Moone Abbey House and Tower, Moone, County Kildare

 

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Moone Abbey House

contact: Jenifer Matuschka. Tel: 087-6900138

Listed Opening Dates in 2020 but check due to Covid 19 restrictions: May 1-31, Aug 15-23, Sept 1-30, 12 noon-4pm

Fee: adult €6, OAP/student/child €3

 

We visited Moone Abbey House on Saturday May 11th, 2019.

We had a 3pm appointment with the owner, Jenifer Matuschka. We visited Charleville House in Wicklow earlier in the day. Moone Abbey is at the far end of Kildare, approximately an hour away from Charleville. We arrived nearly an hour early, however, having given ourselves plenty of driving time in case we got lost on the way.

This gave us time to see the Abbey itself. The Abbey predates the house by centuries, so the house is named after the Abbey that was on its lands. Access from the road to the Abbey is a narrow gap in the stone wall. The Abbey contains the impressive Moone Cross, one of the two tallest Celtic Crosses in Ireland, and certainly the tallest that either Stephen or I had ever seen (we think – certainly none made such an impression, since we were able to stand right next to it). The Abbey is a ruin but a roof has been constructed to protect the cross, which originally stood outside the Abbey.

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The High Cross of Moone Abbey, looking inside the Abbey from the front
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inside the Abbey

 

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back of the Abbey

 

According to the Irish Historic Houses website [1]:

Behind the mid-18th century Palladian house are the remains of Moone Abbey, a monastery originally founded in the 6th century by St. Columkille and rebuilt almost 700 years later. The abbey contains the splendid High Cross of Moone, rediscovered amidst the ruins during the nineteenth century, while the house’s mediaeval predecessor stands a little way off; a ‘Ten Pound’ tower house in remarkably fine condition.

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Stephen and the south side of the cross

A panel describes the finding of the cross – and in fact there is a second cross displayed in parts, behind where Stephen stands in the photo above.

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The panel says:

The two remarkable High Crosses displayed here – one complete except for its cap, and the other surviving only in fragments – were probably both carved in the ninth century, and are the earliest surviving testimony to the existence of an early Christian monastery on this site. Yet its old Irish name, Moen or Moin Cholm-cille, the “walled enclosure” or “bog” of St. Colmcille, better known as Columba, suggests that the abbey may have been founded by the great Celtic churchman who lived in the sixth century. His connection with the site is supported by a twelfth century literary source, and a nearby well dedicated to him was a popular place of annual pilgrimage until the last century. The O’Flanagan family certainly provided hereditary abbots during the eleventh century but, by 1225, the archbishop of Dublin was in a position to give the monastery’s lands and mill to St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin.

The Franciscans were said to have had a house in Moone, and this church with its long rectangular shape so typical of Irish medieval friary architecture, may well have been built by them, possibly around 1300, but abandoned when the English king Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries in 1536-40. Outside, to the south-east, there was once a four-story tower in which the friars may have lived, but it was demolished in the early 1800’s, along with a Lady Chapel adjoining the north-east wall of the church.

Before 1850 a mason in search of good building stones discovered the base and head of the tall cross “deeply buried under a heap of fallen masonry” where the tower had once stood, and these were mounted together by the fourth Duke of Leinster and Mr Yeates, the then owner of the adjoining mansion. One Michael O’Shaughnessy later discovered a shaft portion which then lay loose around the churchyard for years until it was inserted between the other two parts in 1893, with assistance from the Kildare Achaeological Society. this helped to raise the height to over seven metres, and thereby made Moone of the two tallest High Crosses in Ireland.

The granite for the cross must originally have been brought from some miles away, and the slightly differing hues of the stones has led to doubts as to whether all three parts belong together, but no evidence to the contrary was found when the cross was temporarily dismantled in 1994, before being brought inside and displayed here in 1996.

 

Further panels explain the carvings on the cross.

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This picture explains the south side of the cross, from top to bottom:

human figure
human figure
human figure turned to left
angel
heart-shaped feature (enclosing human head?)
roaring lion
long eared animal sniffing the ground
Saints Paul and Anthony breaking bread in the desert – the hermit saints, seated on their high backed chairs in the middle of the desert, break the bread which the rather plump raven above them had brought for their nourishment.
The Temptation of (probably) St. Anthony the Hermit. A central figure, probably St. Anthony, tempted by the devil who, half human and half animal, appears in the guise of a goat and cock.
Six headed monster. There is a head at each end of this six-legged monster, from whose twin body-spirals four fabulous animals uncoil themselves, two with their heads in profile and the other pair with a head seen from above. The significance of this curious beast is uncertain (apocalyptic?).

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The Temptation of St. Anthony, Anthony in the middle with a goat on one side and cock on the other, representing the devil. Below is the six-headed monster.

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The Twelve Apostles. I had an apostle like this made of old bog turf – it was my mother’s, a gift from me or my sister, I’m not sure.
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my Moone Abbey Apostle. I never realised until I saw the cross at Moone that this statue’s design was based on the Cross of Moone. Statue is made by Owen Crafts, Ballyshannon, Ireland.

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Above, the west face: Adam and Eve being tempted by the snake, Adam about to sacrifice his son Isaac (with the ram in the thicket nearby which the Lord tells him to offer instead of his son), and below, Daniel in the lions’ den (he is saved by an angel). You can see the North side in this picture also, just about. This is Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the fiery furnace, to the side of Adam and Eve. King Nebuchadnezzar had thrown them in the furnace for refusing to worship a golden image he had set up, but they did not burn. I used to know a song about this, that I was taught along with my classmates in Australia by Mrs. Firth. It went “Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego, lived in Judah a long time ago, they had funny names and they lived far away but they knew what was right and they knew what to say. This is a story that you ought to know about Shadrach, what kind of name is that? Meshach, who had a name like that? Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego-ooooh!” Below them on the cross is the Flight into Egypt of Mary and Jesus on the donkey and Joseph alongside, as they’d been warned of the Slaughter of the Innocents by Herod. The final picture, on bottom, is the miracle of the loaves and the fishes.

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The west face of the cross: Jesus, with an animal above, and below, two human heads each in the claws of two serpents

We were still early when we drove up to the house. Someone passed by in jodphurs and said Jenny, the owner, would be out to us in a minute.

