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Forgotten Stones: Jostle Stones of Ennis
by Mary Kearns

 

All Photographs by Mary Kearns unless otherwise stated

“They nestle against the walls almost obscured from public gaze in a busy streetscape. While many have disappeared a few have remained albeit not in the original position to remind us that they once served an important purpose in the protection of buildings from the jostling wheels of traps and carts.”

‘Jostle Stones’ were a necessity in nineteenth century Ennis as business and pleasure revolved around the horse. The medieval layout of the town with its narrow streets and laneways gave little lead way for manoeuvring and indeed this feature is still evident today.

Weathering and the relentless jostling from the various modes of transport down the years have taken their toll on some of these blocks of limestone but a few have retained their features as a reminder of the quality of the stone. Building stone at the time was quarried locally as transportation would have been difficult. [1] County Clare has varieties of limestone and sandstone; the limestone along the river Fergus varies from a light to a very dark bluish grey. [2] (This bluish grey limestone is very obvious at Quin Friary where the quality of the stone is considered to be of a high quality). This stone was used for rubble walls, cut stonework, and, where sandstone was used dressed stone. [3] Limestone quarried at Roslevan was used in most of the public buildings; it was compact, dark coloured, and easily worked. Stone of a similar quality was quarried at Bushy Park and the flagstones were quarried at Mount Callan. [4]

While doing an inventory of the Jostle stones I noticed an unusual projection at the base of the exterior wall at Ennis Friary.

Projection at the base of the wall at Ennis Friary
Projection at the base of the wall at Ennis Friary (Photo: Jimmy Kearns)

This projection is evident on the south side of the west door, which dates from the nineteenth century. (Modifications were made to this part of the friary during the Church of Ireland period). It is conical shaped and made up of limestone blocks in three sections and seems to have been put in place to protect the wall rather than buttressing it. Looking at it today it serves no great purpose but a few theories have been brought to my attention: coach building took place in the general vicinity of the friary so this would have been a busy area also the Church of Ireland used the west door as their main entrance. The defined path we see today would not have been in place; leaving this section of the building very vulnerable. Another example is located further south beyond the friary gate now obscured by the post-box. The quality of this example is very poor and appears to be mainly of a rubble mix.

Radiating out from the Friary up Abbey Street a polished fragment of a Jostle stone is all that remains on the left hand side of the entrance to Shank’s Lane.

Fragment of jostle stone at corner of Shank’s Lane, off Abbey Street
Fragment of jostle stone at corner of Shank’s Lane, off Abbey Street

Moving down O’Connell Street at the entrance to Cook’s Lane two upright stones remain facing each other. While the one on the left as you face into the lane is definitely a Jostle stone the other is a little ambiguous and looks more like a kerbstone.

Jostle stone at Cooke’s Lane, off O’Connell Street
Jostle stone at Cooke’s Lane, off O’Connell Street


The next example is to be found, as you turn right into the Lower Market from O’Connell Street. It is positioned against the wall on the right hand side.

Jostle stone at Lower Market Street, just off O’Connell Street
Jostle stone at Lower Market Street, just off O’Connell Street

Continuing on from here another example is evident to the left of the entrance into Chapel Lane.

Jostle stone at Lower Market Street, at entrance to Chapel Lane
Jostle stone at Lower Market Street, at entrance to Chapel Lane

A short distance from here in the centre of the Market a very worn stone has almost merged into the wall of Kelly’s butcher shop. The stone is located on the right hand side of this building, which leads into an area know locally as Curtin’s Lane. The designated sign for Curtin’s Lane is to be found as you veer to the right. This area has undergone much change under the urban renewal development scheme with many new commercial and residential properties changing the layout of the area.

Jostle stone at entrance to Curtin’s Lane
Jostle stone at entrance to Curtin’s Lane

The other examples I am going to discuss are to be found mainly in the Parnell Street area: Entering Parnell Street from O’Connell Square two examples have remained in Lysaght’s Lane; these are of a smaller type and one is positioned on the right hand side of the wall and other is a little further up on the left hand side. A link with the Franciscans is also to be found in Lysaght’s Lane – two plaques commemorate the Friars seeking shelter here during Penal times.

Jostle stone at Lysaght’s Lane off Parnell Street
Jostle stone at Lysaght’s Lane off Parnell Street

Exiting from this lane back on to Parnell Street, at the entrance to Chapel Lane, two more Jostle stones are positioned opposite each other.

Jostle stone at Chapel Lane, left hand side of the entrance off Parnell Street
Jostle stone at Chapel Lane, left hand side of the entrance off Parnell Street

Jostle stone at Chapel Lane, right hand side of the entrance off Parnell Street
Jostle stone at Chapel Lane, right hand side of the entrance off Parnell Street

A little way down this lane a fragment of a Jostle stone is visible beside the gate on the left hand side. Returning to the street and on to Barrett’s Lane another example remains on the right hand side at the entrance to this lane. The next Jostle stone is to be found at the lower end of Parnell Street, on the left hand side outside the Barron Mc Q’s. Public House.

Jostle stone at Lower Parnell Street
Jostle stone at Lower Parnell Street

The final stone is in the Cornmarket area outside Guerin’s shop. This shop was originally known as Dan Murphy’s but I’m not sure if this is the same stone that was celebrated in the well know ballad The Stone outside Dan Murphy’s Door. Apparently the stone cited in the song was positioned on the right hand side of Old Mill Street, as this area was formerly known.[5] Today this Jostle stone is evident on the left hand corner of the entrance to Simm’s Lane, where the composer of the song Johnny Patterson (1840-1889), a famous clown was reared by his uncle Mark, a nailer.[6]

Jostle stone at Cornmarket and Simm’s Lane
Jostle stone at Cornmarket and Simm’s Lane

While these Jostle Stones have no use today it is important to retain them, as so much has been lost in the interest of progress. Like the Old Bow-ways and Chimney-stacks they represent the past and draw attention to interesting features and the importance of conservation.

Notes



Archaeology