Lawrence Collection on Clarecastle and Ballyea c.1900

William Lawrence

On the 20th March 1865 at the age of 24 William Mervin Lawrence opened a Photographic Studio opposite the G. P .O. at Sackville street Dublin. Over the years the studio successfully photographed the length and breadth of Ireland from Howth Head in the East to Achill Head in the West, and from Malin Head in the North to Skibbereen the South. The collection consists of 40,000 glass plates mainly from the period 1880-1914, but some plates go back to 1870.Lawrence was not himself a photographer, but an early entrepreneur. He opened his Studio in his mother’s toy and fancy-goods shop. At that time there was great interest in Studio Portraits and he employed a portrait photographer. At that time his brother, John Fortune Lawrence, took stereo photographs and William took a keen interest in them, and took over the sales. He employed a team of printers, artists (colourists and retouches). In 1880 when the dry plate process came in William Lawrence employed Robert French as his chief Photographer. French was born in Dublin and spent some time working in the Royal Irish Constabulary then joined Lawrence Studio, and he worked his way up as printer, artist and then assistant photographer. He took over 30,000 photographs of the “Lawrence Collection”. Lawrence and French were in there early seventies and Robert French retired in 1914 and William Lawrence in 1916. In 1916 the premises in Sackville Street was looted and burnt down during the Easter Rising. Most of the portrait negatives were destroyed. The negatives of scenes around Ireland were stored in Rathmines and survived. The firm closed down in 1942 and the following year, the negatives (glass plates) were acquired by the National Library of Ireland. The Clare Lawrence Collection can be viewed on the Clare Library website –

In this Parish, we are fortunate in having 18 wonderful Lawrence photographs of the village, including shipping at the Quay, the Clare Bridge & Barracks, Clare Abbey,  Killone Abbey and Edenvale House. The depth of field in these photographs allows them to be enlarged, displaying fascinating detail. These photographs are generally dated to the early years of the 1900s. The three photographs taken of the Queen’s Channel ship from slightly different angles, give a fine panoramic sense of a busy port, with the bridge and castle in the background and Clare Abbey in the distance.

Clarecastle and Ballyea Heritage and Wildlife Group are grateful to the Nation Library of Ireland for permission to publish the Lawrence photographs that are relevant to this Parish.

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