Irish Georgian Society

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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.

Visitor Centre at the Hell Fire Club

29.09.2017

Posted by IGS

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The Society submitted a response to the proposed development of a ‘Dublin Mountains Visitor Centre’ at Coillte’s Hell Fire and Massy’s Wood in the Dublin mountains. This submission noted the potential for the development to have a significant negative impact on the architectural, archaeological and cultural heritage of the area and to compromise the integrity of the historic and designed landscapes. It further emphasised the importance of any development at the site to be informed by a comprehensive assessment of the sensitivities and significance of the historic landscapes and their architectural, archaeological and cultural heritage significance. Read the full submission here.

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Limerick Chapter visits Ledwithstown House and Tullynally Castle

25.09.2017

Posted by IGS

On Sunday 10th September 2017, members of the Limerick Chapter of the Irish Georgian Society enjoyed a wonderful day out to Longford and Westmeath, visiting two important historic houses over the course of the morning and afternoon. 

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The Feeney family of Ledwithstown House in Ballymahon were extraordinarily generous in sharing the history, restoration, and current life of their home with our group. Built for the Ledwith family in 1746 to the designs of renowned Irish architect, Richard Castle, the house is known as a 'a miniature gem' because of its intricate plasterwork, detailed wood mouldings, and fine stone carvings. The ongoing restoration of this beautiful home to its original splendour is a model for Irish buildings in similar situations. 

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In the afternoon, we visited Tullynally Castle, by kind permission of the Pakenham family, who arranged a great tour guide for us with Bartle D'Arcy. Originally a plain semi-fortified plantation house, then altered to a comfortable Georgian mansion during the eighteenth century, the building was transformed into a Gothic Revival castle by Francis Johnston in 1803, and again enlarged in the early 1840s with two enormous wings and a central tower, to the designs of Sir Richard Morrison. Bartle showed us through selected ground-floor rooms, and entertained us thoroughly with many fabulous stories. We later walked through the magical gardens of Tullynally, with a map provided to guide us through the many features and follies. 

 

The Limerick Chapter would like to thank our hosts in both historic houses for providing us with a really spectacular day out. All funds raised through tickets for this day trip go towards our Small Works Grant Scheme, a project which is focused on repairing the historic street features of Limerick City. 

 

 

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Desmond Guinness Scholarship 2017 open for applications

14.09.2017

Posted by IGS

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Desmond Guinness Scholarship 2017

The Desmond Guinness Scholarship is awarded annually by the Irish Georgian Society to an applicant or applicants engaged in research on the visual arts of Ireland including the work of Irish architects, artists and craftsmen at home and abroad, 1600-1900.  

Preference will be given to work based on original documentary research. The Scholarship is intended primarily for applicants who are not yet established at an advanced professional level in research or publication of the visual arts. From 2015, the Scholarship has been supported by members of the Society's London Chapter.

The Scholarship does not have to be awarded in any one year, and the decision of the assessors, appointed by the Irish Georgian Society, is final.

The total value of the scholarship fund available for distribution is in the region of €1,000.

Application forms must be submitted (by post) by 2.00pm, Tuesday 31st October 2017.

Download an application form and guidelines here

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Irish Georgian Society Conservation Grants 2017

12.09.2017

Posted by IGS

Image-3.JPG#asset:7755Members of Irish Georgian Society London with Ashleigh Murray (left), Committee Chair and Primrose Wilson (right), Chair of the Conservation Grants Committee

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Members of Irish Georgian Society London with grant awardees at the grants announcement in Tea Lane Graveyard, Celbridge, Co. Kildare

The recipients of the Irish Georgian Society's Conservation Grants Scheme 2017 was announced on Friday at a small ceremony at Tea Lane Graveyard, Celbridge, Co. Kildare. In all, nine building conservation projects around the country were awarded €50,000 in total of grants. This is the fourth successive year of the Society’s Small Grants Scheme with total funding provided so far amounting to in excess of €200,000.

The conservation projects to receive grants this year include churches and a mausoleum in Counties Kildare and Mayo, and historic houses in Counties Cork, Laois and Mayo. These grants will support essential roof and wall works as well as the conservation of architectural features in need of urgent repair.

The Irish Georgian Society’s grants programme has been supported through the work of its London Chapter whose members organise events throughout the year in aid of Ireland’s built heritage. These grants help owners and guardians of architecturally important historic buildings to fund essential works which may not otherwise be possible.