Jenny greeted us warmly. She told us first about the impressive tower. It is a “ten pound tower” – landowners were paid ten pounds in the 1400s to build a fortified tower for protection of the inhabitants to defend from Irish marauders: in this area, the O’Tooles were the marauders. (In Irish Castles and Historic Houses by Brendan O’Neill, he writes “In the early fifteenth century, government subsidies were offered to those able to construct castles or towers in the counties of Dublin, Kildare, Louth and Meath, but these “ten-pound” castles were fairly basic.”). 

The Irish Historic Houses website adds: “In return for building a defensive castle or tower, 20’ long, 16’ wide and at least 40’ high, dimensions that were smaller than those of a typical Irish tower house, landowners received a subsidy of £10 to help defray their expenses, perhaps the earliest instance of that much-loved Irish institution, the building grant.”

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The website also states that “the monastery was duly suppressed and dissolved in the sixteenth century, and its lands ultimately passed to the Jacobite O’Dempsey family who lived in the nearby tower house.”

The Jacobites were supporters of King James II. However, when James II fled from Ireland to France, and William of Orange was crowned king, Jacobites in Ireland lost their land. The estate was granted to a Cromwellian soldier, Thomas Ashe, who was buried in the nearby Rath of Moone. The Irish Aesthete writes in his blog entry on 30th Sept 2019 that Thomas Ashe was a Dublin alderman, who died in 1741. [2]

The property was subsequently leased for 999 years to Samuel Yates (or Yeats, the spellings have been used interchangeably), who built the current house in about 1750. Yates, according to the Irish Aesthete, was from Colganstown, in County Dublin, another property listed in Section 482! Colganstown is said to have been designed by Nathanial Clements, so Moone Abbey House may also have been designed by Clements although it is not known. Robert O’Byrne the Irish Aesthete also mentions the Dublin-based architect John Ensor as the possible architect of Moone Abbey House.

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Yates’s new house consisted of a central block, five bays wide and two of storeys over a basement, with wings on either side joined to the central block by curved walls. The stretch of the house, with the wings, make it “Palladian” style. Originally there was a single bay central breakfront surmounted by a pediment with a Diocletian window (a Diocletian or thermal window, according to Maurice Craig and Desmond Guinness in Ireland Observed, A Handbook to the Buildings and Antiquities, is a large semi-circular window with two vertical mullions dividing it into three. This styles derives from Roman baths!) [3]  After a fire in around 1800, the central block was rebuilt and given an extra storey, and the Diocletian window seems to have disappeared.

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the curved two storey wall, concealing a courtyard, that join the wings of the house to the main house

The National Inventory of Architectural Heritage Buildings of Ireland website describes the frontal aspect of the house [4]:

The ‘modern’ house is a fine example of a pseudo Palladian structure that is composed of a central residential block, linked by curved walls or wings to attendant ‘outbuildings’ and at Moone this arrangement has been little altered since first constructed. The house is composed of graceful Classical proportions and is without superfluous detailing – the porch to centre of the main (south-east) front, the bow to the rear (north-west), the curved walls and Dutch-style gables are all subtle features that enliven the composition. Furthermore, the regular distribution of openings adds a rhythmic quality to the piece. The house retains an early aspect and early materials, including fenestration and a slate roof...

There is a bay in the back which we didn’t see but one can see it in pictures on the National Inventory website. The wings of the house are two storey two bay blocks with Dutch gables.

Inside, Jenny pointed out to us that the house itself is surprisingly narrow from front to back, just one room “deep” plus the front hallway. The two wings are attached by concave walls which front courtyards rather than more rooms, so they make the house look bigger than it actually is. One of these attached wings has been used for stables in the past and is now to be renovated for accommodation, while the other is a guest-house.

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a statue in a niche in the concave wall between a wing and the main house
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The second curved wall that is between house and the wing, and the two storey, two bay wing, with its Dutch gable. This is now a guest house. Beyond lie the farm buildings.

The single storey projecting porch was added later in the 19th century.

The Irish Historic Houses website goes on to expand on the previous occupiers of the house:

Members of the Yates family were no strangers to drama. One was piked to death by the Ballytore rebels in 1798, suspected of alerting the authorities to their activities. Another was prosecuted for abusing his position as High Sheriff to seduce a young woman from Castledermot, while the 1800s fire was allegedly the result of a family feud that got out of hand. Eventually, their unconventional behaviour took its toll on the family finances and in the 1840s they were forced to sell under the Encumbered Estates Act after a tenure of almost a hundred years.

The purchasers were the O’Carroll family, who themselves sold out to the Bolands in 1910 while the estate was bought by a member of the princely German family of Hohenlohe in 1960 and their descendants still live at Moone today. Nearby is the famous castellated flour mill of the Shackleton family, ancestors of Sir Ernest the polar explorer, while the whole complex is approached from Moone village through a pair of splendid piers that originally formed one of the entrances to Belan, the long demolished great house of the famous collector, connoisseur and patron, Lord Aldborough.

After a brief tour of the house, Jenny then brought us out to the garden, including the walled garden. She then allowed us to climb up into the tower, at our own risk! We were thrilled to be allowed such access. It’s amazing to climb the original stairs in such a tower.

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inside the Tower House
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Stephen climbs the stairs in the tower

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the ceiling has been carefully made of overlapping slates
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ceiling slates, a corbelled roof. There is such a corbelled roof also inside Newgrange.
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a fireplace in an upstairs room in the tower, and window

The tower has been converted into a pigeon loft. The book Did you know…? 100 Quirky Facts about County Offaly by Amanda Pedlow (published by Offaly County Council, Nov 2013) contains an entry on pigeon houses. They were used to raise pigeons for food. Several tiers of small nest-holes are placed high above the ground to make it more difficult for rodents to kill the young pigeons. Nest holes are square shaped but in the tower in Offaly and perhaps the one in Moone, inside the walls the holes turn at a right angle to make an L shape. Inside this dark space the pigeons raise their young, called “squabs.” These were a valuable source of food. The birds were considered to be domestic fowl rather than wild game and belonged to the neighbouring house. The presence of a pigeon house was evidence of the high status of the owners.

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the pigeon boxes built into the tower

I was able to take aerial photos from the top, of the house and its surroundings.

