Irish Georgian Society

Show / Hide Menu


The vision of the Irish Georgian Society is to conserve, protect and foster a keen interest and a respect for Ireland’s architectural heritage and decorative arts. These aims are achieved through its scholarly and conservation education programmes, through its support of conservation projects and planning issues, and vitally, through its members and their activities.

In Harmony with Nature, the Irish Country House Garden 1600-1900


Posted by IGS

The Irish Georgian Society presents

In May 2022, the IGS will explore the history of the Irish Country House Garden at the City Assembly House, Dublin, with the launch of In Harmony with Nature: The Irish Country House Garden 1600-1900. Alongside this unique exhibition, Stepping Through the Gate: Inside Ireland’s Walled Gardens will return to the walls of the O’Connell Room, and feature specially commissioned paintings of Irish Walled Gardens by four leading artists. Curated by Robert O’Byrne, former vice-President of the IGS, both exhibitions are not to be missed and will be of exceptional interest to anyone with an interest in Irish gardens and gardening. The Exhibition will be open to the public from 20th May to late July, Tuesday-Sunday (10am-5pm).

In Harmony with Nature: The Irish Country House Garden

While the changing landscape of the Irish countryside has been extensively examined in recent decades, the evolution of gardens attached to country houses remains under investigated.

This exhibition will explore the history of the Irish Country House Garden using paintings, engravings and photographs as well as film and other media creating an exciting, engaging and informative experience.

It will open c.1600 with sites around castles and fortified houses such as those at Lismore, County Waterford and Portumna, County Galway, and it will end with two great island gardens created just before the First World War: Garnish, County Kerry and Lambay, County Dublin.

The exhibition will consider what makes our gardens different from those found in other countries. What plants were favoured during which eras? Who were the most significant plantsmen and women? What role did owners play in laying out a garden? Who were the most important gardeners? What new species were introduced to Ireland, especially in the 19th century?

Country House Gardens

Stepping Through the Gate: Inside Ireland’s Walled Gardens

Walled gardens have a long history going back millennia having often simultaneously served not just as places to grow fruit and vegetables, but also areas of privacy and of protection from intemperate weather conditions.

This exhibition will feature fifty specially commissioned paintings of Walled Gardens by four distinguished artists: Lesley Fennell, Andrea Jameson, Maria Levinge and Alison Rosse.

All four artists are active gardeners and are people who understand plants. Alison Rosse and her husband inherited responsibility for one of Ireland’s finest demesnes at Birr Castle which includes superlative walled gardens laid out by his late parents. Lesley Fennell can take credit for creating a truly lovely garden at Burtown, County Kildare. Together with her two sisters, at Tourin, County Waterford, Andrea Jameson ensures that the walled garden remains as productive as ever, while Maria Levinge, having moved house a few years ago, embarked on establishing a new garden in County Wexford.

Paintings in the exhibition will be available for purchase.

Digging New Ground, the Irish Country House Garden 1650-1900

To coincide with these exhibitions the Irish Georgian Society has published Digging New Ground, the Irish Country House Garden 1650-1900. Edited by Finola O’Kane and Robert O’Byrne, this book investigates the history, design and planting of the Irish country house garden and considers garden making as an art form in all its dimensions. It is available in the City Assembly House, on the IGS shop website and in all good bookshops.

Digging New Ground

Photos by Robert O'Byrne

Read more

'Stepping Through the Gate: Inside Ireland's Walled Gardens' at Kylemore Abbey


Posted by IGS

The following blog post was written by Jessica Ridge, Marketing Manager at Kylemore Abbey.

2022 marks the 21st anniversary of the historic restoration of Kylemore Abbey's Victorian Walled Gardens by the Benedictine nuns, who run the heritage estate in the west of Ireland. This important conservation project returned Mitchell Henry's beautiful walled gardens to their Victorian glory and won the prestigious Europa Nostra Award in 2002.

