It may come as a surprise to some people that the old Town Hall building on Friary Street started life as a grain store and went through several major alterations until it was finally given its present appearance in 1987. This bulding served as Dungarvan's Town Hall until 1999 when it became home to Waterford County Museum Society.
On 22 February 1871 the Commissioners agreed to purchase an old store in St Augustine Street from a Mrs Maloney for the sum of £50. This building was to be converted into a Town Hall & Public Library.
William Green of Janeville leased the land on which the Town Hall is built in 1794 to Thomas Allen, a shopkeeper of Main St. Allen leased it to Thomas Buckley, a Dungarvan merchant. Buckley built a large store on the site but ran into debt and in 1802 he went into partnership with Francis Codd, a Dublin merchant. Codd became the owner of the building. Codd & Buckley ran a corn business from the store. After Buckleys death Codd leased the building to Michael Mahoney of Dungarvan in 1836. Codds son sold his interest in the building to Mahoney in 1851. After Mahoneys death in 1859 the store fell into ruin.
In 1871 the Town Commissioners applied to the Government for a grant of £800 to convert the store to plans by Charles Langley, Surveyor, of Tay Lodge. By November 1872 over £1,700 had been spent on the project.In 1874 Michael Beary, Borough Surveyor, designed a new elevation and internal plans. By 1876 the Commissioners effects had been moved from the Courthouse.
In 1884 the Commissioners were furious to learn that a Mr. Ruddell (of the firm Merrick & Ruddell, a drapery & china shop which was situated around the corner from the Town Hall) was about to purchase the interest in the Town Hall from the Marquis of Waterford without consulting them.
The Council eventually acquired the interest in the lease for £300 from Ruddells partner, Samuel J Merrick of Youghal in February 1906. They were selling because of the illness of Mr. Ruddell.
In 1908 J. A. Ryan, architect, was asked to supply plans etc., for repairs to the Town Hall. The Local Government Board refused to sanction the loan for repairs in view of the defective condition of the front wall.
In December 1909 George Stokess tender of £309-17-6 was accepted for re-building the Town Hall. The entire front facade was demolished to ground floor level. The work on the front and the interior, which included a new Council chamber, was not completed until 1911. The new facade had a large half-moon window in the centre and decorative plaster embellishments were carried out by a Mr. Butler a local craftsman.
There is a marble plaque on the front of the Town Hall with the following inscription :-
'Councillor Michael Byrne R.I.P., member of the Dungarvan Urban District Council 1908 - 1918 and Board of Guardians 1913 - 1917. In gratefull remembrance of his untiring and successful efforts to secure concessions and comforts for the inmates of these institutions under the control of the Board. He spent his public life fighting for the interests of his fellow workers. Ar Dheis De Go Raith A Anain. Erected by the Dungarvan Council of Trade Unions.'
Councillor Byrne had been unhappy with the living conditions of the workhouse inmates and set about persuading the authorities to initiate improvements. He obtained an ounce of tobacco per week for each of the men and an ounce of snuff for the women, a concession which apparently made news all over Ireland. He was also successful in having the brand removed from the clothes of the inmates.
Author: Willie Fraher