Office of Public Works properties: Leinster: Carlow, Kildare

Just to finish up my entries about Office of Public Works properties: Carlow, Dublin, Kildare, Kilkenny, Laois, Longford, Louth, Meath, Offaly, Westmeath, Wexford and Wicklow are the counties that make up the Leinster region.

Carlow:

1. Altamont Gardens

Kildare:

2. Castletown House, County Kildare

3. Maynooth Castle, County Kildare

Carlow:

1. Altamont House and Gardens, Bunclody Road, Altamont, Ballon, County Carlow:

Altamont House and Gardens, photograph by Sonder Visuals, 2015, for Tourism Ireland, from Ireland’s Content Pool. [1]

General information: (059) 915 9444

altamontgardens@opw.ie

https://heritageireland.ie/visit/places-to-visit/altamont-gardens/

From the OPW website:

A large and beautiful estate covering 16 hectares in total, Altamont Gardens is laid out in the style of William Robinson, which strives for ‘honest simplicity’. The design situates an excellent plant collection perfectly within the natural landscape.

For example, there are lawns and sculpted yews that slope down to a lake ringed by rare trees and rhododendrons. A fascinating walk through the Arboretum, Bog Garden and Ice Age Glen, sheltered by ancient oaks and flanked by huge stone outcrops, leads to the banks of the River Slaney. Visit in summer to experience the glorious perfume of roses and herbaceous plants in the air.

With their sensitive balance of formal and informal, nature and artistry, Altamont Gardens have a unique – and wholly enchanting – character.” [2]

From “In Harmony with Nature, The Irish Country House Garden 1600-1900” in the Irish Georgian Society, July 2022, curated by Robert O’Byrne.
Altamont, photograph by Sonder Visuals 2017 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. [see 1]

From Living Legacies: Ireland’s National Historic Properties in the care of the OPW, Government Publications, Dublin, 2018:

Altamont House was constructed in the 1720s, incorporating parts of an earlier structure said to have been a medieval nunnery. In the 1850s, a lake was excavated in the grounds of the house, but it was when the Lecky-Watsons, a local Quaker family, acquired Altamont in 1924 that the gardens truly came into their own.

Feilding Lecky-Watson had worked as a tea planter in Ceylon (Sri Lanka) where he nurtured his love of exotic plants, and of rhododendrons in particular. Back in Ireland, he became an expert in the species, cultivating plants for the botanical gardnes at Glasnevin, Kew and Edinburgh. So passionate was he about these plants that when his wife, Isobel, gave birth to a daughter in 1922, she was named Corona, after his favourite variety of rhododendron.” [3]

Altamont House and Gardens lake, photograph by Sonder Visuals, 2015, for Tourism Ireland, from Ireland’s Content Pool. [see 1]

Around the lake are mature conifers that were planted in the 1800s, including a giant Wellingtonia which commemorates the Battle of Waterloo. [3] Corona continued in her father’s footsteps, planing rhododendrons, magnolia and Japanese maples. Another feature is the “100 steps” hand-cut in granite, leading down to the River Slaney. There are red squirrels, otters in the lake and river, and peacocks. Before her death, Corona handed Altamont over to the Irish state to ensure its preservation.

The Temple, Altamont House and Gardens, photograph by Sonder Visuals, 2015, for Tourism Ireland, from Ireland’s Content Pool. [see 1]

Kildare:

2. Castletown House and Parklands, Celbridge, County Kildare.

Castletown House, County Kildare, Photo by Mark Wesley 2016, Tourism Ireland, from Ireland’s Content Pool. [see 1]

General Information: castletown@opw.ie

https://castletown.ie

From the OPW website:

Castletown is set amongst beautiful eighteenth-century parklands on the banks of the Liffey in Celbridge, County Kildare.

The house was built around 1722 for the speaker of the Irish House of Commons, William Conolly, to designs by several renowned architects. It was intended to reflect Conolly’s power and to serve as a venue for political entertaining on a grand scale. At the time Castletown was built, commentators expected it to be ‘the epitome of the Kingdom, and all the rarities she can afford’.

The estate flourished under William Conolly’s great-nephew Thomas and his wife, Lady Louisa, who devoted much of her life to improving her home.

Today, Castletown is home to a significant collection of paintings, furnishings and objets d’art. Highlights include three eighteenth-century Murano-glass chandeliers and the only fully intact eighteenth-century print room in the country.

It is still the most splendid Palladian-style country house in Ireland.

This photo was taken probably by Robert French, chief photographer of William Lawrence Photographic Studios of Dublin, National Library of Ireland flickr constant commons.
Castletown Gates, built in 1783 by Lady Louisa Conolly, by John Coates of Maynooth. They are mounted with sphinxes.

The Conolly family sold Castletown in 1965. Mark Bence-Jones tells us that the estate was bought for development and for two years the house stood empty and deteriorating. In 1967, Hon Desmond Guinness courageously bought the house with 120 acres, to be the headquarters of the Irish Georgian Society, and in order to save it for posterity. Since then the house has been restored and it now contains an appropriate collection of furniture, pictures and objects, which has either been bought for the house, presented to it by benefactors, or loaned. It is now maintained by the Office of Public Works and the Castletown Trust.

William Conolly (1662-1729) rose from modest beginnings to be the richest man in Ireland in his day. He was a lawyer from Ballyshannon, County Donegal, who made an enormous fortune out of land transactions in the unsettled period after the Williamite wars.

William Conolly had property on Capel Street in Dublin, before moving to Celbridge. Conolly’s house was on the corner of Capel Street and Little Britain Street and was demolished around 1770. [4] The Kildare Local History webpage gives us an excellent description of William Conolly’s rise to wealth:

In November 1688, William Conolly was one of the Protestants who fled Dublin to join the Williamites in Chester alongside his late Celbridge neighbour Bartholomew Van Homrigh.

On the victory of William III, he acquired a central role dealing in estates forfeited by supporters of James II, commencing his rise to fortune with the forfeited estates of the McDonnells of Antrim.

In 1691 he purchased Rodanstown outside Kilcock, which became his country residence until he purchased Castletown in 1709.

A dowry of £2,300 came his way in 1694 when he married Katherine Conyngham, daughter of Albert Conyngham, a Williamite General who had been killed in the war at Collooney in 1691.

He was appointed Collector and Receiver of Revenue for the towns of Derry and Coleraine on May 2nd 1698.

Conolly was the largest purchaser of forfeited estates in the period 1699–1703, acquiring also 20,000 acres spread over five counties at a cost of just £7,000.” [5]

He rose to become Speaker of the House of Commons in the Irish Parliament. William Conolly married Katherine Conyngham of Mount Charles, County Donegal, whose brother purchased Slane Castle in County Meath (see my entry https://irishhistorichouses.com/2019/07/19/slane-castle-county-meath/). As well as earning money himself, his wife brought a large dowry.

William Conolly purchased land in County Kildare which had been owned by Thomas Dongan (1634-1715), 2nd Earl of Limerick, in 1709. Dongan’s estate had been confiscated as he was a Jacobite supporter of James II (he became first governor of the Duke of York’s province of New York! The Earldom ended at his death). Dongan’s mother was the daughter of William Talbot, 1st Baronet of Carton (see my entry about Carton, County Kildare, under Places to stay in County Kildare https://irishhistorichouses.com/2022/04/27/places-to-visit-and-to-stay-leinster-kildare-kilkenny-laois/).

William Conolly (1662-1729) in his robes as Speaker of the Irish House of Commons, by Stephen Catterson Smith the Elder (1806-1872), portrait in Hall of Castletown. The portrait was donated by Mr and Mrs Galen Weston. This posthumous portrait was based on Jervas’s portrait of the Speaker in the Green Drawing Room.
Statue taken from the funeral monument of Speaker William Conolly, of him reclining next to his wife, by Thomas Carter.
The Funerary monument with William and Katherine Conolly. The Latin inscription reads: “William Conolly who attained as the reward of his medit the highest honours, was for about twenty years a Commissioner of the revenue in the reign of Queen Anne and George I, was a Privy Councillor in the reign of George II. He was twice unanimously elected Speaker of the House of Commons in the Parliament of this realm and then ten times held the Office of Lord Justice of Ireland, being the first to whom both the Sovereign and the people entrusted at the same time of their privileges with the happiest result. As a subject, he was loyal, as a citizen, patriotic. In perilous times he not once or twice proved that he served his King without forgetting his duty to his country. Firm, resolute, just, wise, formed by nature for the ilfe of a statesman, his administration of affairs was crowned with success to the greater advantage of the Commonwealth. He made a modest, though splendid use of the great riches he had honestly acquired, distinguished as he was alike for the courtesy, integrity and munificence of his disposition. Kind-hearted towards all men, he was loyal to his friends, whom he bound to himself in great numbers – retained their friendship when once he had gained it. Wishing to do good even after his death, he gave directions by his will that a building should be erected on the adjacent lands for the maintenance and education of the children of the poor and he endowed it forever with large revenues. Having lived long enough to satisfy the claims of nature and his fame, he died October 1729 in the 67th year of his life. Cath of the Conyngham family has erected this monument to her worthy husband.”
Katherine Conyngham, wife of William Conolly, also from the funeral monument.
Katherine Conyngham (c. 1662-1752) who married William Conolly, with her great-niece Molly Burton. Portrait by Charles Jervas.
I’m not sure but the top portrait looks like Katherine Conyngham to me.

The Archiseek website tells us about the design of Castletown House:

“Soon after the project got underway Conolly met Alessandro Galilei (1691-1737), an Italian architect, who had been employed in Ireland by Lord Molesworth in 1718 [John Molesworth, 2nd Viscount, who had been British envoy to Florence]. He designed the façade of the main block in the style of a 16th century Italian town palace. He returned to Italy in 1719 and was not associated with the actual construction of the house which began in 1722. Sir Edward Lovett Pearce (died 1733), a young Irish architect, on his Italian grand tour became acquainted with Galilei in Florence and through this connection he was employed by the Speaker to complete Castletown when he returned to Ireland in 1724. Pearce had first hand knowledge of the work of the Italian architect Andrea Palladio (1508-1580) and his annotated copy of Palladio’s Quattro libri dell’architettura survives. It was Pearce who added the Palladian colonnades and the terminating pavillions. This layout was the first major Palladian scheme in Ireland and soon had many imitators.” [6]

Alessandro Gallilei (1691-1737).
Castletown House, County Kildare, Photograph from macmillan media for Tourism Ireland 2015, Ireland’s Content Pool. [see 1] Started in 1722 to the designs of Alessandro Gallilei, it was continued by Edward Lovett Pearce, who was influenced by Italian architect Andrea Palladio. Pearce designed the colonnades and pavilions. In the wings on the left (west wing) are the kitchens and on the right, the stables (east wing).

Mark Bence-Jones describes Castletown in his  A Guide to Irish Country Houses. The centre block is of three storeys over basement, and has two almost identical thirteen bay fronts “reminiscent of the façade of an Italian Renaissance town palazzo; with no pediment or central feature and no ornamentation except for doorcase, entablatures over the ground floor windows, alternate segmental and triangular pediments over the windows of the storey above and a balustraded roof parapet. Despite the many windows and the lack of a central feature, there is no sense of monotony or heaviness; the effect being one of great beauty  and serenity.” [7] The centre block is made of Edenderry limestone, and is topped by cornice and balustrade. On the ground floor the windows have frieze, cornice and lugged architrave, and on the first floor, alternating triangular and segmental pediments.

On the ground floor the windows have frieze, cornice and lugged architrave, and on the first floor, alternating triangular and segmental pediments. The upper floor is half size.
The doorcase is gracefully tall and is framed by Ionic columns, and is reached by a sweeping set of steps. Photograph by Swire Chin, Toronto, May 2013, from flickr constant commons.

Pearce added the curved Ionic colonnades and two two-storey seven bay wings. He also designed the impressive two-storey entrance hall inside.

Back of Castletown House, Celbridge, Co Kildare, photograph by Sonder Visuals2022 for Failte Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool.
Colonnade by Edward Lovett Pearce, October 2022.
The East Wing.
The east side of Castletown, and the back of east wing. The back of the curved colonnade can be seen.
The Sensory Garden and the side and back of the West Wing.
The East side of the house. The West Wing houses the Café.
The Café in the West Wing.
Side of the West Wing, October 2022. Extending the facade of the house are pedimented gateways to the kitchen yard and stable yard.

William died in 1729 aged just 67, so he had only a few years to enjoy his house. His wife Katherine lived on in the house another twenty-three years until her death at the age of 90 in 1752. William and Katherine had no children, so his estate passed to his nephew William James Conolly (1712-1754), son of William’s brother Patrick. We came across William James Conolly before in Leixlip Castle (another Section 482 property), which he also inherited. William James married Lady Anne Wentworth, the daughter of the Earl of Strafford. Her father, Thomas Wentworth 1st Earl of Strafford is not the more famous Thomas Wentworth 1st Earl of Strafford who was executed (of whom there is at least one portrait in Castletown) but a later one, of the second creation. William James died just two years after Katherine Conolly, so the estate then passed to his son Thomas Conolly (1738-1803).

Thomas Conolly (1738-1803) by Anton Raphael Mengs, painted 1758. The German painter Mengs captured Conolly as a 19 year old on his Grand Tour. He is shown posting in front of a Roman sarcophagus, the “Relief of the Muses,” now in the Louvre. He is wearing a rich satin suit with gilt braid, portraying a young cultured aristocrat. In reality he displayed little interest in ancient civilisation, and brought back no souvenirs from Rome save for this portrait. Portrait in the National Gallery of Ireland.
Lady Anne Conolly (née Wentworth) (1713-1797) Attributed to Anthony Lee, Irish, fl.1724-1767. Photograph courtesy of National Gallery of Ireland.

Thomas married Louisa Lennox in 1758, one of five Lennox sisters, daughters of the Charles Lennox, 2nd Duke of Richmond. From the age of eight she had lived at nearby Carton with her sister Emily, who was married to James Fitzgerald, the 20th Earl of Kildare (who became the 1st Duke of Leinster). At Carton, Louisa was exposed to the fashionable ideas of the day in architecture, decoration, horticulture and landscaping. [8] Louisa loved Castletown and continually planned improvements, planting trees, designing the lake and building bridges.

Louisa Lennox who married Thomas Conolly.
In the dining room, over the fireplace, half-length portrait of Charles Lennox (1701–1750), 2nd Duke of Richmond and 2nd Duke of Lennox, by Jean-Baptiste Van Loo, wearing armour with the ribbon of the Order of the Garter, in a contemporary frame in the manner of William Kent. 
Carton House, 2022.

Archiseek continues: “The Castletown papers, estate records and account books, together with Lady Louisa’s [i.e. Louisa Lennox, wife of Tom Conolly] diaries and correspondence with her sisters, provide a valuable record of life at Castletown and also of the reorganisation of the house. Lady Louisa’s letters from the 1750s onwards are revealing of the fashions in costume design, fabric patterns and furniture. She played an important part in the alteration and redecoration of Castletown during the 1760s and 1770s. As no single architect was responsible for all of the work carried out, she supervised most of it herself. Much of the redecoration of the house was done to the published designs of the English architect Sir William Chambers (1723-1796) who never came to Ireland himself. Chambers also worked for Lady Louisa’s brother, the 3rd Duke of Richmond, at Goodwood in Sussex. In a letter, written in July 1759, Lady Louisa mentions instructions given by Chambers to his assistant Simon Vierpyl who supervised the work at Castletown.” (see [6])

Description of the Hall, from Archiseek: “This impressive two-storeyed room with a black and white chequered floor, was designed by Sir Edward Lovett Pearce. The Ionic order on the lower storey is similar to that of the colonnades outside and at gallery level there are tapering pilasters with baskets of flowers and fruit carved in wood. The coved ceiling has a central moulding comprising a square Greek key patterned frame and central roundel with shell decoration.” [see 6]

Great Hall, photograph by Swire Chin, Toronto, May 2013 flickr constant commons.
The Gallery of the Great Hall. Photograph by Swire Chin, Toronto, May 2013 flickr constant commons.
Photograph by Swire Chin, Toronto, May 2013 flickr constant commons.

The polished limestone floor with its chequered design and the Kilkenny marble fireplace reflect William Conolly’s desire to build the house solely of native Irish materials. Unfortunately when we visited in October 2022, the hall was half hidden with a large two storey curtain, as the windows are all being repaired. As we can see in the photograph, the room has an Ionic colonnade to the rear, and a gallery at first floor level, and the stair hall is through an archway in the east wall.

Hall of Castletown, with picture of Leixlip Castle by Joseph Tudor over the black Kilkenny marble fireplace, and portrait of William Conolly 1662-1729, by Stephen Catterson Smith the Elder.
Picture of Leixlip Castle, which was also owned by William Conolly and by Desmond Guinness.

When the owners were selling off the items in the house, they tried to sell the picture of Leixlip Castle that is in the front hall over the fireplace. It turned out to be painted on to the wall, so had to remain in the house! See my entry about Leixlip Castle https://irishhistorichouses.com/2020/09/04/leixlip-castle-county-kildare-desmond-guinnesss-jewelbox-of-treasures/

The Ionic order on the lower storey is similar to that of the colonnades outside and at gallery level there are tapering pilasters with baskets of flowers and fruit carved in wood. The large curtain, in October 2022, is protecting the room from where the windows are being repaired. Instead of capitals, the cloumns in the upper storey are topped with baskets of fruit.
Great Hall, Castletown House, Celbridge, Co Kildare, photograph by Sonder Visuals 2022 for Failte Ireland.
The coved ceiling of the Hall has a central moulding comprising a square Greek key patterned frame, modillion cornice and central roundel with shell decoration. A modillion cornice is a cornice of the Corinthian order, made up of modillions, or ornamented brackets, frequently used as the cornice of a ceiling.
Ceiling of Great Hall, Castletown House, June 2015.
Photograph from the album of Henry Shaw, of the Entrance Hall, in the time of that later Thomas Conolly (1823-1876) and his wife Sarah Eliza.
Photograph from the album of Henry Shaw, of the Entrance Hall, in the time of that later Thomas Conolly (1823-1876) and his wife Sarah Eliza.

From the entrance hall, one enters the magnificent Stair Hall. The Castletown website describes the stair hall:

The Portland stone staircase at Castletown is one of the largest cantilevered staircases in Ireland. It was built in 1759 under the direction of the master builder Simon Vierpyl (c.1725–1811). Prior to this the space was a shell, although a plan attributed to Edward Lovett Pearce suggests that a circular staircase was previously intended.

The solid brass balustrade was installed by Anthony King, later Lord Mayor of Dublin. He signed and dated three of the banisters, ‘A. King Dublin 1760’. The opulent rococo plasterwork was created by the Swiss-Italian stuccadore Filippo Lafranchini, who, with his older brother Paolo, had worked at Carton and Leinster House for Lady Lousia’s brother-in-law, the first Duke of Leinster, as well as at Russborough in Co. Wicklow. Shells, cornucopias, dragons and masks feature in the light-hearted decoration which represents the final development of the Lafranchini style. Family portraits are also included with Tom Conolly at the foot of the stairs and Louisa above to his right. The four seasons are represented on the piers and on either side of the arched screen.

The staircase at Castletown House. Pub Orig Country Life 22/08/1936 
Image Number: 873959  
Publication Date: 22/08/1936  
Country Life Volume: LXXX
Page: 196 
Photographer: A.E.Henson.

