csorp-recordsThe Chief Secretary’s Office Registered Papers (CSORP) is a vast and rambling collection of material that is pitted with gems for genealogical research.  If your ancestor had any interaction with the machine of the state, there is a possibility that they will be documented in this collection.

The CSORP can be found in the National Archives of Ireland.  They are the papers received by the office of the Chief Secretary of Ireland between 1818 and 1924.  The Chief Secretary, although subordinate to the Lord Lieutenant, essentially headed the administration of Ireland following the Act of Union in 1800.  His office received correspondence pertaining to all aspects of administering the country from crime, famine and rebellion to civil service appointments, policing, health, public works and more.   The correspondence includes letters, as well as reports and petitions.  If your ancestor was involved in an event that was likely to have been reported to the Chief Secretary’s Office, this collection is well worth investigating.

While researching the family history of Gareth Malone for Who Do You Think You Are? a newspaper article documenting the arrest of Gareth’s ancestor, Dan Lowry, was brought to our attention.   Dan Lowry was arrested by the Dublin Metropolitan Police on 23rd December 1879 at the opening of the Star of Erin Music Hall and his case was heard in the Southern Divisional Court in January 1880.  A search was undertaken to find out more about the charges against him and the outcome of his case.  This search, initially unsuccessful, eventually lead to the CSORP.  

Finding Correspondence in the CSORP

From 1840 CSORP correspondence is organised in two indexes.  For the researcher, the first index that should be consulted organises the entries by subject.  The subject headings are organised alphabetically, however, you may also find that there are sub headings within each subject.   It is best to spend some time looking through the entire index to get a sense of the various subjects that are listed and determining under which subject the case you are looking for might have been filed. In the case of Dan Lowry, a search was made under ‘Law Opinions’, ‘Publicans Licences’ and ‘Police Metropolitan: Divisional Magistrates and Offices’.  A reference was found under the latter subject heading with the reference number 151.

The second index of the CSORP is a chronological listing of each piece of correspondence, numbered in order as it was received.  A case reference number 151 is very likely to appear within the first weeks of the year and sure enough, 151 was entered in the index on 7th January 1880.   If there was no further communication on this case, our search would end here and a request would be made for CSORP 1880 151.  However, the second index will often refer to a new reference number, entered on the far right column of the page and you must track the correspondence from reference to reference, sometimes over more than one year.  Generally each new piece of correspondence is added to the one file and continually renumbered until the final entry in the index, when no new reference is recorded in the right hand column.  This is your final reference for this file.

Following the trail through the index found five entries pertaining to this case from 151 to 6th February 1880 (2763) to 15th April 1880 (9644) to 31st May 1880 (12816) to 30th October (26767).   There were no additional references after 26767, suggesting that this was the final file reference for this correspondence.  A copy of the file (CSORP 1880 26767) was requested and was found to be a thick file on the Lowry case, including a detailed police report and magistrate’s judgement with correspondence from the Dublin Metropolitan Police, the Crown Solicitor and the presiding magistrate.   

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The Dan Lowry Case in the CSORP

The case papers explained that in 1878 Dan Lowry took over 8 Crampton Court from Margaret Connell, which was a licenced premises, with a music hall.  Lowry then obtained possession of the neighbouring house 7 Crampton Court and joined the two buildings, extending the bar and music hall into number 7.  This is the site of what is today the Olympia Theatre, although the premises was entered from a lane way at the side of the building in Lowry’s time.  Lowry believed that he had extended his licence from 8 Crampton Court to cover the addition of number 7, when he renewed the licence in October 1879 and proceeded with the opening of the extended and refurbished Star of Erin Music Hall on 22nd December.  However, the Dublin Metropolitan Police (DMP) inspector who visited the music hall at 11pm on the night of the 23nd December reported that he found alcohol being sold in what he considered to be an unlicensed part of the building (number 7 Crampton Court) and had Lowry arrested.  The case was heard in January 1880 and the magistrate, William Woodcock, dismissed the charges against Lowry, acknowledging that the licence extended to the additions to number 8.  But the case did not end there.  It would appear from the correspondence in the file that the DMP Inspector brought the case to the attention of the Crown Solicitor, who, after reviewing Woodcock’s judgement, reported to the Under Secretary that Woodcock’s decision to dismiss the case was wrong and a case against Lowry should be pursued.  The Crown Solicitor continued to gather evidence against Lowry, compiling a file that included the magistrate’s judgement and the police inspector’s report and the case was not concluded until October 1880, when it appears that Lowry was forced to obtain a separate licence to cover the other parts of the building external to number 8 Crampton Court.

That the case was brought to the attention of the Chief Secretary’s Office appears to be the responsibility of the Dublin Metropolitan Police Inspector who undermined the magistrate’s initial dismissal of the case.  His pursuit of Lowry suggests his disapproval of the Star of Erin Music Hall and it is understandable that the DMP may have been wary of what trouble a large extended music hall and drinking establishment might have brought to the heart of the city.
Not all court cases or crimes appear in the records of the Chief Secretary’s Office, only those that were brought to the attention of the Office, usually of a much more serious nature than a licencing matter.  However, a detailed account of Lowry’s case did find its way into the collection due, it appears, to the zealous nature of a police inspector.   Although a small fragment in the life of Lowry and the Olympia Theatre, it perhaps tells us something about the attitudes of the law to music halls in Victorian Dublin.

The indexes for the CSORP are on the open shelves in the National Archives of Ireland.  There is an ongoing project in the National Archives to index the entire collection, the resulting index can be found online and can be searched with any keyword or you can browse the collection, which includes a set of ‘State of the Country’ papers for 1821.  However, it will take many years before the entire collection appears in this database, so check the range of years available before you search.