More on Hats in Limerick – 26 April 2017

1702 Image of Limerick Exchange… is a website for events and  architectural news and is supported by the Irish Georgian Society (

The Limerick Exchange was built in 1673 on Nicholas Street near St. Mary’s Cathedral.1702 image exchange

The drawing of the Exchange depicts a man walking past the fine columns in the front of the building. Regretfully, the columns area all that is left of of the Exchange today.

The image shows a solitary figure of a man, walking as if he carried the weight of the world on his shoulders.  He is however, wearing a HAT… not a very fine hat but it is suggestive of some style for 1702.

The exchange was the main trading centre of Limerick in the 18th century for merchants dealing with European and English businessmen. Bills of Exchange in Sterling and Dutch Guilders were not uncommon among the Limerick merchants including one John Kelly whose business ledger is in the National Library of Ireland. This was the place were Limerick merchants along with European merchants, sundry agents, ships captains mingled together, networked and encouraged the wheels of commerce in a circular motion…

In 1787 John Ferrars History of Limerick printed by Andrew Watson had another illustration of the Limerick Exchange. this engraving is dated to 1786.

Ex lim

There are no people represented on the engraving,  however when John Ferrar wrote his History of Limerick he emphasised the numerous new fine buildings that had been built in Limerick. Limerick,  was in the middle of  its first building boom, with Georgian Limerick under construction. New buildings meant that employment was up and there was a need for a skilled trades men such stone masons, carpenters, painters, glaziers, gilders, resulting in a significant change in the demographic make up of the city.  Alongside these skilled tradesmen were the supporting networks of butchers, bakers, drapers, candlestick makers, woollen and clothing merchants. By the 1780s Limerick was a thriving urban centre.

One of the lesser known families in Limerick in 1786 were the Bennis brothers and even more less known is the story of Elizabeth Bennis wife to Mitchell (Michael Bennis).

My hat of the day goes to Eliza. The image below shows her wearing a simple type of headdress possibly of Linen, cotton and lace gathered at the edges.  She was remarkably one of the most important women in Ireland in the 18th century and very little is known about her. Thankfully she left a number of journals and Rosemary Raughter has produced those journals in her book The Journal of Elizabeth Bennis 1749-1779. These are her spiritual journals about how she came to accept this new religion and indeed how she questioned herself deeply about her own beliefs.

You could say that Eliza single handily set up Methodism in eliza bennis1Ireland.  Her first encounter with this new religion was on 17 March 1749 in Limerick. Robert Swindles preached his first methodist sermon in Limerick on the ‘Kings Parade”…at the castle gate.  Swindles got a very hostile reception from the locals,  with crowds hissing and hooting at him.  This was right on Eliza’s doorstep who, lived in Bow Lane  (today, St. Augustine Lane)  near St. Mary’s Cathedral.

While her husband was very wealthy she herself had no mass on money and indeed lived a very frugal life. Her journal clearly shows how troubled she was and her fight to remain true to her beliefs was utmost in her life. The image depicted on the cover of the book ‘The Journal of Elizabeth Bennis 1749-1779‘ by Rosemary Raughter, is a portrait of Elizabeth and she is wearing another simple style hat that looks like it was made with silk tulle and a ribbon. The image is not unlike that of Selina Hastings, Countess of Huntington in the 1770s and who also very influential in the Methodist religion in England and Wales.


eliza bennis

To be continued!


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