For this year’s Heritage Week event, and specifically Water Heritage Day I wanted to showcase a unique water-related site at the popular bar and restaurant known now as Jack Meades, but previously it was more commonly called Halfway House. Over the next few Fridays, I will focus on some of the aspects of the site in the context of the historic role of the stream, Ballycanvan Pill, and the River Suir. In this post I want to look at the location and the pub.
Water plays a crucial role in all our lives. However, in previous generations, it had an added importance related to transport. Ships plied the ocean waves carrying freight and passengers around the globe, the rivers were a vital infrastructure allowing goods to be carried from and to inland locations that could take many days and significant expense to journey by poor and limited roadway. I believe it was in this era that the placename “Halfway House” was born and the location originated; a halfway point from Waterford City to the busy shipping stop-off point that was Passage East and later Cheekpoint.
Geography of the site
Halfway House is situated at a crossing point of Ballycanvan stream and Pill. A Pill is a common enough word locally, originating in Norman times I understand and generally referring to a tidal stream. The Pill is tidal (ie the river rises and falls to that point) up to the bridge, a fresh water stream lies above this and it must have been an ancient fording point of the stream.
The main road between Cheekpoint and Waterford comes through the site, but in the past it was also a roadway from Passage and Crooke to the city, joining the main road at Carraiglea and what we locally call Strongbows Bridge. The current Passage and Crooke Road crosses over the bridge now at the site but that’s a more recent development,
The site also marks three distinctive administrative boundaries. As you cross the stream towards the city you leave the county boundary and enter the city. It also marks the meeting of three District Electoral Divisions (DED’s) Faithlegg, Ballymaclode and Woodstown. Within this it is also subdivided into six townlands, all of which converge at the crossing; Ballycanvan, Ballynaboola, Ballyvoreen, Ballymaclode, Ballygunnertemple, and Cross. It was/is also surrounded by several large houses including Ballycanvan, Woodlands, Brooke Lodge, Mount Druid, and Blenheim.
Irelands only Flyover Pub!
Before we leave the geographic description, it is worth explaining the bridge that currently stands as a means of travelling towards Passage East. You see the bridge is a relatively new construct (circa 1860) and it was apparently built at a time when a local business family, the Malcomsons (of Portlaw milling and Waterford ship owning and shipbuilding fame), were trying to gather investors to build a railway line to Passage East to take time off the journey from the city to Milford Haven. The plan failed, although the bridge was built, although the use of rail was later successfully implemented when in 1906 the SW Wexford rail line was built to connect the city with Rosslare and via ferry to Fishguard.
Passage East – Days of Sail and Cheekpoint and the Mail Packet
The place name of Halfway House is a common enough one. According to my Oxford Dictionary, the term Halfway House has four meanings in the modern sense but perhaps the oldest and more historical based is a midpoint between two towns. In this case, it’s a mid-point between Waterford city and initially the busy stop off point for shipping at Passage East and later Cheekpoint.
Passage East was historically and administratively part of Waterford city, primarily in my opinion, because it was central to shipping. Passage was the point where ships could relatively easily sail to; beyond Passage the river narrows, sailing was more difficult and so before the coming of steam power Passage was a much more accessible spot to anchor.
Ships entering port could anchor relatively safely between Passage and Ballyhack. There the customs could check on cargo and ensure the appropriate rates were applied. Ships could be emptied by the Lighters and a myriad number of trades could be employed in looking after the ship’s needs. Horse-drawn traffic would have abounded including carriages, carts, joulters, jarveys and so many other horse-driven transports. Passengers and goods would have been transported both to and from the area. At a later point when the official Mail Packet Service was established at Cheekpoint in 1787, trade would have flourished to the village.
As a consequence, these horse-drawn transports would have required a stop-off point. The freshwater stream would have looked after the horses needs. The pub would have catered for the men! On Redmond’s Hill, a forge operated by a family of the same name operated within living memory and it must have had a good market given the level of trade that would have passed the door. The site also had a shop, a post office and there were a great number of homes for those employed either in the big houses, the farms or in the businesses around the area.
Jack Meades Pub/ Halfway House
Over the door, on the way into the old bar at Jack Meades it states that the pub was founded in 1705. It was recorded in November 1710, that one Jenkin Richards leased the Inn from William Harrison who lived at the time at Ballycanvan House. Richards was said to lease “the house commonly called or known by the name of “Halfway House”
James Guest, (how’s that for a landlords name) and his son John were running the pub in 1721 and the family lived on the premises. The last of the family recorded were the brothers Robert and James Guest who dropped their lease in the 1770’s. In the mid 19th Century, 1857 to be exact, the landlord of the pub was John Curtain. When Curtain died, his daughter Elizabeth Meade took over. Her son Thomas Meade was next to inherit, passing it on in turn to his son John, commonly called Jack. Jack ran it up to the 1970s at which point it passed to his own daughter Carmel. Carmel and her husband Willie Hartley run it still, although it has grown in size in the intervening period, and their son Liam runs the busy food part of the business.
It’s had a difficult time over the last two years as they have tried to survive financially during the Covid 19 pandemic, but it’s interesting to think that it survived the earlier Cholera outbreaks, the famine, and the Spanish flu.
The site of course has many other water related features, and these I will explore over the new few weeks in the run into National Heritage Week 2021 and specifically Water Heritage Day on Sunday 22nd August 2021. My original plan was to do a booklet of these pieces of information to be available for a guided walk on the site. However, due to my Covid concerns, this is still not a certainty. I might opt for an online presentation instead. This work will be supported by the Local Authority Waters Programme.
Next week – the two agricultural water-powered corn mills on the site, their design, operation, and the relevance of the stream and the tidal Pill in their operation.