Irish Georgian Society

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Conservation Ballinlough Castle

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Historical background

Since its construction in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, Ballinlough Castle has been owned by the O’Reilly family who adopted the surname Nugent in the nineteenth century. Thomas Wogan Browne was most likely responsible for the late-eighteenth century remodelling. Most unique is the fact that the estate remained in Catholic hands during this time. However, the Nugent line almost completely disappeared in the late-nineteenth century due to military involvement and Ballinlough Castle was scheduled to be demolished by the Land Commission. However, Sir Hugh Nugent returned to the house in 1927 and began a programme of restoration and additions.

In 2004 a condition survey was carried out on the property and many structural and material problems were found. The North tower was leaning out of plumb, water ingress from the roof structure had caused severe interior damage, and large fissures and render decay impaired the exterior. As a response, a large scale programme of works was begun to return the castle to health. The Nugent family applied to the Irish Georgian Society for help in restoring the Dining Room plasterwork which had been badly damaged from water ingress. The Society responded with grant aid in the amount of €3,000.

Brief description of project

The work involved repairing the extensive cracking that had besieged the beautiful ceiling and cornice and inserting stainless steel wiring to support the new plaster in these areas. 

Ballinlough Castle is an important structure for the retention of its early form, fabric and character. As part of a larger picturesque landscape just south of Clonmellon, the castle is now a holiday home available for lettings, weddings, and corporate events. 

Architectural description

Ballinlough Castle is an amalgam of structures and renovations made in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The main seven bays of the front façade date to the mid-early 1600s, though its three-bay breakfront was added at the close of the 1700s. At the same time a Gothic extension was made to the north. The extension is only one bay to the front façade though it possesses a tower. This tower is matched on its responding end and in total the extension is six bays’ length. The original and extended portions of the castle form a nine bay rear façade which is irregular due to a bell tower and one-storey conservatory which have been attached. The castle is two floors with an attic storey and maintains imposing castellations. Tall Georgian, timber sash windows and lime dashed stone walls provide elegance along with the Gothic detail of the towers’ arched window frames. The arched tympanum and coat of arms in the breakfront complete the impressive entrance façade. The interior is an excellent representation of Georgian Gothic architecture with vaulted ceilings and fine plaster cornices.