Colganstown House, Hazelhatch Road, Newcastle, County Dublin

Contact: Lynne Savage Jones

Tel: 087-2206222
Open dates in 2022: Apr 11-17, May 5-27, June 9-11, Aug 13-26, Oct 31, Nov 1-12, 9am-1pm

Fee: adult/OAP €10, student/child free.

I contacted Mr. Savage Jones beforehand and we went to visit Colganstown on the last day that it as open in 2019! It was a rainy day, unfortunately, but I cannot complain as we have been so lucky with the weather on our visits.

The entrance gates have the visiting times displayed.

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Colganstown House, with rendered walls and stone quoins.

In his A Guide to Irish Country Houses, Mark Bence-Jones describes Colganstown as Palladian. [1] It is not immediately apparent, but the house, the centre block, is attached to two “wings,” which appear to be separate but are connected by flanking walls. The walls are unusual as they come from the back rather than from the front of the house, and are just the height of one storey. The house is attributed to the amateur architect Nathaniel Clements, who also built the Aras an Uachtarain (the House of the President [of Ireland], previously the Viceregal Lodge – although Nathaniel Clements built it for himself, as he was the Chief Ranger of Phoenix Park at the time). The Aras has been much added to, however, since the time when it was Clements’s residence.

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Central block main house, and wing on the left hand side of the house, with flanking wall in between containing an arch.

The centre block is of two storeys over a basement, and the wings are of two storeys with three bays. The Palladian-style sweep is further prolonged, Bence-Jones describes, by gated walls joining the pavilions [wings] to the gable-ends of farm buildings, which run from the back to form the sides of yards on either side of the back of the house.

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The main block of the house with the right hand side wing or pavilion, with joining wall.
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In this photograph, you can see how the wing house is joined to the outbuilding by “gated walls joining the pavilions to the gable-ends of farm buildings,” as Bence-Jones writes.

Colganstown was built in the 1760s for the Yates, or Yeates, family, who also owned Moone Abbey in County Kildare, another section 482 property, which you can also read about on this blog [2]. The centre of the main block breaks forward slightly,and has a Diocletian window above a tripartite fanlighted and pedimented doorway [3]. Bence-Jones writes that the glazing of the fanlight is delightfully original! The Diocletian window, the semi-circular one above the doorway, divided by vertical mullions, is derived from Roman baths, according to Maurice Craig and the Knight of Glin, Desmond Fitzgerald in their Ireland Observed, A Handbook to the Buildings and Antiquities (Mercier Press, Dublin and Cork, 1970) .

The house was in poor condition when Howard and his wife Lynn purchased it in 1992. They moved into the basement of the house while they refurbished. The wings were not habitable. Slates were gone from the rooves of the wings, so the buildings had to be re-roofed. Since the roof had gone, the walls were in extremely bad condition, and so far the current owners have renovated just one of the two wings.

Howard took us through the house to the airy new kitchen, which he had added to the house. The original kitchen would have been in the basement. He added a “bridge” from the bow at the back of the house, a glass-topped walkway which forms a sort of orangerie, across the courtyard from the basement below, to a lovely conservatory style room, with large windows. You can just see the roof of this addition in one of my photographs. The owners chose the materials and style of the addition carefully to complement the house. In the photograph below one can see the way the basements have windows and let in the light. You can also see how at the front and back there is a wall about a metre from the basement, so the earth doesn’t cover the walls of the basement.

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Sitting in this comfortable room, I didn’t recognise it to be a kitchen until Howard mentioned it, because everything is hidden in cupboards and panelling. There are comfortable seats beyond the island, where we sat to discuss the history of the house.

I had printed out my notes about the house, for Stephen to read aloud in the car while I drove, and I showed my notes to Howard so he could see the information that I’d gathered so far.

The basement of the house is at water level, and when they moved in, water had to be pumped out of the basement. Originally there had been drains coming out from the basement but the conduits had collapsed, so the current owners installed electric pumps. There’s a wonderful tunnel from the basement level near the back of the house, which goes to one of the wings from the basement kitchen, and would have been for the servants. I didn’t get a great picture of it, but you can see it from the “bridge” orangerie in this photograph (excuse the reflections on the glass window):

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In Classic Irish Houses of the Middle Size, Maurice Craig notes that not a lot is known about the date of building, or original ownership, of Colganstown. He writes that: “It appears to have been built by a family variously spelt as Yates or Yeats, who had a house in Sackville Street (now O’Connell St) in the 1760s and also Moone House in Co. Kildare.” It was great to be able to tell Howard that we had visited Moone Abbey House earlier this year.

