Conservation Ledwithstown House

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Historical background:

The mid-sized Ledwithstown House has been called a “miniature gem” by historian Robert O’Byrne and was described by the late architectural photographer, Dr. Maurice Craig, as possibly the nicest small Georgian House in Ireland. Rife with intricate plasterwork, detailed wood mouldings and fine stone carvings, Dr. Craig also said of Ledwithstown, “there can be few houses of its size in Ireland more thoroughly designed, and with internal decoration so well integrated.” Ledwithstown is a square house of two floors over groin vaulted basement and attic floor. It has a tripartite doorway with pediment and cut stone steps. It is very well proportioned with brick based cornice, fielded and raised panelling on the ground floor with some shell decorations. There are two staircases, unusual for a house of its size, with egg and dart cornice on the main stair ceiling. The 1st floor plain and dentil cornices, and plaster panels and timber fielded panels with dentil cornice. The house was built for the Ledwith family in 1746 to the designs of renowned Irish architect, Richard Castle. It was maintained by Ledwith family descendants until 1911 when it was sold to Laurence Feeney and it was eventually occupied by a variety of tenants. The magnificent property had become derelict by the 1970s and suffered from a fallen roof and interior rot and damp which severely damaged much of the robust decoration which had been so celebrated. Despite the house’s dilapidated state, in 1980 Laurence Feeney’s grandson became determined to restore the house to its original splendour and began a rigorous programme of repairs.

Brief description of project:

After a visit to the house by Desmond Guinness in 1982, the Irish Georgian Society donated IRP ₤1,000 toward the restoration of the roof which was followed in 1983 with a sum of ₤2,700 to defray the cost of new windows. By 1987 a total of ₤20,000 had been spent to reinstate the roof and render the parapet watertight, of which fifty-percent had been donated by the Irish Georgian Society. Restoration works continued throughout the 1980s and 1990s, however the plasterwork in the main stairhall remained largely destroyed by water ingress which occurred previous to 1980. In 2001 the Irish Georgian Society donated €12,700 for the restoration of the plasterwork, including work to the ceiling rose, cornice, and mouldings. The work entailed closely studying the remnants of the original decorative elements so that these components could be restored with historic accuracy. Later, in 2006, the Society awarded €15,000 toward the restoration of a suite of panelled rooms. Most recently in 2016, the Society pledged €3,000 to aid in a condition report on the roof to gain a clear understanding of the structure and to facilitate a prioritisation of repair works.

Profiles of the existing cornice and paneling were made to ensure that the new additions were true to their original form. The cornice was subsequently reinstated, as was the wooden paneling and wainscotting. Because of grants like those of the Irish Georigan Society, one of Ireland’s architectural gems has now been restored to its former glory.

Architectural description:

Ledwithstown consists of a two storey structure which is three bays wide over a basement, while an symmetrical elevation and central basement door exist to the rear. Broad front steps lead to a tripartite doorway over which is a solid pediment. The doorway side-lights are framed with pilasters on small rusticated bases and the window surrounds contain keystones and bold quoins. A hipped roof behind a parapet surmounts the house.