St. George’s, St. George’s Avenue, Killiney, Co. Dublin

Contact: Robert McQuillan

Tel: 087-2567718

Open dates in 2022: July 1-31, Aug 1-31, 9am-1pm

Fee: adult €5 OAP/student/child €3.50

St. George’s, August 2022.

St. George’s is a wonderful Arts and Crafts/Gothic Revival house in the beautiful suburbs of Killiney. It was built in the 1870s by George Coppinger Ashlin, a former pupil and later partner of Edward Welby Pugin, son of Augustus Pugin who played a primary role in initiating the Gothic revival style of architecture. Augustus Pugin designed the Houses of Parliament in Westminster. He also designed the hall ceiling, staircase and gallery in Adare Manor, County Limerick.

Adare Manor staircase, photograph by Chris Brooks 2012 from flickr constant commons.

Augustus Pugin converted to Catholicism. In 1836, Pugin published Contrasts, and in it he argued for “a return to the faith and the social structures of the Middle Ages,” and this was reflected in his Gothic taste in architecture and design. In 1841 he published his illustrated The True Principles of Pointed or Christian Architecture in which he advocated medieval, “Gothic”, or “pointed”, architecture. In the work, he wrote that contemporary craftsmen seeking to emulate the style of medieval workmanship should reproduce its methods. Pugin also designed stained glass.

Edward Welby Pugin joined his father’s firm. Pugin & Pugin were mainly church architects. Pugin was invited first to work in Ireland by the Redmond family of Wexford (I think they lived in Ballytrent).

Edward Welby Pugin’s works in Ireland include a beautiful chapel at Edermine, County Wexford, which I’d love to see, as well as Cobh and Killarney cathedrals.

Edermine was built for the Power family of the firm of John Power & Son, Distillers, of Dublin. It was through John Power’s influence that Pugin was commissioned to built many churches in Ireland. Power was awarded a Baronetcy in 1841and became Sir John Power 1st Baronet of Roe Buck House, Dublin and Edermine and Sampton, Co Wexford. He was a friend and confidant of Daniel O’Connell, “the Liberator.” [1]

The Powers distillery was located at that time near Thomas Street in Dublin, and it must have been John Power’s influence that led to the commission in 1860 for the design of the Church of St. Augustine and St. John, often referred to as John’s Lane church, on Thomas Street.

St. George’s architect, George Coppinger Ashlin (1837-1921), became a pupil of Edward Welby Pugin in 1856, and was then taken into partnership by Pugin, who gave him the responsibility of establishing a Dublin branch, taking charge of Irish commissions. [2]

Church of St. Augustine and St. John, Thomas Street, photograph by Warren LeMay 2018, flickr constant commons.
The Church of St. Augustine and St. John, commonly known as John’s Lane Church, designed by Edward Welby Pugin, photograph by William Murphy, 2019, courtesy of flickr constant commons.
The chapel at Edermine, courtesy of National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

Pugin & Ashlin designed approximately eight Catholic cathedrals and fifty Catholic churches as well as schools and convents. Ashlin did not design many private homes, but his work includes Tullira Castle in County Galway, and designs for Ashford Castle and St. Anne’s Park for the Guinness family. [3]

George Coppinger Ashlin, courtesy of Irish Architectural Archive.
Tullira Castle, County Galway, also by George Coppinger Ashlin, photograph courtesy of National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

George Coppinger Ashlin (1837-1921) was from Carrigrenane House in County Cork, third and youngest son of four children of John Musson Ashlin, a Corkman established as a corn merchant in London, and Dorinda Maria Ashlin (née Coppinger), from an old County Cork family. [4]

St. George’s, August 2022.

The partnership of Pugin & Ashlin was dissolved in the latter months of 1868, but Ashlin married Edward Pugin’s younger sister Mary Pugin (1844-1933) in 1867. Ashlin built St. George’s in the late 1870s after his marriage, as a home for his family.

An information leaflet which owner Robert McQuillan gave us tells us that Mary Ashlin née Pugin grew up in The Grange at Ramsgate in Kent, which was situated on a cliff-top, and that the situation of St. George’s on the hill of Killiney would have reminded her of her childhood home. Shortly after the Ashlins moved to Killiney, the local railway station opened, and in 1887 Queen Victoria and Prince Albert opened Killiney Hill as a public park.

