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.

IGS Conservation Project Highlight: The Lion’s Gate at Mote Park

13.07.2020

Posted by IGS

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IGS visiting the Lion's Gate at Mote Park with Mote Park Conservation Group, prior to its conservation

The following text was written by David Molloy of Roscommon Heritage and featured in the 2016 edition of the Irish Georgian Society Review.

Mote Park came into the possession of the Crofton family in the 1660’s. They lived there up until the 1950s and the period of the family’s residence was to see the evolution of Ireland and in particular Roscommon, in terms of politics and economics, and the evolution of fashion in terms of landscaping and architecture. The family had a number of branches around the country. The early photographer Augusta Crofton was a member of one of these familial boughs.

Mote Park House was the centre piece of the demesne. It had been rebuilt in the 1860s following a fire. One of the estate features is its imposing entrance gate/archway dating from 1787, of which there were a few. The original Athlone/Roscommon main road runs over a gentle incline followed by a steep descent. From the ‘gentler’ side a road led to this locally sourced limestone entrance, that included an iconic lion and globe. Its flanks are surmounted by an urn on each. Built around the time of the previous 1860s house, the gate is thought to have Gandon influences.

The lion is comprised of Coadestone, a composite invented by Eleanor Coade and made from crushed sand, porcelain and glass, heated to a high temperature. Moulded and with a hollow stomach, the lion appears like stone but its detail has proved more long lasting. Access to the interior is through the mouth and this has provided a home/hive for bees for many decades —they stood guard and possibly protected the lion from vandalism or theft.

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Close up view of Coade stone lion prior to its removal for conservation

Following the construction of a new Athlone/Roscommon road on the Ballymurray side of the estate, the original entrance fell into disuse. The lion faces down towards the site of the house with its rear to the old original road. The structure cannot be seen from any of the roads and is approached by an avenue. However, it could be seen from the house. Roscommon Heritage Group had previously re-roofed the Crofton mausoleum and conserved its fine interior nearby. Over the past 20 years or so the Group has engaged with the owners (the Rogers family) whose Grandfather had rescued it from demolition. Initial repairs included removal of growth and realigning the upper level significant stones.

We are fortunate to have an Architect on the Committee, Ms. Mary O’Carroll. As secretary she guided us on approaches and submissions to make further conversation. In parallel with our work, Eilish Feeley and her Mote Park Conservation Group have overseen the introduction of walks and preservation of areas of interest with an emphasis on flora and wildlife. It has made our tasks more appealing.

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Re-installation of the restored Coade stone lion at Mote Park

The condition of the lion had begun to deteriorate at an alarming rate, with cracks appearing on the limbs. The Irish Georgian Society (in particular Primrose Wilson) approached us. Following a report by Eoghan Daltun Sculpture Ltd., it became obvious that repair was urgent.

The bees within the lion posed a serious problem. Over a period of months, local beekeepers, Jimmy Gleeson and Frank Kenny extracted new hives to keep the strain alive. NUIG was given samples to examine the possibility of the bees being virus free and healthy. It was decided to send the lion to Steve Pettifer, Coadestone Ltd. of Wilton, Wiltshire, UK. Steve had not seen this particular design before.

Following the lion’s head being bound the night before, it was disconnected (with some difficulty) by local builder, Gerry Dervin and his son Eoin. As it was removed from its plinth, the paws and globe fell off. Frank Scott (committee member) had the free loan of a van from Nick Craigie, Extraction Ltd. and drove to Wiltshire for six hours (it transpired there were two Wiltons—but the sat nav didn’t know!).

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Re-installation of the restored Coade stone lion at Mote Park

Advised by Nollaig Feeney, Roscommon County Council Heritage Officer, it was prepared for travel. Within two to three weeks it was collected and returned to its site-looking magnificent and a testament to an innovative woman ahead of her time.

In addition to a grant of €10,000 from IGS London and a further grant of €3,000 from IGS Inc, funding was also provided by Roscommon County Council, the Dept. for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, The Follies Trust, Roscommon Heritage Group and anonymous donations.