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From the front of the house, and top of the tower,  we could see a beautiful single-span cast-iron footbridge over the Buggawn, or Griese, River. We headed down to see it after climbing the tower.

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The house is beautifully situated near the river, with a lovely view toward another stone bridge in the other direction.

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view from the river back toward the house and tower. The Abbey lies behind the house.

The house is a working farm, and Jenny and her husband, whose parents bought the house in 1960, also hosts bed and breakfast guests. The guesthouse is advertised on the airbnb website [5]. I’d love to return and stay!

 

[1]  http://www.ihh.ie/index.cfm/houses/house/name/Moone%20Abbey

[2] https://theirishaesthete.com/2019/09/30/moone-abbey/

[3] Maurice Craig and Desmond Guinness Knight of Glin, Ireland Observed, A Handbook to the Buildings and Antiquities.Mercier Press, Dublin and Cork, 1970.

[4] http://www.buildingsofireland.ie/niah/search.jsp?type=record&county=kd&regno=11903614

[5] https://www.airbnb.ie/rooms/11415715?guests=1&adults=1&sl_alternate_dates_exclusion=true&source_impression_id=p3_1559472574_rN9y32sa2JklBBRL 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Covid-19 lockdown, 20km limits, and places to visit in Dublin

I have a bigger project than this section 482 houses blog. It helps, when writing about big houses, to know what is out there. So I have studied Mark Bence-Jones’s 1988 publication in great detail, A Guide to Irish Country Houses, and have conducted research with the help of the internet.

For my own interest, and I am sure many of my readers will appreciate, I am compiling a list of all of the “big house” accommodation across Ireland – finding out places to stay for when Stephen and I go on holidays, especially when we go to see the section 482 houses!

I am also discovering what other houses are open to the public. There are plenty to see which are not privately owned or part of the section 482 scheme. In fact many of the larger houses are either owned by the state, or have been converted into hotels.

This Monday, 8th June 2020, Ireland moves to the next phase of the government’s Covid-19 prevention plan, and we are allowed to travel 20km from our home, or to places within our county. Big houses won’t be open for visits, but some will be opening their gardens – already my friend Gary has been to the gardens of Ardgillan Castle for a walk. Stephen and I went there before lockdown, meeting Stephen’s cousin Nessa for a walk. The castle was closed, but we were blown away by the amazing view from the garden, and walked down to the sea.

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Ardgillan Castle, Balbriggan, County Dublin, and its view
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Nessa at the sea on our visit to Ardgillan Castle
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Ardgillan Castle
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Ardgillan Castle


Here is my list of houses/castles to visit in Dublin. Some are on section 482 so are private houses with very limited visting times; others are state-owned and are open most days – though not during Covid-19 restriction lockdown – they might be open from June 29th but check websites. Some have gardens which are open to the public now for a wander.

  1. Airfield, Dundrum, Dublin https://www.airfield.ie
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Airfield House

2. Ardgillan Castle, Balbriggan https://ardgillancastle.ie

3. Ashtown Castle, Phoenix Park, Dublin http://phoenixpark.ie/what-to-see/

4. Belvedere House, 6 Great Denmark Street, Dublin  https://www.oreillytheatre.com/belvedere-house.html

Open House, Belvedere House, Belvedere College, Dublin
Belvedere House

5. Cabinteely House [formerly Clare Hill, or Marlfield], Cabinteely, Dublin https://www.dlrcoco.ie/en/heritage/heritage

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Cabinteely House

6. Casino Marino, Clontarf, Dublin http://casinomarino.ie

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Casino at Marino, Dublin

7. Charlemount House, Parnell Square, Dublin – Hugh Lane gallery https://www.hughlane.ie

8. Colganstown, Newcastle, Co Dublin – section 482 [1] Colganstown House, Hazelhatch Road, Newcastle, County Dublin

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Colganstown, Newcastle, County Dublin

9. Dalkey Castle, Dublin – heritage centre https://www.dalkeycastle.com

Believe it or not, I did my Leaving Certificate examinations in this building!! I was extremely lucky and I loved it and the great atmosphere helped me to get the points/grades I wanted!

10. Drimnagh Castle, Dublin https://www.drimnaghcastle.org

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party in Drimnagh Castle

11. Dublin Castle, Dublin https://www.dublincastle.ie

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part of Dublin Castle, including Royal Chapel

12. Fahanmura, Foxrock, Dublin 18 – section 482 [1]

13. Farm Complex, Toberburr Road, Killeek, St Margaret’s, Co. Dublin – section 482 [1]

14. Farmleigh, Phoenix Park, Dublin http://farmleigh.ie

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Farmleigh, Phoenix Park

15. Fern Hill, Stepaside, Dublin – gardens open to public https://www.dlrcoco.ie/en/parks-outdoors/fernhill-park-and-gardens

16. Georgian House Museum, 29 Lower Fitzwilliam Street, Merrion Square, Dublin 2 http://www.numbertwentynine.ie

17. Geragh, Sandycove Point, Sandycove, Co. Dublin – section 482 [1]
18. 14 Henrietta Street, Dublin – tenement museum https://14henriettastreet.ie

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from 2013 visit to 14 Henrietta Street

19. Knocknagin House, Delvin Bridge, Balbriggan, Co. Dublin – section 482 [1]

20. Lambay Castle, Lambay Island, Rush, Dublin  p. – island open to public, groups of 12 https://www.lambayisland.ie

21. Lissen Hall, Lissenhall Demesne, Swords, Dublin – open by appointment http://www.ihh.ie/index.cfm/houses/house/name/Lissen%20Hall

22. Malahide Castle, Malahide, County Dublin https://www.malahidecastleandgardens.ie

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Malahide Castle

23. Marlay House, Co Dublin https://www.dlrcoco.ie/en/heritage/heritage

24. Martello Tower, Portrane – section 482 [1]

24. Meander, Westminister Road, Foxrock, Dublin 18 – section 482 [1]

25. Newbridge House, Donabate, Co Dublin https://www.newbridgehouseandfarm.com

26. Newman House, St. Stephen’s Green, Dublin – MOLI, open to public https://moli.ie

27. 11 North Great George’s Street, Dublin – section 482 [1]

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interior of 11 North Great Georges Street, Dublin