To mark the anniversary, Kylemore Abbey will host an Irish Georgian Society exhibition of paintings of walled gardens at Kylemore Abbey's Fordham Hall from 5 March - 30 April*. This is the first of a larger programme of events which will take place over the coming years in preparation of a yearlong celebration of 25 years of the Victorian Walled Garden Restoration in 2024/5.

Speaking on the announcement of the exhibition, Executive Director of the Irish Georgian Society, Donough Cahill remarked: “This exhibition is an ideal opportunity for the Irish Georgian Society to partner with Kylemore Abbey in celebrating the 21st anniversary of the opening of Kylemore’s magnificent Victorian Walled Gardens. The Benedictine nuns’ achievement in restoring these gardens has created a lasting legacy that is enjoyed by tens of thousands every year and, together with Kylemore’s historic buildings, nurtures an enthusiasm for visitors in the preservation of Ireland’s rich heritage.”

Featuring renowned Irish gardens, including the Victorian Walled Garden at Kylemore Abbey, the specially commissioned exhibition by The Irish Georgian Society comprises fifty paintings by four leading Irish artists: Lesley Fennell, Andrea Jameson, Maria Levinge and Alison Rosse.

Speaking on behalf of the Kylemore Trust, Conor Coyne, Executive Director said "we are delighted to welcome the Irish Georgian Society’s touring exhibition featuring some of Ireland’s most beautiful walled gardens, painted by four talented Irish artists. As a non-profit organisation, with a dual mandate for heritage preservation and the support of monastic life, our gardens are the embodiment of Kylemore’s mission: to preserve for Ireland a place of beauty, tranquility and spiritual peace. We are delighted to partner with the Irish Georgian Society on this project, and look forward to welcoming many visitors to see this exhibition over the next month or so."

Curated by Robert O'Byrne, the exhibition is of interest to anyone with an interest in Irish gardens, gardening, or painting. Access to the exhibition is included with admission ticket to Kylemore Abbey & Gardens. Paintings will be available for purchase with proceeds to the Irish Georgian Society and The Kylemore Trust.

(* excl. 25 & 26 March)

Read more

NEW BOOK ALERT: Digging New Ground - The Irish Country House Garden 1650–1900


Posted by IGS

Digging New Ground: The Irish Country House Garden 1650-1900

Edited by: Finola O'Kane & Robert O'Byrne

What gives the Irish country house garden its distinctive character? A verdant light, lush grass, bold trees and green-fingered generations of care. The Irish country house garden sits at a precise point where nature, culture and history meet, and continues to be a place where the Irish, British and European horticultural traditions potently collide.

This complex identity has often led historians to suppress any emerald-tinted concerns about land, property and empire that might overshadow a garden’s charm or indeed threaten its survival. Yet those concerns also lend the Irish country house garden a strange beauty, as memory, pleasure and tragedy glide along its avenues and sidle through its glades.

Breaking new ground through the presentation of fresh material and research, this book investigates the history, design and planting of the Irish country house garden from c.1650-1900. It considers garden making as an art form in all its dimensions, not least the relationship to contiguous buildings and natural features, as well as the colour, massing and individual habits of planting over three and a half centuries. Changes in fashion, habits of collecting, patronage, gender and networks are also investigated. Although the larger scale of landscape is considered, a primary aim is to address the smaller nature of gardens, and their many specific, often complex, design concerns.

Purchase Digging New Ground: The Irish Country House Garden 1650-1900 online!


