If you are visiting Gort, a charming town in south Galway, you might notice a curious stone building in the middle of the market square. This is the Gort Cranehouse Weighbridge, a unique and well-preserved example of a 19th century market weigh house. 

A weigh house, also known as a crane house, was a public building where goods were weighed before being sold or taxed. They were common in medieval and early modern Europe, especially in towns and cities that had trade privileges or markets. Weigh houses were usually located near ports, bridges, gates or marketplaces, where they could easily access the incoming and outgoing goods.

Weigh houses served various purposes, depending on the context and the authority that operated them. Some weigh houses were used to ensure fair trade and prevent fraud by verifying the weight and quality of the goods. Others were used to collect taxes or fees based on the weight of the goods. Some weigh houses also had other functions, such as storing goods, hosting meetings or ceremonies, or displaying civic symbols.

Weigh houses varied in size and design, but they typically had a large open space with a roof supported by pillars or arches, where the weighing scales were installed. Some weigh houses also had an attached crane or hoist that could lift heavy goods from carts or boats onto the scales. The scales were usually operated by official weighmasters, who recorded the weights and issued certificates or receipts.

The Gort Cranehouse Weighbridge was built in 1872 by the local landlord. It replaced an earlier wooden weigh house that had been destroyed by fire in 1868. The new weigh house was constructed of cut limestone blocks, with rusticated quoins and a slate roof. It has a rectangular plan, with two entrances on opposite sides and two windows on each side wall. The building measures about 6 meters by 4 meters, and stands about 5 meters high.

The weigh house was equipped with a weighbridge, a type of weighing scale that could measure the weight of vehicles and their loads. The weighbridge consisted of a platform that was connected to a lever system and a balance beam inside the building. The platform was large enough to accommodate a horse-drawn cart or wagon, which would drive onto it from one entrance and exit from the other. The weight of the vehicle and its load would be transferred to the balance beam, which would indicate the weight on a scale.

The weigh house also had a water pump and a trough outside, which provided water for the horses and carts. Inside the building, there was also an internal balance for weighing smaller items, such as sacks of grain or barrels of butter. The weigh house was used by local farmers and traders who brought their produce to the market square to sell or export. The weigh house charged a fee for its service, which was collected by the weighmaster.

The Gort Cranehouse Weighbridge was in operation until the 1950s, when it became obsolete due to the advent of motorized vehicles and modern weighing methods. The building was then abandoned and fell into disrepair. In 2001, it was restored by An Taisce, the National Trust for Ireland, with funding from Galway County Council and the Heritage Council. The restoration involved repairing the stone walls and roof, repainting the doors and windows, reinstalling the weighbridge mechanism and balance beam, and adding interpretive panels and signage.

The Gort Cranehouse Weighbridge is one of only a few surviving market weigh houses in Ireland. It is a rare and valuable example of an industrial heritage building that reflects the social and economic history of Gort and its surrounding area. It is also a fine example of skilled stone masonry and engineering that showcases the craftsmanship and technology of its time.

The Gort Cranehouse Weighbridge is open to visitors all year round, free of charge. You can enter the building and see how the weighing scales work, as well as learn more about its history from the information panels. You can also admire its architectural features and details from outside, such as its arched entrances, its decorative cornice and finials, and its cast-iron water pump.


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Gort Crane House



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