The view over Killiney Bay from a bedroom balcony upstairs in St. George’s.

The Dictionary of Irish Architects gives an amusing word portrait of Ashlin:

Alfred Edwin Jones, who became a pupil in Ashlin & Coleman’s office in about 1911, remembered Ashlin as a tall, commanding figure with ‘an appearance of distinction’ and described his morning routine. Each day he would catch a fast train from Killiney to Westland Row and walk from the station to his office at 7 Dawson Street. On reaching the office door he would hand his umbrella and attaché case to an awaiting junior member of staff and mount the horse which a man held ready at the kerb. He would then canter up Dawson Street to to Stephen’s Green and ride several times round the park on the track which ran just inside the railings before returning to the office to start his day’s work. According to his obituarist in the RIAI Journal, Ashlin ‘continued in active energy until a short while before his death’ and ‘preserved his comparatively youthful bearing almost to the end of his active career’. He died, aged eighty-four, on 10 December 1921, at St George’s, Killiney, the house which he had designed for himself, and was buried in the family plot in Glasnevin Cemetery.

Ashlin wrote an article which was published in Royal Institute of British Architects Journal 9 (1902), 117-119, called ‘The Possibility of the revival of the ancient arts of Ireland and their adaptation to our modern circumstances.’ He presented this in his Presidential Address to the Royal Institute of Architects in Ireland.

The Dictionary of Irish Biography tells us that under the influence of the Celtic revival, Ashlin turned to ancient Irish architecture for inspiration. In 1877 he designed a domestic chapel for A. J. Moore of Mooresfort, Co. Tipperary, which was modelled on Cormac’s Chapel, Cashel, Co. Tipperary. This was an early example of Hiberno-Romanesque, which was to become the dominant style in Irish catholic church design.

A separate entrance leads, I believe, to the kitchen – we did not see this part of the house.
St. George’s, August 2022.
The front door has a leaded fanlight with the cross of St. George, and above, a stone carved tableau of St. George and the dragon.

Other work listed for Ashlin in the Dictionary of Irish Architects is Enniscorthy Castle, updating it in 1869 for habitation of Isaac Newton Wallop, the 5th Earl of Portsmouth (born as Isaac Newton Fellowes, but later resumed the family surname and arms of Wallop).

Another private residence designed by Ashlin is Clonmeen House in County Cork.

Clonmeen House, County Cork, also designed by Ashlin, for Stephen Grehan in 1893. Photograph courtesy of National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

Robert McQuillan, the current owner of St. George’s, very generously allowed me to take photographs inside. He and his wife are the fourth owners of St. George’s and have lived there for over thirty years. They have carefully restored and maintained the house.

Curtains hang on the back of the front door. The use of portiére rods with drapes were extensively used in Victorian homes to keep out draughts. The wallpaper is modern, supplied by Watts of London, and it copies an original Pugin design. All of the woodwork in the house is the original pitch pine, and has many Gothic details. The ceiling beams in the main hall have moulded ribs. The door to the right before the Tudor arch leads to the dining room, and to the left, the front drawing room.

The dining room has a pine ceiling similar to that in the hall. In the bow window on the left is the Ashlin crest and on the right, the Pugin crest. The Gothic designed sandstone fireplace has the Ashlin motto, “Labore et Honore.” The wallpaper design, and that of the drapes, is an original Pugin design.

The Dining Room.
Stained glass in the canted bay window in the dining room: on the left is the Ashlin crest and on the right, the Pugin crest.
The Portrait in the dining room is of Marguerite, Countess of Blessington. Marguerite (1789-1849) was daughter of Edmund Power, and she married first Maurice St. Leger Farmer, and secondly, Charles John Gardiner, 1st and last Earl of Blessington, son of Luke Gardiner, 1st Viscount Mountjoy. She wrote the book Confessions of an Elderly Gentleman, published 1836, and The Idler in Italy, published between 1839 and 1840, in three volumes. She sounds terrific! I must look up those books!
The Gothic designed sandstone fireplace has the Ashlin motto, “Labore et Honore.”

