Thomas Prior Hall
The building was originally used as Masonic Girls’ School. It was built by Messrs. Gahan and son according to the architectural plans of Messrs. McCurdy and Mitchell. The work of Messrs. McCurdy and Mitchell is also linked to the construction carried out on the Shelbourne Hotel, Trinity College, and the Zoological Gardens in Phoenix Park.
Set on a site of nearly ten acres, the school boasted some of the most advanced building and engineering techniques of its day. It included a library, dormitories, schoolrooms, recreation areas and dining areas. The school formed two sides of a quadrangle and was entered beneath a tower at the corner. This tower was not merely ornamental but also contained water supply works of both the building and the bathrooms.
Inside the rooms were airy and bright. The dormitories contained adjoining lavatories and were cheerful despite the military style order, cleanliness and scarcity. The dining hall was not only functional but comfortable and was heated by slow combustion stoves as was the entrance hall. The kitchens were furnished with the most up-to-date appliances and the laundry area was positioned to be convenient yet discreet. Recreational and exercise facilities for the orphans were also of the highest standard.
As much as was possible, the fittings and furniture for the school were manufactured and bought in Ireland. Built at a cost of £15,000, the new school would remain an orphanage for the next 90 years. The beautiful terracotta fountain that stands in front of the main building was bequeathed to the school by a Mr Sawyer who was not a member of the Masonic Order.
The hall to the left of the main building was built ten years after the construction of the school was completed and was used as an assembly hall for prayers and meetings.
In 2015, Bewley’s Hotel Ballsbridge became Clayton Hotel Ballsbridge and has since upgraded from a 3 star hotel to a 4 star hotel.