Beauty and utility: The walled kitchen gardens of Ireland (Terence Reeves-Smyth)

The Seventeenth-Century Walled Garden in Ireland (Vandra Costello)

Buildings become Nature: Rustic Structures in Irish Country House Gardens, 1700–1750 (Ruth Musielak)

Humphry Repton’s ‘Irish expedition’: Sketches and Hints on Georgian Landscape Gardening (Stephen Daniels & Finola O’Kane)

The Landscape Gardens of John Sutherland (c. 1755–1826) (Patrick Bowe)

Sharp Gradients of History in the Nineteenth-century Irish Country House Garden (Finola O’Kane)

The Advent of Iron and Glass for the Victorian Country House Garden (Laura Johnstone)

A Chapter on Ireland (Jonathan Phibbs)

In Search of Paradise: Collecting Trees in Ireland (Thomas Pakenham)

Plant hunting and its influence on the Irish country house (Seamus O’Brien)

Digging Foreign Ground: An Irish Gardener in the United States (Robert O’Byrne)

The Historic Country House Garden in Ireland: challenges for the 21st century (Catherine FitzGerald)


Finola O’Kane MRIA is a landscape historian, architect, conservation specialist and a professor at UCD. Her books include Ireland and the Picturesque: Design, Landscape Painting, and Tourism, 1700–1840 (Yale, 2013), William Ashford's Mount Merrion; The Absent Point of View (Churchill, 2012) and Landscape Design in Eighteenth-Century Ireland: Mixing Foreign Trees with the Natives (Cork, 2004) and she is a former editor of Irish Architectural and Decorative Studies.

Robert O’Byrne is a writer and lecturer specialising in Irish historic houses and gardens and the author of more than a dozen books. A former Vice-President of the Irish Georgian Society, he is currently a trustee of the Apollo Foundation and the Artists' Collecting Society. He writes a monthly column for Apollo magazine and has also contributed to The Burlington Magazine and the Irish Arts Review. Since 2012 he has written an award-winning blog,

Read more

Young Irish Georgians: 2022 Fundraising Project


Posted by IGS

Termon House
Image: Termon House, via Irish Landmark Trust

In 2021, our working group decided to nominate an annual fundraising project for the Young Irish Georgians to support, with the revenue raised from our events throughout the year supporting the chosen initiative. Our pilot project for 2022 will be Termon House, Co. Donegal: a former 18th century land agent's house in Maghery, near Dungloe, located in the heart of the Gaeltacht area. The house is cared for by the Irish Landmark Trust, and was previously supported through a conservation grant from IGS London.

Termon House was built c. 1770 for the land agent of the local landlord, the Marquess of Conyngham. The property consists of the house and adjoining stone-built dairy and barn set within a 3 acre plot. Much of this site is enclosed by a tall, tapering rubble stone wall built c. 1847 to provide famine relief for the local population affected by the Great Famine. Within these walls are also found the remains of an old lime kiin and a small clachán. The curtilage of Termon House encloses a landscape which has remained almost untouched since the mid 19th century and this with the combination of the famine wall and house, makes it the most historically significant property in the village.

The very extreme location of the house on the Atlantic shoreline means that it gets a constant battering from the weather. The funds we plan to raise will support essential repair work to the lime render surrounding the lower barn door, which will then be limewashed.

Our 2022 fundraising target is €2,000.

(Image: Termon House, via Irish Landmark Trust)

Read more

Irish Georgian Society Conservation Grants Programme 2022


Posted by IGS

2021 IGS conservation grant pledges clockwise from top left: Dromdiah House, Co. Cork; Larchill Arcadian Gardens, Co. Kildare; St Eugene's Church, Co. Tyrone; Temple House, Co. Sligo; and Termon House, Co. Donegal.

The Irish Georgian Society is inviting applications for its Conservation Grants Programme 2022 with submissions accepted until Monday 21st February. A total of €40,000 will be available which will comprise €30,000 from IGS London and €10,000 through the newly created Homan Potterton Conservation Grant.

Structures of architectural interest from across the country are eligible for funding from IGS London while the Homan Potterton Conservation Grant is available only to Georgian buildings of architectural merit anywhere in the counties of Meath or Westmeath.