 
Photograph by Swire Chin, Toronto, May 2013 flickr constant commons.
Stair Hall, Castletown House, Celbridge, Co Kildare, photograph by Sonder Visuals 2022 for Failte Ireland.
The Portland stone staircase at Castletown is one of the largest cantilevered staircases in Ireland. It was built in 1759 under the direction of the master builder Simon Vierpyl (c.1725–1811). The plasterwork is by Lafranchini brothers. In the stair hall, in the rococo plasterwork, Tom and Louisa Conolly are represented in plaster, along with shells, masks and flowers. 
The solid brass balustrade was installed by Anthony King, later Lord Mayor of Dublin. He signed and dated three of the banisters, ‘A. King Dublin 1760’.
Thomas Conolly, who inherited the estate, in stucco on stairs of Castletown, and his wife Louisa is further up on his right. Her sister Emily, who lived at Carton nearby, is also pictured in the plasterwork.
Thomas Conolly, grand-nephew of William Conolly.
Lady Louisa Conolly, photograph by Swire Chin, Toronto, May 2013 flickr constant commons.
Ceiling of Stair Hall, Castletown House, June 2015.
Castletown House, a copy of ‘The Bear Hunt’ by 17th century Flemish painter Paul de Vos (1596-1678) is framed by Lafranchini plasterwork. It was cut down at some stage on the right side to fit into the central plaster recess above the cantilevered staircase, which would indicate that the painting was not commissioned for the space. Our guide told us that men would bet on how quickly the dogs would kill the bear. What a dreadful past-time! The Conollys imported a bear, and kept it in the dog kennels but it died, and they had it stuffed and put in the nursery!
In this old photograph of the nursery on the second floor, we see not only the stuffed bear but the skin and head of another. The photograph is one from an album of photographs on display at Castletown, belonging to Chris Shaw. His father Henry was the brother of Sarah Eliza Shaw who married Thomas Conolly (1823-1876), who inherited Castletown.
Castletown House, June 2015.
The staircase in the 1950s, prior to the sale of the house and the auction of two of the three large canvases above the stairs, photograph by Hugh Doran.

Mark Bence-Jones continues:

In the following year, Tom Conolly and Lady Louisa employed the Francini to decorate the walls of the staircase hall with rococo stuccowork; and in 1760 the grand staircase itself – of cantilevered stone, with a noble balustrade of brass columns – was installed; the work beign carried out by Simon Vierpyl, a protégé of Sir William Chambers. The principal reception rooms, which form an enfilade along the garden front and were mostly decorated at this time, are believed to be by Chambers himself; they have ceilings of geometrical plasterwork, very characteristic of him. Also in this style is the dining room, to the left of the entrance hall. It was here that, according to the story, Tom Conolly found himself giving supper to the Devil, whom he had met out hunting and invited back, believing him to be merely a dark stranger; but had realised the truth when his guest’s boots were removed, revealing him to have unusually hairy feet. He therefore sent for the priest, who threw his breviary at the unwelcome guest, which missed him and cracked a mirror. This, however, was enough to scare the Devil, who vanished through the hearthstone. Whatever the truth of this story, the hearthstone in the dining room is shattered, and one of the mirrors is cracked.

In the dining room, the Cranfield Mirror, the work of the Dublin carver Richard Cranfield (1713-1809). There are three of these mirrors, and one is cracked. I took this photograph when our friend Mark was visiting Ireland in 2017.
The cracked Cranfield mirror, cracked by a Bible which the local prelate had thrown at the Devil!

The Dining Room, description from Archiseek:

This room dates from the 1760s redecoration of Castletown undertaken by Lady Louisa Conolly and reflects the mid-eighteenth century fashion for separate dining rooms. Originally, there were two smaller panelled rooms here. It was reconstructed to designs by Sir William Chambers, with a compartmentalised ceiling similar to one by Inigo Jones in the Queen’s House at Greenwich. The chimney-piece and door cases are in the manner of Chambers. Of the four doors, two are false. 

Furniture original to Castletown includes the two eighteenth-century giltwood side tables. Their frieze is decorated with berried laurel foliage similar to the door entablatures in the Red and Green Drawing Rooms. The three elaborate pier glasses are original to the Dining Room. The frames are carved fruiting vines, symbols of Bacchus and festivity. These are probably the work of the Dublin carver Richard Cranfield (1713-1809) who, with the firm of Thomas Jackson of Essex Bridge, Dublin, was paid large sums for carving and gilding throughout the house.

My Dad Desmond and Stephen in the Dining Room of Castletown House, June 2015. Note the vase on the side table, one of a pair of large Meissen gilt and white two-handled campana vases with everted rims and entwined scrolling serpent and acanthus handles. This pair of vases is reputed to have been given to Thomas Conolly (1823–1876) as a gift by the future French Emperor, Napoleon III.
The dining room, 2017. The portrait over the fireplace in the dining room is a half-length portrait of Charles Lennox (1701–1750), 2nd Duke of Richmond and 2nd Duke of Lennox, wearing armour with the ribbon of the Order of the Garter, in a contemporary frame in the manner of William Kent. Furniture original to Castletown includes the two eighteenth-century giltwood side tables, which are also attributed to Richard Cranfield. Their frieze is decorated with berried laurel foliage similar to the door entablatures in the Red and Green Drawing Rooms.
The frieze on the giltwood side tables in the Dining Room is decorated with berried laurel foliage similar to the door entablatures in the Red and Green Drawing Rooms.
The Dining Room, October 2022, with the giltwood side table, Meissen vase, and portrait of Katherine Conyngham with her niece. Portraits over the landscape painting are of Harriet Murray (1742-1822) who married Henry Westenra (1742-1809) and Hester Westenra – this portrait could be of Harriet Murray’s daughter Hester (1775-1858) who married Edward Wingfield (1772-1859).
Harriet Murray (1742-1822) married Henry Westenra (1742-1809) and Hester Westenra – this portrait could be of Harriet Murray’s daughter Hester (1775-1858) who married Edward Wingfield (1772-1859). There are many portraits of the Westenra family currently in Castletown House. I don’t know if there is any connection between the Westenra family and Castletown – perhaps the portraits belong to the Office of Public Works and are used to suitably furnish Castletown.
Anne Murray (1734-1827), sister of Harriet in the photograph above. Anne married Theophilus Jones (1725-1811). Perhaps the man in the portrait is Theophilus Jones. Anne was second wife of Theophilus Jones, who had previously married Catherine Beresford of Curraghmore, daughter of Marcus Beresford 1st Earl of Tyrone.
Josephine Lloyd (1827-1912) who married Henry Robert Westenra, 2nd (UK) and 3rd Baron (Ireland) Rossmore of Monaghan.
One of a pair of large Meissen gilt and white two-handled campana vases with everted rims and entwined scrolling serpent and acanthus handles. This pair of vases is reputed to have been given to Thomas Conolly (1823–1876) as a gift by the future French Emperor, Napoleon III. I don’t know who is featured in this portrait – I’ll have to find out! It’s very beautiful. Tell me if you can identify our lovely lady in white and blue. To me she looks like Anne Hyde (1637-1671), Duchess of York, wife of King James II.

Between the front of the house, with its Entrance Hall, Stair Hall and Dining Room is a corridor, or rather, two corridors, one to the west and one to the east of the Entrance Hall. This corridor is on every storey, including the basement. To the rear (north) of the house on the ground floor is an enfilade of rooms: the Brown Study to the west end, next to another staircase, then the Red Drawing Room, the Green Drawing Room, the Print Room, the State Bedroom, and then small rooms called the Healy Room and the Map Room.

One of the corridors between the front and back of the house on the ground floor, October 2022.
The high ceilinged corridors end in large windows.

The corridors now hold paintings and art works, and one has a cabinet of Meissen porcelain.

Meissen porcelain pieces were created specially for clients, with favourite symbols and objects.
King George III
Queen Charlotte, wife of King George III.
Queen Victoria.

Next to the Dining Room at the front of the house is the Butler’s Pantry, which contains photographs of the servants of Castletown, and a portrait of a housekeeper, Mrs Parnel Moore (1649–1761). It’s unusual to have a portrait of a housekeeper but perhaps someone painted her because she was a beloved member of the household, as she lived to be at least 112 years! This is a very old portrait dating back to the 1700s.

The Castletown website tells us about the Butler’s Pantry: “The Butler’s Pantry dates from the 1760s and connected the newly created Dining Room with the kitchens in the West Wing. Food was carried in from the kitchens through the colonnade passageway and then reheated in the pantry before being served. The great kitchens were on the ground floor of the west wing, with servants’ quarters upstairs. Upwards of 80 servants would have been employed in the house and kitchens in the late eighteenth century under the direction of the Butler and the Housekeeper.”

A house like Castletown relied on an army of servants and this portrait of former housekeeper Mrs Parnel Moore – aged 112 according to the inscription – dates back to the beginnings of Castletown and is one of the oldest original items in the collection.
English servants of Castletown, photograph in Butler’s Pantry of Castletown.
Irish servants of Castletown, photograph in Butler’s Pantry of Castletown.
Enfilade of rooms on the north side, photograph by Swire Chin, Toronto, May 2013 flickr constant commons.

The Red Drawing Room, description from Archiseek:

It is one of a series of State Rooms that form an enfilade and were used on important occasions in the eighteenth century. This room was redesigned in the mid 1760s in the manner of Sir William Chambers. The chimney-piece, ceiling and pier glasses are typical of his designs. 

The walls are covered in red damask which is probably French and dates from the 1820s. Lady Shelburne recorded in her journal seeing a four coloured damask, predominently red, in this room. The Aubusson carpet dates from about 1850 and may have been made for the room. Much of the furniture has always been in the house and Lady Louisa Conolly paid 11/2 guineas for each of the Chinese Chippendale armchairs which she considered very expensive. The chairs and settee were made in Dublin and they are displayed in a formal arrangement against the walls as they would have been in the eighteenth century. The bureau was made for Lady Louisa in the 1760s.

The neoclassical ceiling, which replaced the vaulted original, is based on published designs by the Italian Renaissance architect, Sebastiano Serlio, and is modelled after one in Leinster House (belonging to Lady Louisa’s sister’s husband the Earl of Kildare). The white Carrara chimney-piece came to the house in 1768.

The Red Drawing Room in Castletown House, June 2015.
A Chinese gilt and polychrome lacquer cabinet on Irish stand, with a pair of doors later painted with vignettes of romantic landscapes and birds on floral sprays. The landscapes on this lacquered cabinet are said to have been painted by Katherine Conolly as a gift for her great-niece, Molly Burton, in about 1725. Katherine, who had no children herself, looked after Molly after her father died. [9]
The Red Drawing Room in October 2022.
The Red Drawing Room in October 2022.
The white Carrara chimney-piece came to the house in 1768. Andrew Tierney tells us in Buildings of Ireland: Central Leinster. The Counties of Kildare, Laois and Offaly that it is by John Devall & Son and based on Isaac Ware’s Designs of Inigo Jones (1731).
The neoclassical ceiling, which replaced the vaulted original, is based on published designs by the Italian Renaissance architect, Sebastiano Serlio. There is also a modillion cornice and a Rococo frieze.
The wallpaper has been specially recreated from original material, and the curtains have been made to match.
Chinese Chippendale sofas, Irish, c.1770, photograph from 2015.

The Green Drawing Room, description from Archiseek:

The Conollys formally received important visitors to the house in the Green Drawing Room which was the saloon or principal reception room. The room was redecorated in the 1760s and like the other state rooms reflects the neo-classical taste of the architect Sir William Chambers. The Greek key decoration on the ceiling is repeated on the pier glasses and the chimney-piece. Originally these were pier tables with a Greek key frieze and copies of these may be made in the future. The chimney-piece is similar to one designed by Chambers for Lord Charlemont’s Casino at Marino.”

The Castletown website tells us: “The Green Drawing Room was the main reception room or saloon on the ground floor. Visitors could enter from the Entrance Hall or the garden front. Like the other state rooms it was extensively remodelled between 1764 and 1768. The influence of the published designs of Serlio and the leading British architect Isaac Ware can be seen in the neo-classical ceiling, door cases and chimney-piece...The walls were first lined with a pale green silk damask in the 1760s. Fragments of this silk, which was replaced by a dark green mid-nineteenth century silk, survived and the present silk was woven as a direct colour match in 1985 by Prelle et Cie in Lyon, France.”

The Green Drawing Room, Castletown House, June 2015. Portrait of the woman and child is Mrs Katherine Conolly with Miss Molly Burton, by Charles Jervas. The man on the other side of the door is Speaker William Conolly. The door to the entrance hall is gilded and pedimented and is by Richard Cranfield of Dublin (after that by Ware in the saloon of Leinster House), with “pulvinated” (i.e. having the shape of a cushion) bay-leaf frieze. The chimeypiece replicates the key pattern on the ceilng.
Our guide showed us how the Green Drawing Room opens into the Great Hall.
The Green Drawing Room, October 2022.
Charles Lennox 2nd Duke of Richmond (1701-1750). I’m not sure if this is his wife Sarah Cadogen beside him.
I think this is a portrait of Louisa’s brother Charles, 3rd Duke of Richmond.
King Charles I, and below, a mistress of King Charles II, Louise Renée de Penancoët de Kérouaille, Duchess of Portsmouth, who was the mother of Charles Lennox, 1st Duke of Richmond.
Thomas Wentworth 1st Earl of Strafford (1593-1641), Lord Deputy of Ireland 1632-1640 for King Charles I.
The website tells us about this Musical Clock by Charles Clay c.1730. “Katherine and William Conolly are credited with bringing this important musical clock to Castletown. It was made by Charles Clay, official clock-maker to His Majesty’s Board of Works in London. It is the only clock of its kind known to be in Ireland and its sweet chime can be heard throughout the enfilade.”

The Brown Study is at one end of this enfilade of rooms. The website describes it:

The Brown Study with its wood-panelled walls, tall oak doors, corner chimney-piece, built-in desk and vaulted ceiling is decorated as it was in the 1720s when the house was first built. This room was used as a bedroom in the late nineteenth century and then as a breakfast parlour in the early twentieth century.

Between the windows is a piece of the ‘Volunteer fabric’. Printed on a mixture of linen and cotton in Harpur’s Mills in nearby Leixlip, it depicts the review of the Leinster Volunteers in the Phoenix Park in 1782. Thomas Conolly was active in the Volunteer leadership in both Counties Derry and Kildare. The Volunteers were a local militia force established during the American War of Independence to defend Ireland from possible French invasion while the regular troops were in America. They were later linked to the Patriot party in the Irish House of Commons led by Henry Grattan and to their campaigns for political reform.

Brown Study, Castletown House, Celbridge, Co Kildare, photograph by Sonder Visuals 2022 for Failte Ireland.
The Brown Study. Jonathan Swift portrait, and King William III.
The ‘Volunteer fabric’. Printed on a mixture of linen and cotton in Harpur’s Mills in nearby Leixlip, it depicts the review of the Leinster Volunteers in the Phoenix Park in 1782.
Dublin Volunteers on College Green, 1779, by Francis Wheatley.
Key to the Dublin Volunteers on College Green, 1779 by Francis Wheatley. In the centre facing forward is the Duke of Leinster. I found it odd to see that James Napper Tandy is one of the Volunteers pictured, since I know he is famous for being a rebel, along with Edward FitzGerald. It turns out that James Napper Tandy was expelled from the Irish Volunteers in 1780 because he proposed the expulsion of the Duke of Leinster! Tandy went on to help to form the United Irishmen, along with Theobald Wolf Tone.
Edward Fitzgerald (1763-1798). He fought with the British side in the American War of Independence but was injured and as he recuperated with the help of his servant, his sympathies turned to those fighting for Independence from the British. He continued this fight in Ireland, joining the United Irishmen. He was imprisoned and died in prison, his last visitor being his aunt Louisa Conolly.
Our guide showed us a photograph of the Brown study in the time of the Conolly Carew family, when they struggled with the upkeep of the house.

Mark Bence-Jones continues: “The doing-up of the house was largely supervised by Lady Louisa, and two of the rooms bear her especial stamp: the print room, which she and her sister, Lady Sarah Napier made ca. 1775; and the splendid long gallery on the first floor, which she had decorated with wall paintings in the Pompeian manner by Thomas Riley 1776.

The website tells us about the Print Room, completed in 1769: “More than any other room in Castletown, the Print Room bears the imprint of Lady Louisa, who assiduously collected, cut out, and arranged individual prints, frames and decorations. The prints were glued on panels of off-white painted paper which was later attached to the walls on battens covered with cloth. Lady Louisa thus created an intimate, highly individual room which has survived changing tastes and fashions and is now the only fully intact eighteenth-century print room in Ireland.”

The Print Room, Castletown House, June 2015.

Print rooms were fashionable in the 18th century – ladies would collect their favourite prints and paste the walls with them. Prints featured include Le Bas, Rembrandt and Teniers, the actor David Garrick and Sarah Cibber, Louisa’s sister Sarah, Charles I and Charles II as a boy, with whom Louisa shared a bloodline.

The room was later used as a billiards room, and this helped inadvertedly to save the prints, as our guide told us, as the smoke from their pipes helped to protect against silverfish insects which eat wallpaper.

The print room, central picture of Louisa’s sister Sarah Lennox, who married first Thomas Charles Bunbury 6th Baronet, then George Napier.
Sarah Lennox was at first expected to marry King George III. His advisors dissuaded him, and so she married Thomas Charles Bunbury 6th Baronet. However, she left him to elope with a lover, Wililam Gordon with whom she had a daughter. He abandoned her, however, and she was left in disgrace, moving to her brother’s family home. She was finally allowed to divorce, and she married George Napier, and they moved to Celbridge.
Many of the prints reflect fashionable cultural figures at the time that Louisa made the print room. Above the chimneypiece is David Garrick, an English actor, playwright and theatre manager. Louisa loved the theatre. A small temple in the grounds of Castletown is dedicated to actress Sarah Siddons.

Next to the Print Room is the State Bedroom. The website tells us:

In the 1720s, when the house was first laid out, this room, along with the rooms either side, probably formed William Conolly’s bedroom suite. It was intended that he would receive guests in the morning while sitting up in bed or being dressed in the manner of the French court at Versailles. In the nineteenth century, the room was converted into a library and the mock leather Victorian wall paper dates from this time. Sadly, the Castletown library was dispersed in the 1960s and today the furniture reflects the room’s original use.

The library at Castletown House. Pub Orig Country Life 22/08/1936 
Image Number: 873961  
Publication Date: 22/08/1936  
Volume: LXXX
Page: 196 
Photographer: A.E. Henson.
The State Bedroom, Castletown House, June 2015.
State Bedroom, 2022.
Harriet St. Lawrence (d. 1830), daughter of William 2nd Earl of Howth. She married Arthur French St. George (1780-1844). Olivia Emily Ussher-St. George married William Robert Fitzgerald, 2nd Duke of Leinster, the son of Emily, Louisa’s sister.

Next to the State Bedroom is The Healy Room: “This room originally served as a dressing room or closet attached to the adjoining State Bedroom. It was used as a small sitting room and later became Major Edward Conolly’s bedroom in the mid-twentieth century, as it was one of the few rooms that could be kept warm in winter. It is now known as the Healy room after the pictures of the Castletown horses by the Irish artist Robert Healy (d.1771).”