It seems that Samuel Yates (1681-1765) built the house at Moone Abbey. [4] If Colganstown was built in the 1760s it may have been built for Samuel’s son, Thomas Yates (1726-1815). He is believed to be buried with his parents in a church in Newcastle. He sold Colganstown in 1780.

Howard told us that Yates had business interests in Dominic Street in Dublin, and this could explain how the Yates came to have a beautiful ceiling by Robert West in their drawing room in Colganstown, as West would have been a neighbour in Dominic Street. According to the Dictionary of Irish Architects, Robert West was admitted as a member of the Plasterers’ Guild in 1752, and died in 1790. He is associated with one of the most spectacular pieces of stuccowork in Ireland, the hall of the house which he built as a speculation at No. 20 Lower Dominick Street. [5]

The staircase hall in 86 St Stephen’s Green, Dublin, now housing MOLI, the Museum of Literature of Ireland, formerly named Newman House, the magnificent rococo stucco is probably by Robert West.

The stuccowork of birds in the drawing room is famed as a story is told about a raucous party where dinner guest shot at the birds. Bence-Jones writes: “The interior contains some excellent rococo plasterwork in the manner of Robert West; there is a Chinese dragon over the staircase window and many birds in high relief, some of which have unfortunately had their heads shot off at one time or another as after-dinner sport.” Howard showed us the mark in the ceiling but pointed out that the story is probably a fable – there is not much damage to the birds but the corner does get damp, and the dampness might have caused the damage!

In Classic Irish Houses of the Middle Size, Maurice Craig writes about who might have been the architect of the house:

The Knight of Glin has made a good case for regarding it as part of the oeuvre of Nathaniel Clements, a politician and banker turned architect, who was born in 1705. He was a political associate of the great Luke Gardiner of Henrietta Street, who speaks of him as an “architect” as early at 1744. One thing is certain: that Colganstown belongs with Clements’s own house Woodville, with his other house (later transformed as the Viceregal Lodge), with Williamstown, Co. Kildare, with Newberry Hall, with Belview, and probably also with Lodge Park, Straffan. It is impossible yet to say where it belongs in the series, but the character of its internal decoration, admirable stucco decoration in the style of Robert West, suggests a date in the 1760’s. [6]

Craig calls Colganstown a “hobby” farm, as it is small and near the city in Dublin. A gentleman, however, he points out, can look out his windows without seeing the farmyards, since the farm building are built to the sides. The acreage has been reduced, however, to just 25, and the surrounds are farmed by a neighbour, which means the beauty of the driveway through the fields has been retained (although the driveway had to be reworked and a separate drive made for the farmer and his heavy equipment, which had taken its toll on the original driveway). The original farm reached all the way to the canal. A previous owner of the house, Andrews, was involved with the canals.

The area has long been inhabited, as one can see from the building behind the house – see the photograph below.

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This house, now a ruin, was owned by Thomas Arthur, a politician from the “Patriot Parliament,” who was killed in the Battle of the Boyne. The Patriot Parliament was one in Ireland called by James II during the 1689-1691 war in Ireland, and held only one session, from 7 May 1689 to 20 July 1689. Arthur, therefore, would have been loyal to James II, and therefore fought against William III, who had been invited to be king of England (and Scotland and Ireland).

Colganstown was also previously occupied in the early to mid 1900’s by the Blackrock Christian Brothers, Howard told us, and by a Scottish family named Harrison.

He then took us on a tour of the house. I was eager to see the stuccowork, especially the dragon mentioned by Bence-Jones! I didn’t take photographs of the drawing room birds, but took out the camera to photograph the rococo work in the stairwell.

The library has wood panelling and shelves taken in the 1960s from a building in Mountjoy Square. There is more stuccowork on the ceiling, a frieze with birds, and even a nest with chicks.

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You can see how the stairs are built into the bow at the back of the house.

