St Cleran’s and Lough Cutra: Field Trip with the Irish Georgian Society Limerick Chapter
Posted by IGS
On Sunday 22nd May, the Limerick Chapter of the Irish Georgian Society visited two heritage buildings in Galway. The first was St Clerans near Craughwell, and the second was Lough Cutra Castle, near Gort. The field trip was booked out in advance, with many people very interested in seeing and learning more about these two important historic properties. Both are private residences. St Cleran’s is not open to the public, but has a wonderful website with lots of images and information here (http://www.stclerans.com/). Lough Cutra Castle (http://www.loughcutra.com/) itself can be booked for events, and can accommodate self-catering and holiday rentals in the old courtyard houses.
First known as Issercleran, St Cleran’s was built in around 1784 by the Burke family, who were relocating from a nearby ancestral towerhouse. Just twenty years or so later, it was remodelled and extended by the Cork-born architect Richard Morrison (1767-1849). Morrison had trained with James Gandon, and as well as his work at St Cleran’s, had completed projects at St Patrick’s Hospital in Dublin, at Carton House in Kildare, and at Borris House in Carlow. One famous son of the house, Robert O’Hara Burke (1821 - 1861), was the leader of an expedition through Australia which sought to find a route from south to north. A plaque dedicated to him is fastened to the front wall of the house today (see image above). The house and land stayed in possession of the Burke family until the 1950s, when it was sold. Its various owners over the last fifty years have included the film director John Huston and the television host Merv Griffin, who turned it into a hotel in the late 1990s. It was purchased by its current owners, Enda and Ian Quinn, in 2012. Since 2012 they have carried out significant restorations, including the seventeenth-century Sarsfield Bridge, and the two weirs on the Saintclerans river.
Thanks are due to Enda and Ian, who provided us with a wonderful welcome to St Cleran’s. Ian’s enthusiasm for the history of the property meant that our tour was full of interesting nuggets of information. Their generosity in providing us with delicious soup to ward off the chills on what was quite a rainy morning was very much appreciated too!
Around ten years after St Cleran’s was built near Craughwell, Lough Cutra Castle was begun near Gort. Charles Vereker (later Viscount Gort) asked John Nash (1752 - 1835) to build him something similar to the home that Nash had built for himself on the Isle of Wight. This was (the now demolished) East Cowes Castle, a Gothic style country house that featured towers, turrets, and battlements. John Nash was the leading architect of his time, with George IV as his patron, and for whom he extended Buckingham Palace. Nash’s designs at Lough Cutra were supervised by his pupils, the Pain brothers. It was the Lough Cutra project which brought them to Ireland in 1811 (James) and 1816 (George); after this work was completed they stayed and established influential architectural practices in Limerick and Cork. During the nineteenth century, the castle was sold to General Sir William Gough, who extended and remodelled it. It was repurchased by the Vereker family briefly in the 1960s, before being sold again to the present owner. Since then, a programme of restoration has seen improvements to the roofs in particular, as well as to the castle interiors, and to some of the outbuildings. Today the castle is full of life, with holidaying families, weddings, concerts, and even triathlons.
The Chapter would like to thank our hosts there, who welcomed us so warmly, and provided us with a fascinating tour of the castle interiors, the gardens, lakeside, and courtyards.
Written by Rose Anne White (Limerick Chapter)