28. 81 North King Street, Dublin – section 482 [1]

29. Old Glebe, Main Street, Newcastle, Co. Dublin – section 482 [1] The Old Glebe, Newcastle-Lyons, County Dublin

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Old Glebe, Newcastle

30. Pearse Museum and St. Enda’s Park, formerly Hermitage, and formerly called Fields of Odin), Rathfarnham, Dublin http://pearsemuseum.ie

31. Powerscourt Townhouse, Dublin 2 – section 482 Powerscourt Townhouse, 59 South William Street, Dublin 2

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Powerscourt Townhouse

32. Primrose Hill, Very Top of Primrose Lane, Lucan, Co. Dublin – section 482 [1]

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Primrose Hill

33. Rathfarnham Castle, Dublin http://rathfarnhamcastle.ie

34. St. George’s, St. George’s Avenue, Killiney, Co. Dublin – section 482 [1]

35. 10 South Frederick Street, Dublin – section 482 [1]

36. Swords Castle, Dublin  https://swordscastle.events

37. Tibradden House, Mutton Lane, Rathfarnham, Dublin 16 – section 482 [1]

[1] 2020 list update

Coolcarrigan House and Gardens, Coill Dubh, Naas, County Kildare

Listed Opening Dates in 2020, but check first due to Covid 19 restrictions: Feb 17-22, April 20-21, May 11-15, 23-24, 25-29, Aug 4-7, 14-30, Sept 1-4, 7, 24-30, Oct 1-2, 5-9, 9am-1pm
Fee: adult €8, OAP/student €5, child free

Contact: Robert Wilson-Wright 086 258 0439

http://coolcarrigan.ie/

On Sept 21st 2019, my husband Stephen and I visited Coolcarrigan House & Gardens, Coolcarrigan, Coill Dubh, Naas, Co Kildare. I rang Mr. Wilson-Wright that morning, leaving a message on his answering machine to say we’d be visiting during the open hours that day, hoping it would be alright since we hadn’t actually spoken to him in advance.

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entrance gates taken from inside the property – note the lovely tops on the side piers.

On the gates and there was a note welcoming visits, so we headed up the long driveway.

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We reached the house, and parked.

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We were lucky to have another sunny day!

Mark Bence-Jones describes the house in his A Guide to Irish Country Houses as a two storey nineteenth century house of three bays. According to Bence-Jones, there is a parapet along the entrance front, and a bracket cornice under the roof at the sides and a projecting porch, though I can’t see that the porch, if he means the front door, projects [1].

There was a note on the door with two mobile phone numbers to ring. Robert Wilson-Wright answered, and said he’d be out to meet us in a few minutes. On either side of the central block of the house, curved screen walls, ending in tall piers, project outwards and disguise the fact that the house has been considerably enlarged at the rear. The piers are topped with what look like pineapple representations, and the walls contain niches.

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To our left, when we stood in front of the house, stretched a beautiful vista of a lawn with curved urns on pillars in the distance.

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The Irish Historic Houses website states that the house is in the Georgian style, and was built in the 1830s by Robert Mackay Wilson on a large estate, to the designs of an unknown architect. It must have been a bit later, however, if Timothy Ferres is correct, and Robert Mackay Wilson was only born in 1829. [2] The Irish Historic Houses website continues “The façade has hooded mouldings over the upper windows and a simple parapet, while the central bay is emphasised by a pair of pilasters and a typical late Georgian door-case with a fanlight and sidelights.” [3]

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Mr. Wilson-Wright greeted us warmly. He brought us inside. The house has a lovely big hall, and the main reception rooms are off the hall. Robert gave us a brief history of the house and his ancestors. He is the sixth generation of the family to live in the house!

Mr. Wilson-Wright took us back to Robert Mackay Wilson’s father: William Wilson, a shipping magnate in Belfast, had four sons, and he bought each of them a house. These houses were Coolcarrigan in Kildare, Currygrane in Longford, Dunardagh in Dublin and Daramona House in Westmeath. The current Robert has made recordings about his family history,  which I found online [4].

The oldest son of the four, John, inherited Daramona House in County Westmeath from his father, and was High Sheriff for Counties Westmeath and Longford. Thejournal.ie explains what High Sheriffs were in Ireland: [5]

The concept of a sheriff is a pre-Norman one and its continued existence in Ireland is a remnant of English law.

The word itself comes from the words shire and reeve, where reeve is old English for an agent of the king and shire is an administration subdivision.

Originally comprising of a single ‘high sheriff’ with many ‘under-sheriffs’, they were responsible for the enforcement of court judgements.

Changes in the 19th century took the enforcement of these judgements away from the high sheriff and into the hands of the under-sheriffs who then, in turn, handed over the responsibility to bailiffs.

After independence, the Court Officers Act of 1926 led to the high sheriff being abolished and the transfer of under-sheriff functions to county registrars as each under-sheriff post became vacant.

John’s son William Edward Wilson became a famous astronomer. According to the website of the Northern Ireland Amateur Astronomy Association, William E. Wilsons’s father had a great influence on him, “a man of intellectual capacity who is 1885 published Thoughts on Science, Theology and Ethics.”  The Irish Aesthete writes of Daramona House and William Edward Wilson and tells us that it was a trip to Algeria to see a total solar eclipse that led to his interest in astronomy, and that he set up an observatory next to his house. [6]

The second brother was George Orr Wilson who was given Dunardagh, Blackrock, County Dublin. This house was taken over by the Sisters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul in 1939. [7]

The third, and youngest, of the brothers was James Wilson, who was given Currygrane in County Longford. This house is now demolished – it was burnt down in 1922 when James’s son, James Mackay Wilson, a noted antiquarian, was in residence [8]. Another  son of James Wilson was Field Marshal Sir Henry Hughes Wilson [more on him later].

The Mackay name of Robert Mackay Wilson is from his mother, Rebecca Dupre Mackay. Robert was given Coolcarrigan by his father. In 1858 Robert Mackay Wilson married Elizabeth, daughter of Murray Suffern of Belfast. He became High Sheriff of Kildare in 1887. Coolcarrigan passed to Robert Mackay Wilson’s only surviving child, Jane Georgina Wilson (1860-1926), in 1914. Jane Georgina married Sir Almroth Wright (1861-1947), in 1889. Almroth Wright was the son of the Reverend Charles Henry Hamilton Wright and his wife Ebba Johanna, daughter of Nils Wilhelm Almroth (Director of the Royal Mint in Stockholm and a Knight of the Northern Star of Sweden). Mark Bence-Jones describes Sir Almroth Wright as an eminent pathologist, author, and originator of the system of Anti-typhoid innoculation.