Upstairs has more bedrooms, and the beautiful Long Gallery. A corridor overlooks the Great Hall.

Corridor overlooking the Great Hall, below the railings on the left.
The door on the left enters the Long Gallery.

To one side of the Stair Hall upstairs is Lady Kildare’s Room, named after Lady Louisa’s sister Emily, Countess of Kildare and later Duchess of Leinster, who had raised Louisa and the two younger sisters Sarah and Cecilia at nearby Carton House after their parents’ death. Currently being renovated, in the past the room housed the Berkeley Costume Collection. Made in France, Italy, and England, the dresses on display consist of rich embroidered bodices and full skirts made from silk and gold thread.

Costumes from the Berkeley Costume Collection, in Lady Kildare’s Room, 2017.

Across the upstairs East Corridor from Lady Kildare’s room is the Blue Bedroom. The website tells us that the Blue Bedroom provides a fine example of an early Victorian bedroom. Like the Boudoir, it forms part of an apartment with two adjoining dressing rooms, one of which was upgraded into a bathroom with sink and bathtub. The principal bedrooms, used by the family and honoured guests, were on this floor. Bedrooms on the second floor were also used for guests and for children, while the servants slept in the basement. This room has a lovely pink canopied bed, but we did not see the room when we visited in 2022.

At the front of the house on the other side of the Great Hall upstairs are the Boudoir, and Lady Louisa’s Bedroom, and across the West Corridor upstairs, the Pastel Room. The website tells us:

The Boudoir and the adjoining two rooms formed Lady Louisa’s personal apartment. The Boudoir served as a private sitting room for Louisa and subsequent ladies of the house. The painted ceiling, dado rail and window shutters possibly date from the late eighteenth century and were restored in the 1970s by artist Philippa Garner. The wall panels, or grotesques, after Raphael date from the early nineteenth century and formerly hung in the Long Gallery. Amongst the items inside the built-in glass cabinet are pieces of glass and china featuring the Conolly crest.

In the adjoining room, Lady Louisa’s Bedroom, OPW’s conservation architects have left exposed the walls to offer visitors a glimpse of the different historic layers in the room, from the original brick walls, supported by trusses, to wooden panelling to fragments of whimsical printed wall paper that once embellished the room.

The Boudoir, October 2022.
The Boudoir, Castletown House, July 2017. The website tells us about the writing bureau, Irish-made around 1760: A George III mahogany cabinet with dentilled-scrolled broken pediment carved with rosettes. Throughout her life, Lady Louisa maintained a regular correspondence with her sisters and brothers in Ireland and England, and it is easy to picture her writing her epistles at this bureau and filing the letters she received in the initialled pigeonholes and drawers. A handwritten transcription of her letters to her siblings can be accessed in the OPW-Maynooth University Archive and Research Centre in Castletown. 
The writing bureau has no “J” or “U” as they are not in the Latin alphabet.
The Boudoir, October 2022. In this photograph we can see the false door, with glass panels, which had previously been covered by Lady Louisa’s writing bureau.
The wall panels, or grotesques, after Raphael date from the early nineteenth century and formerly hung in the Long Gallery.
The painted ceiling, dado rail and window shutters possibly date from the late eighteenth century and were restored in the 1970s by artist Philippa Garner.
Castletown House, June 2015.
From the photograph album of Henry Shaw.
Castletown House, June 2015, Lady Louisa’s Bedroom, OPW’s conservation architects have left exposed the walls to offer visitors a glimpse of the different historic layers in the room, from the original brick walls, supported by trusses, to wooden panelling to fragments of whimsical printed wall paper that once embellished the room
Castletown House, July 2017.
In 2022, Louisa’s bedroom now features a tremendous bed.
I have yet to identify this portrait. It looks remarkably similar to Lady Anne Conolly (née Wentworth) (1713-1797) Attributed to Anthony Lee, Irish, fl.1724-1767, and she is even wearing the same dress. Maybe the artist did two portraits.

Across the West Corridor upstairs is the Pastel Room. The Corridor has more portraits.

Charles I and Henrietta Maria.
William Robert FitzGerald (1748-1804), 2nd Duke of Leinster, son of Louisa’s sister Emily.

The Pastel Room, the website tells us, was originally an anteroom to the adjoining Long Gallery. It was used as a school room in the nineteenth century and is now known as the Pastel Room because of the fine collection of pastel portraits. The smaller pastels surrounding the fireplace include a pair of portraits of Thomas and Louisa Conolly by the leading Irish pastel artist of the eighteenth century, Hugh Douglas Hamilton.

The small medallion in the centre is Lady Louisa by Hugh Douglas Hamilton. The one of the two girls on the right is of Louisa Staples and her sister, by Hugh Douglas Hamilton. William James Conolly (1712-1754) was the nephew of William Conolly who built Castletown, and he inherited the estate. He was the father of Thomas Conolly (1734-1803). Thomas’s sister Harriet married John Staples, and their daughter was Louisa Staples. Louisa married Thomas Pakenham (1757-1836). It was their son, Edward Michael (1786-1849) who inherited Castletown, and added Conolly to his surname, to become Pakenham Conolly.
The pastel on the top left is Thomas Conolly (1734-1803), Louisa’s husband.
The parents of Louisa and Emily: Sarah Cadogen (1705-1751) and Charles Lennox (1701-1750) 2nd Duke of Richmond.
Pastel of Lady Louisa Lennox, from the circle of Geoge Knapton, c.1747, it depicts Lady Louisa at the tender age of four. Louisa was the daughter of Charles Lennox, 2nd Duke of Richmond, and his wife, Lady Sarah Cadogan. Her parents died when she was eight years old, and both she and her two younger sisters, Sarah and Cecilia, went to live with their older sister Emily, Countess of Kildare, in Ireland.

From the Pastel Room, we enter the Long Gallery. The website tells us about this room:

Originally laid out as a picture gallery with portraits of William Conolly’s patrons on display, its function and layout changed under Lady Louisa. In 1760, she had the original doorways to the upper east and west corridors removed, replacing them with the central doorway above the Entrance Hall. The new doorcases as well as new fireplaces at either end were designed by leading English architect, Sir William Chambers, while the actual execution was overseen by Simon Vierpyl. The Pompeian style decoration on the walls dates from the 1770s and was inspired by Montfaucon’s publications on the excavations at Pompeii and Herculaneum and by Raphael’s designs for the Vatican. The murals were the work of an English artist and engraver Charles Ruben Riley (1752–98). The Long Gallery became a space for informal entertaining and was full of life and activity as the following excerpt from one of Louisa’s letters suggests: “Our gallery was in great vogue, and really is a charming room for there is such a variety of occupations in it, that people cannot be formal in it. Lord Harcourt was writing, some of us played at whist, others at billiards, Mrs Gardiner at the harpsichord, others at chess, others at reading and supper at one end. I have seldom seen twenty people in a room so easily disposed of.”

Upstairs, The Long Gallery, Castletown House, June 2015.
The gallery at Castletown House, as decorated for Lady Louisa Conolly circa 1790. Pub Orig Country Life 22/08/1936 
Image Number: 873951  
Publication Date: 22/08/1936  
Volume: LXXX
Page: 196 
Photographer: A.E. Henson.
The Long Gallery in the 1880s, photograph from the album of Henry Shaw.

The Long Gallery, description from Archiseek:

“…measuring almost 80 by 23 feet, with its heavy ceiling compartments and frieze dates from the 1720s. Originally there were four doors in the room and the walls were panelled in stucco similar to the entrance Hall. In 1776 the plaster panels and swags were removed but traces of them were found behind the painted canvas panels when they were taken down for cleaning during recent conservation work.” 

The Long Gallery: its heavy ceiling compartments and frieze dates from the 1720s and is by Edward Lovett Pearce. It was painted and gilded in the 1770s.

Archiseek continues: “In the mid 1770s the room was redecorated in the Pompeian manner by two English artists, Charles Reuben Riley (c.1752-1798) and Thomas Ryder (1746-1810). Tom and Louisa’s portraits are at either end of the room over the chimney-pieces and the end piers are decorated with cyphers of the initals of their families: The portrait of Lady Louisa is after Reynolds (the original is in the Fogg Art Museum, Harvard) and that of Tom after Anton Raphael Mengs (the original is in the National Gallery of Ireland).

The portrait of Lady Louisa is after Reynolds (the original is in the Fogg Art Museum, Harvard. The fireplaces installed by Louisa at either end of the room were designed by leading English architect, Sir William Chambers, while the actual execution was overseen by Simon Vierpyl. It contains a Wedgewood encaustic centrepiece.
The portrait of Tom is in the style of Anton Raphael Mengs (the original is in the National Gallery of Ireland).
The new doorcases were designed by leading English architect, Sir William Chambers, while the actual execution was overseen by Simon Vierpyl. Thomas Conolly imported the statue, a seventeenth century statue of Diana, in the centre, supposedly smuggling it home in a coffin! Above is a lunette of Aurora, the godess of the dawn, derived from a ceiling decoration by Guido Reni, the seventeenth century Bolognese painter. 

Archiseek tells us: “The subjects of the wall paintings were mostly taken from engraving in d’Hancarville’s Antiquites Etrusques, Greques, et Romaines (1766-67) and de Montfaucon’s L’antiquite expliquee et representee en figures (1719). The busts of the poets and philosophers are placed on gilded brackets designed by Chambers. In the central niche stands a seventeenth-century statue of Diana. Above is a lunette of Aurora, the godess of the dawn, derived from a ceiling decoration by Guido Reni, the seventeenth century Bolognese painter. 

The three glass chandeliers were made for the room in Venice and the four large sheets of mirrored glass came from France. In the 1770s the Long Gallery was used as a living room and was filled with exquisite furniture. Originally in the room, there were a pair of side tables attributed to John Linnell, with marble tops attributed to Bossi, a pair of commodes by Pierre Langlois, that were purchased in London for Lady Louisa by Lady Caroline Fox and a pair of bookcases at either end of the room. 

In 1989 major conservation work was carried out on the Long Gallery. The wall paintings that had been flaking for many years were conserved. The original eighteenth-century gilding has been cleaned and the chandeliers restored. The project was funded by the American Ireland Fund, the Irish Georgian Society and by private donations.

A set of three 18th-century Venetian coloured and plain glass 24-light chandeliers, decorated with flower heads and moulded finials. These three Murano glass chandeliers are unique in Ireland and rare even in Italy. It is believed that Lady Louisa ordered them from Venice between 1775 and 1778 for the redecorated Long Gallery. The chandeliers were wired for electricity in the mid-1990s; they were cleaned and restored by a Venetian firm of historic glass-makers in 2009. 

Mark Bence-Jones tells us: “The gallery, and the other rooms on the garden front, face along a two mile vista to the Conolly Folly, an obelisk raised on arches which was built by Speaker Conolly’s widow 1740, probably to the design of Richard Castle. The ground on which it stands did not then belong to the Conollys, but to their neighbour, the Earl of Kildare, whose seat, Carton, is nearby. The folly continued to be a part of the Carton estate until 1968, when it was bought by an American benefactress and presented to Castletown. At the end of another vista, the Speaker’s widow built a remarkable corkscrew-shaped structure for storing grain, known as the Wonderful Barn. One of the entrances to the demesne has a Gothic lodge, from a design published by Batty Langley 1741. The principal entrance gates are from a design by Chambers.

The Obelisk, or Conolly Folly, was reputedly built to give employment during an episode of famine. It was restored by the Irish Georgian Society in 1960.

Obelisk, Castletown, attributed to Richard Castle, March 2022. Desmond Guinness’s wife Mariga, who played a great role in the Irish Georgian Society, is buried below.
Obelisk, Castletown, March 2022.
Obelisk, Castletown, March 2022.
The Wonderful Barn, Castletown by Robert French, Lawrence Photographic Collection NLI, flickr constant commons.
The Wonderful Barn, March 2022, created in 1743.
The Wonderful Barn, March 2022.
The Wonderful Barn, March 2022.
When we went to find the Wonderful Barn, we discovered there is not just one but in fact three Wonderful Barns!
The smaller Wonderful Barn.

As Bence-Jones tells us, Castletown was inherited by Tom Conolly’s nephew, Edward Michael Pakenham, who took the name of Conolly, to become Pakenham Conolly. Thomas and Louisa had no children, and Thomas’s sister Harriet married John Staples, and their daughter was Louisa Staples. Louisa married Thomas Pakenham (1757-1836). It was their son, Edward Michael (1786-1849) who inherited Castletown.

The house then passed to his son, another Thomas Conolly (1823-1876). He was an adventourous character who travelled widely and kept a diary. Stephen and I recently attended a viewing of portraits of Thomas and his wife Sarah Eliza, which are to be sold by Bonhams. His diary of his trip to the United States during the time of the Civil War is being published.

Thomas Conolly (1823-1876), painting by William Osbourne.
Sarah Eliza Conolly, wife of Thomas.

Sarah Eliza was the daughter of a prosperous Celbridge paper mill owner, Joseph Shaw. Her substantial dowry helped to fund her husband’s adventurous lifestyle! A photograph album which belonged to her brother Henry Shaw, of a visit to Castletown, was rescued from the rubble of his home in London when it was destroyed by a German bomb in 1944. Sadly, he died in the bombing. The photograph album is on display in Castletown.

Thomas Conolly (1823-1876) and his wife Sarah Eliza.

Sarah Eliza and Thomas had four children. Thomas, born in 1870, died in the Boer War in 1900. William died at the age of 22. Edward Michael (Ted), born in 1874, lived until his death in Castletown, in 1956. Their daughter Catherine married Gerald Shapland Carew, 5th Baron Carew, the grandson of Robert Carew, 1st Baron Carew of Castleboro House, County Wexford (today an impressive ruin), and son of Shapland Francis Carew and his wife Hester Georgiana Browne, daughter of Howe Peter Browne, 2nd Marquess of Sligo.

Sarah Eliza sits reading while her daughter Catherine descends the stairs.
Photographs of the Conolly family. Thomas Conolly who died in the Boer War is pictured on the left in the striped cap.
View of Castletown House from the meadow from Henry Shaw’s album.
Sarah Eliza with Catherine and her children seated at the table in the Dining Room. William Francis in foreground.

Catherine’s son, William Francis Conolly-Carew (1905-1994), 6th Baron Carew, inherited Casteltown, and added Conolly to his surname.

Lord William Francis Conolly-Carew relaxing in the Green Drawing Room in the 1950s.
The grounds around Castletown are beautiful and one can walk along the Liffey.
In front is a photograph of William Francis Conolly-Carew, 6th Baron Carew.
The Round House and the Gate Lodge (below) at the gates of Castletown can be rented for accommodation from the Irish Landmark Trust – see my Places to visit and stay in County Kildare page https://irishhistorichouses.com/2022/04/27/places-to-visit-and-to-stay-leinster-kildare-kilkenny-laois/.

3. Maynooth Castle, County Kildare:

Maynooth Castle, photograph by Gail Connaughton 2020, for Faitle Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. [see 1]

General information: 01 628 6744, maynoothcastle@opw.ie

From the OPW website https://heritageireland.ie/visit/places-to-visit/maynooth-castle/:

This majestic stone castle was founded in the early thirteenth century. It became the seat of power for the FitzGeralds, the earls of Kildare, as they emerged as one of the most powerful families in Ireland. Garret Mór, known as the Great Earl of Kildare, governed Ireland in the name of the king from 1487 to 1513.

Maynooth Castle was one of the largest and richest Geraldine dwellings. The original keep, begun around 1200, was one of the largest of its kind in Ireland. Inside, the great hall was a nerve centre of political power and culture.

Only 30 kilometres from Dublin, Maynooth Castle occupies a deceptively secluded spot in the centre of the town, with well-kept grounds and plenty of greenery. There is a captivating exhibition in the keep on the history of the castle and the family.

[1] https://www.irelandscontentpool.com

[2] https://heritageireland.ie/visit/places-to-visit/altamont-gardens/

[3] p. 8, Living Legacies: Ireland’s National Historic Properties in the Care of the OPW. Government Publications, Dublin 2, 2018.

[4] p. xiii, Jennings, Marie-Louise and Gabrielle M. Ashford (eds.), The Letters of Katherine Conolly, 1707-1747. Irish Manuscripts Commission 2018. The editors reference TCD, MS 3974/121-125; Capel Street and environs, draft architectural conservation area (Dublin City Council) and Olwyn James, Capel Street, a study of the past, a vision of the future (Dublin, 2001), pp. 9, 13, 15-17.

[5] http://kildarelocalhistory.ie/celbridge See also my entry on Castletown House in my entry for OPW properties in Kildare, https://irishhistorichouses.com/2022/02/21/office-of-public-works-properties-leinster-carlow-kildare-kilkenny/

[6] https://archiseek.com/2011/1770s-castletown-house-celbridge-co-kildare/

[7] p. 75. Bence-Jones, Mark. 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.

[8] p. 129. Great Irish Houses. Forewards by Desmond FitzGerald, Desmond Guinness. IMAGE Publications, 2008. 

[9] https://castletown.ie/collection-highlights/

Office of Public Works properties: Leinster: Laois, Longford, Louth, Meath, Offaly, Westmeath, Wexford, Wicklow

Carlow, Dublin, Kildare, Kilkenny, Laois, Longford, Louth, Meath, Offaly, Westmeath, Wexford and Wicklow are the counties that make up the Leinster region.

I have noticed that an inordinate amount of OPW sites are closed ever since Covid restrictions, if not even before that (as in Emo, which seems to be perpetually closed) [these sites are marked in orange here]. I must write to our Minister for Culture and Heritage to complain.

Laois:

1. Emo Court, County Laois – house closed at present

2. Heywood Gardens, County Laois

Longford:

3. Corlea Trackway Visitor Centre, County Longford

Louth:

4. Carlingford Castle, County Louth

5. Old Mellifont Abbey, County Louth – closed at present

Meath:

6. Battle of the Boyne site, Oldbridge House, County Meath

7. Hill of Tara, County Meath

8. Loughcrew Cairns, County Meath – guides on site from June 16th 2022

9. Newgrange, County Meath

10. Trim Castle, County Meath

Offaly:

11. Clonmacnoise, County Offaly

Westmeath:

12. Fore Abbey in County Westmeath

Wexford:

13. Ballyhack Castle, County Wexford – closed at present

14. Ferns Castle, County Wexford – closed at present

15. John F. Kennedy Arboretum, County Wexford

16. Tintern Abbey, County Wexford

Wicklow:

17. Dwyer McAllister Cottage, County Wicklow – closed at present

18. Glendalough, County Wicklow

19. National Botanic Gardens Kilmacurragh, County Wicklow

Laois:

1. Emo Court, County Laois:

Emo, County Laois, June 2021. Unfortunately the stone lions which flank the front steps, carved by Richard Carter of Cork in 1854, were in boxes on the day we visited. [1]

General enquiries: 057 862 6573, emocourt@opw.ie

From the OPW website https://heritageireland.ie/visit/places-to-visit/emo-court/:

Emo Court is a quintessential neo-classical mansion, set in the midst of the ancient Slieve Bloom Mountains. The famous architect James Gandon, fresh from his work on the Custom House and the Four Courts in Dublin, set to work on Emo Court in 1790. However, the building that stands now was not completed until some 70 years later [with work by Lewis Vulliamy, a fashionable London architect, who had worked on the Dorchester Hotel in London and Arthur & John Williamson, from Dublin, and later, William Caldbeck].

