“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
‘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. 
County Clare has varieties of limestone and sandstone; the limestone
along the river Fergus varies from a light to a very dark bluish
(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. 
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. 
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 (Photo: Jimmy
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Jostle stone at Chapel Lane, right hand side of the entrance off
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
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.
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.
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.