St Catherines (Dublin)

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St. Joseph’s Night Refuge for the Homeless Poor (formerly the Stove Tenter House) at Brickfield Lane, Cork Street, was an alms-house founded by the Reverend Dr. Spratt in 1861 under the care of the Sisters of Charity.

St. Joseph’s was set up as a “Night Refuge for Women and Children” for the homeless and destitute.

  • The accommodation was free with bread and tea in the morning and bread and cocoa in the evening. Poor women could also get a ticket for dinner at one of the penny dinner centres and a ticket for an hour or two in the Corporation Wash-house, Tara Street.
  • By 1915, the average number of women nightly admitted to St. Joseph’s was 97.  [SOURCE]
  • By the 1940s, children were no longer admitted, and the number of women seeking admission did not exceed 30 persons weekly,  and only persons who are believed to he awaiting employment were admitted.

The Stove Tenter House

The building itself dated back to 1815, when the founder of the Pleasants Female Orphanage funded its construction at a cost of £14,000.

  • The weaving industry in Dublin was at one time largely followed, and at the beginning of the nineteenth century it was computed that about 550 woollen looms were engaged in the Liberties, and as each loom employed about eight persons to work it, and allowing an average of five in each family, it showed that sonic 22,000 of the population were depending on this class of work.
  • For many winters great hardship existed among the weavers as the weather rendered it impossible for them to dry their wool, warp, or cloths; unable to continue their earnings, they were in large numbers reduced to misery and want, and driven into the streets, hospitals, and charitable institutions; many were imprisoned for debt.
  • Representations were made setting forth the hardships under which they suffered, but nothing was done; a number of individuals had it in mind to erect a house for the drying of the materials, and contemplated the issuing of debentures, the debenture holders to receive the profits of the house if any; it may be that the computation of the profits caused the long delay in putting the scheme through. 

The first stone was laid on the 13th April 1814, and it opened for work on the 20th October, 1815, arranged as a three-storied building.

  • On the ground floor were four furnaces, or stoves, from which issued large metal tubes; by means of these the whole building was heated, as the flooring of each storey was formed by iron bars.
  • Along these floors were the tenters on machinery by which the cloth was stretched to any breadth or degree of tension.
  • The upper storey was given to the drying of chains of woollen warps before being woven, requiring less heat. 
  • The weavers paid 2s. 6d for each piece of finished cloth and these sums were spent on the purchase of coal, etc.
  • Mr. Pleasants derived no profits, regarding it as a charitable purpose.
  • In order that the weavers should not lack the “urge to work” mottoes were displayed over the fire-places intended to attract their attention, such as, “The Sluggard shall come to Want,” “Industry is the Weaver’s Shield,” “The hand of the diligent maketh rich,” and other inspiring mottoes intended to give the impression that “to work is but a pleasure”; certainly such was the case, for idleness disappeared and weavers ceased to be confined in the prisons for small debts; the public also gained, for the material was received in better condition, consequently larger quantities were used, and altogether the motto “Industry is the Weaver’s Shield” was never more true than when St. Joseph’s Refuge was the Stove Tenter House. [SOURCE Dublin Historical Record, Vol. V, 1942-43]

Type of Building:

Religious Institution

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