The conservation of the Coade Stone lion at Mote Park in 2016 by the Roscommon Heritage Group was supported through a grant of €10,000 from IGS London and further support from IGS Inc (USA), as well as funding from Roscommon County Council, the Dept. for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, The Follies Trust, Roscommon Heritage Group and anonymous donations.

Between 2000 and 2020, through the support of its members in IGS Inc and IGS London, the Irish Georgian Society has awarded in excess of €1.25m through its conservation grants programme to building conservation projects throughout Ireland.

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The City Assembly House is open!

03.07.2020

Posted by IGS

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The Irish Georgian Society offices and the City Assembly House will reopen on Monday 6 July. The safety of our visitors and staff is our paramount concern and is central to our reopening plans. We will be enforcing social distancing measures and limiting the number of visitors to the building at any one time. We are undertaking a number of social distancing measures, details of which are available below.

Hand sanitiser for visitors is provided in the entrance hall and exhibition room.

PPE (Personal Protective Equipment)

  • Masks are worn at your own discretion.
  • Disposable masks and gloves are available for volunteers and visitors from the bookshop.
  • Please dispose of used PPE in the bin provided in the entrance hall and wash your hands after removal.

Social Distancing

  • There is floor vinyl throughout the entrance hall and exhibition room, indicating the 2m distance recommended for social distancing.
  • Please maintain a 2m distance from staff and volunteers and respect their personal space. Avoid all physical contact, such as handshakes, etc.

Bathrooms

  • All bathrooms are closed to the public. They are available for use of staff and volunteers only.

CAH Entrance

  • Hand sanitiser is available at entrance
  • Floor vinyl indicates 2m distance
  • Queuing system in operation for admittance to bookshop, indicated by tape on steps
  • Sandwich board signage, indicating measures being taken and maximum number of people permitted into building as 10 at any one time

Bookshop

  • The bookshop is not accessible for browsing, a ‘click and collect’ service for online shop and phone orders is in operation.
  • Protective screen has been placed at entrance to shop and contactless payment is preferred.
  • Protective gloves are available for cash handling.

Exhibition Room

  • Doors to exhibition room are propped open for entry
  • Disposable masks available for volunteers to wear if they wish (from bookshop)
  • Vinyl stickers are placed on floor around room indicating 2m distance

Office

  • There is a limited number of staff in the office; some staff will continue to work from home for the foreseeable.
  • Office appointments and meetings are to be made in advance, Zoom promoted for committee meetings.

Thank you for your compliance at this time.

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Exhibition - 'Dublin Fragments: The Pearson Collection', 6 to 31 July 2020

03.07.2020

Posted by IGS

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Dublin Fragments: The Pearson Collection
6 to 31 July 2020

Open Monday to Friday, 10.00am to 5.00pm
City Assembly House, 58 South William Street, Dublin 2
#DublinFragments

This Spring the Irish Georgian Society are delighted to present Dublin Fragments: The Pearson Collection curated by artist Peter Pearson.

This exhibition of architectural fragments and installations presents a dazzling display of Dublin craftsmanship. Today, most significant buildings are protected, thus it is (or should be) impossible to salvage such artefacts as these rescued since the sixties from demolished buildings.

Seen here out of their natural settings, this display of fanlight and plasterwork, architrave and woodwork, cast and wrought iron only accentuates their intrinsic beauty. The creativity of those talented craftsmen show mementos of a time and people long gone. Much has been written about whole streets razed, mostly between 1960 and 1990, and there are many fascinating photographs of what has been lost. Here too are items from public buildings: one of the iron cramps from the Custom House which caused so much damage to its stonework; a plasterwork acorn from the Four Courts rescued before the 1920 fire; City Hall plasterwork; and there’s a decorative toilet from Dublin castle!

