Skerries Building Company

by Brendan Grimes
(Skerries Historical Society Meeting – April 2015)

The First Skerries Building Boom…which went the way of all booms!

What do we know about speculative builders? Brendan Grimes’ talk in April for Skerries Historical Society about the Skerries Building Company set up in 1845 showed us that building bubbles were not an invention of the last decade.

Not that the directors of the Skerries Building Company weren’t entirely respectable. Indeed they were the very pillars of Skerries society – James Hans Hamilton, MP for County Dublin, was the Chairman of the Board until his death in 1863 – other Skerries luminaries who sat with him were George Woods of Milverton Hall and Edward Taylor of Ardgillan Castle. All in all there were eleven members of the board and most of them were Skerries men or at least had strong links to Skerries.

What was the golden opportunity that these eager business men wanted to exploit? Skerries railway station had opened in 1844 and it seemed logical that the trains puffing into the station would bring well to do visitors keen to experience living in salubrious sea-side splendour. Where would these visitors stay? They would be provided with quality housing by the newly founded Skerries Building Company for a ‘handsome remunerating rent’. Holmpatrick Terrace was the result and it must be said that Dublin architect, Sandham Symes, and his builder, probably a Balbriggan man called James Caffrey, certainly delivered the desired quality.

The houses in Holmpatrick Terrace were beautiful, well built and greatly admired – very much the ‘des res’ of the nineteenth century in Skerries – and were offered for rent at £15 a year for the smaller mid terrace houses and up to £30 a year for the two storey end houses. £30 might seem a drop in the ocean today but it was quite a sum in the 1840s yet the Skerries Building Company were able to find enough tenants to make the venture profitable – at least to begin with.

But for every boom there must be a bust and within twenty years there was evidence that things were not looking so rosy for the company – some of the Holmpatrick Terrace houses remained unlet and the shareholders received a reduced dividend. In 1869 there was a ‘reshuffle’ with several of the company directors finding that their services were no longer required. But this wasn’t sufficient to save the company and it was wound up in 1881. The houses were offered for sale and that was the end of the Skerries Building Company.

Report by Oona Roycroft