A stained glass window in the stairwell of Coolcarrigan contains the family crests.

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Current owner Robert showed us portraits of some of the prominent family members, including Almroth Wright. Wright worked on the development of vaccinations, and discovered the cure for typhoid. He also warned that antibiotics would eventually lead to antibiotic resistant bacteria. A far-sighted man!

The playwright George Bernard Shaw was his close friend and “Sir Colenso Ridgeon” in his play The Doctor’s Dilemma is based upon Sir Almroth. I haven’t read this play! While Sir Almroth studied medicine in Trinity College Dublin, he simultaneously studied modern literature and won a gold medal in modern languages and literature! (I studied pharmacy in Trinity, and subsequently took a degree in English and Philosophy in Trinity – I didn’t do them at the same time!).

In 1902 Wright started a research department at St Mary’s Hospital Medical School in London. He developed a system of anti-typhoid fever inoculation and persuaded the armed forces to innoculate the troops in France during World War I. He remained in St. Mary’s, with a break during World War II, until his retirement in 1946. Alexander Fleming also worked and did research in St. Mary’s Hospital, and discovered penicillin. It must have been after the discovery of this antibiotic that Wright realised that bacteria can develop immunity to antibiotics.

Working in England, the Wrights must not have resided much in Coolcarrigan. In researching Almroth Wright I discovered that a biography has been written about him: The Plato of Praed Street: the Life and Times of Almroth Wright by Michael Dunhill, published in 2000. Wright worked in the University of Sydney, Australia, as Professor of Physiology, from 1889-1892. [9] Before that, not sure if he wanted to pursue medicine, he studied in the Inns of Court in London, reading Jurisprudence and International Law! (and here I am, pharmacist and philosopher, researching history! Some of us just can’t settle down it seems…)

Unfortunately Wright was not a fan of women’s suffrage, and thought women’s brains did not equip them for social and political issues. His arguments were most fully expounded in his book The Unexpurgated Case Against Woman Suffrage (1913). His friend Bernard Shaw strongly disagreed with him, though never dissuaded him from his view.

Sir Almroth’s first son died young, so his second son, Leonard Almroth Wilson-Wright, inherited Coolcarrigan. He also served as High Sheriff for County Kildare. He married Florence, eldest daughter of James Ivory, Justice of the Peace, of Brewlands, Glenisla, Forfarshire.

Leonard did not remain in Coolcarrigan for long. He fled from Ireland in fear of being shot by the IRA. The IRA took over the house for a week. His cousin, the grandson of William Wilson whom I mentioned earlier, Field Marshal Sir Henry Wilson, a Unionist, had been shot by the IRA in London in 1922. [there is more on Leonard and on the Field Marshall in Robert’s recordings footnoted below]

Leonard and Florence had one son, John Michael (Jock) Wilson-Wright, who married in 1953 Sheila Gwendolyn Yate, only daughter of Col. Henry Patrick Blosse-Lynch of Partry, Claremorris, County Mayo. Jock moved back to Coolcarrigan when he inherited in 1972. Jock and Sheila had three children, including Robert, the current owner.

According to the online description of his recordings, over time, Robert and his father have added some arable land to their property and have bought back some of the peat bog which had been taken under the Emergency Powers Act. Now the property is more viable as a business than it was previously, he explained to us.

Stephen asked Robert how his family fared during the famine, wondering whether they  had tenants. Robert explained to us that much of the land is bog, and that theirs was not a “big house.” This makes me curious as to how one defines a “big house.” According to Robert’s use, it must mean that a big house is a landlord’s.

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The side of the house, pictured above. Robert told us that a bath had to be brought to the upper floor via a window, which means the conservatory below it must have been built later than that although he wasn’t sure when. Bence-Jones writes that the main block is flanked by two 2 storey blocks at the back, and that these are joined to the back of the main block by lower ranges, enclosing a courtyard which is prolonged beyond them by walls, and enclosed at the opposite end to the house by an outbuilding.

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side of the house, showing wall at back joining the outbuilding
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view of the house from a different side

We headed out to the gardens. Robert explained that in the 1970s the garden was hit by a windstorm and many trees fell. Major replanting took place with the help of Sir Harold Hillier, an eminent English plantsman, so it now contains a collection of rare and unusual trees and shrubs in 15 acres of  garden and arboretum which experts travel from all over the world to see. The website details the plants through the seasons, with its constant display of colour. The greenhouse (see photo below) was restored.

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We were accompanied on our walk around the grounds by a lovely dog:

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Paths have been created which enables wonderful wandering. We spent at least an hour walking around.

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A walled garden contains an orchard:

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The corners of the walled garden have impressive towers:

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This tree below reminds me of the paperbark trees in Western Australia.

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Sculptures and garden furniture are studded romantically around the gardens:

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I could make out the artist’s name carved in to the leg of one of the rabbits, Kinsella.

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Stephen particularly liked this statue, of what we assumed to be a Cavalier – we’re fond of the Cavalier soldiers of Charles II, with their flamboyant outfits.

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Stephen spotted this fascinating bird skull on the ground.

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Robert and his wife are creating an Arboretum.

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Within the demesne is romantic small Hiberno-Romanesque Revival Church of Ireland church, consecrated in 1885 by Archbishop Lord Plunkett, with a Round Tower and a High Cross. Its design derives from the 12th century Temple Finghin at Clonmacnoise on the River Shannon in County Offaly. There is still a service once a month in the church, and it can be booked for weddings and ceremonies. The interior, which unfortunately we did not get to see, has frescoes in Gaelic script, specially chosen by Dr. Douglas Hyde, first President of Ireland and a close family friend of the Wilson-Wrights. We tried to make out the pictures on the stained glass windows, dedicated to various members of the family, which are in the Celtic Revival style. This tiny complex, surrounded by trees and a dry moat, can be seen from the house and avenue. There’s also a small graveyard.