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the dragon is disappointingly small – you can see it in this photograph in the middle, over the window. Maurice Craig describes it: “over the staircase window, presides a splendidly animated Chinese dragon, scaly wings outstretched, and his tail piercing the egg-and-dart moulding at the base of the cornice to emerge and recurve again, stabbing the plasterwork.”
Compare the plasterwork in Colganstown with work probably by Robert West, in the Bishop’s Room, 86 St. Stephen’s Green, now part of the Museum of Literature of Ireland (MOLI).
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In 2010 a pipe burst, which was very destructive but fortunately the stuccowork was unharmed. The owners had to get new flooring – they managed to salvage parts and to buy salvaged wood from other houses. In rebuilding, Howard told us, he discovered that the walls are packed, in between the lathe and plaster, with dry moss and bracken, acting as insulation!

Craig writes of the interior of the house:

The small square hall is groin-vaulted with delicate plaster enrichment: the doors are of beautiful pale mahogany. The staircase-hall ceiling has, in its wandering Rococo design, elongated versions of the cornucopia so frequently seen in Dublin bookbindings of the 1760s… Elsewhere the birds of the West school are ubiquitous in high relief, with baskets of fruit and flowers.

The bow continues upstairs with lovely curved walls and the bedrooms are a nice size. The main block forms a perfectly sized house on its own. The front room upstairs was once a chapel when the Brothers lived in the house, and that room is unusual with the Diocletian window. It is a lovely comfortable house, and with its proximity to Dublin, I envy its owners! They have made a lovely home.

[1] Mark Bence-Jones. A Guide to Irish Country Houses (originally published as Burke’s Guide to Country Houses volume 1 Ireland by Burke’s Peerage Ltd. 1978); Revised edition 1988 Constable and Company Ltd, London.

[2] Moone Abbey House and Tower, Moone, County Kildare

[3] architectural definitions

[4] https://www.myheritage.com/site-family-tree-56401591/yates

[5] https://www.dia.ie/architects/view/5581/west-robert%2A

[6] A footnote in Craig’s book follows: see Knight of Glin in Apollo, October 1966 p. 314-321. – Fitzgerald thinks Newberry (Carbury, Co. Kildare) and Colganstown are by Clements, which Maurice Craig has begun to doubt. Craig also references the Knight of Glin’s “less sober” article in the Irish Georgian Society Bulletin V, 1962.

11 North Great George’s Street, Dublin 1

contact: John Aboud 087 798 3099

contact: John Aboud
Tel: 087-7983099
www.number11dublin.ie
Open in 2020: March 7-11, 21-25, May 10-14, June 6-11, July 4-9, Aug 1-6, 13-22, Sept 5-11, Oct 3-7, 17-21, 12 noon-4 pm
Fee: adult €7, students/OAP €3, child free under 12 years

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Photograph from National Inventory of Architectural History Buildings of Ireland website.
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Photograph from National Inventory of Architectural History Buildings of Ireland website.

I visited 11 North Great George’s Street in 2012 during Open House, run by the Irish Architectural Foundation. I went with my husband Stephen and my Dad, Desmond. There is a video of the day on the website and I am excited to see myself in it! [1]

We loved this house! It’s wonderfully decorated and we had a tour with owner John Aboud. The decor is very quirky and full of character. I loved the plaster decoration on the walls, “John Soane’s Museum” style. Like Peter Pearson, the occupant has rescued parts of old houses which are being discarded. How I’d love to come across such a skip!

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According to the Buildings of Ireland website, this house was one of the first to be built on North Great George’s Street, a street of stepped terraces built after 1768 as a result of commercial leases granted on the avenue leading to the Mount Eccles Estate and in response to the expansion of the Gardiner Estate [2]. The houses were built as townhouses for the gentry. Number 11 was completed in 1774.

The street has its own North Great George’s Street Preservation Society, which has an excellent website with a history of the street written by Conor Lucey. [3] The Preservation Society began in 1979, according to its website, by a group of resident house-owners who had become concerned about the fate of the street, which had survived almost alone amid the surrounding dereliction of North Central Dublin. The Association was formed more recently to represent the views and interests of the many long-term residents in the street.

Sir John Eccles was Lord Mayor of Dublin in 1710. He owned an extensive private estate, which contained the area which is now North Great George’s Street. Unfortunately his mansion has gone and the site where it stood is now occupied by a small two-storey building situated between the present numbers 43 and 46 North Great George’s Street.

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Conor Lucey tells us that Mount Eccles is clearly visible on John Rocque’s map of Dublin published in 1756, but it is labelled with the name of Nicholas Archdall Esq. Nicholas Archdall had purchased the lease for the Mount Eccles estate for 999 years, beginning 1st August 1749.

