Buildings at Risk
Donaghcomper, Zone B, Co. Kildare
The Irish Georgian Society has appealed the decision of Kildare County Council to grant permission for the construction of 108 detached houses at Donaghcomper demesne, Celbridge, Co. Kildare.
The Society’s appeal addressed the following issues:
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1. The impact of the proposed development on Castletown’s extended landscape.
2. The impact of the proposed development on Donaghcomper and its demesne.
1. The Irish Georgian Society’s foremost concern about this planning application relates to the detrimental impact the proposed housing estate would have on Castletown House and its extended landscape incorporating the adjoining Donaghcomper and St. Wolstan’s demesnes.
During the second half of the eighteenth century these three demesnes were the focus of an extraordinary project in landscape design that sought to enhance the setting and appreciation of Castletown house and its parklands through extending its views across the River Liffey and into its neighbouring demesnes. This vision was masterminded by Thomas and Lady Louisa Conolly and achieved through careful collaboration with neighbouring landowners as well as through land acquisitions.
In Landscape Design in Eighteenth Century Ireland (Cork University Press, 2004), Dr. Finola O’Kane notes the following:
Both Thomas Conolly’s list of acquisitions and the design of such landscaping features as the riverside walk reveal that the Conollys’ primary intention was to expand their landscaping vision far beyond Castletown’s demesne wall. The Liffey, which bordered the four estates of Castletown, Leixlip, St. Wolstan’s and Donaghcomper, connected all four into a combined landscape under Conolly control. Pg. 119
At the centre of their ambitions were major landscaping works undertaken on the banks of the River Liffey that saw the development of a new river walk laid out on two levels. O’Kane describes these works and notably highlights how these survive to this day:
"She (Louisa) designed a route from Celbridge to the Dublin gate with a topographic section carefully moulded to expose riverside vistas of new and existing buildings". (pg. 64).
"Louisa developed a sequence of views leading from the pond eastwards past the bathing house, the ice house, the tower, abbey and gate of St. Wolstan’s and terminating at the Batty Langley Lodge… This walk is substantially intact today. Its upper level still commands long distance views back to the house, towards the follies and out to the neighbouring country houses of St. Wolstan’s and Donaghcomper" (pg. 65)
The symbiotic relationship of these demesnes is further explored in the Kildare County Council commissioned report Designed Landscape of Castletown Celbridge and Adjacent Demesnes (Dr. Finola O’Kane & Dr John Olley, 2006, UCD School of Architecture, Landscape and Civil Engineering).
In this report O’Kane and Olley note that “the entire valley landscape was composed and controlled through uniting the design efforts of various estates – a greater whole was formed from the sum of the parts” (pg. 4). They state that:
"…this composite landscape design is of considerable significance and should be awarded all due protection, recognition and public dissemination" (pg. 28).
Particular concern is expressed about the pressure being exerted by development proposals on these landscapes:
"Castletown is still a great estate. However, the proposed development of Donaghcomper, St. Wolsten’s and areas of the northern demesne lands endangers the setting of Castletown House” (pg 29).
The current planning application proposes the construction of 108 houses in the eastern portion of Donaghcomper demesne which would undoubtedly compromise the character and setting of this great extended landscape and would have a notable detrimental affect on key sections of the riverside walk laid out by Lady Louisa.
Granting permission for this development would forever compromise one of Ireland’s greatest eighteenth century landscapes and for this reason the Irish Georgian Society strongly urges An Bord Pleanála to refuse permission for this development.
The Irish Georgian Society also wishes to note that this development would undermine current initiatives by the Office of Public Works to restore the riverside walk as one element of an overall plan to greatly enhance the visitor’s experience of Castletown and its demesne. Should permission be granted for the new housing estate in Donaghcomper, this element of the OPW’s plans would be compromised as the carefully planned landscape views designed by Lady Louisa would be forever lost.
2. Impact on Donaghcomper and its demesne
Independently of its impact on Castletown, the Irish Georgian Society is also highly concerned about the affect this development proposal would have on Donaghcumper house and its demesne. Donaghcomper dates originally from the eighteenth century but was remodelled in a Tudor-Revival style by William Kirkpatrick c. 1835. Today the house retains its extensive parklands and, along with its demesne, is included in the Record of Protected Structures for Co. Kildare.
In their report Designed Landscape of Castletown Celbridge and Adjacent Demesnes, O’Kane and Olley describe the evolution of the designed landscape at Donaghcomper in the context of Taylor’s map of 1783 and the Ordnance Survey maps of 1840 and 1900. In doing so they present an inventory of significant landscape features including riverside and boundary walks and also describe the house and its associated buildings (“a very complete ensemble of great importance” pg. 20). The demesne structure is summarised as follows:
"This substantial area of land is still appreciable and intact as a demesne, with its characteristic demesne wall, boundary and other plantations, circulation system, stables and farm buildings, kitchen gardens, parkland and fields". (pg 19)
In identifying the significance of the Donaghcomper demesne in its own right, the Irish Georgian Society is of the opinion that the O’Kane and Olley report provides sufficient reason to protect the demesne as a whole from development. Indeed, the report recommends that “key areas of the Donaghcomper demesne would warrant ACA (Architectural Conservation Area) designation (pg. 32).
Though the house and its demesne are now protected through their inclusion in the Record of Protected Structures for Co. Kildare, it is most regrettable that portions of the demesne were zoned for development in 2002. This may not have occurred if Kildare County Council had been aware of the significance of Castletown’s extended landscape which was later revealed through the work of O’Kane and Olley. For this reason the Society recommended that An Bord Pleanála consider this planning application not just through the confines of the zoning provisions for the area but also in the context of its outstanding heritage interest.
The research works undertaken by of Dr. Finola O’Kane and Dr. John Olley through the Kildare County Council commissioned report Designed Landscape of Castletown Celbridge and Adjacent Demesnes and through Dr. Finola O’Kane’s Landscape Design in Eighteenth Century Ireland clearly demonstrate the significance of the Castletown, Donaghcomper and St. Wolstan’s extended designed landscape.
The Irish Georgian Society has stated that it isstrongly of the opinion that the development proposals for Donaghcomper would, if granted permission, have a wholly negative and irreversible impact on the character and integrity of this landscape which must be considered as one of the most important surviving designed landscapes in the country.
In light of this, the Irish Georgian Society urged An Bord Pleanála to refuse permission for this planning application.