the first surviving drawing of limerick's new town can be dated to 1769 and attributed to the architect and engineer, christopher colles.
colles' 'plan' of limerick was commissioned by earl percy, member of parliament for westminster, for a purpose that is no longer known. percy was commander of the city's garrison and he may have needed a map. he was, too, a major landowner with an interest in development. an early venture in real estate was his development of st john's square immediately inside the old city walls then in the process of being dismantled. the form of the square does not correspond to the common idea of georgian architecture. it is clad in stone, then more affordable than brick, and the roof eaves are not concealed behind a parapet aiming to confer to terrace housing the nobility of a mansion house. but the square was a sign of what was to come in so far as it displayed a formality that was entirely new in limerick. even though, it was never connected to later developments by pery and it remains to this day a disjointed, charming and faintly bleak anachronism in the city.
colles' drawing is neither a map of the city as it existed nor a plan showing it as it might be: it has something of both. the town extension had been under consideration since 1765. while all streets in the irish and english towns are named on the drawing, the lack of names (but one) in the new town suggests that the plan had not been finalised. certainly the drawing could not have been for the purpose of the building for, in the eighteenth century, drawings were never used in the setting out of buildings, let alone of a town extension.
all that is known is that colles sought to have the map engraved and published in london by subscription. with this in mind, he circulated an advertisement in which the map is referred to as 'fine art'. colles' drawing is remarkable in that it is among the few representing a town extension in a single comprehensive vision. james craig's nearly contemporary plan for edinburgh's new town, then only slightly more extensive than limerick's new town, was another.