Nicholas Archdall was MP for County Fermanagh. His son, Edward Archdall, became a property developer. He built numbers 19 and 20 North Great George’s Street in the late 1780s. Nicholas Archdall’s widow Sarah (nee Spurling) petitioned the Irish Parliament in 1766 for permission to grant long leases on premises on her property. She may have been inspired by the new Gardiner estate and Gardiner’s Row. Permission was granted, and the advertisement read:

To be Let in Lots for Building, the Lands of Mount Eccles, in Great Britain-street, opposite Marlborough-street, joining Palace-row and Cavendish-street, containing seven Acres, which for Situation, Air and Prospect, cannot be exceeded by any in or about Dublin, subject to no Manner of Tax, Hearth Money excepted. For further Particulars, enquire of Mrs. Archdale, at Mount Eccles, where a Plan of the whole may be seen.

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Lucey tells us that the leases for North Great George’s Street contain no covenants or specifications regarding the form of the house, except for the provision of an eight foot wide ‘area’ intended to be ‘in the front of the houses which is to be built on the said ground over and above the flagged passage which is to be 6 ft and 6 in wide’. Other developments, such as Merrion Square and Fitzwilliam square, had much more detailed specifications for the houses to be built.

Lucey describes the typical layout of the houses on the street:

“By far the most common plan type is the ‘two room’ plan, composed of an axially- aligned entrance hall and stair hall, and flanked by front and rear parlours, the latter typically serving as the formal dining room. The principal staircase, customarily of timber open-string construction, is situated at the back of the house and rises from the ground floor – by way of the piano nobile or ‘drawing room storey’ – to the ‘attic’ or bedroom storey, with admittance to the ‘garret’ alone acquired by a smaller, subordinate stair. A distinctive decorative feature of the garret storey stair is the ‘Chinese Chippendale’ balustrade, popular from mid-century and exemplified by surviving examples at Nos.4, 11, 36 and 50.”

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Chinese Chippendale balustrade on the way to the garret, with the owner’s display of masks.

Other properties on the street were leased to Emilia, Dowager Viscountess Powerscourt (the widow of Richard Wingfield, 3rd Viscount Powerscourt, who built Powerscourt Townhouse in Dublin – see my entry on Powerscourt Townhouse) and Valentine Browne, 1st Earl of Kenmare.

The Act of Union of 1800, however, meant that there was no longer a Parliament in Dublin and many gentry left Ireland. The house’s website states:

“Despite the drain from the city of power and money after the Act of Union in 1800, North Great George’s Street managed to hold onto some grandees till the very end of the 19th Century. In the case of no. 11, these included in 1821 a George Whitford, High Sheriff of Dublin, who was knighted in that year by George IV at the Mansion House. No doubt to celebrate his new status, he had the front doorcase re-modelled to accommodate a large new fanlight, and also had the Salon joinery replaced in the fashionable neo-classical style.”

The No.11 website tells us more about former inhabitants.

Dr. Charles Orpen lived in the house in the 1830s. He played a significant part in the development of sign language, and in the education of deaf children, founding Ireland’s first school for deaf children, in 1816, in Brunswick Street (now Pearse Street). It became The Claremont Institution for the Deaf and Dumb when it moved to a large demesne called Claremont in Glasnevin. Dr. Orpen worked at the Workhouse at the House of Industry in Dublin, where he noticed that there were 21 deaf children. He took one of the children, Thomas Collins, home to educate him, and based on his learnings about the conditions of being deaf, he gave several popular lectures in the Rotunda, which led to a public interest in the condition and of education of deaf and dumb children. [4]

Another former inhabitant of number 11 in the 1850s was a barrister named Patrick Blake. He had Nationalist leanings, and the no.11 website tells us that it is believed that Michael Davitt, one of the leaders of the Irish Republican Brotherhood and the Land League, was hidden in the house for some time before his arrest and imprisonment in 1870. By this time, and for the rest of the century, the domestic quarters of the house had retreated to the top two floors, and the rest of the house was given over to office space for barristers and land agents.

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As the wealthy left the city centre for houses in the suburbs, in 1910 a Mr. Kelly bought the house and turned it into a tenement. The No.11 website tells us that unlike many houses, the landlord lived on the premises and so the house survived many of the ravages that other houses suffered at this time. Between the 1930s and 1970s every room in the house was used as a family flat.