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Maunsell Chapel (c.1820), Tea Lane cemetery, Celbridge, Co. Kildare
The Maunsell Chapel was constructed in 1820 by the Maunsell family of nearby Oakley Park and adjoins an earlier mausoleum of the Conolly family of Castletown. It lies within the Tea Lane Graveyard whose origins extend back to Early Christian times with associations with Saint Mochua and is situated alongside the remains of a medieval church. The restoration of the mausoleum is being led by the Tea Lane Graveyard Committee whose aim is the conservation and preservation of this significant heritage area. 

Grant awarded: €6,500

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Stradbally Hall (late 18C), Co. Laois

Water ingress and the onset of damp can have a disastrous impact on historic buildings. This is understood at Stradbally Hall, Co. Laois, a late-18th-century country house that was substantially renovated in c.1868 in the Italianate style by the English architect Charles Lanyon (1813-1889). Last year we assisted with the repair of striking decorative chimneystacks. The works this year involve the continuation of their roof repair programme with the repair of the lead valley gutters on the roof and portico, which are allowing water to penetrate the structure, damaging internal decorative plasterwork.  

Grant awarded: €6,000

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Old Parochial House (late 19C), Monkstown, Co. Cork

We are also supporting external repairs at the Old Parochial House in Monkstown, Co. Cork. This building was designed by Edward Welby Pugin (1834-1875), eldest son of the illustrious English architect Augustus Pugin (1812-1852), with the aid Irish architect George Coppinger Ashlin (1837-1921). Moisture has always been an issue due to the location of this red-brick building by the sea. The owners have previously hosted a Brickwork Conservation and Repair CPD course and have undertaken low-level repointing of the brickwork. Grant aid is sought to complete the repointing works to protect the building from further water ingress.

Grant awarded: €4,000

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O’Brien Column (c. 1858), Liscannor, Co. Clare

The O’Brien column in Liscannor, Co. Clare, also suffers from water issues. Designed by J Petty Esq, the column was erected in c. 1858 by public subscription in memory of Cornelius O’Brien, a local MP and improving landlord. O’Brien was also responsible for opening up the Cliffs of Moher to tourists by creating paved walks and erecting the c. 1835 O’Brien Tower. The c. 80ft fluted Doric column is an important landmark feature, situated on an impressive site overlooking Liscannor Bay and O’Brien’s former home. The Follies Trust and the Friends of the O’Brien column will carry out careful conservation of the structure, including stabilising its crowning decorative urn which is in danger of collapse.  

Grant awarded: €6,000

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St Johns Church (c.1810-1820), Ballycastle, Co. Mayo

External repair works are required at St Johns Church, Ballycastle, Co. Mayo. This c.1810-1820 church was built under the Board of First Fruits and is attributed to the Irish architect John Bowden (d.1822). The recent discovery of ‘mud mortar’, forming part of the original construction of the church’s tower, has added a level urgency to the works. 

Grant awarded: €2,500

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The Church of Saint John the Evangelist (c. 1815), Monasterevin, Co Kildare

The Church of Saint John the Evangelist, Monasterevin, Co Kildare, was built in c.1815 with a plan possibly inspired by the Board of First Fruits churches. Its fine iron entrance gate is thought to have been relocated from the Moore Abbey demise by the Marquess of Drogheda. Aid is sought for the restoration of this ornate entrance; not only will this improve the appearance the building, it will also enhance the streetscape due to the prominent location of the church on the town’s main street.  

Grant awarded: €3,000

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Town Hall (c.1863), Mountmellick, Co. Laois

Townscape improvements are also proposed in Mountmellick, Co. Laois, where extensive repair works are proposed to the street-facing elevation of the Town Hall. This gable-fronted building was designed in 1863 by the architect William Caldbeck (1824-1872) and is located in the town centre.  

Grant awarded: €5,000

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Ballinrobe House (c. 1740), Ballinrobe, Co. Mayo

Our funding this year also supports the restoration of the original entrance door of Ballinrobe House, Ballinrobe, Co. Mayo. Originally built for Captain Courtney Kenny (1702-1779), this c. 1740 seven-bay house retains plasterwork reported to be by the famous Lafranchini brothers. The house has remained derelict for some years and there is evidence of fire. The current owners are now working through a careful programme of repair to restore this beautiful residential building.  

