The Tholsel was a name traditionally used for a local municipal and administrative building used to collect tolls and taxes and to administer trade and other documents in Irish towns and cities. It was at one stage one of the most important secular buildings in Ireland's town and cities and the level of importance was reflected in the prominence and size of these buildings as well as the expensive materials and architectural techniques used. Some historic tholsels still exist, notably The Tholsel, Kilkenny. Towards the end of the 18th century the term tholsel was typically swapped for Market House with many of the administrative functions of the original tholsel transferring to another dedicated local council or government building such as a court or sessions house.

Similar buildings called tolseys or tolsey houses are found in some English towns and cities, including Burford, Gloucester and Wotton-under-Edge. In both cases the term is derived from the Middle English tolsell, from tol ("toll") + -sell (Old English sele "hall", "house").[1][2] However, buildings described as a Tholsel have been more broadly used as a town hall, a courthouse, a town gate, a prison, a market house, a council chamber, a customs house, a guildhall, and a place where tolls were collected. In Scotland the term Tolbooth was used.

The Tholsel building in Dublin was built in the late Middle Ages as a merchants' hall, at the corner of Nicholas Street and Christ Church place, next to the Church of St. Nicholas Within.[3] In the late 15th century, it was the home of the first mechanical public clock in Ireland. In the late eighteenth century, the Dublin Tholsel was used as a courthouse, being notable as the location where many Irish people, convicted of crimes, were sentenced to be transported to exile in Australia. It was demolished around the year 1820.

Notable tholsels in the Republic of IrelandEdit

Date built
Tholsel, Town Gate Carlingford 1450[4] It was originally 3 storeys high but the top floor has now been replaced with a modern pitched roof  
Main Guard Clonmel 1675[5]  
The Tholsel Drogheda 1770[6]  
The Tholsel, Dublin Dublin 8 1682 - 1806[7][8][9] Located at Skinner's Row (now Christchurch Place). A city administrative building had been located on the site since the 1300s. Prior to James Malton's drawing in 1792 the Tholsel had a tower with cupola and Ireland's first public mechanical clock. A cock weathervane also sat above the cupola but was blown down along with the tower in a storm. The building fell into decline when it was superseded by City Hall, Dublin.  
The Tholsel, Galway Galway 1639 - 1822[10][11] The arches of the arcade were pulled down in 1822 and used to construct a new building on Eyre Square in 1831 on the sight of the old corn and potato market. This now houses a branch of the Bank of Ireland. The cupola had already been removed in 1800. Part of the back wall of the tholsel can be seen behind St Nicholas Collegiate Church.
The Tholsel, Kilkenny Kilkenny 1761[12]  
The Tholsel, Limerick Limerick 1673, Rebuilt 1702, Rebuilt 1778 located in Mary Street in the old Englishtown district of the city. It served as the headquarters of Limerick Corporation until that moved to the Exchange building on Nicholas Street. It was demolished in the early 20th century after it fell into dereliction.
Tholsel New Ross 1749, rebuilt in its current form 1806[13]  
Westgate Tholsel Carrick-on-Suir 1500[14]  
Clock Gate Youghal 1777[15] Used as a gaol and private dwelling at various times  

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Tol-sel and tolsel - Middle English Compendium".
  2. ^ "Definition of TOLSEY".
  3. ^ "1682 - Tholsel, Dublin - Architecture of Dublin City, Lost Buildings of Ireland - Archiseek - Irish Architecture". 9 December 2011.
  4. ^ "1450 – The Tholsel, Carlingford, Co. Louth – Architecture of Louth". 2010-01-06. Retrieved 2015-06-16. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  5. ^ "The Main Guard". Heritage Ireland. Retrieved 2015-06-16. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  6. ^ "Architects Ireland - The Tholsel - van Dijk Architects". Retrieved 1 September 2020. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  7. ^ "1682 – Tholsel, Dublin". Archiseek - Irish Architecture. 9 December 2011. Retrieved 1 September 2020. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  8. ^ "Wea44 Tholsel | Dublin City Council". Retrieved 1 September 2020. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  9. ^ "Tholsel, Dublin". The Art Institute of Chicago. Retrieved 16 September 2020. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  10. ^ Croffey, Amy. "8 Irish buildings that vanished, disappeared or were demolished". Retrieved 1 September 2020. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  11. ^ Mitchell, James (1976). "The Tholsel at Galway (1639-1822)". Journal of the Galway Archaeological and Historical Society. 35: 77–85. JSTOR 25535475.
  12. ^ "The Tholsel – Kilkenny City and County Portal". Retrieved 2015-06-16. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  13. ^ "Newrossmarket". Retrieved 2015-06-16. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  14. ^ FUSIO. "The Tholsel, Westgate, TOWN PARKS, Carrick-on-Suir, Tipperary South". Buildings of Ireland. Retrieved 2020-09-03.
  15. ^ "1777 – Clock Gate, Youghal, Co. Cork". Archiseek - Irish Architecture. 2009-11-05. Retrieved 2020-09-03.