When does a few items become a collection? When there are several examples of the same type of railing head, you have the basis of a collection. The speed of demolition in Dublin city and county in the 1980s made it possible to acquire these objects, but they did not simply fall out of the sky! Attempts were first made through the Planning process to prevent such destruction. Often being unsuccessful, this led to the hour of demolition - if one was lucky enough to know when it might happen. In general, nobody wanted to save anything and developers were keen to clear a site speedily. Some of the bigger elements were recycled - slates from two houses went for the re-roofing of Drimnagh Castle; joists, floorboards, doors and mouldings were always useful. Rescuing ironwork balconies or plasterwork required time, tools, dexterity, help from like-minded friends, and transport. Much was moved on the back of motorbikes; cars were willingly lent for larger items. Plasterwork had to be detached, sometimes using a hatchet, whilst balancing on makeshift scaffolds made out of old wardrobes and joists.

The black filth of demolition, dust in the eyes, splinters and sharp nails were all routine hazards, not to mention the lifting of very heavy stones and timbers! Lastly, space was needed to store everything – usually in basements or outside sheds.

This form of collecting fragments from a wide range of Dublin’s built heritage can be regarded as a sort of archaeology of the 18th and 19th centuries, except these items never got the chance to be buried. On another level, like some archaeological artefacts, these exhibits are artistic pieces in their own right illustrating aspects of the building of this city and reflect the social history of those times.

The collection has been displayed publicly on several occasions since 1991: at the Guinness Hop Store; Dublin Castle; Collins Barracks [IGS]; Cork [IGS} and Bonhams Dublin.

Much of this collection was professionally photographed in 2003 by the Irish Georgian Society. Each item was described and its provenance noted.

Peter Pearson Dublin, February 2020


Artist’s biography

Peter Pearson is an artist and writer who has always been attracted to the physical heritage of his native Dublin. He has had a lifelong interest in documenting and protecting the architectural and natural heritage of Ireland and his paintings reflect this. In his work there are recurring themes of decay and destruction alongside celebration of architecture and building – but there is a certain ambiguity in the beauty of a decaying Georgian house – its mellow brickwork, its shattered fanlight and its mangled railings.

This exhibition is complemented by a selling exhibition of Peter Pearson’s paintings of Dublin scenes. A commission from these paintings will go toward supporting the Irish Georgian Society’s conservation and education programmes.

The Irish Georgian Society gratefully acknowledges the assistance of the following donors and supporters for the Dublin Fragments exhibition: IGS London, John Barber DL and John Nolan, Camilla and Dermot McAleese, Susannah McAleese and Sara Moorhead.

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IGS statement on Programme for Government

29.06.2020

Posted by IGS

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Design for the entrance front of Leinster House by Richard Castle (Image courtesy of the Irish Architectural Archive)

The Irish Georgian Society congratulates Darragh O'Brien TD on his appointment as Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage and wishes him every success in delivering the Built Heritage objectives of the new Programme for Government.

The Society welcomes the commitments made in the Programme for Government to Ireland’s built heritage though fulfilling these effectively will require the provision of necessary funding and other resources. Of note is the support pledged for conservation grants programmes, for the roles of Heritage Officers and the objective to appoint Conservation & Repurposing Officers in each county. It is hoped that the goal of devising an apprenticeship programme for traditional building skills will be prioritised and that plans to expand the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage will build on the excellent work done over the last two decades. The IGS is also encouraged by the document’s goal to publish and implement a new heritage policy through Heritage Ireland 2030.

Read the full statement here.

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The Irish Country House and the Art of John Nankivell​: Strokestown House, Co. Roscommon

24.06.2020

Posted by IGS

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Strokestown House, Co. Roscommon

Here is a side of Strokestown rarely seen, a house so well known since its acquisition in 1979, and familiar now largely as the centre for the commemoration of the Great Irish Famine, with a national museum to the tragedy housed in the outbuildings. A lopsided, creeper-draped bow, filled with big light-giving windows, it represents the elegant terminal wall of a Regency drawing room, an appendage made as part of the alterations to the house in 1819. Strokestown is the first great Palladian house west of the Shannon, where even by 1832 ‘none other approaches near it, whether in extent of demesne or grandeur of mansion’, and yet even with the rare survival of its archive the building history has been poorly documented. It is usually dated to about 1730, and attributed to Richard Castle for Thomas Mahon, although family tradition has always insisted, improbably, that its construction began in 1696, the date carved on a stone preserved at the house that most likely belongs to a predecessor.