The estate was home to the earls of Portarlington until the War of Independence forced them to abandon Ireland for good. The Jesuits moved in some years later [1920] and, as the Novitiate of the Irish Province, the mansion played host to some 500 of the order’s trainees.

Major Cholmeley-Harrison took over Emo Court in the 1960s and fully restored it [to designs by Sir Albert Richardson]. He opened the beautiful gardens and parkland to the public before finally presenting the entire estate to the people of Ireland in 1994.

You can now enjoy a tour of the house before relaxing in its charming tearoom. The gardens are a model of neo-classical landscape design, with formal lawns, a lake and woodland walks just waiting to be explored.” [2]

The entrance front has seven bay centre with a giant pedimented Ionic portico. Andrew Tierney tells us that the portico was changed in 1822 from Gandon’s Doric order to a pedimented tetrastyle Ionic portico by the Dublin architects Arthur and John Williamson. [see 1]
The view from the front of the house. The 3rd Earl of Portarlington planted the long avenue of Wellingtonia trees.

Mark Bence-Jones tells us that the 1st Earl of Portarlington was interested in architecture and was instrumental in bringing James Gandon to Ireland, in order to build the new Custom House. The name Emo is an Italianised version of the original Irish name of the estate, Imoe. [3]

The Emo Court website tells us of the history:

John Dawson, 1st Earl of Portarlington [1744-1798] commissioned the building of Emo Court in 1790 although the house was not finally completed until 1870, eighty years later. Emo Court is one of only a few private country houses designed by the architect James Gandon. Others were Abbeyville, north Co. Dublin for Sir James Beresford [or is it John Beresford (1738-1805)? later famous for being the home of politician Charles Haughey] and Sandymount Park, Dublin for William Ashford. In addition, Gandon built himself a house at Canonbrook, Lucan, Co. Dublin.” [4]

Many of Gandon’s original drawings, plus those of his successors, are currently on display in the Irish Architectural Archive, 45 Merrion Square, Dublin. [5] The Emo Court website continues:

James Gandon was born in London of Huguenot descent. He studied classics, mathematics and drawing, attending evening classes at Shipley’s Academy in London. At the age of fifteen, James was apprenticed to the architect Sir William Chambers and about eight years later, set up in business on his own. His first connection with Ireland was in 1769 when he won the second prize of £60 in a competition to design the Royal Exchange in Dublin, now the City Hall. He was invited to build in St Petersburg, Russia, by Princess Dashkov, and offered an official post with military rank. However, he chose instead to accept an offer from Sir John Beresford and John Dawson, Lord Carlow, later 1st Earl of Portarlington, to come to Dublin to build a new Custom House. This was begun in 1781. The following year, Gandon was commissioned to make extensions to the Parliament House, originally designed by Sir Edward Lovett Pearce. Here he added a Corinthian portico as entrance to the Lords’ Chamber. After the Act of Union in 1801, the building became the Bank of Ireland. In 1785, Gandon was commissioned to design the new Four Courts. The third of his great Dublin buildings was the King’s Inns, begun in 1795. His few private houses were designed for patrons and friends.” [see 4]

The website continues: “In the early 18th century, Ephraim Dawson [1683-1746], a wealth banker, after whom Dawson Street in Dublin is named, purchased the land of the Emo Estate and other estates in the Queen’s County (Co. Laois). He married Anne Preston, heiress to the Emo Park Estate and fixed his residence in a house known as Dawson Court, which was in close proximity to the present Emo Court. His grandson, John Dawson, was created 1st Earl of Portarlington in 1785. Three years later, he married Lady Caroline Stuart, daughter of the [3rd] Earl of Bute, who was later Prime Minister of England. John Dawson commissioned Gandon to design Emo Court in 1790.

After Gandon died in 1823, to be buried in Drumcondra churchyard, the 2nd Earl of Portarlington, also John Dawson, engaged Lewis Vulliamy, a fashionable London architect, who had worked on the Dorchester Hotel in London and A. & J. Williamson, Dublin architects, to finish the house. In the period, 1824-36, the dining room and garden front portico with giant Ionic columns were built, but on the death of the 2nd Earl in 1845, the house still remained unfinished. It was not until 1860 that the 3rd Earl, Henry Ruben John Dawson [or Dawson-Damer, the son of the 2nd Earl’s brother Henry Dawson-Damer, who had the name Damer added to his name after the family of his grandmother, Mary Damer, who married William Henry Dawson, 1st Viscount Carlow] commissioned William Caldbeck, a Dublin architect, and Thomas Connolly, his contractor, to finish the double height rotunda, drawing room and library.” [see 4] Caldbeck also added a detached bachelor wing, joined to the main block by a curving corridor.

Emo Court, Photograph by Liam Murphy 2016 for Fáilte Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool [6]. The windows in the single bay pavilions are pedimented and set in relieving arches.

Although it was not built during Gandon’s time, most of the house is as it was designed by Gandon, wiht some additions or changes. Mark Bence-Jones describes the house:

Of two storeys over a basement, the sides of the house being surmounted by attics so as to form end towers or pavilions on each of the two principal fronts. The entrance front has seven bay centre with a giant pedimented Ionic portico; the end pavilions being of a single storey, with a pedimented window in an arched recess, behind a blind attic with a panel containing a Coade stone relief of putti; on one side representing the Arts, on the other, a pastoral scene. The roof parapet in the centre, on either side of the portico, is balustraded. The side elevation, which is of three storeys including the attic, is of one bay on either side of a curved central bow.” [see 3]

The end pavilions are a single storey with a blind attic with a panel containing a Coade stone relief of putti; on one side representing the Arts, on the other, a pastoral scene. In the photograph is the Arts side, with an Irish harp and two figures unfurling the plans for the house. [see 1]
The Coade stone relief of putti in a pastoral scene, representing Agriculture.
The side and garden front of the house. The side elevation, which is of three storeys including the attic, is of one bay on either side of a curved central bow.
I love the way these balusters go droopy-bellied to match the angle of the stairs!

Bence-Jones continues: “The house was not completed when the 1st Earl died on campaign during 1798 rebellion; 2nd Earl, who was very short of money, did not do any more to it until 1834-36, when he employed the fashionable English architect, Lewis Vulliamy; who completed the garden front, giving it its portico of four giant Ionic columns with a straight balustraded entablature, and also worked on the interior, being assisted by Dublin architects named Williamson. It was not until ca 1860, in the time of 3rd Earl – after the house had come near to being sold up by the Encumbered Estates Court – that the great rotunda, its copper dome rising from behind the garden front portico and also prominent on the entrance front, was completed; the architect this time being William Caldbeck, of Dublin, who completed the other unfinished parts of the house and added a detached bachelor wing, joined to the main block by a curving corridor.” [see 3]

Photograph from the National Library of Ireland, around 1900-1920, showing the garden front of the house. The 2nd Earl of Portarlington engaged Lewis Vulliamy (who designed the portico) and A. & J. Williamson, Dublin architects (who did the interior), to finish the house. In the period 1824-36 the dining room and garden front portico with giant Ionic columns were built, but on the death of the 2nd Earl in 1845, the house still remained unfinished. The rotunda was only finished in 1860.
The garden front of Emo with its pillared portico by Lewis Vulliamy.
Pillared portico by Lewis Vulliamy.
The garden front portico, probably part of the 1850s work by William Caldbeck, has portico and entablature of grey limestone and doorcase and window surrounds of yellow sandstone. This is set against a cement render. [see 1]
Under the portico in the garden facing facade is a Coade stone frieze of a Dionysian procession. [see 1]

The website continues: “Emo court remained the seat of the Earls of Portarlington until 1920, when the house and its vast demesne of over 4500 ha, (11,150 acres), was sold to the Irish Land Commission. After the Phoenix Park in Dublin, Emo Court was the largest enclosed estate in Ireland. The house remained empty until 1930 when 150 ha., including the garden, pleasure grounds, woodland and lake were sold to the Society of Jesus for a novitiate. The Jesuits made several structural changes to the building to suit their purposes, including the conversion of the rotunda and library as a chapel. The distinguished Jesuit photographer, Fr Frank Browne lived at Emo Court from 1930-57. [7] A notable novitiate was the Irish author, Benedict Kiely.

The Jesuits remained at Emo until 1969 and the property was eventually sold to Major Cholmeley Dering Cholmeley-Harrison. He embarked upon a long and enlightened restoration, commissioning the London architectural firm of Sir Albert Richardson & Partners to effect the restoration.

In 1994, President Mary Robinson officially received Emo Court & Parklands from Major Cholmeley-Harrison on behalf of the Nation.” [see 4]

Unfortunately Emo Park house has been closed to the public for renovation for several years, and was closed on the day we visited in July 2021. I am looking forward to seeing the interior, which from photographs and descriptions I have seen, look spectacular. From the outside we gain little appreciation of the splendid copper dome.

In the meantime, you can read more about Emo and see photographs of its interiors on the wonderful blog of the Irish Aesthete Robert O’Byrne. [8]

There are beautiful grounds to explore, however, on a day out at Emo, including picturesquely placed sculptures, an arboretum, lake, and walled garden. Here is a link to a beautiful short film by poet Pat Boran, about the statues at Emo Park, County Laois. https://bit.ly/35uXPO1

The walled garden at Emo Court.
The walled garden at Emo Court.

2. Heywood Gardens, Ballinakill, County Laois:

Heywood Gardens by Edwin Lutyens, photograph by Chris Hill 2014 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. [see 6]

General enquiries: 086 810 7916, emocourt@opw.ie

From the OPW website https://heritageireland.ie/visit/places-to-visit/heywood-gardens/:

The entrancing eighteenth-century landscape at Heywood Gardens, near Ballinakill, County Laois, consists of gardens, lakes, woodland and some exciting architectural features. The park is set into a sweeping hillside. The vista to the south-east takes in seven counties.

The architect Sir Edwin Lutyens designed the formal gardens [around 1906], which are the centrepiece of the property. It is likely that renowned designer Gertrude Jekyll landscaped them.

The gardens are composed of elements linked by a terrace that originally ran along the front of the house. (Sadly, the house is no more.) One of the site’s most unusual features is a sunken garden containing an elongated pool, at whose centre stands a grand fountain.

The Heywood experience starts beside the Gate Lodge. Information panels and signage will guide you around the magical Lutyens gardens and the surrounding romantic landscape.

The gardens at Heywood were created by Michael Frederick Trench (1746-1836), at his home, Heywood House, a house which was unfortunately burnt down in 1950 (my father as a young boy was at a musical concert nearby and saw the house burning!). Heywood House was built around 1789, and was captured before it burned down in photographs in Country Life, volume XLV in 1919. The article tells us that after Michael Frederick Trench built the house in the 1770s, he landscaped the area between his house and the village of Ballinakill, moving hills, digging lakes (he made three artificial lakes), planting trees and placing follies. The house was named after his mother-in-law, Mary Heywood (daughter of a Drogheda merchant). He was an amateur architect, and designed the parish church of Swords, as well as an addition to the Rotunda in Dublin. [9] The garden, set within a 250 acre demesne, is, Andrew Tierney claims, the best of its kind in Ireland: a blend of the Arcadian and the Picturesque, above which Edwin Lutyens later erected his walled terraces and enclosures. [10] One of the follies is a window from nearby Aghaboe Abbey (my grandfather had owned this property until the land was bought by compulsory purchase by the Land Commission in 1977).

Looking over the lake towards the exterior of Heywood House, photograph by A.E. Henson, not used, from archive for Country Life, volume XLV, 1919.
The dining room at Heywood House, ceiling probably by Michael Stapleton, photograph by A.E. Henson, from Country Life, volume XLV, 1919.

Heywood House was inherited by the Domvile family in the mid 19th century (Michael Frederick’s daughter Helena married Comptom Pocklington Domvile, 1st Baronet Domvile, of Templeogue and Santry, Dublin), and later enlarged by Lt-Col William Hutchison-Poë, 1st Baronet Hutchison-Poë, in 1875, who had married Helena’s granddaughter Mary Adelaide Domvile. It was then bought by the Salesian Fathers in 1923. It was transferred to State ownership in November 1993 from the Salesian Fathers.

It was only in around 1906 that Lutyens added to the gardens. Sean O’Reilly describes his addition:

Lutyens worked on the gardens from about 1906. He complemented the strong architectural framework with an informal planting style, following the same combination of structure and nature developed at Lambay and made popular with his associate – and Country Life author – Gertrude Jekyll. Laying out the garden in a series of terraces and stepped passageways exploding east and west from the falling southern terraces of the house itself, the architect shaped these spaces with a bewildering variety of retaining walls – vertical and battered, stepped and sheer – screen walls – straight and curved, large and dwarf – columns, steps and architectural artifacts.” [11]

Tierney describes the garden: The gardens stretch from the principal gates for almost a kilometer and a half, incorporating a sequence of three adjoining lakes and a fourth, further east, and areas of rolling parkland skirted by woodlands. Trench named each part of his garden after Alpine scenery. Trench’s Gothic follies include the Abbeyleix gate, an arrangement of octagonal towers joined by a Tudor-arched gateway. The Trench coat of arms is visible to the right of the gateway arch. From this gate the winding drive opens to Trench’s valley. Nearby, marking a split in the road, is the Spire, a shaft raised in memory of Trench’s friend Andrew Caldwell. Further along is a sham castle. High up behind that isa bridge, and a ruin, on the other side, with the Aghaboe windows. Up the pathway is the Gothic Greenhouse, a brick construction with five lancets with hood mouldings. On the east side of the lake is a grotto or bath house. On the east side of the demesne is the Trench mausoleum. [see 10]

The Lutyens garden descends to a sunken garden, with terraced borders leading down to a pool surrounded by bronze tortoises perched on stone balls. On the east side of the pond Luytens created a Pavilion with Portland stone dressings, terracotta tiled roof and saucer-domed interior, containing two Corinthian capitals rescued by Trench from the Parliament House in Dublin, which he was involved in remodelling. The north wall had busts of philosphers in oval niches, now replaced by urns.

The north wall of the pleached alley at Heywood House. Photograph by A.E. Henson,Published originally Country Life 04/01/1919.

For more on the gardens, see the blog of the Irish Aesthete, Robert O’Byrne. [12]

Longford:

3. Corlea Trackway Visitor Centre, Kenagh, County Longford:

Corlea Trackway Visitor Centre, Co. Longford, photograph by Chris Hill 2018 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. [see 6]
Corlea Trackway Visitor Centre, Co. Longford, photograph by Chris Hill 2018 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. [see 6]

General enquiries: 043 332 2386, corlea@opw.ie

From the OPW website https://heritageireland.ie/visit/places-to-visit/corlea-trackway-visitor-centre/:

Hidden away in the boglands of Longford, not far from Kenagh village, is an inspiring relic of prehistory: a togher – an Iron Age road – built in 148 BC. Known locally as the Danes’ Road, it is the largest of its kind to have been uncovered in Europe. 

Historians agree that it was part of a routeway of great importance. It may have been a section of a ceremonial highway connecting the Hill of Uisneach, the ritual centre of Ireland, and the royal site of Rathcroghan.

The trackway was built from heavy planks of oak, which sank into the peat after a short time. This made it unusable, of course, but also ensured it remained perfectly preserved in the bog for the next two millennia.

Inside the interpretive centre, an 18-metre stretch of the ancient wooden structure is on permanent display in a hall specially designed to preserve it. Don’t miss this amazing remnant of our ancient past.

Corlea Trackway Visitor Centre, Co. Longford, photograph by Christ Hill 2018 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. [see 6]
Wooden block wheel excavated in Doogarymore, County Roscommon, now in the National Museum of Ireland, Kildare Street, Dublin. From around 400BC. It may be the type of wheel that was used on the ancient roads!
Information board from the National of Ireland Kildare Street.

Louth:

4. Carlingford Castle, County Louth:

Carlingford Castle, also known as King John’s Castle (not to be confused with the one in Limerick), County Louth, photograph by Brenda Harris 2021 for Fáilte Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. [see 6]

From the OPW website https://heritageireland.ie/visit/places-to-visit/carlingford-castle/:

Carlingford lies in the shade of Slieve Foye, a mountain that in legend takes its form from the body of the sleeping giant Finn MacCumhaill. The castle dominates the town and overlooks the lough harbour. It was a vital point of defence for the area for centuries.

Carlingford Castle was built around 1190, most likely by the Norman baron Hugh de Lacy. By this time Hugh’s family had grown powerful enough to make King John of England uneasy. John forced them into rebellion and seized their property in 1210. He reputedly stayed in his new castle himself. It is still known as King John’s Castle.

The Jacobites fired on the castle in 1689; William of Orange is said to have accommodated his wounded soldiers there following the Battle of the Boyne.

Carlingford Lough Heritage Trust provides excellent guided tours of this historic Castle from March to October.

By 1778 the building was ruinous. The task of repair and preservation was begun by the Henry Paget the 1st Marquess of Anglesey in the later nineteenth century (he served as Lord Lieutenant of Ireland from 1848, and as Master General of the Ordinance), and has been continued by the OPW. [13]

Carlingford Castle Co Louth NLI by Robert French, Lawrence Photograph Collection.
Henry Paget, 1st Marquess of Anglesey (1768-1854), Viceroy in 1828 and 1830.

5. Old Mellifont Abbey, Tullyallen, Drogheda, County Louth:

Old Mellifont Abbey, photograph by Eilish Tierney, 2020 for Fáilte Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. [see 6]
Mellifont Abbey from National Library of Ireland Lawrence photograph collection, flickr constant commons.

General enquiries: 041 982 6459, mellifontabbey@opw.ie. Mellifont means “fountain of honey.”

From the OPW website https://heritageireland.ie/visit/places-to-visit/old-mellifont-abbey/:

Mellifont Abbey was the first Cistercian monastery in Ireland. St Malachy of Armagh created it in 1142 with the help of a small number of monks sent by St Bernard from Clairvaux [and with the aid of Donough O’Carroll, King of Oriel – see 14]. The monks did not take well to Ireland and soon returned to France, but the abbey was completed anyway and duly consecrated with great pomp.

It has several extraordinary architectural features, the foremost of which is the two-storey octagonal lavabo [the monk’s washroom]

The monks at Mellifont hosted a critical synod in 1152. The abbey was central to the history of later centuries, too, even though it was in private hands by then. The Treaty of Mellifont, which ended the Nine Years War, was signed here in 1603, and William of Orange used the abbey as his headquarters during the momentous Battle of the Boyne.

Mellifont Abbey ruins, the octagonal lavabo, built in around 1200, photograph by Brian Harte, 2015 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. [see 6]

The ruins contain the medieval gatehouse, parish church, chapter house and lavabo. The octagonal lavabo was designed as a freestanding structure of two storeys, with an octagonal cistern to supply the water located at the upper level over the wash room. Wash basins were arranged around a central pier, now gone, which supported the weight of the water above. [14] The entire monastery was surrounded by a defensive wall. After the dissolution of the monasteries, Mellifont was acquired in 1540 by William Brabazon (died 1552), Vice Treasurer of Ireland, and passed later to Edward Moore (Brabazon’s wife Elizabeth Clifford remarried three times after Brabazon’s death, and one of her husbands was Edward Moore), who established a fortified house within the ruins around 1560. His descendents (Viscounts of Drogheda) lived there until 1727 (until the time of Edward Moore, 5th Earl of Drogheda), after which the house, like the abbey, fell into disrepair.