Since 2014 the Irish Georgian Society’s Conservation Grants Programme has been generously funded by IGS London during which time the Society has supported over forty conservation projects that have included country houses and castles, thatched cottages and historic townhouses, architectural follies, and churches. Projects have included repairs to roofs, windows and rain water goods, the restoration of painted and stained glass windows, support for conservation plans and building appraisals, and other conservation initiatives.

In 2021 the Society pledged grants for the following projects:

  • Kildrought House, Co. Kildare (€3000)
  • Temple House, Co. Sligo (€750)
  • Termon House, Co. Donegal (€2500)
  • Kilderry House, Co. Donegal (€3000)
  • St Eugene’s Church, Omagh, Co Tyrone (€3490)
  • Larchill Arcadian Gardens, Co. Sligo (€3000)
  • Kilburry House, Cloneen, Co Tipperary (€3500)
  • Dromdiah House, Co. Cork (€4000)
  • St Paul’s French Church, Co. Laois (€4000)
  • 8 Upper Pembroke Street, Co. Dublin (€2750)

Applications for the 2022 grants programme must be submitted by 5pm on Monday 21st February with forms available to download here.

For articles on previous grants recipients, please click here.

Decisions on the allocation of grants will be made by early April at which time applicants will be informed.

Read more

Desmond Guinness Scholarship 2021 Winner Announced


Posted by IGS

Long gallery castletown
Long Gallery, Castletown, Co. Kildare. Image courtesy of OPW

The Irish Georgian Society is delighted to announce that the Desmond Guinness Scholarship 2021 has been jointly awarded to Deirdre Cullen and Siobhan Osgood.

Deirdre Cullen is a PhD student at University College Dublin where her thesis, the Long Gallery at Castletown: a rare example of the neoclassical taste for painted rooms 'all’antica' and an expression of the intellectual and cultural worlds of Ireland’s eighteenth-century elite, is being supervised by Dr Conor Lucey. Deirdre will use the DG Scholarship to help fund archival research in three UK archives (the British Library, the West Sussex Record Office and Suffolk Archives), as well as conduct site visits to key neoclassical interiors across England, from Heaton Hall in Manhcester to Fawley Court in Buckinghamshire. It is anticipated that the archival research and site visits will prove critical in informing Cullen’s comparative analysis of the Long Gallery within the genre of the painted room 'all’antica' and the wider genre of neoclassical painted decoration in Britain and Ireland.

Siobhan Osgood is a PhD student at Trinity College Dublin where her thesis, Architecture of the former Great Northern Railway of Ireland, is being supervised by Professor Christine Casey. William Hemingway Mills was the chief engineer for the GNRI but before this during the period 1865-69, he was engineer-in-chief for the Andalusian Railway in Spain where he constructed the Córdoba-Belmez line. Osgood wishes to explore this trans-national relationship of architectural styles and influences of engineering expansionism and its subsequent impact in an Irish context. The Desmond Guinness Scholarship will facilitate archival research at the Railway Historical Archive and Railway Library at the Museo del Ferrocarril in Madrid. The DG scholarship will also help fund Osgood’s site visits to the landmark railway stations of Atocha and Charmarrín and assist in funding Osgood’s travel along the Córdoba-Belmez line visiting the original stations, thus completing a comprehensive research trip into William Hemingway Mills and his work on the Andalusian Railway.

The Irish Georgian Society would like to take this opportunity to thank all those who applied for the scholarship in 2021. There was a notable number of high calibre applications.

The Society would also like to extend our gratitude to the Desmond Guinness Scholarship assessors (Professor Christine Casey, TCD; Associate Professor Alison FitzGerald, Maynooth University; Dr David Fleming, UL; Professor Kathleen James-Chakraborty, UCD; Associate Professor Conor Lucey, UCD; Dr Anna Moran, NCAD; and Primrose Wilson, OBE; ) for their generosity in sharing their academic expertise and investing their time in evaluating the applications.

Siobhan Osgood DG Scholarship 2021
Spanish station at El Vacar Villaviciosa and the GNRI station at Dundalk showing the similarities in their design.

Read more