Collections – 19th – 20th Century Galway

/Collections – 19th – 20th Century Galway
Collections – 19th – 20th Century Galway2019-08-20T10:34:29+01:00

19th – 20th Century Galway

The nineteenth and twentieth centuries were a mixture of prosperity and hardship in Galway. The early nineteenth-century in Galway saw the opening of the Gaol in 1810-1811 and the establishment of Persse’s Whisky Distillery in 1815 at Newcastle by Henry Stratford Persse, which was later re-located to the Nun’s Island premises in 1847.  The 19th-century also saw the opening of Queens College (now the National University of Ireland, Galway) in 1849, the Midland Great Western Railway line linking Galway to Dublin in 1851, the opening of the tram from Eyre Square to Salthill in 1879 and the construction of Renmore Barracks in 1880.

In 1821, the population was 337,374 within the county, while Hardiman estimated the population of the town to be 40,000. The 1861 Census reflected the devastation of the Great Hunger, with the population at 272,714 in the county and 25,161 in the town. The population decreased again by the time of the 1901 Census with 13,426 in the town and 192,549 in the county.

While Galway hosted the Irish industrial exhibition in 1908, the first such exhibition held in Connacht, some of the local industries were already in decline. By 1908, falling whisky consumption and competition from the larger distilleries in Dublin led to the closure of the Persse Distillery with the loss of over 50 jobs.

Of note are the jars in the Collections, from the various shops and public houses around Galway town dating from the late nineteenth and early twentieth-centuries.  Each jar is marked with the name of the shop and in many cases, the location of the shop, such as Michael Walsh, 1 Eyre Square and Williamsgate St. The jars themselves were imported from pottery companies throughout Britain, including Liverpool, Birmingham and Glasgow.

ADMISSION: Free |  OPENING TIMES: Tuesday to Saturday: 10:00 to 17:00 and from Easter to end of September on Sundays: 12:00 to 17:00 (Exhibitions close at 16:45)


Important Notice: Galway City Museum will reopen its doors to the public on Tuesday 21 July at 10am. In accordance with current national policy on the containment of the Covid-19 virus we are putting in place new guidelines for the museum visit.  It will be imperative that the public revise these guidelines when planning their next visit so that we can manage the Covid-19 threat as much as possible.  More to follow soon on our new booking system. Keep an eye on this website or follow our social media channels for further updates.  If you have an urgent query contact the museum at +353(0)91 532460 or by emailing

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The Museum Team
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