Grant awarded: €7,000

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St Micheal & All Angels (late 19C), Sallins, Co. Kildare

A number of churches require assistance this year due to a range of issues. St Micheal & All Angels, Sallins, Co. Kildare, is a late-19th-century church by the architect James Franklin Fuller (1835-1924). An unfortunate fire in 1947 destroyed internal timber features and also caused smoke damage. The works involve the removal of smoke staining to the decorative Cloisonné (enamelled copper) wall panels by Clement John Heaton (1861-1940), to reveal their beautiful colours and detailing. 

Grant awarded: €5,000

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IGS Submission to DCC re: proposed office development by Reliance Investments Ltd at Aldborough House

31.08.2017

Posted by IGS

Dublin City Council
Planning Department
Civic Offices
Block 4, Ground Floor
Wood Quay
Dublin 8

22nd August 2017

 

Re:         Application by Reliance Investments Ltd for planning permission for conservation and restoration works and the development of an office development with a total gross floor area of 14,720 sq m on a site of 0.4840 hectares at Aldborough House, Portland Row, Dublin 1, a protected structure.

 

Dublin City Council Planning Reg. Ref.:           3457/17

Date of Lodgement of application:                   19th July 2017

 

Dear Sir or Madam,

The Irish Georgian Society (of City Assembly House, 58 South William Street, Dublin 2) wishes to make an observation on the application by Reliance Investments Ltd for the development for conservation and restoration works and the construction of a new office development at Aldborough House, Portland Road, Dublin 1, a protected structure (DCC Reg. Ref. 3457/17). To that end, we enclose payment, in accordance with the provisions of the Planning and Development Regulations, 2001, as amended, in the sum of €20.00, as payment of the submission fee.

Aldborough House, a building of national architectural heritage importance, is described in the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage (NIAH) as one of Dublin's great eighteenth-century mansions’. The NIAH entry for Aldborough House goes on to explain the significance of this ‘imposing Palladian mansion’ as follows: ‘The survival of Aldborough House contributes to the sense of continuity, interest and significance of this area of Dublin, which at the time of its construction was the north-eastern fringe of the city, overlooking the newly-opened Royal Canal.’

Aldborough House has suffered from neglect and lack of essential maintenance since falling into vacancy subsequent to the downturn in the property market. However, notwithstanding vandalism and arson attacks, the house remains largely intact, albeit in a poor state of repair. The Society welcomes proposals for the refurbishment and restoration of Aldborough House and acknowledges that some measure of new development must take place on the site in order to ensure the continued viability of the building. However, it is of critical importance that any new development on the site:

  • Be informed by a comprehensive, objective and evidence-based assessment of Aldborough House, its character and its architectural and cultural heritage importance; and
  • Complement Aldborough House in terms of scale so as not to compromise the character and special interest of this nationally important building.

Conservation Plan does not adequately describe the Significant Architectural Heritage Value of Aldborough House

It is a disappointment that the report entitled ‘Conservation Plan’, which accompanies the planning application, would seem to downplay the significance of the house, but without adducing any objective evidence that would support this position. The Society is concerned that numerous subjective statements throughout the report, when read in conjunction with certain somewhat misleading or unsupported statements, could be misconstrued as meaning that Aldborough House is of considerably lesser importance than it is. It is important that the architectural heritage value of Aldborough House is assessed objectively and the elements of the structure which contribute to its special architectural, historical, archaeological, artistic, cultural, scientific, social or technical interest’ identified with reference to impartial evidence to ensure that any new development does not undermine the value of this nationally-important protected structure. A number of areas of particular concern within the Conservation Plan are identified below.

The author states, on page 3, that ‘It is not the work of an architect of note and is generally thought to have been a collaboration between the Second Earl and a series of tradesmen, with minor inputs from a number of lesser known architects.’ This statement contradicts entries within the Dictionary of Irish Architects (www.dia.ie), an essay by Dr Aidan O’Boyle on the construction history of Aldborough House published in the Irish Georgian Society’s Irish Architectural and Decorative Studies Vol. 4 (2001) and the entry for Aldborough House in the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage. While it is clearly evident that the Earl of Aldborough was actively involved in the design and construction of the house, it is also evident that Richard Johnston was engaged as an architect by Aldborough. Johnston would be regarded by many as a prominent and fashionable architect in his day and was architect for several prominent buildings including Daly’s Clubhouse on College Green and portions of the Rotunda Assembly Rooms. Payments between 1793 and 1796 would suggest a continuing involvement with the house while Daniel Murphy was employed as site architect and stone mason – a relatively common practice at that time. The author does not adduce any evidence, which would refute this comprehensively researched and well established understanding of the design and construction of Aldborough House.