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detail of the high cross in the small church yard

You can see more about the church with information and photographs of the windows on the Coolcarrigan website.

[1] 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.

[2] http://lordbelmontinnorthernireland.blogspot.com/search/label/County%20Kildare%20Landowners?updated-max=2018-04-07T08:56:00%2B01:00&max-results=20&start=7&by-date=false

[3] http://www.ihh.ie/index.cfm/houses/house/name/Coolcarrigan

[4] https://www.irishlifeandlore.com/product/robert-wilson-wright-b-1956/

[5] https://www.thejournal.ie/explainer-irelands-sheriffs-541570-Aug2012/

[6] https://theirishaesthete.com/2020/05/11/daramona/

[7] for more on Dunardagh House, see https://www.youwho.ie/dunardagh.html

[8] https://www.buildingsofireland.ie/buildings-search/building/13400910/currygrane-house-currygrane-county-longford

[9] https://jramc.bmj.com/content/jramc/88/6/250.full.pdf

 

 

architectural definitions

I will add to this page as I go, when I use a new architectural term in a post. I have taken my definitions from Mark Bence-Jones [1], if not otherwise indicated.

acanthus – decoration based on the leaf of the acanthus plant, which forms part of the Corinthian capital.

acroteria – ornamental blocks of stone resting on an entablature or pediment; a characteristic of Grecian Revival architecture.

aedicule – the framing of a window or other opening with columns and a pediment or entablature.

architrave: strictly speaking, the lowest member of the Classical entablature; used loosely to denote the moulded frame of a door or window opening.

ashlar: squared cut stone in regular courses.

astragal: strictly speaking, a narrow semi-circular moulding; used loosely to denote the glazing bars in a Georgian sash window.

banded column: a column of which the shaft is interrupted with stone bands.

bargeboard: a wooden board, often ornamented, along the slope of the gable of an eaved roof, hiding the ends of the roof timbers.

barrel vault: a curved vault, found in both Medieval and Classical architecture.

bartizan: a turret corbelled out from a wall.

baseless pediment: a pediment in which the base moulding is omitted.

Batty Langley Gothic – the earliest form of Georgian-Gothic, as popularized by the English architectural writer, Batty Langley (1696-1751).

bay: A bay is a vertical division of the exterior of a building marked by a single tier of windows in its centre. Thus the number of bays in a façade is usually the same as the number of windows in each storey. There are, however, facades in which some of the bays contain two or more narrow windows in each storey in place of a single window of whatever width is the norm…

Because of this use of the word bay to denote a division, the word is never used in this book to mean a bay window, which is always described as a bow, curved or three sided as the case may be. For simplicity’s sake, all polygonal bows are described as “three sided” including those which are, strictly speaking, five sides, which are sometimes known as “half-octagons.”

Belvedere – a loggia on the tower of a house.

blind window, arch: a window, arch or other opening which is filled in.

blocked column/pilaster: a column or pilaster of which the shaft is interrupted with square blocks.

blocking: the use of alternating large and small blocks of stone, or of intermittent large blocks, in a doorcase, window surround or similar feature. Also known as rustication. [see Gibbsian doorcase/ surround]

bolection moulding: a broad curved moulding characteristic of late C17 and early C18 interiors; used in chimneypieces and also on panelling.

Bossi chimneypiece: a late C18 marble chimneypiece by, or in the style of, the Italian craftsman, Pietro Bossi; characterised by delicate inlaid ornament in coloured marbles against white background.

breakfront: a slight projection in the centre of a façade, rising through its full height and usually extending for three bays, but sometimes for more bays or less.

broken pediment: a pediment with a gap in its centre.

Buncrania: sculptured ox-skulls, used as ornaments in the metopes of a Doric frieze.

camber-headed window: a window of which the head is in the form of a shallow convex curve.

cantilevered staircase: a stone staircase in which the treads are monolithic and fixed at only one end.

Caryatid: a sculptured female figure used to support an entablature.

chamfered: an edge between two faces, usually at a 45 degree angle [wikipedia].

channelling: Decoration of the outside of a building with horizontal grooves; a treatment usually confined to the basement or lower part of a building [see rustication].

Claire-voie: a wrought iron screen.

clerestory: a row of windows in the upper part of a hall or other room which rises through several storeys.

Coade stone: an artificial cast stone of fine quality, invented in 1770 by Mrs Eleanor Coade and made by the Coade factory in London; widely used in the late-Georgian period for plaques, reliefs, capitals and other ornamentation.

coffering: recessed panels in a ceiling or dome.

composite order: an Order used originally by the Romans, having a capital which is partly Ionic and partly Corinthian.

console bracket: a scrolled bracket carrying an entablature, window surround or other member.

corbel: a block of stone projecting from a wall, supporting the beam of a roof or any other member; often ornamented.

Corinthian order: the third Order of Classical architecture.

cornice: strictly speaking, the crowning or upper projecting part of the Classical entablature; used to denote any projecting moulding along the top of a building, and in the angle between the walls and the ceiling of a room.

crocket: projecting carved foliage, used to decorate pinnacles and similar features in Gothic or Gothic-Revival architecture.

curved sweeps: the curving walls or corridors joining the centre block of a Palladian house to the wings or pavilions. Also known as quadrant walls.

Dado: the lower part of the walls of a room, when treated differently from the area above.

dentil cornice: a cornice with tooth-like ornamentation.

die: a raised rectangular block in the centre of the roof parapet of a house, or in the centre of the portico or porch.

Diocletian window: a semi-circular window divided vertically into three lights.

