The Athenaeum in Enniscorthy,a wonderful Museum and Historic Theatre
The Athenaeum is a late nineteenth-century architectural gem tucked away on a traditional terraced street in Enniscorthy. The 'Grand Old Lady' of Castle Street is a theatre and town hall built in 1892, at the height of the Gaelic revival. As a theatre it was hugely successful with travelling dramatic companies featuring theatrical greats like Mícheál Mac Líammóir and Hilton Edwards, the founders of The Gate Theatre in Dublin, and Anew MacMaster.
In 1916 the County Wexford Irish Volunteers chose the Athenaeum as their military headquarters:
County Wexford was one of only three counties in Ireland to disregard Eoin Mac Neill’s countermand, directing them not to rise up and rebel. On Thursday April 27th, three days after the Dublin battalions took the GPO and started the Rising in Dublin, the Wexford Volunteers rose and made Enniscorthy Athenaeum their headquarters. The building was later styled as Enniscorthy's GPO. The Athenaeum houses the County Wexford 1916 archives in a newly installed museum where you can see guns, uniforms, photographs and other artefacts from the four days of the Irish Republic in 1916. Padraig Pearse and Seán MacDiarmada addressed audience from the Athenaeum stage in the months and weeks leading up to the Rising.
In the 1940s, '50s and '60s the Athenaeum flourished as a dancehall, often a ballroom of romance. The ballroom that you can see now is original in most aspects.
The wedding reception scene in the film adaptation of Colm Tóibín’s novel, Brooklyn, was filmed in the Athenaeum and was not unlike early dances on the very same floor.
As well as the dances, the Athenaeum was also host to an All-Ireland-winning drama group and a drama festival was held in town every year. Since the re-opening in April, three theatre groups have performed on the vintage stage.
Thanks to substantial restoration as part of the 1916 centenary commemorations, the Athenaeum is back in action, run entirely by volunteers, is a registered charity and is open to visitors seven days a week.
Come along and visit this grand and historic venue for yourself.