Garret Moore, 1st Viscount of Drogheda, hosted the negotiations which led to the Treaty of Mellifont in 1603.

Mellifont Abbey ruins, photograph by Chris Hill, 2014 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. [see 6]

Meath:

6. Battle of the Boyne site and visitor centre, Oldbridge House, County Meath.

Oldbridge House, County Meath, October 2019.

General Enquiries: 041 980 9950, battleoftheboyne@opw.ie

The Battle of the Boyne museum is housed in Oldbridge Hall, which is built on the site where the Battle of the Boyne took place.

From the website:

Oldbridge House was built in the 1740’s by either John Coddington or his nephew Dixie Coddington. [John Coddington purchased the land in 1724 from Henry Moore the 4th Earl of Drogheda.]

It is believed to have been designed by George Darley, a local mason architect who also designed the renovated Dunboyne Castle, Dowth House and The Tholsel in Drogheda, Co. Louth.

To the left of the house there is a cobble stone stable yard with fine cut stable block. This originally contained coach houses, stables, tack and feed rooms.

To the right of the house is a small enclosed courtyard which contains the former butler’s house which is not open to the public.” [15]

Oldbridge House was purchased by the state in 2000, and renovation began.

Oldbridge House is a three storey house with a plain ashlar frontage of seven bays, with the centre three widely spaced and set somewhat advanced from the rest of the facade. Quadrant walls link the house to its park, with rusticated doors. The house is of two dates. Originally, in around 1750 it was a three bay, three storey block with low single-storey wings, and in around 1832, two floors were added to each wing, said to be by Frederick Darley. Similarity to nearby Dowth Hall suggests the involvement of the earlier and related George Darley in the original design. [16] It has a centrally located tripartite doorcase with pilasters surmounted by a closed pediment, which holds a canonball from the fields of the Battle of the Boyne. It has a string course between ground and first floors and sill course to first floor, and three central windows on first floor with stone architraves. [17]

Oldbridge House, County Meath, October 2019. The inset canonball was recovered from the field from the Battle of the Boyne.

An ancestor of Stephen’s, Elizabeth Coddington (1774-1857), grew up in Oldbridge House! She married Edward Winder (1775-1829). The son of John Coddington who purchased the land predeceased his father so John’s nephew, Dixie (1725-1794), son of his brother Nicholas, inherited. Dixie in turn had no sons, so the estate passed to his brother Henry. Dixie is also associated with Tankardstown House, a section 482 property. Henry Coddington (1734-1816) was father to Stephen’s ancestor Elizabeth. Henry was a barrister, and served as MP for Dunleer, County Louth, and he married Elizabeth Blacker from Ratheskar, County Louth.

Battle of the Boyne painted by Jan Wyck, in the National Gallery of Ireland. The point of view is that of the Williamites who were based on high ground north of the River Boyne, looking southwards towards Donore Hill where James II and his troops were based.

The Battle of the Boyne was just one of several battles that took place in Ireland when the rule of King James II was challenged by his son-in-law, a Dutch Protestant Prince, William of Orange. James II was Catholic, and he attempted to introduce freedom of religion, but this threatened families who had made gains under the reformed Protestant church. When James’s wife gave birth to a male heir in 1688, many feared a permanent return to Catholic monarchy and government. In November 1688, seven English lords invited William of Orange to challenge the monarchy of James II. William landed in England at the head of an army and King James feld to France and then to Ireland. William followed him over to Ireland in June 1690.

On 1 July 1690 (Old Style), King William III clashed with his father-in-law, King James II, on the River Boyne at Oldbridge, County Meath. 

Both kings commanded their armies in person. There were 36,000 men on the Williamite side and 25,000 on the Jacobite side. It was the largest number of troops ever deployed on an Irish battlefield. English, Scottish, Dutch, Danes and Huguenots (French Protestants) made up William’s army (Williamites), while James’ men (Jacobites) were mainly Irish Catholics, reinforced by 6,500 French troops sent by King Louis XIV. At stake were the British throne, French Dominance in Europe and religious power in Ireland.

William’s camp was on the north side of the river. James’s was on the south side with the two armies facing each other. William’s battle plan was to trap the Jacobite army in a pincer movement. He sent 10,000 men towards Slane which drew the bulk of the Jacobities upstream in response. With 1,300 Jacobites posted in Drogheda, only 6,000 were left at Oldbridge to confront 26,000 Williamites. All the fighting took place on the south side of the river, as the vastly outnumbered Jacobites defended their position against the advancing Williamites. William himself crossed at Drybridge with 3,500 mounted troops.

The pincer movement failed. King James’s army retreated across the River Nanny at Duleek and regrouped west of the Shannon to carry on the war.

Approximately 1,500 soldiers were killed at the Boyne.” [15]

After winning the battle, William gained control of Dublin and the east of Ireland. However, the war continued until the Battle of Aughrim in July 1691, which led to the surrender at Limerick the following autumn. The surrender terms promised limited guarantees to Irish Catholics and allowed the soldiers to return home or to go to France. The Irish Parliament however then enacted the Penal Laws, which ran contrary to the treaty of Limerick and which William first resisted, as he had no wish to offend his European Catholic allies.

Many phrases can be traced back to the Battle of the Boyne, such as those written on the wall in the museum.
Oldbridge, County Meath, October 2019.

The gardens of Oldbridge House have been resotred, with an unusual sunken octagonal garden, peach house, orchard and herbaceous borders, with a tearoom in the old stable block. Throughout the year outdoor theatre, workshops and events such a cavalry displays and musket demonstrations help to recreate a sense of what it might have been like on that day in July 1690.

Oldbridge, County Meath, October 2019.

7. Loughcrew Cairns, Corstown, Oldcastle, County Meath:

Loughcrew cairns, photograph by Macmillan media, 2015 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. [see 6]

general enquiries: 087 052 4975, info@heritageireland.ie

From the OPW website https://heritageireland.ie/visit/places-to-visit/loughcrew-cairns/:

The Loughcrew cairns, also known as the Hills of the Witch, are a group of Neolithic passage tombs near Oldcastle in County Meath. Spread over four undulating peaks, the tombs are of great antiquity, dating to 3000 BC. 

Cairn T is one of the largest tombs in the complex. Inside it lies a cruciform chamber, a corbelled roof and some of the most beautiful examples of Neolithic art in Ireland. The cairn is aligned to sunrise at the spring and autumn equinoxes and at these times people gather there to greet the first rays of the sun.

Loughcrew cairns, photograph by Macmillan media, 2015 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. [see 6]
Carved stone from Loughcrew, in the National Museum of Ireland, Kildare Street, Dublin.

8. Brú na Bóinne Visitor Centre, Newgrange and Knowth, County Meath.

Newgrange, seen from the top of another nearby tumulus, Dowth. Newgrange is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and dates to some 5,000 years ago…Photograph by Dave Walsh, 2004 for Tourism Ireland. [see 6]

General Information: 041 988 0300, brunaboinne@opw.ie

From the website https://heritageireland.ie/visit/places-to-visit/bru-na-boinne-visitor-centre-newgrange-and-knowth/:

The World Heritage Site of Brú na Bóinne is Ireland’s richest archaeological landscape and is situated within a bend in the River Boyne. Brú na Bóinne is famous for the spectacular prehistoric passage tombs of Knowth, Newgrange and Dowth which were built circa 3200BC. These ceremonial structures are among the most important Neolithic sites in the world and contain the largest collection of megalithic art in Western Europe.

Newgrange, County Meath, December 2013.
Newgrange, County Meath, December 2013.
Newgrange, Co Meath, Ireland, photograph by Brian Morrison, 2018 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. [see 6]
Newgrange, Co Meath , Ireland, photograph by Brian Morrison, 2018 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. [see 6]
Winter Solstice, Newgrange, Co Meath , Ireland, photograph by Brian Morrison, 2018 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. [see 6]

37. Hill of Tara, Navan, County Meath:

Hill of Tara, County Meath, photograph by macmillan media 2015 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. [see 6]
Diorama of Tara in the National Museum of Ireland, Kildare Street, Dublin, 2022. Key: 2. Rath/Fort of the Kings, a hilltop enclosure; 3: Royal Seat, a barrow; 4. Cormac’s House, a ringfort; 5. Stone of Destiny, Liah Fail, a standing stone; 6. Mound of the Hostages, a passage tomb; 7. Rath of the Synods, an enclosure; 8. Banqueting Hall, a linear earthwork.

General information: 046 902 5903, hilloftara@opw.ie

From the OPW website:

The Hill of Tara has been important since the late Stone Age, when a passage tomb was built there. However, the site became truly significant in the Iron Age (600 BC to 400 AD) and into the Early Christian Period when it rose to supreme prominence – as the seat of the high kings of Ireland. All old Irish roads lead to this critical site.

St Patrick himself went there in the fifth century. As Christianity achieved dominance over the following centuries, Tara’s importance became symbolic. Its halls and palaces have now disappeared and only earthworks remain. 

There are still remarkable sights to be seen, however. Just one example is the Lia Fáil – the great coronation stone and one of the four legendary treasures of the Tuatha Dé Danann – which stands proudly on the monument known as An Forradh.

Guided tours of the site will help you understand the regal history of this exceptional place and imagine its former splendour.

Article about the 1956 excavation of the portal tomb passage grave on the Mound of the Hostages, in the National Museum of Ireland, Kildare Street.
Information boards from the exhibition in the National Gallery of Ireland Kildare Street, January 2022.
Information boards from the exhibition in the National Gallery of Ireland Kildare Street, January 2022.
Items excavated at Tara, in the National Museum of Ireland Kildare Street.
Information boards from the exhibition in the National Gallery of Ireland Kildare Street, January 2022.
Information boards from the exhibition in the National Gallery of Ireland Kildare Street, January 2022.
Information boards from the exhibition in the National Gallery of Ireland Kildare Street, January 2022.

9. Trim Castle, County Meath:

Trim Castle and the River Boyne, photograph by Brian Morrison, 2015 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. [see 6]
Trim Castle and the River Boyne, photograph by macmillan media, 2015 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. [see 6]

General information: 046 943 8619, trimcastle@opw.ie

From the OPW website https://heritageireland.ie/visit/places-to-visit/trim-castle/:

Few places in Ireland contain more medieval buildings than the heritage town of Trim. Trim Castle is foremost among those buildings.

In fact, the castle is the largest Anglo-Norman fortification in Ireland. Hugh de Lacy and his successors took 30 years to build it.

The central fortification is a monumental three-storey keep. This massive 20-sided tower, which is cruciform in shape, was all but impregnable in its day. It was protected by a ditch, curtain wall and water-filled moat.

Modern walkways now allow you to look down over the interior of the keep – a chance to appreciate the sheer size and thickness of the mighty castle walls.

The castle is often called King John’s Castle although when he visited the town he preferred to stay in his tent on the other side of the river. Richard II visited Trim in 1399 and left Prince Hal later Henry V as a prisoner in the castle.” I never knew we had such a link to King Henry V and Shakespeare’s play, Henry IV!

Trim Castle and the River Boyne, photograph by Brian Morrison, 2006 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. [see 6]

Patrick Comerford gives an excellent history of Trim Castle in his blog. [18] The castle stands within a three acre bailey, surrounded by a defensive perimeter wall. The curtain wall of the castle is fortified by a series of semicircular open-back towers. There were two entrances to Trim Castle, one, beside the car park, is flanked by a gatehouse, and the second is a barbican gate and tower. [19]

We visited in May 2022, after visiting St. Mary’s Abbey (also called Talbot’s Castle) – more on that soon. We were late entering so the entry to inside the castle was closed, unfortunately – we shall have to visit again!

Trim Castle, May 2022.
The view of Trim Castle from St. Mary’s Abbey, over the Boyne River, May 2022.
Trim Castle and the River Boyne, photograph by Brian Morrison, 2015 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. [see 6]
Trim Castle, Co. Meath, 1938, photograph from National Library of Ireland, flickr constant commons.
The entrance to Trim Castle, May 2022.
The information board tells us that the Trim Gate was built around 1180, on the site of an earlier timber gatehouse. A forward tower or pier would have received a bridge over the moat. The gatehouse was rebuilt early in the 13th century when the passageway was vaulted. The vaulted floor housed the lifting mechanism for the portcullis and above this were the porters’ lodgings. The chambers to the north side of the passage were added to provide guard accommodation with a prison below.
The other side of the gate through which we entered.
The Keep, Trim Castle, May 2022.
Inside the walls of Trim Castle, with a view of St. Mary’s Abbey house and the remaining tower of St. Mary’s Abbey.

The information board tells us that in 1182 when Hugh de Lacy was granted the Liberty of Meath, he occupied this site bounded by the River Boyne to the north and marshy ground to the south. By 1175 his original wooden fortification had been replaced by this unusual keep, later surrounded by curtain walls with a simple gate to the north and a bridge across the moat. The south curtain wall with its D shaped buildings was completed by 1200, when new siege tactics forced a change in the design of castles. Later, the forebuildings and plinth were built, protecting the entrance and base of the keep.

Sometime before 1180, Hugh de Lacy replaced the timber palisade fence enclosing the keep with a stone enclosure. The fore-court enclosed stables and stores and protected the stairway and door to the keep. The new entrance was on the north side of the enclosure and had a drawbridge over the deepened ditch.

With the development of the curtain walls, the inner enclosure became obsolete.

The ditch was filled and three defensive towers – two survive – were built on its site. The drawbridge was replaced by a stone causeway leading to an arched gate and entrance stairway. A reception hall was built to accommodate visitors before they entered the Keep.

As the town and approach roads developed, the barbican gate provided a new entrance from the south. After the siege of 1224, the north curtain walls, towers and Trim gate required major repairs. During a period of prosperity in the second half of the 13th century, the great hall and solar were constructed on the site of the north curtain wall and tower. Trim and its abbeys and the Cathedral and borough of Newtown developed in the security of the castle.

The Boyne was used for transport of goods to the river gate. Stores, workshops and kitchens were built in the castle yard.

Though the castle buildings were often adapted to suit changing military and domestic needs, much of the fabric of Trim Castle has remained unchanged since the height of Anglo-Norman power in Ireland.

The Keep, Trim Castle, May 2022.
The area that was the Great Hall, Trim Castle, May 2022.

The information board tells us that courts, parliaments, feasts and all issues relating to the management of the Lordship were discussed at meetings in the Great Hall. After 1250, the great public rooms in the Keep were considered unsuitable for such gatherings, so this hall was built, lit by large windows with a view of the harbour and the Abbey of St. Mary’s across the river. The hall had a high seat at the west end, with kitchens and undercroft cellars to the east. Ornate oak columns rising from stone bases supported the great span of the roof.

The hall was heated from a central hearth and vented by a lantern-like louvre in the roof.

I’m not sure what this is, at Trim Castle.
See the “scratches” or marks on the ceiling of this vaulted space – we see similar marks in the basement of St. Mary’s Abbey house.
I think this is the River Gate, at Trim Castle.
The information board tells us that the River Gate allowed for the delivery os stores from boats on the river. The gate was made in the curtain wall to the east of the Great Hall. Short stretches of canal allowed boats to bring supplies to teh castle to avoid the many weirs and protruding rocks on the river. A section of the canal was cut below the riverside curtain wall. Inside the River Gate, a passage was cut through the bedrock to the door of the cellar of the Great Hall. Boats could be moored in the wide harbour with its pier and stairway to the apartments in the Solar.
The Barbican Gate, Trim Castle.
Inside the Barbican Gate, Trim Castle.

Early in the 13th century the weirs were completed on the Boyne, allowing the moat to be flooded, and the Leper River was channelled along the south curtain wall. A new gate was constructed guarding the southern approaches to the castle. This gatehouse, of a rare design, was built as a single cylindrical tower with a “barbican,” defences of a forward tower adn bridge. An elaborate system of lifting bridges, gates and overhead traps gave the garrison great control over those entering the castle. The arrangement of plunging loops demonstrates the builders’ knowledge of the military requirements of defending archers.

By the middle of the 13th century, the design of castle gates was further developed and a twin tower gatehouse with a passage between the two towers became standard.

Offaly:

10. Clonmacnoise, County Offaly:

Clonmacnoise, May 2018.

General information: 090 9674195, clonmacnoise@opw.ie

From the OPW website https://heritageireland.ie/visit/places-to-visit/clonmacnoise/:

St Ciarán founded his monastery on the banks of the River Shannon in the 6th Century. The monastery flourished and became a great seat of learning, a University of its time with students from all over Europe.

The ruins include a Cathedral, two round Towers, three high crosses, nine Churches and over 700 Early Christian graveslabs.

The original high crosses, including the magnificent 10th century Cross of the Scriptures area on display in a purpose built visitor centre adjacent the monastic enclosure.

An audiovisual presentation will give you an insight into the history of this hallowed space.

Clonmacnoise, May 2018. O’Rourke’s Tower. The Annals of the Four Masters record that it was completed in 1124 under the patronage of Toirrdelbach O Conchobhair, King of Connacht. In 1135 its top was struck off by lightning. The eight square headed windos at the top belong to a late medieval arrangement.
Clonmacnoise, May 2018.
Clonmacnoise, May 2018.
Clonmacnoise, May 2018.
Clonmacnoise, May 2018. Temple Finghin, a twelfth century church with integrated round tower.
Clonmacnoise, May 2018.

Westmeath:

11. Fore Abbey in County Westmeath:

Fore Abbey, County Westmeath, August 2021.

“Fore” comes from the Irish “fobhar” meaning well or spring.

From the OPW website https://heritageireland.ie/visit/places-to-visit/fore-abbey/:

In a tranquil valley in the village of Fore, about a 30-minute drive from Mullingar in County Westmeath, you can visit the spot where St Feichin founded a Christian monastery in the seventh century AD.

It is believed that, before Feichin’s death, 300 monks lived in the community. Among the remains on the site is a church built around AD 900. There are also the 18 Fore crosses, which are spread out over 10 kilometres on roadways and in fields.

Seven particular features of the site – the so-called ‘Seven Wonders of Fore’ – have acquired legendary status. They include: the monastery built on a bog; the mill without a race (the saint is said to have thrust his crozier into the ground and caused water to flow); and the lintel stone raised by St Feichin’s prayers.

St Feichin’s Way, a looped walk around the site, provides an excellent base from which to explore these fabled places.

The Benedictine Priory was founded around 1180 by Hugh de Lacy, the first Viceroy of Ireland. Before this there was a monastery in Fore, founded by Feichin in the seventh century. The Benedictines had a link with France and its first monks came from France. The Priory sufffered plundering attacks so needed defensive towers and fortification. It was built around a Cloister or courtyard.

The cloister is remarkably well-preserved.

The “columbarium” mentioned in the diagram is a house for keeping pigeons – we saw one previously at Moone Abbey tower, and there is one at Fore.

The Columbarium or Pigeon house at Fore.

The monastery founded at Fore in the seventh century by St Feichin, a Sligo-born holy man who travelled widely in Ireland, was large and prosperous but was superceded by Fore Abbey, the nearby Benedictive abbey founded by the Norman deLacys. The remaining building of St Feichins is the church, which was built in the tenth century. A new chancel was added around 1200, and the arch leading to this was re-erected in 1934. The east window was inserted in the 15th century.

St Feichin’s Church, with Fore Abbey in background on far left.
St. Feichin’s Church, built in the 10th century with later additions.

