Cotswold District Council (CDC) will fund the removal of an historic oak staircase from the Cotswold’s Old Memorial Hospital and transfer it to the custodianship of the Limerick Civic Trust.

The staircase – which is regarded as an official war memorial – was originally donated to the hospital by the Limerick-based family of Major Edgar James Bannatyne, who was a member of the Royal Flying Corps during World War 1 and died at Rendcomb airfield in the Cotswolds in 1917.

The Old Memorial Hospital is being demolished and the Cotswold District Council wanted to ensure that the staircase was preserved for posterity. The line of the family has now died out but they are remembered as leading merchants who helped to bring prosperity to Limerick.

Limerick Civic Trust will honour the memory of the Bannatyne’s by installing the staircase into St Munchin’s Church on Church Street in King’s Island, which contains a number of graves and monuments commemorating the Bannatyne family. The Trust is currently converting the Church into a Military Museum.

David O’Brien, CEO, Limerick Civic Trust, said “We are very grateful that Cotswold District Council has agreed to give us custodianship of this historic staircase. For over 30 years Limerick Civic Trust has been involved with the conservation and preservation of our heritage, so we very much appreciate the origins and story behind the Bannatyne staircase. We are delighted to be able to provide a very fitting home for the staircase in St Munchin’s Church which we are currently converting into a museum, allowing us to ensure this unique war memorial will be open to the public.”

St Munchin’s Church was built in 1827 and was renovated in 1980 by Limerick Civic Trust.  When the conversion to a museum is complete, the Trust plans to exhibit two military collections already in its care – the Carrol Collection, which is currently housed in Trust’s headquarters at Bishop’s Palace, and the Armstrong collection. To expand the museum’s offering, the voluntary organisation is working with several interested parties on the repatriation of other artefacts of Irish historical significance from the UK back to Ireland, just like the Bannatyne staircase.

David O’Brien explained,Our vision for the museum is to tell the military history of Limerick from the time of the Siege of Limerick forward. The siege was the last stand of a great European war and Limerick’s part hasn’t been properly recorded. The Carrol Collection gives us one vista into this colourful military history. This collection was gifted to the Limerick Civic Trust by June O’Carroll Robertson, a descendant of the Carrol’s of Tulla and Lissenhall in Co Tipperary. We believe there are other families in the UK who would consider donating items of historical interest with a connection to Limerick. Artefacts related to the military history of the region are of particular interest to us.

Cllr Nick Parsons, the Deputy Leader of CDC, comments:The Council will be demolishing the Old Memorial Hospital and we wanted to ensure that this magnificent staircase was preserved for posterity.  Placing it in storage would have deprived the public of a magnificent war memorial and we are very pleased that it will now be on display on the grounds of the Bannatyne family crypt in Ireland. The fact that we are marking the centenary of the end of World War I this year brings extra significance to this agreement.

From a financial viewpoint it would have cost a substantial amount of money per year to keep the staircase in storage so the cost of transferring it to Ireland for public display represents very good value for money for taxpayers,” Cllr Parsons concluded.

The significance of the donation was welcomed by Lord Limerick, a patron of the Trust, who penned a Limerick especially to mark the occasion:

The bells of St Munchin will chime.
They’ll peal out their message in rhyme:
That Limerick cares
For Bannatyne stairs.
And they’ll ring it one rung at a time.

Edmund Limerick

A spokesperson for CDC added, “We are very pleased to have strengthened ties between our Council and the people of Limerick, and we very much hope that the staircase will prove to be a very successful addition to the war memorial being assembled at St Munchin’s Church.

Mr. O’Brien concluded, “It was a pleasure to work with Cotswold District Council and their representatives; their professionalism is an example for others to follow. A lot of work goes on behind the scenes to make sure projects like this come to fruition so I would like to thank everyone on our Museum Board, Collections Committee and Historical Committee for their unwavering support.