The Story Behind The Bedford Townhouse & Café, Limerick

August 13, 2020

The Bedford opened its doors in July 2018 on Bedford Row in Limerick, but behind these walls lies the story of a building nearly 200 years old. Here we share a little more about our beautiful building Bedford House and the colourful history which led to the creation of The Bedford as it exists today.

Did you know Bedford House dates back to 1830 and was once formerly two Georgian townhouses? This heritage and the colourful characters who lived here have shaped everything we have created here at The Bedford from the interiors to our brand and even the sign that hangs over our front door. Join us as we share out journey to opening our doors.

Former Resident – Peter Tait and a Limerick Clothes Making Heritage

One of the most colourful former residents of Bedford House was a gentleman by the name of Peter Tait.

Tait was not only three-time former mayor of Limerick but was also the founder of the Limerick Clothing Factory. While many associate the Limerick Clothing Factory with Lord Edward Street, the origins of the factory began right here in Bedford House.

Shirtmaking operations were run from this very building and it was not long before these operations outgrew the space and Tait needed to expand his clothes making operations to a larger space.  The Limerick Clothing Factory premises on Lord Edward Street opened in 1853 and eventually became one of the biggest clothing manufacturers in the world.

In its early years, it supplied uniforms to the British Army, the Canadian Volunteer Militia and to the Confederates in the American Civil War, and hundreds of local people were employed at the facility – it was also the highest employer of women in the city outside of service roles.

The Limerick Clothing Factory has a storied history, as entrepreneur Peter Tait moved to Limerick to create a new factory to challenge his Scottish competitors. Over the years, the site saw numerous owners and proprietors, before eventually closing in 1974, and bringing the curtain down on a Limerick institution.

In January 2018, the site of the Limerick Clothing Factory reopened as a residential area bringing new life into this historical building. It was also at this time that Sharon Slater (Limerick’s Life) released the book A Stitch in Time, a History of The Limerick Clothing Factory, which weaves together the threads running from Tait’s foundation until the factory’s closure in November 1974.

This wonderful book is part of the Limerick Archive’s series on Limerick industries. It is edited by Jacqui Hayes of the Limerick Archives and Dr Matthew Potter of the Limerick Museum. It is available to purchase from O’Mahonys Bookshop just around the corner from The Bedford on O’Connell St, Limerick City.

Bedford Row, the street on which The Bedford sits, also plays a big part in our story. Together with local brand historian Eoghan Power we created a Bedford Row Heritage Trail which proudly sits downstairs in our Parlour Room and tells the stories of the many businesses who have traded on Bedford Row over the last 200 years.

There was once even a Bedford Hotel on our street which we never knew until we started opening the historical maps and trails!

Branding – The Story Behind the Needle and Thread

The heritage of Bedford House was a pivotal part of the creation of our new brand for The Bedford. We wanted to create an image and symbol for The Bedford that created curiosity amongst both our café and hotel patrons and the public of Limerick.

Working with the talented Piquant we created The Bedford brand based on a needle and thread; synonymous with the clothes making heritage of The Bedford. As a proud Limerick business, green was always going to be the primary colour of The Bedford and we have been able to apply this everywhere from our takeaway cups in The Bedford Café to our Bedford Guest Directory and Robes for our hotel guests.


So where do you start when you have a building that dates back to 1830 and you have a vision of blending old and new together in creating a 12-bedroom boutique hotel? Answer – you work with a talented interior designer!

The wonderful Tullio Orlandi joined our project from the very beginning and bought into our vision of restoring the residence feel of the townhouse with all the luxury of a five-star hotel experience. It was very important for us to honour the heritage of the space while adding a modern twist and some surprises along the way.

With a boutique hotel – there has to be an innate personality to the space and the design is such a big part of telling the story.

It goes without saying that hotel rooms have to have certain elements – the all-important comfortable bed, the nice hot shower, good lighting and the all-important hairdryer and iron! It is the way these are designed and presented to a guest that really makes the difference and can deliver the WOW factor!

The nods back to the clothes making heritage are seen throughout our guest rooms with lots of woven fabrics and natural materials and textures – our king-size beds are lovingly adorned with fabric headboards and woven throws and sit on Christian Lacroix cloud rugs to help our guests float into slumber.

Our leather chairs in each room also echo the feeling of the industrial history of Bedford House while complementing the dark wood furniture handcrafted by our friends at Abbeyowney. The colour palettes in the room also provide a sense of calm to our guests. Our bedrooms are enveloped in Farrow & Ball Inchyra Blue and provide a relaxing and soothing space to unwind.

In bringing old and new together we see many of the more old-world furnishings juxtapose alongside modern Buster & Punch brass fittings and Astro brass light fittings which illuminate the spaces; showcasing how such contrasting elements can not only work well together but complement each other.

It is the many little touches through the townhouse and our rooms that always surprise guest. The  1950s Carrington phones add a playful touch – so much so that we often have to let guests know that they are working phones and not for decorative purposes only!

Outside of our 12 bedrooms we also offer our guests our beautiful Parlour Room in our lower ground floor which is a lounge area for guests to enjoy – with soft lighting, luxury fabrics and a fire at the click of a button we hope to provide guests with a home away from home. This area also houses our gym and steamroom and we also have a rooftop garden on the first floor which is a little oasis in the city.

Finally, each of our hotel rooms is named after a Limerick landmark and tradition – see more below for how Limerick is at the heart of The Bedford guest experience.

Signage – Bedford House

There is something very special about putting a business name over the front door. It marks your new identity, tells the world that you are open and provides a focal point for guests arriving.

In the creation of our brand for The Bedford we were able to tell the story of The Bedford and this process continued quite organically as we created our sign. We took great pride in working with Limerick suppliers the whole way through the transformation of Bedford House and in creating our signage we had the great fortune of partnering with Tom Collins.

Tom introduced us to the craft of signwriting and took us an inspiring journey to convert our beautiful brand in to sign that represented our beautiful brand and its core values. The gold-gilded letters of The Bedford shine brightly on Bedford Row and will no doubt stand the test of time.

Interesting Fact: Did you know there was a Bedford Hotel that operated on Bedford Row back in the 1930’s? This was a surprising revelation to us and what was even more surprising was the signage of that hotel was very similar to the classic sign that Tom Collins created for The Bedford – only reinforcing the craft and artistry of signwriting.


Limerick is most definitely the lady of The Bedford and plays a leading role in our story. All our 12 hotel rooms are named after Limerick landmarks or traditions. Each room has imagery and history related to their room name – in doing this we hope to promote the very best of Limerick City that’s on our doorstep.

Below is a picture of our Lace Room which has a beautiful image of Limerick Lace from the exhibition that is on display at the Limerick Museum, a short walk from our Townhouse.

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