Wexford Then and Now

Zoom in on Wexford with a tour through Ireland's past

Wexford has a rich and varied history. But nothing brings the past to life more than the faces of the people who experienced those bygone times. This piece depicts the recent history of Wexford, not in dates and statistics, but in the real human stories which these pictures represent. Who were these Wexford folk, and what were their lives like? Vintage photographs of Wexford - Zoom in and take a closer look.

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Main Street, Wexford (ca. 1800-1900)

Part of the distinguished Lawrence Collection now made available by the Irish National Archive, this image depicts a bustling Weford Main Street prior to the arrival of the motor car some year later. The outfits worn by those pictured reveals their social standing, from street urchins with bear feet to merchants in bowler hats. The hanging carcasses visible on both sides of the street are presumably intended more for the latter than the former. Source: NLI

Main Street, Wexford (ca. 1900-1911)

The same street just a few years later, haunches of meat still in evidence. If the young men on the right-hand side are loitering with intent, we can assume that they moved on shortly after the photograph was taken: There appears to be a policeman in the distance, stood officously behind the more distant of the two horse-drawn carts. Use the magnifier to get a closer look. Source: NLI

Market Square, Enniscorthy (ca. 1892)

In the shadow of Saint Aidan's Cathedral, Enniscorthy market square sees a quiet day's trading. Several donkeys and a horse take respite and pick at a small pile of fodder. Advertisements in Jordan's shop window tell us not only of an upcoming "Passion Play", but also of the finest whiskeys available. If you look closely in the background, next door to J. Boardman ... yes - the haunches of meat are still hanging outside the butcher's shop. Source: NLI

Courtown Harbour, Co. Wexford (1906-1914)

Dredging Courtown harbour draws and audience of all ages and all social classes. None seems more engrossed than a young gentleman in jodhpurs (second from right), who stands rapt with his hands on his hips. In the foreground, a reminder that few boats of this era enjoyed the steam power showcased by the dredger: a working fishing boat, here at berth, still relies on its mast and sail. Source: NLI

Freight train travelling along Wexford Quay (1963)

Welcome to the Twentieth Century and the industry of the post-war years. Locals will recognise Wexford Quay, no doubt, but who among them will admit to recognising the makes and models of the cars and trucks pictured here? Is that a Morris Minor on the left? And where is that man going with a 3-foot tyre? Source: Roger Joanes.

Wexford Quay. C230 southbound freight train.

Wexford Quay viewed from a Train (1960)

An image taken from the same train, three years earlier. Locals will recognise the bridge in the background and the train track still remains on a quayside which is today much wider. With only one boat in view, the scene seems almost eerily quiet. Source: Roger Joanes.

Rural Family pose in Ballyknock, New Ross (1908)

Ballyknock, New Ross, Co. Wexford, Ireland

An image reminiscant of work by Walker Evans, the iconic American photographer of the same era and social-realist style. A rural family showcases its social position in an image designed to exhibit all of their material possessions. While few today may envy this scene, the subjects of the photograph have two outbuildings in addition to a glazed, wood-clad home; they have at least three horses and a carriage, as well as two dogs (sat obediently on command) which are presumably kept to shepherd a flock. Welcome to the good life. Source: NLI