By the early 1980s the historic centre of Dublin had been all but abandoned. The house was largely derelict with a roof that was on the point of collapse. The website tells us that a great deal of the house was saturated and pigeons inhabited the upper floors. Despite this, the last tenant, Mrs. Margaret Howard, who had moved into the house in 1921, struggled to maintain an old fashioned gentility in her tenement rooms.

The National Inventory of Architectural Heritage Buildings of Ireland website describes number 11 as a terraced three-bay four-storey house over exposed basement. It’s made of handmade red bricks and granite window sills. The website describes:

“Round-headed door opening with painted stone Doric doorcase. Original ten-panelled painted timber door flanked by engaged Doric columns on stone plinth blocks supporting deep cornice, and replacement peacock fanlight with moulded surrounds and scrolled keystone.”

The website also mentions the original plaster walls and ceiling, as well as original timber joinery and flooring. The ceilings seemed overly colourful, but the owner assured us that this is how such a ceiling would have looked originally.

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The Buildings of Ireland website describes:

“Upper floors having large amounts of surviving late Rococo plasterwork with projecting birds, acanthus leaves and flower-baskets to rear rooms. First floor saloon having ceiling with flower vases, acanthus pendants and cartouches. Neo-classical over-doors and friezes with urns and festoons. Lugged architraves throughout and moulded joinery [“lugged” is a moulded frame with horizontal projections at the top, according to wikipedia]. Imposing fluted Doric architraves to round-headed windows at each half-landing. Chinese Chippendale stair to garret floor.” [5]

The Rococo plasterwork, the number 11 website tells us, “must be amongst the very last flings of the renowned Robert West School of Rococo plasterwork.” We came across Robert West plasterwork also in Colganstown [6].

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The home owner is a collector, not only of architectural pieces and masks, but of dolls:

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Some of the architectural pieces are from, I believe, a church that was demolished, St. Peter’s Church on Aungier Street. These banisters might have been altar rails:

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The back garden is beautifully tranquil with an Oriental vibe, with a pond and a temple at the back with more architectural pieces and sculptures.

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In its appraisal the National Inventory website states:

“Largely dilapidated by the early 1980s, it was carefully conserved by the owner and is now a residence and venue for weddings and other events. The surviving early plasterwork is a fine example of the traditional ‘Dublin school’ Rococo style and its juxtaposition with the Neo-classical embodies the stylistic developments of the late eighteenth century. The oversailing lintel of c.1820 is one of few on the street and the restored light posts add a further element of interest in the public realm of the street. The retention of timber sash windows and of the granite and iron work to the entrance and basement enhances the architectural heritage quality of this house and of the street in general.”

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The website for number 11 has a link to airbnb accommodation available in the house.

At the top of North Great George’s Street, on Denmark Street, is Belvedere House, now part of Belvedere College, a boys’ secondary school. I visited this on another Open Day. Its splendid stucco work is of the Neoclassical or “Adam” style popular in Dublin in mid 1770s to 1800, designed by Michael Stapleton. Conor Lucey writes:

“The neoclassical style is also well represented by Belvedere House. Built for George Augustus Rochfort, 2nd Earl of Belvedere, and completed by 1786, it is one of the finest city mansions built during the latter part of the century. The interiors of this house represent a text-book model of how Irish stuccodors invented freely within the Adamesque idiom, deriving their decorative vocabulary from architectural treatises, builder’s manuals and pattern books.”

Open House, Belvedere House, Belvedere College, Dublin.
Open House, Belvedere House, Belvedere College, Dublin
Belvedere House, 2015. The architect was Robert West. 86 St. Stephen’s Green has also been attributed to Robert West, which now houses MoLI, the new Museum of Literature of Ireland. The stucco work in no. 11 North Great George’s Street is of the Robert West school.

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=10&v=C3RdULJddO0&feature=emb_logo

[2] https://www.buildingsofireland.ie/buildings-search/building/50010998/north-great-georges-street-dublin-dublin-city

[3] https://northgreatgeorgesstreet.ie/

[4] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Claremont_Institution

[5] According to Craig, Maurice and Knight of Glin, Ireland Observed, A Handbook to the Buildings and Antiquities. Mercier Press, Dublin and Cork, 1970, Rococo is the asymmetrical freely-modelled style of decoration originating in France and popular in Ireland from about 1750 to 1775. See also Architectural Definitions:

architectural definitions

[6] Colganstown House, Hazelhatch Road, Newcastle, County Dublin