The family origins in Roscommon can be traced well before this date to Captain Nicholas Mahon, an officer distinguished for his devoted loyalty to Charles I and Charles II through the Civil Wars, who for that loyalty was granted Strokestown as a royal deer park, with a great estate in Roscommon besides. Thomas Mahon was his grandson and serving as an MP for Roscommon from 1739-1763, became in Parliament ‘father of the house’ so that it naturally befitted his position and dynastic ambitions to build a classical house to rival those of his parliamentary peers. Ensuring such grandiose architecture did not languish in these remote wetlands of Connaught, this vast improvable bog was fully exploited by Mahon and his heirs, their estate eventually prospering and increasing over time to some 30,000 acres, the great house a constant at its centre, set with a benign authority in its rarefied demesne, fixed on the stupendous ringstrasse-rivalling, tree-lined Main Street, its other-worldliness mediated by an arched Gothic gateway.

In 1800, in return for supporting the Union, Thomas’s son Maurice Mahon was granted a peerage, created 1st Baron Hartland. His son Thomas, succeeding as 2nd Baron, immediately began remodelling the house, employing the architect John Lynn who had recently helped complete Nash’s Rockingham, to attempt to give this lumbering Palladian mansion some of the same Regency grace. By adding the shallow bow-ended drawing room Strokestown instantly became à la mode but the remodelled entrance front - given a beaming fanlit doorcase under a tetrastyle Ionic portico - was altogether less successful. As part of the process the heavy, pedimented Palladian frontispiece on the first floor was removed (reused now as a two-dimensional garden temple), and the newly stuccoed façade was broken up instead by a row of tall panelled pilasters overlaid on series of stringcourses, under a thinly moulded cornice and crowning balustraded parapet in stone, the cornice lacking enough emphasis for its purpose; the acroterian blocks above the pilasters and the panels carved with strigillation flanking the plain central die - which all appear a little to indistinctly - are features that are especially reminiscent of Soane, whose work was presumably known to the English-born Lynn.

When his lunatic brother, the 3rd Baron died in 1845, the Hartland title became extinct, and Strokestown passed to a cousin, Major Denis Mahon but the earnest programme of evictions carried out on his behalf on the estate soon cost him his life when he was murdered in November 1847 at the height of the Great Famine. Succeeded by his daughter Grace and her husband Henry Packenham, who assumed the name Mahon, their granddaughter Olive Hales-Pakenham-Mahon was the last of the family to live there, selling it in 1979 to Westland Garage, just before her death in 1981.

The above text, written by Kevin V. Mulligan, is from the catalogue that accompanied the 2018 exhibition 'Vain Transitory Splendours': The Irish Country House and the Art of John Nankivell, and it can be purchased online from the IGS bookshop.

You can purchase some of John Nankivell's drawings from the IGS bookshop.

Kevin V. Mulligan is an independent architectural historian.

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Exhibiting Art in Georgian Ireland: The Society of Artists's Exhibitions Recreated: George Mullins

22.06.2020

Posted by IGS

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Landscape with Bathers, George Mullins, oil on canvas (Irish Heritage Trust)

George Mullins (1756-c.1786) was a pupil of James Mannin in the Dublin Society Drawing School of Landscape and Ornament around 1756, George Mullins was first employed in the Wyse manufactory in Waterford, painting the lids of tins and snuffboxes. After returning to Dublin, he married the proprietress of an alehouse in Temple bar and lived there for some years. During which time, he submitted three landscapes to the first Society of Artists' Exhibition in 1765 and continued to exhibit landscapes with them up until 1769. In 1768 he was employed by Lord Charlemont to complete four Italian-style landscapes for his home in Marino. He traveled to London in 1770 and exhibited with the Royal Academy until 1775.

To mark the second anniversary of our exhibition 'Exhibiting Art in Georgian Ireland: The Society of Artists's Exhibitions Recreated', which opened at the City Assembly House in June 2018, we have been sharing some the works of the artists whose works were assembled in the original exhibitions (1765-80).

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