part of the original Tholsel, a two storey building in which the first floor was used as a courthouse/meeting place/town hall and the ground floor walls were arches which led into a market place. This building burnt down in the early part of the 19th century and began to decay and was considered dangerous. It also made the street very narrow, so they demolished it and the stone facade was brought to Eyre Square and used as the frontage of the newly built Bank of Ireland. Some temporary stalls were erected on the site of the Tholsel. In 1881, the Town Commissioners entered into an agreement with Peter McDonald, a plumber from Dominick Street, with regard to building an arcade of stalls between Church Lane and the entrance to St Nicholas’ Collegiate Church, and the street was widened. The arcade took the form of the arches we see in our photograph. They were all separate units which, about this time, were occupied by Stewart’s ‘Market Fent’ Stores; Glennon’s Cobbler Shop; Mr Gavin Higginston’s Select Domestic Servant Registry; Connolly’s fishmongers; Freeeman’s Restaurant; and Considine’s Arcade Bookshop.

Behind the arches, on the extreme right of picture, you can see part of Thimble Castle, an 18th century building, the front of which faced down Churchyard Street.

The street was illuminated by some gaslights.

Our thanks to Dick Byrne for the photograph.

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