More on Hats in Limerick – 26 April 2017

Thanks to who dates the first image of the Limerick Exchange to 1702.  1702 image exchange

It depicts a man walking past the fine columns in the front of the building (which still stand today) and Yes! he is wearing a HAT… not a very fine hat but all the same it is suggestive of some style for 1702. He looks as if he is carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders…possibly his trading in the exchange did not quite work out to his plan.

The exchange was the main trading centre of Limerick in the 18th century, Bills of Exchange for Sterling, Dutch Guilders and bartering were common on the trading floors of the exchange. Limerick merchants along with European merchants, sundry agents, ships captains mingling together making the wheels of commerce go round and round.

Ferrars History of Limerick printed by Andrew Watson in 1787 has another illustration of the Limerick Exchange clearly dating this engraving to 1786.

Ex lim

Pity there are no people represented in the engraving however when writing the book it is clear the authors emphasis was on praising the buildings in Limerick.  Limerick in 1786 was a booming town and trading centre living through what one could describe as the first building boom of the era. Georgian Limerick was still under construction but there is a significant change in the demographic make up of the city and we witness the expanding threefold of a new middling sort living and working in the city.  There was a major boom in the drapery and millinery industry from the 1780s.

However one of the lesser known trading 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. 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 there 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 where Robert Swindles preached his first methodist sermon in limerick on the ‘Kings Parade”…at the castle gate.  Swindles got a very hostile receptions with crowds hissing and hooting at him  She herself 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..


eliza bennis

To be continued!


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