Doric Order: the first and simplest Order of Grecian architecture.

eaved roof: a roof of which the eaves overhang the walls of the house.

engaged columns: columns attached to, or partly sunk in, the wall of a building

entablature: a horizontal member, properly consisting of an architrave, frieze and cornice, supported on columns, or on a wall, with or without columns or pilasters.

fenestration: the arrangement of windows in a façade.

festoon: a carved ornament in the form of a garland of fruit and flowers; also known as a swag.

finial: the top of a pinnacle or similar feature.

floating pediment: a pediment which is based neither on a breakfront, nor on columns or pilasters.

fluting: vertical chanelling on the shaft of a column or pilaster.

fretted ceiling: a ceiling divided by criss-cross mouldings, a characteristic of Tudor or Tudor-Revival architecture.

framing bands: projecting bands, vertical or horizontal, framing a façade or certain bays of a façade.

frieze: strictly speaking, the middle part of an entablature in Classical architecture; used also to denote a band of ornament running round a room immediately below the ceiling.

giant portico/columns/pilasters/order: a portico, columns or pilasters, rising through two or more storeys of a building

Gibbsian doorcase/surround: a type of doorcase or surround made popular by the British architect, James Gibbs [1862-1754], characterised by alternating large and small blocks of stone or intermittent large blocks and a head composed of five voussoirs and a pediment or entablature.

herm: see ‘term’

hood moulding: a projecting moulding over the heads of windows and doorways in Gothic, Tudor, Gothic-Revival and Tudor-Revival architecture. [see Borris House] Hood mouldings also occur in some plain late-Georgian Irish country houses.

imperial staircase: a bifurcating staircase – consisting of a single lower ramp, dividing into two upper ramps – on a grand scale.

Ionic Order: the second Order of Classical architecture. [Ionic columns have scrolls on top]

Irish battlements: stepped battlements, characteristic of Irish architecture from 15C onwards. Used also in C19 castellated buildings.

keyhole pattern: a geometrical pattern of vertical and horizontal straight lines, used in Classical decoration.

lancet window: a sharply pointed Gothic window.

lantern: a raised section of a roof, with windows all around, lighting a room below.

loggia: [Wikipedia] a covered exterior gallery or corridor, where the outer wall is open to the elements and is usually supported by a series of columns or arches. It is not meant for an entrance but as an out-of-door sitting room. They differ from a veranda in that they are more architectural in form and are part of the main edifice.

lunette: a semi-circular window, opening or recess.

machicolation: a corbelled gallery on the walls and towers of a castle, from which missiles, boiling oil, etc, could be thrown down. A feature frequently reproduced in C19 castles.

mansard roof: a steep roof with a double slope, named after the French architect Francois Mansart (1598-1666).

metopes: the spaces between the triglyphs in a Doric frieze; often ornamented with Classical reliefs

mezzanine: a low “half” storey between two higher ones.

modillion cornice: a cornice of the Corinthian order, made up of modillions, or ornamented brackets. Frequently used as the cornice of a ceiling.

mullioned window: a window divided into lights by vertical bards of stone or timber; found in Gothic or Tudor architecture. Also common in Gothic-Revival and Tudor-Revival architecture.

mutules: the projecting blocks in a Doric cornice.

oculus: a round window, also known as an oeil-de-boeuf.

oeil-de-boeuf – see oculus.

ogee: a window head or arch made up of convex and concave curves; found in Gothic and Gothic-Revival architecture.

oriel: a large projecting window in Gothic, Tudor, Gothic-Revival and Tudor-Revival architecture; sometimes rising through two or more storeys, sometimes in an upper storey only and carried on corbelling.

overlapping wings: wings projecting forward on either side of the centre block of a house, and overlapping it by the thickness of one wall which is common to both centre block and wing.

Parapet: [Wikipedia] a low protective wall along the edge of a roof, bridge, or balcony.

pediment: Originally the low-pitched triangular gable of the roof of a Classical temple, and of the roof of a portico; used as an ornamental feature, generally in the centre of a facade, without any structural purpose.

pendentives: the triangular curving surfaces below the domed ceiling of a rectangular room.

perpendicular window: a large tracery window derived from English Gothic architecture of C15 and C16.

Perron: a platform approached by outside steps in front of the entrance door of a house, when the entrance is raised on a high basement. [in the case of Powerscourt Estate, Bence-Jones refers to the perron at the garden front of the house].

Piano Nobile: [Wikipedia] is Italian for “noble floor” or “noble level”, also sometimes referred to by the corresponding French term, bel étage, and is the principal floor of a large house. This floor contains the principal reception and bedrooms of the house.

[Bence-Jones] The storey in which the principal reception rooms of a house are situated, when it is raised on a high basement or is at first floor level.

pier: a vertical supporting member, other than a column.

pilasters: a flat pillar projecting from a wall, usually with a capital of one of the principal Orders of architecture.

pinnacle: a small turret-like projection in Gothic, Tudor, Gothic-Revival and Tudor-revival architecture. Also the point of a buttress.

polychromy, structural: the use of different coloured stone, or stone and brick, for the various parts of the wall of a house; a favourite device with architects in the High Victorian period.

porch oriel: an oriel above the entrance door of a Tudor or Tudor-Revival house.

portico: an open porch consisting of a pediment or entablature carried on columns.

quadrant walls – see curved sweeps.

Quatrefoil window: a window in the shape of a four leafed clover; found in Gothic and Gothic-Revival architecture.

quoins: the slightly projecting dressed stones at the corners of a building, usually laid so as to have faces that are alternately large and small, and serving as an architectural feature. Used also to give emphasis to certain bays of a façade.

reeding – the decoration of a surface with narrow convex mouldings parallel and close together.

relieving arch – a blind arch above a window.

rendering – the covering of an external face of a building with cement, plaster, etc.

rubble – rough unhewn stones used for building.

rustication – the use of stone blocks with recessed joints and often with rough or specially treated faces; a treatment generally confined to the basement or lower part of a building.

scagliola – an artificial marble made out of marble chips, cement and plaster.

screen – In Gothic or Tudor architecture, a partition of wood, often elaborately carved, at one end of a hall or chapel. In Classical architecture, two or more columns dividing one end of a room from the rest of it; usually reflected by a pilaster of the same Order on the wall at either side.

scroll pediment – a broken pediment in which the sloping members are shaped like scrolls.

segmental pediment – a pediment in the shape of a segment of circle.

shouldered architrave/doorcase – a door or window surround with projections at the upper and sometimes also the lower corners; characteristic of C18 houses.