The Anchorite’s Cell is a small tower with attached chapel. The tower had two storeys and on the top floor lived a number of Anchorites, or hermits. The chapel has a vault below, the crypt of the Nugent family of nearby Castle Delvin and Clonyn Castle, Earls of Westmeath. Delvin, or Castletown-Delvin, was granted by Hugh de Lacy to his son-in-law Gilbert de Nugent. The 1st Earl of Westmeath was Richard Nugent (1583-1642). His father was Christopher Nugent, 5th Baron Delvin.

The Anchorite’s Cell.
Front of the Anchorite Cell Chapel with the Nugent coat of arms.

County Wexford:

12. Ballyhack Castle, Arthurstown, County Wexford

Ballyhack Castle, photograph by Brian Morrison, 2015 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. [see 6]

General enquiries: 051 398 468, breda.lynch@opw.ie

from the OPW website https://heritageireland.ie/visit/places-to-visit/ballyhack-castle/:

Ballyhack Castle commands an imperious position on a steep-sided valley overlooking Waterford Estuary. It is thought that the Knights Hospitallers of St John, one of the two mighty military orders founded at the time of the Crusades, built this sturdy tower house around 1450.

The tower is five stories tall and the walls survive complete to the wall walk. Built into the north-east wall of the second floor is a small chapel complete with a piscina, aumbry and altar. The entrance to the castle is protected externally by a machicolation and internally by a murder hole – that is, an opening through which defenders could throw rocks or pour boiling water, hot sand or boiling oil, on anyone foolish enough to attack.

Currently on display at Ballyhack Castle are assorted items of replica armour relating to the Crusades and the Normans –  guaranteed to ignite the imagination!

Ballyhack Castle, photograph by Brian Morrison, 2015 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. [see 6]

13. Ferns Castle, County Wexford:

Ferns Castle, photograph by Brian Morrison, 2015 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. [see 6]

General information: 053 9366411, fernscastle@opw.ie

From the OPW website https://heritageireland.ie/visit/places-to-visit/ferns-castle/:

Before the coming of the Normans, Ferns was the political base of Diarmait Mac Murchada, king of Leinster. William, Earl Marshall built the castle around 1200. Since then it has had many owners, of diverse political and military colours.

Originally, the castle formed a square, with large corner towers. Only half of the castle now stands, although what remains is most impressive. The most complete tower contains a beautiful circular chapel, several original fireplaces and a vaulted basement. There is a magnificent view from the top.

There is an extraordinary artefact to be seen in the visitor centre. The Ferns Tapestry showcases the pre-Norman history of the town via the thousand-year-old art of crewel wool embroidery. Stitched by members of the local community, the 15-metre-long tapestry comprises 25 panels of remarkable accomplishment and beauty.

Ferns Castle, photograph by Chris Hill, 2014 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. [see 6]

14. John F. Kennedy Arboretum, County Wexford:

General Information: 046 9423490, jfkarboretum@opw.ie

When John F. Kennedy died, a number of Irish-American societies expressed the wish to establish a tribute to him in Ireland. The Irish government suggested a national arboretum, and secured 192 acres surrounding Ballysop House, just six kilometres from the Kennedy ancestral home at Dunganstown, County Wexford. The arborterum is planted in two interwoven botanical circuits: one of broadleaves and the other of conifers. The Arboretum was formally opened on 29th May 1968.

From the OPW website https://heritageireland.ie/visit/places-to-visit/the-john-f-kennedy-arboretum/:

Dedicated to the memory of John F. Kennedy, whose great-grandfather, Patrick, was born in the nearby village of Dunganstown, this arboretum near New Ross, County Wexford, contains a plant collection of presidential proportions.

It covers a massive 252 hectares on the summit and southern slopes of Slieve Coillte and contains 4,500 types of trees and shrubs from all temperate regions of the world. There are 200 forest plots grouped by continent. Of special note is an ericaceous garden with 500 different rhododendrons and many varieties of azalea and heather, dwarf conifers and climbing plants.

The lake is perhaps the most picturesque part of the arboretum and is a haven for waterfowl. There are amazing panoramic views from the summit of the hill, 271 metres above sea level. A visitor centre houses engaging exhibitions on JFK and on the Arboretum itself.

Along the northern perimeter of the site are some 200 forest plots. Each covers an area of one acre and comprises a single species of forestry tree. These provide information on the performance of different types of plantation species in the Irish climate.

Through the garden are a number of trails, and a miniature train runs during the summer, and there is a cafe.

15. Tintern Abbey, County Wexford:

Tintern Abbey, photograph by Brian Morrison, 2015 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. [see 6]

General information: 051 562650, tinternabbey@opw.ie

From the OPW website https://heritageireland.ie/visit/places-to-visit/tintern-abbey/:

This Cistercian monastery was founded c. 1200 by William, Earl Marshal on lands held through his marriage to the Irish heiress, Isabella de Clare [daughter of Strongbow]. This abbey, founded as a daughter-house of Tintern Major in Wales is often referred to as Tintern de Voto.

The nave, chancel, tower, chapel and cloister still stand. In the 16th century the old abbey was granted to the Colclough family [Anthony Colclough (d. 1584) was a soldier and the land was granted to him after the dissolution of the monasteries] and soon after the church was partly converted into living quarters and further adapted over the centuries. The Colcloughs occupied the abbey from the sixteenth century until the mid-twentieth.”

The Colclough (pronounced Coakley) family lived there until 1958, when it was presented to the state by Lucy Biddulph-Colclough. Anthony’s son Thomas married Martha Loftus, daughter of Adam Loftus, Lord Archbishop of Dublin, who built Rathfarnham Castle in Dublin. Their son Adam Colclough became 1st Baronet of Tintern Abbey, County Wexford. The 3rd Baronet had no heir so the title expired and the lands passed to his sister Margaret. She married firstly, in 1673, Robert Leigh, of Rosegarland, who thereupon assumed the surname of Colclough; and secondly, in 1696, John Pigott, of Kilfinney, County Limerick, who also assumed the surname of Colclough. She was succeeded by a relative, Caesar Colclough (1696-1766), eldest son of Dudley Colclough, of Duffrey Hall. The property passed through generations until it was donated to the state.

The website continues: “Conservation works have included special measures to protect the local bat colonies. The abbey is set in a special area of conservation and is surrounded by woodland within which are walking trails. Not to be missed is the restored Colclough Walled Garden situated within the old estate.

Tintern Abbey, photograph by Brian Morrison, 2017 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. [see 6]
Tintern Abbey, photograph by Brian Morrison, 2017 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. [see 6]
Tintern Abbey, photograph by Brian Morrison, 2015 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. [see 6]
Colclough Walled garden, Tintern Abbey, photograph by Brian Morrison, 2017 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. [see 6]

Following the donation of Tintern Abbey to the Irish State in 1959 the walled garden was abandoned to nature and became overgrown.  The gradual restoration of the walled garden by a team of volunteers began in 2010 and the 1830s layout shown on the Ordnance Survey was reinstated. The restored garden, which opened to the public in 2012, is divided into two sections: the Ornamental Garden and the Kitchen Garden. 

Garden at Tintern Abbey, photograph by Brian Morrison, 2017 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. [see 6]
Tintern Abbey, photograph by Celtic Routes, 2019 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. [see 6]

Wicklow:

16. Dwyer McAllister Cottage, County Wicklow:

From the OPW website https://heritageireland.ie/visit/places-to-visit/dwyer-mcallister-cottage/:

This thatched and whitewashed cottage nestles in the shade of Keadeen Mountain off the Donard to Rathdangan road in County Wicklow.

Today, it seems like an unlikely site of conflict. However, in the winter of 1799 it was a different story. It was from this cottage that the famed rebel Michael Dwyer fought the encircling British. One of Dwyer’s compatriots, Samuel McAllister, drew fire upon himself and was killed. This allowed Dwyer to make good his escape over the snow-covered mountains.

The cottage was later destroyed by fire and lay in ruins for almost 150 years. It was restored to its original form in the twentieth century. Now, it contains various items of the period – both those that characterised everyday life, such a roasting spit and a churn, and those that only appeared in the throes of combat, such as deadly pikes.

17. Glendalough, County Wicklow:

Glendalough, County Wicklow, July 2017.

General information: 0404 45352, george.mcclafferty@opw.ie

From the OPW website https://heritageireland.ie/visit/places-to-visit/glendalough-visitor-centre/:

In a stunning glaciated valley in County Wicklow, in the sixth century, one of Ireland’s most revered saints founded a monastery. The foundation of St Kevin at Glendalough became one of the most famous religious centres in Europe.

The remains of this ‘Monastic City’, which are dotted across the glen, include a superb round tower, numerous medieval stone churches and some decorated crosses. Of particular note is St Kevin’s Bed, a small man-made cave in the cliff face above the Upper Lake. It is said that St Kevin lived and prayed there, but it may actually be a prehistoric burial place that far predates him.

Gilt wooden statue dating from the 15th or 16th century, found at Lugduff, County Wicklow, in a ruined building near the upper lake at Glendalough. It is a carved statue of yew wood and depicts an unknown figure, probably a saint; now in the National Museum of Ireland, Kildare Street, Dublin.
Information board from National Museum of Ireland, Kildare Street.
Silver penny of Sitric Rex Dublin, found at Sevenchurches or Camaderry, Glendalough County Wicklow. It represents the earliest Irish coinage, showing Sitric, King of Dublin, and was minted in AD995. It is now in the National Museum of Ireland, Kildare Street, Dublin.
Glendalough, Co. Wicklow, photograph by Chris Hill 2018 for Tourism Ireland, Ireland’s Content Pool. [see 6]

18. National Botanic Gardens Kilmacurragh, County Wicklow:

General Information: 0404 48844, botanicgardens@opw.ie

Kilmacurragh House was home to seven generations of the Acton family. It was built in 1697 by Thomas Acton, whose father came to Ireland as part of Oliver Cromwell’s army, for which he was granted the lands surrounding the ruined abbey of St. Mochorog. The five bay Queen Anne house is thought to be the work of Sir William Robinson, who is better known today for his work at Marsh’s Library in Dublin, the Royal Hospital Kilmainham, Dublin Castle and Charles Fort, Kinsale, County Kerry. [20]

Kilmacurragh House, photograph from the National Inventory of Architectural History.

From the OPW website https://heritageireland.ie/visit/places-to-visit/national-botanic-gardens-kilmacurragh/:

There was a monastery at Kilmacurragh, in this tranquil corner of County Wicklow, in the seventh century, and a religious foundation remained right up until the dissolution of the monasteries. After Cromwell invaded the land passed to the Acton family.

By the time the estate came to Thomas Acton in 1854, an unprecedented period of botanical and geographical exploration was afoot. In collaboration with the curators of the National Botanic Gardens, Acton built a new and pioneering garden.

In 1996, a 21-hectare portion of the old demesne officially became part of the National Botanic Gardens of Ireland. The following ten years were spent giving the estate’s rare and beautiful plants a new lease of life.

Kilmacurragh is now part of the National Botanic Gardens, providing a complementary collection of plants to its parent garden at Glasnevin. Arrive in spring to witness the transformation of the walks, as fallen rhododendron blossoms form a stunning magenta carpet.

and

The Gardens lies within an estate developed extensively during the nineteeth century by Thomas Acton in conjunction with David Moore and his son Sir Frederick Moore, Curators of the National Botanic Gardens at that time. It was a period of great botanical and geographical explorations with numerous plant species from around the world being introduced to Ireland for the first time. The different soil and climatic conditions at Kilmacurragh resulted in many of these specimens succeeding there while struggling or failing at Glasnevin. Kilmacurragh is particularly famous for its conifer and rhododendron collections.” [21]

Thomas Acton’s son William married Jane Parsons of Birr Castle. Their son Thomas Acton inherited, then his son Lt Col William and then his son Thomas (1826-1908). Along with his sister Janet, he had a passion for collecting plants. They travelled to the Americas and Asia in search of plants, and established one of the finest arboreta in Ireland, and formed a friendship with David Moore, curator of the National Botanic Gardens in Dublin. Thomas died unmarried in 1908 and Kilmacurragh was inhierted by his nephew, Captain Charles Annesley Acton, who had been born in Peshawar. However, he was killed fighting in World War I as was his brother Reginald. Thus in eight years, three consecutive owners of Kilmacurragh had died, inflicting death duties amounting to 120% of the value of the property. The Actons were forced to sell the estate. The house fell into ruin and the arboretum became overgrown. The state acquired Kilmacurragh in 1996 and have restored the arboretum, making it part of the National Botanic Gardens.

[1] p. 336. Tierney, Andrew. The Buildings of Ireland: Central Leinster: Kildare, Laois and Offaly. Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 2019.

[2] https://heritageireland.ie/visit/places-to-visit/emo-court/

[3] p. 119. Bence-Jones, Mark. 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.

[4] https://emocourt.ie/history/

For information on Gandon’s house in Lucan, see https://www.buildingsofireland.ie/buildings-search/building/11201034/canonbrook-house-lucan-newlands-road-lucan-and-pettycanon-lucan-dublin

Canonbrook, Lucan: “Detached multiple-bay two-storey over basement house, c.1800, on an L-plan. A handsome, substantial rural Georgian house which, though altered, retains its imposing form and feel, and is situated in mature grounds. Historically important as the former home of James Gandon.” Gandon is also said to have designed Primrose Hill House in Lucan, which is a section 482 property.

[5] https://theirishaesthete.com/2019/02/27/emo-court/

[6] https://www.irelandscontentpool.com/en/media-assets/media/81101

[7] http://www.fatherbrowne.com

[8] https://theirishaesthete.com/2016/03/14/of-changes-in-taste/

and https://theirishaesthete.com/2016/02/01/seen-in-the-round/

For photographs of the stuccowork, see https://theirishaesthete.com/2016/03/21/forgotten-virtuosi/

[9] p. 96. Sadleir, Thomas U. and Page L. Dickinson. Georgian Mansions in Ireland with some account of the evolution af Georgian Architecture and Decoration. Dublin University Press, 1915. 

[10] p. 356. Tierney, Andrew. The Buildings of Ireland: Central Leinster: Kildare, Laois and Offaly. Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 2019.

[11] p. 61. O’Reilly, Sean. Irish Houses and Gardens. From the Archives of  Country Life. Aurum Press Ltd, London, 1998. 

[12] https://theirishaesthete.com/2018/08/27/heywood/

and https://theirishaesthete.com/2014/05/12/to-smooth-the-lawn-to-decorate-the-dale/

[13] p. 175, Casey, Christine and Alistair Rowan. The Buildings of Ireland: North Leinster: the counties of Longford, Louth, Meath and Westmeath. Penguin Books, London, 1993.

[14] p. 387, Casey, Christine and Alistair Rowan. The Buildings of Ireland: North Leinster: the counties of Longford, Louth, Meath and Westmeath. Penguin Books, London, 1993.

and see also my entry on Killineer, County Louth.

[15] https://battleoftheboyne.ie/battle-beyond/

[16] p. 446-7. Tierney, Andrew. The Buildings of Ireland: Central Leinster: Kildare, Laois and Offaly. Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 2019.

[17] https://www.buildingsofireland.ie/buildings-search/building/14402016/oldbridge-house-oldbridge-sheephouse-co-meath

[18] http://www.patrickcomerford.com/2016/10/trim-castle-is-strong-symbol-in-stone.html

[19] p. 511, Casey, Christine and Alistair Rowan. The Buildings of Ireland: North Leinster: the counties of Longford, Louth, Meath and Westmeath. Penguin Books, London, 1993.

[20] p. 160. Living Legacies: Ireland’s National Historic Properties in the Care of the OPW. Government Publications, Dublin 2, 2018.

[21] https://botanicgardens.ie/kilmacurragh/

Office of Public Works Properties Dublin

I have noticed that an inordinate amount of OPW sites are closed ever since Covid restrictions, if not even before that (as in Emo, which seems to be perpetually closed) [these sites are marked in orange here]. I must write to our Minister for Culture and Heritage to complain.

I have written to Minister for Tourism Catherine Martin and received a response in June 2022:

I wish to acknowledge receipt of your recent correspondence to Catherine Martin, TD. Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media in connection with OPW Sites.

OPW Sites would fall under the remit of Minister of State Patrick O’Donovan and the Department of Office of Public Works. Minister of State O’Donovan’s office can be reached at  ministersoffice@opw.ie and should be able to assist you with your query.

Well, I have another email to write! I’ll keep you posted…

Dublin:

1. Aras an Uachtarain, Phoenix Park, Dublin

2. Arbour Hill Cemetery, Dublin

3. Ashtown Castle, Phoenix Park, Dublin – closed at present

4. The Casino at Marino, Dublin

5. Customs House, Dublin

6. Dublin Castle

7. Farmleigh House, Dublin

8. Garden of Remembrance, Dublin

9. Government Buildings Dublin

10. Grangegorman Military Cemetery, Dublin

11. Irish National War Memorial Gardens, Dublin

12. Iveagh Gardens, Dublin

13. Kilmainham Gaol, Dublin

14. National Botanic Gardens, Dublin

15. Phoenix Park, Dublin

16. Rathfarnham Castle, Dublin

17. Royal Hospital Kilmainham in Dublin – historic rooms closed

18. St. Audoen’s, Dublin

19. St. Enda’s Park and Pearse Museum, Dublin

20. St. Stephen’s Green, Dublin

1. Aras an Uachtarain, Phoenix Park, Dublin 8:

July 2012, The Garden Front of the Aras. The portico with giant Ionic columns was added in 1815 by Francis Johnston.

general enquiries: (01) 677 0095

phoenixparkvisitorcentre@opw.ie

From the OPW website:

Áras an Uachtaráin started life as a modest brick house, built in 1751 for the Phoenix Park chief ranger. It was later an occasional residence for the lords lieutenant. During that period it evolved into a sizeable and elegant mansion.

It has been claimed that Irish architect James Hoban used the garden front portico as the model for the façade of the White House.

After independence, the governors general occupied the building. The first president of the Republic of Ireland, Douglas Hyde, took up residence here in 1938. It has been home to every president since then.” [1]

Phoenix Park was originally formed as a royal hunting Park in the 1660s, created by James Butler the Duke of Ormond. A large herd of fallow deer still remain to this day. Since it was a deer park it needed a park ranger. One of the park chief rangers was Nathaniel Clements (1705-1777), who was also an architect, and it was he who built the original house in 1751 which became the Aras. He was appointed as Ranger and Master of the Game by King George II in 1751. Clements was also an MP in the Irish Parliament.

Photograph from the National Library, from when the building was the Vice Regal Lodge. This is the front which faces Chesterfield Avenue. Photograph is by Robert French, and the photograph is part of the Lawrence Photographic Collection, Date: between circa. 1865-1914, NLI Ref: L_ROY_00335
The Vice-Regal Lodge (Lord Lieutenant’s Residence), Phoenix Park, Dublin After John James Barralet, Irish, 1747-1815, photograph courtesy of National Gallery of Ireland.

