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.


8 thoughts on “The Leicester Arms Hotel

  1. Hi, your website is very interesting. My grandfather at one time lived in Glencree, and I often heard my mother talking about Prosser’s in the village. My grandfather (Larkin) would have been there in the late thirties, I think, and on into the forties, because my mother gave my sister a piece of a German parachute that they found after a plane came down in the area, and I think she still has it.

    Do you know when the Prossers took over the hotel? They were still there in 1960 when we spent a summer in Glencree. I’m not sure but did the Prossers also run a taxi service? I have the idea that they would carry people up to Glencree at times when the necessity arose.


    • I also love the piece onthe “The Leicester Arms Hotel” where I spent my childhood years in the 60’s 70’s and part of the 80’s.
      My father was Bryan Prosser and his Mother, Father and Grandfather ran the Leicester Arms Hotel- aka “Prosser’s” from the early 1900’s until 1986. It was also a grocery shop that made deliveries.I don’t think it was an official taxi service. I can ask my mother who has been in Enniskerry since the early 1940s, initially as a postmistress.
      My Dad used to talk about making deliveries to Glencree during “The Emergency” (WWII) and he would give lifts to the locals en route. He knew the name of ever farm and farmer in Valley. In later years- he enjoyed drives to Glencree “immensely” as he used to say and he loved meeting the locals like Sonny McGuirk to remember the old days and the old characters!

      • I remember it well as the Leicester Arms Hotel in the 50s and i also remember your Granny Prosser your fathers mother, opening a coffee shop on Church hill with a proper coffee machine, she was ahead of her time in relation to opening a coffee shop. After a walk in Powerscourt gardens on a Sunday myself and other local lads would have a coffee and a club milk bar, and we thought we were great lads with this little luxury. Innocent times the 1950s Ireland

  2. Dear Ena,
    Thanks so much for comment and sharing memories. It’s great to hear from you. Do you know when it became “Prossers”? I guess sometime after the 1911 Census?

  3. hi,
    reference is made that the entrance to the hotel was church hill.the original entrance was at the crossroads at the bottom of kilgarron had famous gardens also.a new entrance was made when the then current owners got permission for a bungalow which is opposite bettys chip shop.
    hope this helps to throw light on

  4. Michael,

    Very interesting material. William and Hariet Johnston who ran the Leicester Arms at the start of the 20thC were my wife’s Great Grandparents. The property in Dun Loughaire, Seapoint Ave was also their property where they also had a shop for many years. William was originally from Co Leitrim and Hariet from Co Monaghan.

    William John the ‘Tea Agent’ was my wife’s Grandfather. None of the family are in Enniskerry now but many are still in Dun Loughaire as well as Dalkey, Wicklow and futher afield (Scotland, England, Australia to name a few).


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