The author goes on to makes a number of subjective and dismissive statements about Aldborough House, describing it as ‘relatively plain’, ‘mediocre’ and goes so far as to state that it is ‘not a beautiful building’. The author does not explain these statements by referencing relevant evidence or consensus of the architectural community. In the absence of this, it is difficult to understand the basis upon which a building accepted as being a nationally important exemplar of Georgian architecture in Ireland could be considered ‘mediocre’. Moreover, the Society is deeply troubled by the implications that diminishing the value of Aldborough House in a Conservation Plan, the stated aim of which is to ‘assess the cultural significance of the house, and remaining grounds, in the context of Dublin architecture from the late Georgian period’ (emphasis added), could have for the appreciation and long term conservation of other Georgian buildings of lesser signficance within Dublin and across the country.

When read in conjunction with certain unsubstantiated statements or statements that fail to reference established practice of the time, there is a risk that such comments could wrongly be interpreted as meaning that Aldborough House is without architectural merit. For example:

(a)        At page 11, the author states: ‘The architectural language of the interior is relatively plain with most of the decoration being well-worked standard catalogue designs, rather than in hand-crafted work unique to the house.’ The author fails to substantiate or reference the charge that the internal decoration was purloined from ‘catalogues’.

(b)        Similarly, the author states at, page 21, that ‘As a work of architecture it is mediocre at best and now stripped of most of its external and internal decorative features, the house has little more than age and scale to commend it.’ While much of the interior has been damaged, many of the principal rooms retain original joinery and plasterwork features, to say nothing of the staircases. As for the exterior of the building, with the exception of the chapel wing and balustrades, the exterior of the building is substantially intact.

(c)        The author goes on to suggest, at page 22, that ‘The decorative elements, be they sculptural or in bas-relief, are all cast elements from standard moulds, rather than hand modelled work of the type that would be found in Russborough or Leinster House.’ The Society questions the purpose of this statement, which appears to completely downplay the surviving decorative elements as merely ‘cast’ elements. The author, however, fails to inform that by the late 18th century casting of decorative details had become the normal practise in most houses, large and small. Similarly, the two houses singled out for comparative purposes, Russborough House and Leinster House, are about 50 years older than Aldborough House. They are in a completely different architectural style and employed hand modelled decoration as casting of the high relief decoration which was fashionable when they were built was not possible. These houses are, therefore, in the Society’s opinion, inappropriate comparisons and their selection does not assist in making a balanced informed assessment of the architectural and decorative significance of Aldborough House.

(d)        The statement, at page 23: ‘Aldborough House is not a beautiful building, nor was it ‘a successful building in terms of its use as a residence.’’ would seem to suggest that the reason for the building not remaining long in use as a residence was on the grounds of its architectural qualities. A similar statement is made on p. 19 and p. 58. However, the Conservation Plan completely ignores the fact that following the Act of Union, and the migration of political magnates and grandees to London, most of these large townhouses were no longer needed as residences. Aldborough House was only one of several large townhouses, including Leinster House, Powerscourt House, Belvedere House and Tyrone House, which fell out of use as residences and were adapted to institutional uses in the years following the Union.

(e)        The Conservation Plan states, on page 58, that ‘Contained within high boundary walls and obscured by subsequent development, the house contributes nothing to its immediate surroundings.’ This is an unhelpful statement as it almost suggests that the house is largely invisible within the urban context. Aldborough House is a dominant feature on Portland Row and is a key historic and cultural landmark in this part of the city. At present, the bulk of at least three sides of the house are clearly visible over its boundary walls from several vantage points within the area. It is noted that the proposed development will largely obscure the two side elevations and will obstruct raking views of the front elevation from along Portland Row and from the North Strand at Five Lamps.