Clements accumulated much property including Abbotstown in Dublin, and estates in Leitrim and Cavan. In Dublin, he developed property including part of Henrietta Street, where he lived in number 7 from 1734 to 1757. For more about him, see Melanie Hayes’s wonderful book The Best Address in Town: Henrietta Street, Dublin and its First Residents, 1720-80 published by Four Courts Press in 2020. Another house he designed, which is sometimes on the Section 482 list, is Beauparc in County Meath, and another Section 482 property, Lodge Park in County Kildare. Desmond Fitzgerald also attributed Colganstown to him, a house we visited in 2019, though this is not certain. [2]

7 Henrietta Street, recently for sale, photograph courtesy of myhome.ie, built for Nathaniel Clements, who also built the house that has become Aras an Uachtarain.
Number 7 Henrietta Street, from myhome.ie. The interior retains an original double-height open-well staircase and early dog-leg closed-string service stair with original plasterwork and joinery throughout. Laid out by Luke Gardiner in the 1720s, Henrietta Street is a short cul-de-sac containing the finest early Georgian houses in the city, and was named after Henrietta Crofts, the third wife of Charles Paulet, 2nd Duke of Bolton and Lord Lieutenant in 1717-1721.

We attended a few of President Higgins’s summer parties at the Aras. These are open to the public, by booking tickets.

Aras an Uachtarain, July 2012.
Aras an Uachtarain, June 2022.

The Entrance Hall of the Áras dates from 1751 from the time of Nathaniel Clements, and features a magnificent barrel-vaulted ceiling with plaster busts in the ceiling coffers.

The Entrance Hall dates from 1751 and features a magnificent barrel-vaulted ceiling with plaster busts in the ceiling coffers. Photograph taken on our visit to the Aras Garden Party in June 2022.
Bust of President Michael D. Higgins in the Entrance Hall.

The Council of State Room is part of the original 1751 house. The ceiling, installed by Nathaniel Clements in 1757, is by Bartholomew Cramillion and depicts three of Aesop’s Fables – the Fox and the Stork, the Fox and the Crow and the Fox and the Grapes.

A covered ceiling with original mid-C18 plasterwork of Aesop’s fable theme. This beautiful plasterwork is by Bartholomew Cramillion. Another ceiling by him was taken from a house which was demolished, Mespil House in Dublin, and is now in what is called the President’s Study, and depicts Jupiter presiding over the elements and the four season and dates from the late 1750s.
Maude Gonne, by Sarah Purser, on the right of us in our Bloomsday outfits, in the Council of State Room. On the left is Constance Markievicz, by Szankowski.
The first meeting of the Council of State, January 1940.

The State Drawing Room is also part of the original house and the its rich gilt ceiling dates from then. The walls are lined with green silk.

Myself and Stephen with the President Michael D. Higgins and his wife Sabina in 2012, in the State Drawing Room.
The State Drawing Room. The Louis XVI couch came from the palace of Versailles during the Presidency of Eamon De Valera.
The ceiling of the State Drawing Room, part of the 1751 house.
The State Drawing Room, June 2022. The chandelier commemorates the 1801 Act of Union with its entwined shamrocks, roses and thistles, and originally hung in Dublin Castle. The wall lights were made from a second similar chandelier. The Louis XIV couch and chairs came from the Palace of Versailles as a gift during Eamon de Valera’s Presidency.
The Pianist at the Bloomsday Celebration at the Aras, June 2022, in the State Drawing Room.

The administration of the British Lord Lieutenant bought the house from Nathaniel Clements’ son Robert 1st Earl of Leitrim in 1781, to be the personal residence for the Lord Lieutenant. In 1781 the Viceroy, or Lord Deputy, was Frederick Howard, 5th Earl of Carlisle. The building was rebuilt and named the Viceregal Lodge. At first it served as a summer residence, while the Viceroy stayed in Dublin Castle for the winter. The first “Lord Lieutenant” was his successor, William Henry Cavendish Bentinck, 3rd Duke of Portland.

Wife of the 1st Lord Lieutenant, Dorothy Bentinck Duchess of Portland (1750-1794), nee Cavendish, daughter of the 4th Duke of Devonshire, Vicereine of Ireland 1782, painted by George Romney.

The house was extended when acquired for the Viceroys to reflect its increased ceremonial importance. Mark Bence-Jones tells us that after being bought by the government, the house was altered and enlarged at various times. David Hicks tells us in his Irish Country Houses, A Chronicle of Change that all those who were awarded the position of Lord Lieutenant were from titled backgrounds and accustomed to grand country houses in England, so they found the Viceregal Lodge to be unimpressive. The 3rd Earl of Hardwicke, Philip Yorke, was the first Lord Lieutenant after the Act of Union in 1800, in 1801-1806. Yorke supported Catholic emancipation. In 1802 Yorke employed Robert Woodgate, a Board of Works architect, to make some alterations to the house, adding new wings to the house.

Photograph from the National Library of Ireland. This is the garden side of the house. The double height pedimented portico of four gian Ionic columns was added in 1815 by architect Francis Johnston. Photograph is by Robert French, and the photograph is part of the Lawrence Photographic Collection, Date: between circa. 1865-1914, NLI Ref: L_CAB_02652.
Philip Yorke, 3rd Earl of Hardwicke, (1757-1834), Former Lord Lieutenant of Ireland Date 1836 Engraver William Giller, British, c.1805-after 1868 After Thomas Lawrence, English, 1769-1830, photograh courtesy of National Gallery of Ireland.

Additional work was carried out by Michael Stapleton – who was an architect as well as noted stuccadore – and Francis Johnston. In 1808, when Charles Lennox, 4th Duke of Richmond was Lord Lieutenant, Johnston added a Doric portico to the entrance front, and the single-storey wings were increased in height.

Aras an Uachtarain, June 2022. In 1808 Francis Johnston added a Doric portico to the entrance front.
Aras an Uachtarain, June 2022.
Charles Lennox, 4th Duke of Richmond, (1764-1819), Soldier and Lord Lieutenant of Ireland Engraver Henry Hoppner Meyer, English, 1782-1847 After John Jackson, English, 1778-1831. Photograph courtesy of National Gallery of Ireland.

In 1815, Johnston extended the garden front by five bays projecting forwards, and in the centre of this front he added the pedimented portico of four giant Ionic columns which is the house’s most familiar feature. 

In 1815, Francis Johnston added the pedimented portico of four giant Ionic columns which is the house’s most familiar feature. 

The ballroom/state reception room was also added at this time.

The former ballroom, now the State Reception Room, which features a plaster cast of a Lafrancini ceiling. Photograph taken in June 2022 at the Bloomsday Summer Garden Party.

It was not until the major renovations in the 1820s that the Lodge came to be used regularly by Lord Lieutenants. In the 1820s the Lord Deputy was Richard Wellesley, 1st Marquess Wellesley, 2nd Earl of Mornington, brother of the Duke of Wellington of Waterloo fame. See my footnotes for some portraits of Vicereines and Viceroys who may have lived in the Aras.

Maria Phipps nee Liddell, Marchioness of Normanby (1798-1882),Vicereine 1835-39, laid out the gardens along with Decimus Burton in 1839-40. Decimus Burton also designed many gardens in London including St. James’s Park, Hyde Park Corner and Regent’s Park. He was also an architect.

Maria Phipps nee Liddell, Marchioness of Normanby (1798-1882) by Sir George Hayter, Vicereine 1835-39, who laid out the gardens along with Decimus Burton. She persuaded Queen Victoria to support Irish weavers and grant them lucrative royal warrants. George Hayter was Queen Victoria’s favourite painter.
The gardens of the Aras, at 2022 garden party. The main parterre forms a pair of ringed Celtic crosses, as laid out by Decimus Burton in conjunction with Maria Phipps nee Liddell, Lady Normanby, wife of the Viceroy in 1838. Decimus Burton also designed many gardens in London including St. James’s Park, Hyde Park Corner and Regent’s Park. He was also an architect.

In 1849 the east wing was added, which houses the new State Dining Room. The financing of any royal visit was a matter of concern for Lord Lieutenants as they had to finance any improvements to the Viceregal Lodge. It was during the tenure of George Villiers, 4th Earl of Clarendon (1800-1870), that Queen Victoria visited, with the idea that this would boost morale after the famine.

The State Dining Room at the Aras, July 2013. Jacob Owen, chief architect of the Board of Works, designed the dining room and matching drawing room in 1849.

Jacob Owen, chief architect of the Board of Works, designed the dining room and matching drawing room in 1849.

The State Dining Room, June 2022.

Queen Victoria planted a Wellingtonia Gigantea tree which is still standing (others have planted trees also, including Queen Alexandria and Barak Obama, Charles de Gaulle, John F. Kennedy, Pope John Paul II and King Juan Carlos of Spain).

Queen Victoria planted this Wellingtonia Gigantea (photograph from July 2012).

In 1854 the west wing was added, also designed by Jacob Owen. Queen Victoria visited again in 1853, and at this time the Viceregal Lodge was connected to the public gas supply, in order to illuminate the reception rooms and also to provide public lighting throughout Phoenix Park.

A new part of the West Wing was added for the visit of George V in 1911, during the Lord Lieutenancy of John Campbell Hamilton-Gordon, 1st Marquess of Aberdeen and Temair.

Ishbel nee Marjoribanks Countess of Aberdeen (1857-1939), by Alphonse Jongers. Vicereine 1886 and 1905-1915, she brought about improvements in cottage industries and women’s healthcare, and was a committed advocate of Irish Home Rule.

The office of Lord Lieutenant was abolished in 1922 when the Irish Free State came into being. From 1922 until 1932 it was the residence of the Governor General of the Irish Free State. In 1922 Tim Healy was sworn in as Governor General. Over the following weeks, the former Viceregal Lodge was attacked and came under heavy fire on regular occasions.

The State Dining Room contains furniture by James Hicks of Dublin. The early 19th century fireplaces were originally a gift to Archbishop Murray of Dublin in 1812 “by his flock” for his residence at 44 Mountjoy Square, and were brought to the house in 1923, upon the sale of the house in Mountjoy Square, by the first Governor General of the Irish Free State, Tim Healy.

The early 19th century fireplaces were originally a gift to Archbishop Murray of Dublin, and were brought to the house by the first Governor General, Tim Healy.
The early 19th century fireplaces were originally a gift to Archbishop Murray of Dublin, and were brought to the house by the first Governor General, Tim Healy.

In 1937 when the office of President of Ireland was established, the house became the house of the president. The first President was Douglas Hyde (President of Ireland 1938-1945).

Douglas Hyde, President of Ireland 1938-1945.

During the incumbency of President Sean T. O’Kelly, in 1948, a mid-C18 plasterwork ceiling attributed to Cramillion representing Jupiter and the Four Elements, with figures half covered in clouds, was brought from Mespil House, Dublin, which was then being demolished, and installed in the President’s Study, one of the two smaller rooms in the garden front of the original house, which we did not see.

President Sean T. Kelly, term of office 1945-1959.

The Mespil House ceiling was brought here at the instigation of Dr. C.P. Curran, who was also instrumental in having casts made of the plasterwork by the Francini, or Lafranchini, brothers, at Riverstown House, Co. Cork, which then seemed in danger; and which have been installed in the ballroom and in the adjoining corridor. 

The State Reception Room (formerly the ballroom) features a plaster cast of a Lafranchini panel in the ceiling. The Lafranchini brothers were 18th century Swiss stuccodores who also worked on Carton and Castletown Houses. See my entry about Riverstown House https://irishhistorichouses.com/2022/10/05/__trashed/.

One of the State Rooms in the Aras, 1984, photograph from Dublin City Library and Archives. [3] The handwoven Donegal carpet, designed for the house by Raymond McGrath, includes the riverine heads from the Custom House representing the principal rivers of Ireland, and the phoenix rising from the flames.
The plaster cast of the Lafrancini ceiling in the former ballroom. It features “Time Rescuing Truth from the Assaults of Discord and Envy.”
The original Lafrancini ceiling in Riverstown House, County Cork, photograph taken on our visit to Riverstown in June 2022.
Riverstown House, County Cork. The original of the plaster cast, in Riverstown House, County Cork. The owner of Riverstown House, Denis Dooley, cleaned the plasterwork himself, and discovered the castle in the top left hand corner, which is not in the cast, and which, on his visit to Riverstown, Desmond Guinness was astounded to notice!

The State Corridor, also called the Lafranchini Corridor, leads from the Entrance Hall past the State Reception Room. This corridor was originally part of the orchestra pit for the adjoining ballroom. It was created as a corridor in the 1950s. One side of the corridor is lined with bronze busts of Irish Presidents mounted on marble columns and the other side features stucco panels showing classical figures. These too are casts taken from Riverstown House.

The Francini Corridor leads from the Entrance Hall past the State Reception Room. One side of the corridor is lined with bronze busts of Irish Presidents mounted on marble columns and the other side features stucco panels showing classical figures.
The handwoven Donegal carpet, designed for the house by Raymond McGrath, includes the riverine heads from the Custom House representing the principal rivers of Ireland
Queuing in the Lafrancini Corridor at the June 2022 Garden Party, in order to enter the State Rooms and to meet President Michael D. Higgins and his wife Sabina.
Plaster cast in the Aras.
Original plaster in Riverstown House.
Wall plaster cast of Francini plasterwork.
Original plasterwork in Riverstown House.

The State corridor also has a fireplace by 18th century Italian craftsman, Bossi, whose family knew the secret of how to colour marble.

A plaster cast in the Lafrancini Corridor in the Aras, above a Bossi fireplace.
The State Reception Room has a Bossi fireplace, as does the Lafranchini corridor.
The Dining Room, which contains portraits of past Presidents of Ireland.
Erskine Hamilton Childers, President of Ireland 1973 until 1974 when he died in office.
Cearbhall Ó Dálaigh, President of Ireland from December 1974 to October 1976
Patrick Hillery, President of Ireland 1976-1990.
“A breath of fresh air,” by the Keep Well Glass Quilt Project undertaken by members of the Glass Society of Ireland during the third wave of Covid with a twelve week lockdown. Fifty glassmakers made two pieces each. It is on loan to the President.
Mary Robinson, President of Ireland 1990-1997.

Later additions to the gardens were carried out by Ninian Niven, who designed Iveagh Gardens in Dublin. The gardens contain many Victorian features including ceremonial trees, an arboretum, wilderness, pleasure grounds, avenues, walks, ornamental lakes and a walled garden, which contains a Turner peach house and which grows the food and flowers organically.

The walled gardens at the Aras.
The Peach House glasshouse was designed by Richard Turner, constructed between 1836-37. Turner also designed the large palm houses in the Botanic Gardens in Dubln, Belfast and London. The one at the Aras underwent restoration between 2007-2009.
This lovely building is to one side of the main house at the Aras, I’m not sure what it is but it’s very picturesque.

2. Arbour Hill Cemetery, Dublin 7:

General enquiries: (01) 821 3021, superintendent.park@opw.ie

From the OPW website:

The military cemetery at Arbour Hill is the last resting place of 14 of the executed leaders of the 1916 Rising. It is therefore a place of pilgrimage for students and aficionados of this tempestuous moment in Irish history.

There is an adjoining church, the chapel for Arbour Hill Prison. At the rear of the church lies the old cemetery, containing fascinating memorials to British military personnel.

The clear focus of Arbour Hill, however, is the legend of the rising. Among those buried here are Patrick Pearse, James Connolly and Major John MacBride. Their bodies were put into an unmarked pit and covered with quicklime, but their grave has now been saved from obscurity with an impressive memorial inscribed in English and Irish.

Arbour Hill Cemetery is at the rear of the National Museum of Ireland, Collins Barracks, where you can currently find a large display of 1916-related material.

3. Ashtown Castle, Phoenix Park, Dublin:

Ashtown Castle is in the Phoenix Park. From the OPW website:

Ashtown Castle is a tower house that probably dates from the seventeenth century, but may be as early as the fifteenth.

For years it was completely hidden within the walls of a Georgian mansion once occupied by the under-secretary for Ireland. When that house was demolished in the late 1980s, the castle was rediscovered. It has since been fully restored and now welcomes visitors.”

The National Inventory tells us:

The castle was dated to the early seventeenth century on the basis of surviving fragments of a roof truss found in the wall during the restoration project in the early 1990s. There is in the stonework some suggestion of a further wing to the north, but no archaeological evidence was found, leaving this section unresolved. The builder is unknown, but in 1641 the estate was in the ownership of John Connell, a distant ancestor of Daniel O’Connell. Curiously the Civil Survey, 1654, lists him as a Protestant. Stone from a quarry at Pelletstown owned by Connell was used in the building of the original wall of the Park. The castle and its lands were purchased for the crown by the Duke of Ormonde in 1663 and it became the official residence of the second Keeper of the Park, Sir William Flower, who assigned it to a subordinate. The building was extended to become the Under Secretary’s residence in the late eighteenth century. After Independence it served as the residence of the Papal Nuncio. The later extension was demolished in the 1980s and the site was briefly considered for an official Taoiseach’s residence, the brief requiring the restoration of the castle. Although heavily restored, it is a rare surviving example of a fortified tower house close to the capital city.

The land at Ashtown was granted to the Hospital of St. John the Baptist in the 12th century by Hugh Tyrrell, 1st Baron of Castleknock. Restoration of the castle began in 1989.

4. The Casino at Marino, Cherrymount Crescent, Malahide Road, Marino, Dublin 3

The Casino at Marino, Dublin, August 2009. It looks like it houses one large room, but it actually has sixteen rooms, arranged over three floors.

General enquiries (01) 833 1618, casinomarino@opw.ie

From the website:

“The Casino is a remarkable building, both in terms of structure and history. Sir William Chambers designed it as a pleasure-house for James Caulfeild, first earl of Charlemont, beside his residence in what was then the countryside. It is a gem of eighteenth-century neo-classical architecture. In fact, it is one of the finest buildings of that style in Europe.

The term ‘casino’ in this case means ‘little house’, and from the outside it gives an impression of compactness. However, it contains 16 rooms, each of which is finely decorated and endlessly rich in subtle and rare design. The Zodiac Room, for example, has a domed ceiling which represents the sky with astrological symbols modelled around its base.

The Casino at Marino, Dublin, August 2009. At the front of the building stand Ceres and Bacchus, and at the back are Apollo and Venus. These represented the enjoyment and abundance that was intended for the Casino. The urns on the roof (disguised chimneys) can also be seen from this angle. The lions that guard each corner are Egyptian in style.
The painting is a portrait by William Hogarth of the 1st Earl of Charlemont, James Caulfeild (1728-1799) aged 13, with his mother, Elizabeth Bernard (portrait painted in 1741).
James Caulfeild, 1st Earl of Charlemont Date/ 1790 by Martin Ferdinand Quadal, Moravian, 1736-1808.

The Casino website tells us that the plan of the Casino is in the shape of a Greek cross, and it is only fifty feet square. There are three floors containing sixteen rooms. Although small, they are entirely habitable, with service rooms in the basement, reception rooms on the main floor, and sleeping quarters on the upper floor. There is, however, no evidence of any long term occupation of the building. The exterior of the building is that of a one-room Greek temple, so the complexity of the interior was achieved by remarkable architectural design. This includes faux windows, gib doors, hollow columns, and disguised chimneys. Only half of the great front door actually swings open to admit entrance.

Very little is known about how the inside of the building originally looked. There are brief descriptions surviving in Charlemont’s own correspondence or in that of visitors, or rare mentions in sales catalogues. The exterior of the building is heavily decorated. Four statues adorn the attic storey; Bacchus, Ceres, Venus, and Apollo declare the abundance and love of good living that inspired the creation of the Casino. Around the chimney-urns curve mermaids and mermen. The ‘ceilings’ of the outside porches are densely carved to create a stucco effect. Four large Egyptian-style lions guard the corners. [4] Service tunnels underground surround the building, lit from above by grilles.

