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Conservation Mucklagh Towers, Charleville Demesne

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Historical background

Mucklagh Towers and gateway form an integral part of the Charleville Demesne. The estate dates to the early seventeenth century when Sir Robert Forth leased the lands from his brother-in-law, Thomas Moore. The demesne is a thoroughly designed romantic landscape whose majority of features date to the eighteenth century. Across the grounds lie a number of designed structures, including the main castle, grotto, a hunting lodge, two boathouses, gate lodges, gardens, and an ice house. Likewise, the stables were built between 1801-1812 to the design of Francis Johnston. 

The Towers grace either side of the main gateway. Though built earlier, they were reconstructed in the popular Gothic Revival style in the mid-nineteenth century, most likely around 1860 according to the date carved into a stone in the gate lodge. Ivy and other plants had largely overtaken the structure before 2002, and the northwest tower had cracked, partially collapsed, and was leaning dangerously out of plumb. The gate archway was particularly structurally unsound as well and required immediate action to avoid certain collapse. The stables were also overtaken by decay and organic growth and a plan of action was immediately required in 2004. 

The Irish Georgian Society granted over €5,000 in 2002 to the restoration of the towers which made up nearly fifty-five percent of the total costs. The Society also awarded a grant of over €3,000 to assist works to the stables in 2004.

Brief description of project

In 2002 initial works involved stabilising the northwest tower and archway until further works could be funded. A large section of the tower’s overhanging rubble stonework was removed and steel scaffolding was erected to support the turret walls. Temporary timber braces with concrete pads were also used to stabilize the central archway. In addition, the major crack was cleaned out and bridged with pinning stones and grouted with moderately hydraulic lime and sand mortar. Later the towers were underpinned and the unstable masonry which was removed from the northwest tower was used in its rebuilding. These stones were set in lime and sand mortar to replicate the surviving masonry. Limited re-pointing was also completed to ensure the towers and archway were structurally sound. 

In 2004 the Society’s funds also helped to fund a survey and conservation report for the stables. This included a proposed schedule of works and possibilities for appropriate re-use.

The Mucklagh gateway and castle stableyard are essential to the Charleville Demesne, called by Howley Harrington architects, “one of Ireland’s most impressive and intact surviving estates.” Recognising this important fact, the Irish Georgian Society responded quickly with generous funding to ensure the sympathetic repair and restoration of this great heritage landscape.

Architectural description

The Mucklagh Towers and gateway of Charleville Demesne are comprised of a central four-centre arch which is set to a castellated random coursed limestone wall. The towers flank the archway which has a chamfered cut stone surround. A castellated wall also runs to the edge of the river in front of the gate lodge.

The ancillary stable complex also consists of three ranges surrounding an enclosed courtyard to the northwest of the main castle.