The Front Drawing Room and back study, the leaflet from St. George’s tells us, are interconnecting spaces in the manner of Pugin’s design for The Grange where Ashlin’s wife grew up. Again, the wallpaper and drapes are of Pugin’s design. The fireplace has the inscribed initials of G.A. for George Ashlin. The ceiling is stencilled, which is a feature of Pugin’s domestic designs. The area beyond the arch was initially a Gothic conservatory. There are two canted bays, one with French doors out to the lawn. The stained glass panels in one depict the four seasons and in the other, figures of music, painting, poetry and architecture.

The stained glass panels depict the four seasons.
The ceiling is stencilled, which is a feature of Pugin’s domestic designs. The chandelier has lovely red glass.
The fireplace in the drawing room had insets of pink marble and a delicate brass floral and spiral decoration, and has the inscribed initials of G.A. for George Ashlin.
The windows feature figures of music, painting, poetry and architecture.

The front drawing room leads into the back study. The arch can be closed with a sliding intramural mirrored door.

The door handles throughout the house feature an “A” for Ashlin.

The Back Hall is double height, with a pitch pine staircase winding around the sides. The staircase is similar to that in Mary Pugin’s childhood home, The Grange. The stairs feature St. Brigid cross shapes and on the newels, more initials carved for George and Mary.

The stairs feature St. Brigid cross shapes.
The Back Hall. The fireplace has tiles depicting various arts and crafts.

The window which lights the stairs is a three light window in heavy timbered frame with vertical glazed panels. The stained glass depicts St. George, and on one side is the Ashlin crest and the other, the Pugin crest, with G. (George) and M. (Mary) initials.

The stairs have the initials also, A for Ashlin, M for Mary.
To the left, you can see the stained glass of the chapel which is on the half landing.

The chapel was built following the birth of George and Mary’s only child, their daughter Miriam. It is panelled with a timber “wagon vault.” The stained glass was designed by Mary Pugin.

To the left of the Nativity scene there is a picture of George Ashlin kneeling over a crest with the symbols for architecture.

Pictures of many saints are featured in stained glass in the chapel, including St. Dorothea, St. Francis Xavier, St. Joseph and St. George, and there is a beautifully carved altar. George’s mother was named Dorothea (née Coppinger).

The bedrooms are placed facing the sea and to the south, with bathrooms at the back of the house. The bedroom in front was probably Mary’s, as it has the initials “M.A.” in the fireplace. The stained glass in that room contains symbols of the Ashlin-Pugin marriage.

The bathrooms are modern but of a suitable Victorian style.

The bathrooms are modern but of a suitable Victorian style, which I love.

The bedroom next to this has “D.A.” in the fireplace, which is probably for George’s mother Dorothea.

The stained glass in this room shows symbols of the Pugin-Ashlin marriage, and more initials.

The library is located at the top of an “elbow stairs.” It is completely covered in pitch pine and has a magnificent view of the coast. The stained glass is signed “Frampton” and dated to 1880.

There is a door in the corner which leads to a spiral granite staircase up on to the turret.

The view of the manicured terraced gardens of St. George’s and beyond to the sea, from the Turret.
We also can see the wonderful varied roof of St. George’s from our bird’s eye view in the Turret.

A single bedroom, the staff bedroom, is above the back stairs and would have originally housed three staff bedrooms. Today it is beautifully decorated with an intricately carved wooden sleigh bed, and drapes hanging from a coronet.

Ashlin died in 1921. His daughter Miriam married her cousin Stephen Martin Ashlin, who continued the firm of Ashlin & Coleman after Ashlin’s death.

After our tour of the house we wandered through the beautifully maintained terraced garden. The gardens cover approximately an acre. [5]

[1] The Wexford Gentry by Art Kavanagh and Rory Murphy. Published by Irish Family Names, Bunclody, Co Wexford, Ireland, 1994. p. 168. Power of Edermine.

[2] Dictionary of Irish Architects https://www.dia.ie/architects/view/72/ASHLIN%2C+GEORGE+COPPINGER

[3] See Robert O’Byrne’s entry with beautiful photographs of Tulira, https://theirishaesthete.com/2014/10/13/the-ascetic-aesthete/

[4] https://www.dib.ie/biography/ashlin-george-coppinger-a0250

[5] https://www.irishtimes.com/life-and-style/homes-and-property/new-to-market/step-back-in-time-to-fairytale-house-on-killiney-hill-for-9-25m-1.3472893

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