History of Bewley’s Hotel Ballsbridge
Bewley’s Hotel stands on the corner of Merrion Road and Simmonscourt Road in Ballsbridge, right beside the Royal Dublin Society.
The Masonic Female Orphan School was founded in 1792 to educate the daughters of deceased Freemasons. But the school expanded, a new Masonic Girls’ School was planned for Ballsbridge in the second half of the 19th century.
The school was designed by McCurdy and Mitchell, the architectural practice of John McCurdy and William Mansfield Mitchell. McCurdy and Mitchell also designed the Shelbourne Hotel, Dublin; many of the buildings in Trinity College Dublin, including the Anatomical Museum, the School of Physiology, and the Chemistry Building; parts of Saint Columba’s College, Rathfarnham; and Lowther Lodge, north of Ballsbridge, which every schoolboy in Gormanston who went on beach walks or played beach cricket knew as “Filgate’s”.
McCurdy and Mitchell designed the new Masonic Girls’ School was designed in the Queen Anne style, and the foundation stone was laid on 24 June 1880 by Duke of Abercorn. The cost was estimated at £12,000, and the building was brought “almost to completion” by the building contractors Gahan & Son, who went bankrupt in process. The building was completed under the supervision of William Bolger and the new school opened in 1881. The final cost of building came in at just under £15,000.
The school stood on 10-acres site and as well as schoolrooms included a library, dormitories, recreation and dining areas, around two sides of a quadrangle. The school entrance was beneath a corner tower that was not merely ornamental but also contained all the works connected with the water supply of both the building and the bathrooms.
A beautiful terracotta fountain in front of the main building was bequeathed by a Mr Sawyer who was not a Mason. Inside, despite the military style order, cleanliness and sparse impressions, the rooms were airy and bright and the dormitories were cheerful. As far as possible, the fittings and furniture were made and bought in Ireland.
The large assembly hall, which was the venue for our Gormanston dinner on Friday night, stood beside the main buildings was erected 10 years after the school was completed and was used as an assembly hall for prayers and meetings. The hall still boasts ornate oak-panelled walls, stained glass windows, original mosaic tiling, a choir balcony and a vaulted wooden ceiling.
The Masonic Girls’ School continued for the next 90 years. After the school closed in 1970, the building was bought by the Royal Dublin Society and renamed Thomas Prior House after one of the founding members of the RDS.
Set on a site of nearly ten acres, the new School, which included a library, dormitories, schoolrooms, recreation and dining areas, boasted some of the most advanced building and engineering techniques of the day. The school formed two sides of a quadrangle, and was entered beneath a tower at the corner. This tower was not merely ornamental but also contained all the works connected with the water supply of both the building and the bathrooms.
Inside, the rooms were airy and bright and the dormitories, with their adjoining lavatories, were cheerful, despite the military style order, cleanliness and sparsity. The dining hall was also functional but comfortable, heated by slow combustion stoves, as was the entrance hall. The kitchens were furnished with the most up-to-date appliances and the laundry area was positioned so as to be convenient but not intrusive. Recreational and exercise facilities for the orphans were also to the highest standard.
The beautiful terracotta fountain which stands in front of the main building was bequeathed to the school by a Mr Sawyer who was not a member of the Masonic Order. The hall to the left of the main building was built ten years after the construction of the school was completed and was used as an assembly hall for prayers and meetings.
The school was bought by the Wexford businessman Bert Allen in the late 1980s and became a Bewley’s Hotel in recent years. In 2008, the Moran Hotel Group bought all the Bewley’s hotels in Britain and Ireland.
When the Thomas Prior Hall was used for filming The Apprentice, it became a popular venue for conferences and other events. Thomas Prior Hall is now a popular conference and event venue. It has been voted both Best Wedding Venue in Dublin by Wedding Dates and Top Wedding Venue.