The Society is also concerned by the basis for the rationale for the chosen design approach. Specifically, in justifying the design approach for the new additions to Aldborough House Section 4.1. of the Design Statement states: ‘that there are numerous precedents in Dublin of large historic houses being absorbed into the urban grain.’ However, none of the exemplars presented have been absorbed into the urban grain in the manner proposed for Aldborough House. From the outset, both Belvedere House and Charlemont House were always intended to be flanked by tall four-storey over basement town houses. Powerscourt House was built as a free-standing mansion in an existing urban streetscape flanked by smaller scale townhouses. Iveagh House was also a free-standing house flanked by smaller four-storey townhouses before it was extended in the later 19th century.

Moreover, the Conservation Plan states, on page 43, that the rear and side elevations ‘were not designed to be seen from the public domain’ and that are plain brick facades – and presumably therefore of little significance. When first built, and as is the case today, these elevations are highly visible from the public domain owing to the scale of the house and the surrounding walls and, in the opinion of the Society, it is unture to suggest that the original architect would not have been aware of this. While the facades are built in brick rather than stone, they have limestone platbands at ground and first-floor level while at roof level there is a full entablature with a moulded cornice and blocking course. Therefore, these facades cannot be regarded as entirely plain. It is also noted that Christine Casey states that the facades were originally plastered and lined and ruled out. It would also appear that these facades, along with the front elevation had an open balustered parapet surmounted by urns and statues. These features are shown on no less than four engravings as follows:

  • 1796 engraving by William Skelton of proposed design on page 7 of the conservation plan
  • Engraving of the front and rear elevations of the house in 1821 on pages 3 & 10
  • 1836 Penny Journal engraving on page 20.

While it is possible that these images were the subject of artistic license, it would be remarkable that three different artists employed the same artistic licence over a forty year period. It should also be noted that the open parapets and urns would to some extent have acted as a counterpoint to the severity of the façades. This should be taken into consideration when considering the architectural merits of the facades. However, it would appear that this has not been done in the Conservation Plan.

Scale of new development on the Aldborough House lands

While the Irish Georgian Society recognises that securing the future of Aldborough House will require compromise, it is essential that the architectural character and significance of the house is protected and maintained as far as possible. The subject application proposes to increase the quantum of floorspace on what little remains of the original setting of Aldborough House by approximately 550% (from 2,679 sq m to 14,720 sq m). The Society has grave concerns about the scale and intensity of new development and the extent of internal alteration proposed for this nationally significant building of architectural heritage significance.

It is respectfully submitted that consideration should be given to the following:

  • The omission of the proposed mezzanines in the first-floor rooms. The scale and height of the first-floor rooms is an essential characteristic of the house and this should not be compromised. The Architectural Heritage Protection Guidelines are clear that “The plan-form of a building is one of its most important characteristics. Where the original plan-form remains, or is readily discernible, it should be identified and respected.”
  • The omission of the corridors linking the office blocks to the main house at second-floor level. This would reduce the degree to which the main house is subsumed into the new development and would allow the profile of the original house to be clearly read against the skyline.
  • Revision of the design of the new office blocks to reduce the impact of new structures on the character and setting of the protected structure. Having regard to the importance of Aldborough House, any new development on the site should be subsidiary to the protected structure. The original house should be the dominant building in views of the site, particularly in views from Portland Row. At a minimum, no element of the proposal should rise above the parapet of Aldborough House, but consideration should be given to reducing the overall height of each of the office blocks to ensure new elements do not appear overly dominant and overbearing in views to and from the protected structure.

The Irish Georgian Society believes that it is essential that the works and repairs to the original house are undertaken at the earliest opportunity to ensure that the building is secured and that there is no further loss of significance. On this basis, the Society requests that Dublin City Council make it a condition of any grant of planning permission that the repairs to the main house commence are undertaken to the satisfaction of the council’s conservation officer, conservation office or an appropriate qualified agent prior to the commencement of any other development on the application site.

Please do not hesitate to contact us if we can be of any further assistance.

Yours faithfully,

Donough Cahill

Executive Director, Irish Georgian Society

 

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Summer Docklands Walking Tour - Saturday, 26th August 2017

30.08.2017

Posted by IGS

Last Saturday, 26 August 2017, Joseph Lynch brought members to explore the Grand Canal Dock. Joseph begins his tour at the Waterways Ireland Visitor Centre where he tracks the early development of docklands in the 18th century changing the shape of Dublin city right through to exploring the recent changes that has created a new urban landscape.

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