The Leicester Arms Hotel

There’s a long tradition of hostelry in the village with a reference to Joseph Johnson, Innkeeper, in the 1641 depositions (more here on those). Many travel writers mention lodging at Enniskerry, including De Latocnaye, who stayed with an innkeeper, who was a representative of the O’Toole clan, according to him in his Frenchman’s Walk through Ireland (1797).

The Courthouse and the Leicester Arms in Enniskerry, ca. 1870 (labelled "Captain Russell", with thanks to contributor Nivrum)

There were two hotels in the village, another one (probably later) near the Summerhill Hotel and of course one preceding Grattan’s House at Tinnehinch (more here on that). This post refers to one of those in the village, on Church Hill. We know from Rocque’s map, 1760, that Church Hill is the oldest street in the village, following the road along as it crossed the bridge and proceeded to Powerscourt, on the Dublin to Glendalough road. McCormick’s early view of the village (ca 1820 – see book) shows a building that could be the Leicester Arms, as do the 1840 pictures (see for example boook cover). In both of these cases, zooming in on a high resolution image show a building in the right place of a similar stature. The 1840 Ordnance Survey map also shows a building that aligns nicely with the current one (link to OSi here).

After Mervyn, 7th Viscount married Julia, daughter of the second Earl of Leicester in 1864, the village celebrated the arrival of the new couple by putting out in the street the coat of arms of both Powerscourt and Leicester (more on that here). The inn on Church hill was renamed the Leicester Arms at some stage afterwards in her honour.

The first piece of hard evidence are the Lawrence photographs towards the end of the century, although the sketch shown above, generously contributed by Nivrum, matches these so closely that it can in all probability be dated back to the 1870s, so that is likely that it became the Leicester Arms soon after the marriage. It is possible to purchase high resolution copies of the Lawence photographs from the National Library. Number 489 is crystal clear. It shows the building with its characteristic seven upstairs windows. Under the three to the left (uphill side), as indicated in the sketch above, there is a shopfront with the name “Leicester Arms Hotel” across the central door and window either side. Under the two windows to the right, there is another shopfront, with the name T. B. Millers. Millers are of course long associated with the village, with some evidence that they were landlords of the Powerscourt Arms prior to 1843. Under the central window is a door, with one window to the right at ground level, and two above these, evidently some sort of living quarters.

What is especially interesting is one key difference between the “Captain Russell” sketch and the Lawrence photos is that in the latter, immediately uphill of the inn there is an archway into a “Livery Stables” with a small building uphill of this, just next to the Courthouse yard. This isn’t present in the 1870 “Captain Russell” sketch, and of course is gone today; there is now just a gateway to the pub yard.

In the 1901 Census, there is no Miller listed in Enniskerry. There are two hotels named, one run by Francis Buckley (Powerscourt Arms) and one by Hariet Johnston (28). Hariet had two sons and two daughters, all under the age of 7. She is listed as the head of the household, and a hotel keeper, originally from Co. Monaghan. There are six servants comprised of two domestic servants (F), two shop assistants (M) a “farmer’s shop” (M) and a yard man (M). There is one other “family unit” resident in the same building, a Catholic curate, Fr. Michael Byrne, from Co. Kildare.

By 1911, there is no sign of Hariet. She is replaced by William Johnston (49), who is listed as a wine-merchant. (He is listed elsewhere in a 1910 business directory as a publican for the Leicester and Powerscourt Arms Hotel – perhaps latter is an error?) William has no family present, just a cook and a housekeeper. There is no-one else resident in the building. (I tracked down Harriet (with two r’s) and family, who by now were living 3, Seapoint Avenue. Her youngest daughter, unnamed in 1901, is called Harriet as well! Her occupation is “House Property”, and her son, William John Johnston, is a “Tea Agent”. The romantic in me says they must be related to our Enniskerry man.)

Twentieth century postcards show that the Leicester Arms evolved into Prosser’s. The shop that was in the building eventually got subsumed into the building and the uphill shop-front disappeared, as did the livery stables. The central doorway is now the entrance into the entire building. The seven windows upstairs have remained a constant during all the changes downstairs over the years.