Our Women’s History Month deep dive into our humble collection continues! This week we are looking into the Philpot Lane door located in our museum.
Nano Nagle set up seven schools which stretched across Cork city. Her first schools were located on the South side of the city, on Cove Lane (Douglas St), they spread along North Main St & South Main St continuing up to the north side of the city. One of Nano’s schools was located on somewhere on Philpot Lane which lies just off Shandon St. The map below shows the location of Nano’s schools with the Philpot Lane school located at the top.
Nano’s first school in Cove Lane was, according to tradition, fronted by a breadshop to help conceal its real purpose, both from the authorities and from her family, who might have disapproved of her risktaking. Remember the Penal Laws were still in place and it was illegal for Catholics to receive a Catholic education, let alone run a secret Catholic school! The Philpot Lane door has a prominent feature which harks back to Nano’s risky endeavors. The hatch/grill on the door acts as an enduring relic of dangerous times when discovery of a Convent or Catholic school could bring severe retribution. The hatch/grill seen on the door was safety measure, necessary to ensure the one being admitted to this secret school was a friend.
After Nano’s death in 1784, the Presentation Sisters whom Nano founded, took over the running of her schools. Rather than traversing across the city, Number 2 Philpot Lane became the first home of the North Presentation Sisters, and this was their front door!
The Sisters who moved in 1799 following their training in South Presentation, probably lived in the upstairs rooms in Philpot Lane. The ground floor accommodated the schoolroom for the children. Life was difficult: the Sisters were often penniless and in dire straits. Young women joined the Sisters, spaces were inadequate and Bishop Moylan assisted in finding space for a new convent and school. A site in Mallow Lane, (now Gerald Griffin Street) was acquired and more than 1,000 children attended the first enrollment in Mallow Lane.
In the 1980’s the door was thrown into a skip on the street, ready to be brought to the local landfill site. Sr. Eucharia Buckley from North Presentation Convent saw it there, recognized it’s importance to the story of Nano Nagle and the Presentation Sisters and asked the builder if she could have it. He joked it would cost her €250 but very kindly donated it to her.
The door was kept in North Presentation convent for safekeeping where it remained in storage, until it was moved to the Nano Nagle Place museum in 2017. You can view the Philpot Lane door on a self-guided or guided tour of our museum: https://maximcloud.co.uk/NanoNagle_Tickets/#events