No 10 Ardee Street is last surviving fully intact building of what was Watkins, Jameson & Pim Brewery on Ardee Street. Its one of the few grand houses still to survive in The Liberties, and was built around 1820 as part of a brewery complex that was known to have established here in the 1760s, but with connection back to brewing in the medieval period.
In 1788, the brewery has been destoyed by fire and was rebuilt the following year. Around this time the brewery came into the ownership of Joseph Watkins and retained the name association right up until the brewery closed for good in 1937.
An account by Alfred Barnard of the ‘Noted Brewhouses of Great Britain & Ireland’ from 1891 reads:
“The Brewery is erected on the site of what was formerly the Brewhouse of the Monastery of St Thomas, and the mention of this name carries us back to ancient history indeed, for in the year of Magna Carta 1215, we find that grants of land were made to the Abbots of this Order, which they appear to have enjoyed in undisturbed possession down to the period of the dissolution of the religious houses in the reign of Henry VIII, when the properties of the Abbey of St Thomas were granted to Sir William Brabazon, Knight, who was Vice Treasurer and General-Receiver of Ireland up to his death in 1552. His son, Edward, became Baron Brabazon of Ardee, and his grandson, William, was made Earl of Meath in 1627. It was this family who gave a lease forever of the brewery site to certain persons whose interest is now vested in the firm of Joseph Watkins & Sons.
The Brewery buildings, which are erected on a plot of land covering five acres, are bounded on all sides by four roads, and are mostly built of brick around an irregular courtyard. The establishment on Ardee Street is entered by an archway, on either side of which is an old mansion; these were formerly the residences of the founders; one of them, the largest, is occupied by the manager, and the other is appropriated for use as offices etc. From its appearance, both externally and internally, the estabishment appears to have been renewed, rebuilt and added to continually in the last century, nevertheless, the Brewhouse, which is the most important feature of the place, is most compact and well arranged”.
At its height, Watkins Brewery was the third largest in Dublin, after its near neighbour Guinness & Co and the Sweetman Brewery. The operation grew to incorpate land on the north side of Cork Street and included a small enclave of workers houses known as Watkins Buildings, which are still there today. The rise and rise of Guinness however, made the city’s brewing business highly competitive. In 1904, the brewery merged with Jameson & Pims Ltd to form the Watkins, Jameson & Pims Brewery. It continued to produce until its closure in 1937.
In 1916, the brewery was briefly occupied by Con Colbert and a garrison of 20 men before they decamped to join a larger force at the nearby Marrowbone Lane Distillery.
After the brewery closure, the site began to break up. A fire in 1951 destroyed part of the facility, although No 10 survived. In the 1980s, ill-considered road widening, to faciliate the new Coombe Bypass (now St Luke’s Avenue), demolished the adjoining house (8 & 9 Ardee Street), leaving the scar of rooms and fireplaces that amazingly remains until today.
No. 10 is a fine old relic, one of the area’s most historic buildings. Previous plans for the whole ‘Brewery Block’ as its called foundered with the economic downturn in 2008. In 2017, a large portion of the site, excluding No 10, was sold by its present owner John Cantwell, to Summix Ltd, who planned to develop student accommodation on the site. A revised plan for a 368 bedroom student housing scheme called Ardee Point was recently permitted by An Bord Pleanala and work is expected to start on this project later this year. The plans include conserving remaining elements of the old brewery including a stone warehouse at Brabazon Place and a brick tower in the centre of the site.
Now No 10 is set for a new lease of life. Dublin City Council has granted permission to the building’s owner to restore the house and convert it into offices and apartments. A new contemporary building will be added to the north side to resolve the butchered gable left over by road widening. A welcome rescue for the old brewers house.