The Charleville Bolsters; Master Stone Cutters

A Bolster headstone from Anhid graveyard near Croom, Co. Limerick


We have traced over 100 gravestones carved by three generations of the Bolster family in North Cork and throughout Co. Limerick. Local Historian Evelyn O'Keeffe traced the family history of these Bolsters and some of her results are presented here. 

Bolster Family History (by Evelyn O'Keeffe)

The family of stone carver Joseph Bolster were skilled crafts men and artists, who were responsible for many of the buildings we see today in Charleville's Main Street and the houses at the Turrets adjacent to Holy Cross Church, as far as Love Lane corner. The Bolsters were also responsible for the headstones in both Holy Cross Cemetery and in the Church of Ireland graveyard around the Library at Main Street, Charleville.

Examples of their headstones are also to be found in grave yards across the Limerick border in Bruree and other centres. The members of the family were the stone carver William, stone mason Charles and Joseph, who was a stone-mason and builder.

William Bolster married Alice Phayer and they had seven children. Some of their sons followed in their father's footsteps and became stone masons. How we know this is we can see Bolster headstones in nearly every single graveyard in the area and just over the Limerick border in the nearby parishes of County limerick.

In the Church of Ireland grounds in Bruree it is nearly made up of 30% of headstones made by the Bolsters. It is here you can see some of the finest works of art from Joseph Bolster during the 1820s, 30s, 40s.

In the primary valuation of Ireland, or Griffith's Valuation, in the 1850s for Charleville we see a comment referring to the houses to the left of the present day Roman Catholic Church as far as Love Lane corner, all of these houses were built by Joseph Bolster. Joseph married Jane Stack of Doneraile in 1825 and they lived at the Turrets, Charleville. The children that we know of are William born in 1826, Eliza born 1828, Alice born 12th Mar 1830 and Julia born in 1834.

Tragedy struck the Bolster family in 1844 when Joseph's wife, Jane, died and five years later tragedy struck again, this time it was Joseph's daughter, Alice, who died in 1849, aged 19 years.

Alice was a straw bonnet maker, and she was laid to rest with her mother in the Church of Ireland graveyard in Charleville, now the public library.

Many of the buildings on the Main Street in Charleville were built in the 1830s/1840's and we now believe that Joseph Bolster was the builder of many of them.