Mark Bence-Jones writes in his Guide to Irish Country Houses:

“… in the form of a Roman Doric temple, … built over the years 1758-76. It is one of the most exquisite miniature C18 buildings in Europe; within an exterior that appears to be sculptured rather than built are a number of little rooms, each of them perfectly proportioned and finished; with plasterwork ceilings, doorcases and inlaid floors. Sir Sacheverell Sitwell compares them to the little rooms in the Petit Trianon, and indeed the Casino shows considerable French influence, both inside and out. Among those who worked on the Casino was Simon Vierpyl, the sculptor and builder from Rome, and Joseph Wilton, the sculptor. The house [Marino] has long been demolished, but the Casino is maintained as a National Monument and has been restored by Mr Austin Dunphy of O’Neill Flanagan and Partners, in conjunction with the Office of Public Works.” [5]

The Casino at Marino, Dublin, August 2009.

The website of the Casino educates us about the family who owned the Casino. James Caulfeild succeeded to the titles 8th Lord Caulfeild, Baron of Charlemont and 4th Viscount Charlemont on the death of his father in 1734. It was not until 1763 that he was created 1st Earl of Charlemont, as recognition for keeping the peace in the Armagh/ Tyrone area. He was well-known for his love of the arts, and spent a record nine years on Grand Tour through Europe, Turkey, and Egypt. With the help of his stepfather, Thomas Adderley, he established himself at Marino on his return to Ireland in 1755. Here he began the improvements to his Marino estate, one of which was the celebrated Casino.

He was a leader in many different areas of eighteenth-century Irish society. Instrumental in setting up the Royal Irish Academy, he was also its first President. He was a member of the Royal Dublin Society, and a supporter of Grattan’s parliament. He was also a founding member of the Irish Volunteers (formed to protect Ireland from invasion while British troops served in the American Revolutionary War). His contribution to Irish culture was significant and lasting. [6]

The website tells us that while James was on his Grand Tour in Rome, he had become acquainted with those he would eventually hire to create his estate at Marino. This included William Chambers, Simon Vierpyl, Johann Heinrich Müntz, and Giovanni Battista Cipriani. Charlemont’s heavy involvement in the composition of the buildings at Marino, as well as his house in Rutland Square, is clear from the correspondence that has survived. In many ways, what he created at Marino was a living testament to the different cultures and styles he had experienced while travelling, and his buildings there were fitting exhibition spaces to the huge number of souvenirs and collectable items he brought home.

The Casino at Marino, Dublin, August 2009.

The website also tells us more about William Chambers:

Born in Sweden to a Scottish father in 1723, he spent the first few years of his working life travelling to and from China as an agent of the Swedish East India Company. At the age of twenty-six, he began training as an architect in Paris, later living in Rome, where he was a member of Charlemont’s circle. He moved to London to establish his practice in the same year that Charlemont returned to Dublin (1755). He achieved great success in England, with much employment from King George III and his mother, the Dowager Princess Augusta. His Treatise on Civil Architecture, published in 1759, was a huge influence on Palladian neoclassicism in Britain. The Casino appeared in this Treatise as a plate illustration (image below). Chambers would go on to count James Gandon as one of his students.

As well as the Casino at Marino, Chambers completed designs for Charlemont House and Trinity College, and for modifications to Rathfarnham Castle, Castletown House, and Leinster House, among others. He never, however, visited Ireland in person. His projects with Charlemont were discussed at great length, over two decades, in numerous letters; many of these can be read today in the Royal Irish Academy. One of his original drawings for the Casino is on display in the building.”

photograph of the Casino taken 1951, Dublin City Library archives. [see 3]

It was London-born Simon Vierpyl who oversaw the building work. The website tells us:

He was an accomplished sculptor and builder, who was living in Rome at the same time as Charlemont and Chambers. Impressed with his work on a commission of terracotta copies of statues and busts (now in the Royal Irish Academy), Charlemont invited him to come to Ireland. Vierpyl arrived in 1756, and supervised work on the Casino, something he was complimented for in Chambers’ Treatise. He stayed in Ireland for the rest of his life, working as a builder or developer on many central Dublin sites. He married twice, and died in Athy, Co. Kildare in 1810 at the age of around eighty-five.”

The website also tells us about Giovanni Battista Cipriani, an Italian painter:

“He was another member of Charlemont’s circle in the early 1750s in Rome; in 1755, he also left the city, and travelled in England in the company of Joseph Wilton. Wilton was a sculptor whose work is represented at the Casino in the four lions which guard it. Cipriani’s contribution was the design of the four attic statues, and the dragon gates that formed the entrance to the estate. Copies of his original sketches for the four statues, as well as a revised sketch of Venus, can be seen on display in the State Bedroom today. The gods represented (Ceres, Bacchus, Venus, and Apollo) were chosen by Charlemont and Chambers, designed by Cipriani, and then sculpted by either Wilton or Vierpyl on site.”

In 1876, The 2nd Lady Charlemont (Anne Bermingham) died, after which the 3rd Earl [James Molyneux Caulfeild, son of Henry Caulfeild, and therefore grandson to the 1st Earl. He inherited the title from his uncle, Francis] sold the estate lands [James lived at Roxborough Castle in Northern Ireland]. It was bought on behalf of Cardinal Cullen, who kept thirty acres for an orphanage (the O’Brien Institute), and gave the remaining land (over 300 acres) to the Christian Brothers.

5. Custom House, Dublin:

Custom House, Dublin, by James Gandon, 1781-91. Photograph by Chris Hill, 2014, for Tourism Ireland. Ireland’s Content Pool. [7]

General enquiries: 086 606 2729, customhousevc@opw.ie

From the website:

“This architectural icon stands on the Liffey quays, which were once Ireland’s major trade route to the wider world. The architect James Gandon completed the building, a masterpiece of European neoclassicism, in 1791. Admire the decorative detail of Edward Smyth’s beautifully executed stonework carvings on the exterior and the famous carved keystones depicting the terrible heads of the river gods. There are 14 of these – one for every major river of Ireland.

The Custom House witnessed not only the development of a great city, but also some of the most turbulent milestones in its history. The building was destroyed by burning in 1921 and later restored to its former splendour.

The stories of the building, burning and restoration of Dublin’s Custom House are now brought to life in a new and fascinating exhibition, revealing a rich, many-layered story that spans over 200 years.

Custom House, from James Malton, English, 1761-1803, photograph courtesy of National Gallery of Ireland.
Customs House, Dublin, February 2015.

A previous Custom House was located further up the river at Essex Quay, built in 1707. By 1780 it was judged to be unsafe and a new building was required. The Right Honourable John Beresford (1738-1805) determined position for the new Custom House (against much objection as its position affected property prices – raising prices in the area and lowering the value of properties nearer the previous Custom House). Beresford sought to move the city centre eastwards from the Capel Street-Parliament Street axis towards College Green. The new Custom House was built on land reclaimed from the estuary of the Liffey.

John Beresford, (1738-1805), First Commissioner of Revenue in Ireland G. Cowen, Dublin and at T. Macklin’s, London, 1st November 1790, Engraver Charles Howard Hodges, English, 1764-1837 After Gilbert Stuart, American, 1755-1828. Photograph courtesy of National Gallery of Ireland.
On the main pediment, Hibernia is seen embracing Britannia while Neptune drives away famine and despair. Above the pediment stand four figures symbolising Neptune, Mercury, Industry and Plenty. At the top of the dome stands a figure of Commerce. [8]
At the roof line is the coat of arms of the Kingdom of Ireland, with a lion and a unicorn either side of an Irish harp.

James Gandon was an English-born architect who settled in Dublin in 1781 and was responsible for three major public buildings there – the Custom House, the Four Courts, and the King’s Inns – as well as for Carlisle Bridge and for extensions to the Parliament House. He also designed Emo in County Laois for John Dawson, 1st Earl of Portarlington (formerly 2nd Viscount Carlow). He was apprenticed to William Chambers, who designed on the Casino at Marino.

James Gandon, (1743-1823), Architect, against the Custom House, Dublin, photograph courtesy of National Gallery of Ireland.

The Custom House has four different but consistent facades, linked by corner pavilions. The south facade is of Portland stone, the others of mountain granite. The exterior is adorned with sculptures by Thomas Banks, Agnostino Carlini and Edward Smyth. Smyth carved the series of sculpted keystones symbolising the rivers of Ireland: the Bann, Barrow, Blackwater, Boyne, Erne, Foyle, Lagan, Lee, Liffey, Nore, Shannon, Slaney and Suir. On the north face are personifications of the four continents of world trade: Africa, America, Asia and Europe. [9]

Custom House, photograph taken 1943, Dublin City Library archives. [see 3]
Custom House 1982 photograph from Dublin City Library archives. [see 3] Smyth carved the series of sculpted keystones symbolising the rivers of Ireland: the Bann, Barrow, Blackwater, Boyne, Erne, Foyle, Lagan, Lee, Liffey, Nore, Shannon, Slaney and Suir.
Custom House 1982 photograph from Dublin City Library archives. [see 3]
Allegorical statues and motifs on the north façade of Custom House, photograph courtesy of Swire Chin, Toronto.

During the Irish Civil War, the buildings was engulfed in flames and the interior destroyed. The dome was rebuilt with Ardbraccan limestone instead of Portland stone.

Custom House photograph taken 1971, Dublin City Library archives. [see 3]

6. Dublin Castle, Dame Street, Dublin:

Dublin castle, photograph taken 1951, from Dublin City Library archives. [see 3] This is the Bedford Hall and the design has been attributed to Arthur Jones Nevill (d. 1771), who was Surveyor General at the time. He also designed the entrance front of the Battleaxe Hall building with its colonnade of Doric columns. The Bedford Hall was completed by his successor Thomas Eyre (d. 1772). [10]
Dublin Castle, 2020.

General Enquiries: 01 645 8813, dublincastle@opw.ie

From the website:

Just a short walk from Trinity College, on the way to Christchurch, Dublin Castle is well situated for visiting on foot. The history of this city-centre site stretches back to the Viking Age and the castle itself was built in the thirteenth century.

The building served as a military fortress, a prison, a treasury and courts of law. For 700 years, from 1204 until independence, it was the seat of English (and then British) rule in Ireland.

Rebuilt as the castle we now know in the seventeenth, eighteenth, nineteenth and twentieth centuries, Dublin Castle is now a government complex and an arena of state ceremony.

The state apartments, undercroft, chapel royal, heritage centre and restaurant are now open to visitors.

Dublin castle by Robert French Lawrence Photographic Collection National Library of Ireland, flickr constant commons.
Dublin Castle, 2020.

What is called “Dublin Castle” is a jumble of buildings from different periods and of different styles. The castle was founded in 1204 by order of King John who wanted a fortress constructed for the administration of the city. By the beginning of the seventeenth century, the castle contained law courts, meeting of Parliament, the residence of the Viceroy and a council chamber, as well as a chapel.

The oldest parts remaining are the medieval Record Tower from the thirteenth century and the tenth century stone bank visible in the Castle’s underground excavation.

The first Lord Deputy (also called Lord Lieutenant or Viceroy) to make his residence here was Sir Henry Sidney (1529-1586) in 1565. He was brought up at the Royal Court as a companion to Prince Edward, afterwards King Edward VI. He served under both Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth I. He spent much of his time in Ireland expanding English administration over Ireland, which had reduced before his time to the Pale and a few outlying areas.

Sir Henry Sidney (1529-1586), Lord Deputy of Ireland After Arnold van Brounkhorst, Dutch, fl.1565-1583. Photograph courtesy of National Gallery of Ireland.
James Malton, English, 1761-1803 The Upper Yard, Dublin Castle, photograph courtesy of National Gallery of Ireland.
The statue of Justice by John Van Nost (1721).
Dublin Castle, September 2021. The statue of Justice by John Van Nost (1721). On the other gate is the figure of Fortitude.
Fortitude by John Van Nost.
Dublin Castle Upper Yard, 2022.
Dublin Castle Upper Yard, 2022.
Dublin Castle Upper Yard, 2022, exit to the Lower Yard.
Dublin Castle Lower Yard, 2020.
NLI Ref.: L_ROY_06809, National Library of Ireland, flickr constant commons.

In 1684 a fire in the Viceregal quarters destroyed part of the building. The Viceroy at the time would have been James Butler, 1st Duke of Ormond. He moved temporarily to the new building of the Royal Hospital Kilmainham. New designs by the Surveyor General Sir William Robinson were constructed by October 1688, who also designed the Royal Hospital Kilmainham. He designed the State Apartments, originally to be living accommodation for the Lord Lieutenant (later known as the Viceroy), the representative for the British monarch in Ireland. [11] Balls and other events were held for fashionable society in the Castle. The State Apartments are now used for State occasions such as the Inauguration of the President. The Castle was formally handed over to General Michael Collins on 16th January 1922, and the Centenary of this event was commemorated in January 2022.

James Butler 1st Duke of Ormond, Viceroy from 1643, on and off until he died in 1688.
Frances Jennings, Vicereine of Ireland 1687-89, Duchess of Tyrconnell. She and her husband would have been Vicereine and Viceroy while the new State Apartments by William Robinson were constructed. Resting her hand on a spaniel, a symbol of loyalty. She was committed to James II, which prompted her to establish a Catholic convent beside Dublin Castle and in 1689, to lead a procession that culminated in the seizure of Christ Church cathedral from Protestant hands. She was married to Richard Talbot, 1st Duke of Tyrconnell (1630-1691). She was previously married to George Hamilton, Comte d’Hamilton.
Dublin Castle, 2020.
Dublin Castle, 2020.
Dublin Castle July 2011.
Bermingham Tower of Dublin Castle, 2020. This tower was destroyed by a gunpowder explosion in 1775 and demolished, leaving only its lowest stage and battery base. The tower was rebuilt in 1777 in a loose interpretation of the medieval which we now term Georgian Gothic or “Gothick.” [12]
Dublin Castle, 2020, the base of the Records, or Wardrobe, Tower.

The Bedford Tower was constructed around 1750 along with its flanking gateways to the city. The clock tower is named after the 4th Duke of Bedford John Russell who was Lord Lieutenant at the time.

The Chapel Royal, renamed the Church of the Most Holy Trinity in 1943, was designed by Francis Johnston in 1807. It is built on the site of an earlier church which was built around 1700. The exterior is decorated with over 100 carved stone heads by Edward Smyth, who did the river heads on Dublin’s Custom House, and by his son John. They are carved in Tullamore limestone, and represent a variety of kings, queens, archbishops and ‘grotesques’. A carving of Queen Elizabeth I is on the north façade and Saint Peter and Jonathan Swift above the main entrance. The interior of the chapel has plasterwork by George Stapleton and wood carving by Richard Stewart. What looks like carved stone is actually limestone ashlar facing on a structure of timber, covered in painted plaster. Plasterwork fan vaulting, inspired by Henry VII’s chapel at Westminster Abbey, is by George Stapleton (1777-1841) while a host of modelled plasterwork heads are by the Smyths, likely the work of John (the younger) after the death of his father in 1812. [13] The Arms of all the Viceroys from 1172-1922 are on display.

Chapel Royal and the Record Tower, Dublin Castle, March 2020.
Dublin Castle, 2020. The Wardrobe tower was renovated at the same time as the Chapel Royal, in 1807, with the addition of a storey, topped with battlements.
Chapel Royal, Dublin Castle, 2020.
Chapel Royal, Dublin Castle, 2020. Two of the 103 heads carved by Edward and John Smyth. These two are Brian Boru and St. Patrick.

The Viceroy at the time of Francis Johnston’s work on the chapel would have been Charles Lennox, 4th Duke of Richmond.

Charlotte Lennox nee Gordon (1768-1842), Duchess of Richmond, Vicereine 1807-1813, wife of Charles Lennox, 4th Duke of Richmond.

The State Apartments consist of a series of ornate decorated rooms, stretching along the first floor of the southern range of the upper yard.

The Battleaxe Staircase, Dublin Castle, September 2021. This staircase dates from 1749 and is the gateway to the State Apartments. The Viceroy’s Guards were called the Battleaxe Guards.
Photograph of the “Battleaxe staircase” taken in 1984, photograph from Dublin City Library archives. [see 3]
Photograph of the “Battleaxe staircase” taken in 1984, photograph from Dublin City Library archives. [see 3]

The State Corridor on the first floor of the State Apartments is by Edward Lovett Pearce in 1758.

The State Corridor, Dublin Castle, September 2021. It was designed in 1758 and provided access to a series of public reception rooms on the left and the Viceregal’s quarters on the right. At the far end it led to the Privy Council Chamber.
State apartments Dublin Castle, photograph taken 1985, from Dublin City Library archives. [see 3]
The ceiling of the Apollo Room. Apollo, god of the sun and music, identified by a sunburst and a lyre. Emerging from the clouds are some of the signs of the zodiac, including Sagittarius, Scorpio and Libra. The ceiling was taken in eleven pieces from a nearby townhouse, Tracton House, St Stephen’s Green, which was demolished in 1910. [14]
In the corners of the Apollo room are “trophies” i.e. collections of objects and instruments that symbolise life’s pursuits. Pictures here is Music. The other corners are The Arts, Hunting and some that can either be identified as Love or War.

The Drawing room was largely destroyed in a fire in 1941, and was reconstructed in 1968 in 18th century style. It is heavily mirrored with five large Waterford crystal chandeliers.

The State Drawing Room, designed in 1838, with its five Waterford crystal chandeliers, installed in the 1960s.

The Throne Room, originally known as Battleaxe Hall, has a throne created for the visit of King George IV in 1821. The walls are decorated with roundels painted by Gaetano Gandolfi, depicting Jupiter, Juno, Mars and Venus. The Throne Room was created by George Nugent-Temple-Grenville, 1st Marquess of Buckingham, the viceroy of the day.

The Throne Room, originally known as Battleaxe Hall. The walls are decorated with roundels painted by Gaetano Gandolfi depicting Jupiter, Juno, Mars and Venus. The chandelier was created in 1788. (see [10])
On the canopy is a lion representing England and a unicorn representing Scotland, each gripping the harp, to symbolise British control of Ireland. These date from 1788 when the Throne Room was created by Lord George Nugent-Temple-Grenville, 1st Marquess Buckingham (1753-1813), the viceroy of the day.
The Throne Room, originally known as Battleaxe Hall. The walls are decorated with roundels painted by Gaetano Gandolfi depicting Jupiter, Juno, Mars and Venus.

Next to the Throne Room is the Portrait Gallery, where formal banquets took place at the time of the Viceroys.

The Viceroys wear a star-shaped badge that contains rubies, emeralds and Brazilian diamonds. These crown jewels were stolen from Dublin Castle in 1907. Pictured here, John William Brabazon Ponsonby (1781-1847) 4th Earl of Bessborough, County Kilkenny, Viceroy in 1846.
Some of the Viceroys also wear the chain of office.The panelling in the room is from 1747 and is the oldest surviving interior finish in the State Apartments. Pictured here, Charles Vane-Tempest-Stewart (1852-1915), 6th Marquess of Londonderry, Viceroy from 1886-1889.
Henry Paget, 1st Marquess of Anglesey (1768-1854), Viceroy in 1828 and 1830.

There are many other important rooms, including the Wedgwood Room, an oval room decorated in Wedgwood Blue with details in white, which was used as a Billiards Room in the 19th century. It dates from 1777.