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Our History

The original Linen Hall was built in 1790 by Lord Lucan, Castlebar’s principal landlord, as a clearing house for the flax and linen produced in the region.

The Linenhall Arts Centre began as the Education Centre in 1976 by Marie Farrell and was located in the old Methodist Church on the Mall in Castlebar. It was funded by the Department of Education and set up as a pilot project to take temporary exhibitions from the important collections in the National Museum, the National Gallery and the National Library.

Quite quickly the Centre alsoo began to develop its own programme of exhibitions, theatre, music and cinema, focusing on the contemporary arts and bringing quality performances into the area.

In 1986 the Centre moved to its present home in the Linen Hall. When the pilot project was reviewed a commitment was made to continue providing an arts service and in 1990 the Arts Council came on board to fund the newly formed Linenhall Arts Centre.

The original Linen Hall was built in 1790 by Lord Lucan, Castlebar’s principal landlord, as a clearing house for the flax and linen produced in the region.

The Linen Hall was also used as a storehouse for looms and tools. Mayo was one of the largest producers of flax in Ireland and the linen industry provided a regular and stable income for the many linen producers in the county.

The Linenhall building itself was one of the most substantial and imposing buildings in Castlebar, reflecting the importance of the flax and linen trade to the area.

The grey limestone blocks in the facade have a sturdiness and air of permanence about them, but surely even General Humbert - who held his victory celebrations here following The Races of Castlebar in 1798 - could not have imagined that the building would still ring to the sound of music, dance and celebration two hundred years on.

Over a number of recent years, work was completed to restore the front of the building to its original structure. This work was kindly funded and supported by Castlebar Municipal District and culminated in new windows and a new front door on the building.

In 2022, musician Emer Mayock curated an event commemorating the building’s restoration to its former glory. The event, titled Inside, Outside, situated audiences on Linenhall Street while the artists performed from inside the windows of the Linenhall building.

"In making new work centred in Castlebar’s limestone heart, the artists of this Linenhall project of February 2022 honour the craftsmen who built the stone of the building over two hundred years ago, the women who spun and wove and worked linen for decades after, and all the artists and workers who have done so much good in this building over its long lifetime. The new music, words and performance also marked the completion of important conservation work in the Linenhall Arts Centre, entirely in keeping with the larger spirit of the place – art, creativity and architectural heritage in enduring harmony."

– Vincent Woods

Read more details about our Inside, Outside event.

The 18th century façade of the Linenhall building is home to a beautiful surveying bench mark. A bench mark is a simple and elegant crows-foot-shaped mark which is carved into stone walls in built environment all around the country. They were created during the 1800s to mark the height above sea level at particular locations and were used by ordnance surveyors to map the terrain.

In 2019, former Access Officer, Orla Henihan conceptualised a residency project multifaceted arts and heritage project in which award-winning writer Mike McCormack worked with ten Mayo based writers and ten visual artists from Engage Art Studios to explore aspects of bench marks and surveying in the context of local heritage.

Read more about the Benchmark project.