Soanian – in the manner of the English architect, John Soane (1753-1837), who is noted for his retrained but highly original neo-Classicism and his spatial effects.

soffit – the underside of an arch or any other member.

spandrels – the triangular spaces on either side of an arch [see Castle Leslie]

sprocketed roof – a roof with a slight concave curve.

strapwork – ornamentation composed of curving interlacing bands, characteristic of Elizabethan and Jacobean architecture. Also common in Elizabethan-Revival and Jacobean-Revival architecture.

string course – a prominent horizontal band of masonry. [see Tourin, County Waterford]

strip pilaster – a plain pilaster, without a capital.

swag – see festoon.

term – a tapering pedestal supporting a bust, or merging into a sculpted figure, used ornamentally, particularly at the sides of chimneypieces. Roughly similar to a herm.

transom – a horizontal mullion in a window.

trefoil window or trefoil-headed window – a Gothic window shaped like, or with a head in the form of, a three leafed clover.

triglyphs – the channelled projections in a Doric frieze.

tripod – a Classical tripod, used as ornament.

Tuscan Order: a simplified Doric Order.

tympanum – the triangular space within the mouldings of a pediment, often ornamented and containing armorial bearings.

Venetian doorway – a doorway based on a Venetian window.

Venetian window: [wikipedia] “the Venetian window consists of an arched central arched light symmetrically flanked by two shorter sidelights. Each sidelight is flanked by two columns or pilasters and topped by a small entablature”

[Bence-Jones]: “a window with three openings, that in the centre being round-headed and wider than those on either side; a very familiar feature of Palladian architecture.”

vermiculation – the treatment of stone blocks to give a worm-like texture.

volute: a scroll derived from the scroll in the Ionic capital.

voussoirs – the wedge-shaped blocks forming an arch; sometimes given prominence by being proud of the surrounding masonry, or by being of a different colour stone or brick.

weather slating – the covering of the external walls of a house with slates; a treatment often met with in the south and south-west of Ireland.

Wyatt window: a rectangular triple window very common in late-Georgian domestic architecture, named after the English architect, James Wyatt (1747-1813).

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

2020 list update

I have now updated my home page to publish the 2020 opening dates for the houses on section 482.

The list isn’t published until mid February in the year which is a bit of a “cod” as my Dad would have said, as some properties include January and early February dates in their open days, which nobody can know about or avail of before the list is published. Since the list seems very similar from one year to the next, however, one could probably anticipate open days in January or February and contact the property if one wants to visit early in the year.

Those familiar with my blog from last year [1] will see that so far I have been updating and publishing entries of places I already visited in 2019 or before. I will now be able to start visiting new places, since I have the new list! I will continue to blog every fortnight, adding 2019 entries to this site as well as new 2020 entries. I am updating the 2019 entries as I go, from further reading and research, so do give them another read if you get the chance since they contain new material.

Along with other material, I have been studying Mark Bence-Jones’s A Guide to Irish Country Houses, which was published in 1978 and revised in 1988 and 1990. I am creating a database of houses, to establish how many that are listed in Bence-Jones’s book (or which I learn of from other sources) are still extant, and which are in private hands or which open to the public, which are hotels or have accommodation. I will share this information with you as I continue my work. I am especially excited to find lovely accommodation and hope to avail of them on my travels to see houses on Section 482! Bence-Jones lists over 2000 houses in his book. A great resource is the National Inventory of Historic Architecture. [2] I also love the Irish Aesthete’s blog, which I often refer to in my posts [3] and I also use “Lord Belmont in Northern Ireland”s extremely informative blog [4]. I’m also indebted to my public library, and have all of the Big Houses books out that I am allowed at one time – the newish decision not to fine people for overdue books means I am not as conscientious as I should be about returning books in time, and often I have to ask the librarian to override the system where I have renewed the books the maximum number of times. I am working to get them all back now, however, as my guilt is acute and weighs on me. I do not need 12 Big Houses books out at once! I purchased a copy of one of my favourite books, Jane Ohlmeyer’s Making Ireland English: The Irish Aristocracy in the Seventeenth Century – rather, my husband Stephen bought it for me for Valentine’s Day! We are a seventeenth and eighteenth century obsessed couple!

I would like to blog about other places that I visit, I will have to work out a way to put them into a separate list or category, or an accompanying blog, as I want to keep this website streamlined.

For Christmas, Stephen gave me membership to the Irish Georgian Society [5]. That will reduce expenses somewhat, as some houses give a discount to Georgian Society members. I was a member previously but did not keep my membership active when I realised that one still has to pay full price to attend their lectures. However, since I like to visit properties not only on section 482, the discount members receive to many Office of Public Works sites makes the membership cost-effective for me. See their website to obtain this list of membership discounts.

Happy reading!

[1] https://openhousesireland2019.blogspot.com/

[2]https://www.buildingsofireland.ie/

[3] https://theirishaesthete.com/

[4] http://lordbelmontinnorthernireland.blogspot.com/

[5] https://www.igs.ie/

Irish Historic Homes

11 North Great George’s Street, Dublin 1

contact: John Aboud 087 798 3099

number11dublin.ie
Listed Opening dates in 2020, but check due to Covid 19 restrictions: March 9-14, May 11-16, June 8-13, July 6-11, Aug 3-8, 15-23, Sept 7-13, Oct 5-10, Nov 9-13, 16-20, 12 noon-4 pm, Mondays 10am-2pm
Fee: adult €7, students/OAP €3, child free

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photograph from National Inventory of Architectural History Buildings of Ireland website

 

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photograph from National Inventory of Architectural History Buildings of Ireland website

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

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

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

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

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

Conor Lucey tells us that Mount Eccles is clearly visible on John Rocque’s map of Dublin published in 1756, but it is labelled with the name of Nicholas Archdall Esq. Nicholas Archdall had purchased the lease for the Mount Eccles estate for 999 years, beginning 1st August 1949.

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

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

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

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

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

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

According to the website for Number 11 North Great George’s Street, number 11 was completed in 1774 and was one of the first houses built in the newly laid out North Great George’s Street. It was then a very fashionable street. Other properties on the street were leased to Emilia, Dowager Viscountess Powerscourt (the widow of Richard Wingfield, 3rd Viscount Powerscourt, who built Powerscourt Townhouse in Dublin – see my entry on Powerscourt Townhouse) and Valentine Browne, 1st Earl of Kenmare.

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Buildings of Ireland website describes:

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

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

 

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

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

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

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In its appraisal the National Inventory website states:

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

[3] https://northgreatgeorgesstreet.ie/

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

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

architectural definitions

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