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.

The IGS Bookshop Presents: A Christmas Gift Guide


Posted by IGS

Christmas Gift Guide

The IGS team has specially curated a bookshop gift guide for you and yours during this Christmas season! Stop by the City Assembly House between now and 23rd December to do your holiday shopping.

Bookshop hours are Monday through Saturday, 10AM to 5PM. The shop will be closed starting 24 December and will reopen on 5th January. If you plan to shop online - make sure to check out the 2021 Christmas final post dates so your package arrives at its final destination before the 24th of December.

With the countdown to Christmas well and truly on - we've rounded up our favorite publications and stocking stuffers that are sure to make someone very happy! All items are currently in stock in the bookshop and also available at

€20.00, Zest Publications, 2020 Hardback, 108 pages. Artists Eva and Letitia Hamilton and their four sisters lived through the transition from British rule to a newly independent Ireland. They had to adapt to a conservative and patriarchal society in which roles for women were clearly defined. Navigating this environment required compromise and determination. This book book narrates how they made that journey.

€45.00, Irish Academic Press, 2021 Hardback, 308 pages. This book tells the untold story of the women who were the faces of the British administration in Ireland. As the wives of the country’s viceroys, the vicereines were once the fashionable figureheads of social, cultural and charitable life at Dublin Castle, in the days before Irish independence. Exploring the portraits, papers and personal objects they left behind, this book sets out to recapture their lost legacies. Fabrics shimmer, flowers blossom and pearls glint in the painted world of the vicereines. But behind these genteel images were activists and advocates who, as the studies in this book reveal, touched almost every facet of Irish life. Campaigns to develop hospitals, relieve poverty, promote Irish fashions, and, remarkably, mitigate what several perceived as the injustices of British rule in Ireland, are just some of their overlooked initiatives. The experiences and papers of the vicereines have much to tell us, not only about official Ireland but also about those whose identities are largely lost to history, such as orphans, artisans and the working poor. Often sympathetic but sometimes apathetic, the contrasting attitudes of the vicereines suggest a fresh, more inclusive reading of the British administration in Ireland, as viewed not only through its men but also its women. Featuring essays by leading scholars and based on original sources, including diaries and letters, this beautifully illustrated book brings together text and image to create new and illuminating portraits of forgotten women.
€39.00, Hardback, 568 pages. Cork University Press, 2020. This major illustrated study investigates farmhouse and cabin furniture from all over the island of Ireland. It discusses the origins and evolution of useful objects, what materials were used and why, and how furniture made for small spaces, often with renewable elements, was innate and expected. Encompassing three centuries, it illuminates a way of life that has almost vanished. It contributes as much to our knowledge of Ireland’s cultural history as to its history of furniture. This is a is a substantially different book from Irish Country Furniture, 1700-1950, published by Yale UP in 1993 and reprinted several times. The new book now incorporates the findings of a lot of recent research. Nearly all the black and white pictures in the 1993 book are now in colour, or have been changed for the better, and now include different examples (except archive pictures). Many of the author's fieldwork photographs from the late 1980s, have been digitised and will now be published for the first time. The extent has almost doubled; there are an extra 120 illustrations; the main text has been fully updated and revised; there is a new chapter ‘Small Furnishings and Utensils’ and there is a new Preface by Louis Cullen. Reflecting the considerable addition of new material, the time scale is also broadened to include discussions of objects and interiors up to 2000. It represents extraordinary value. The book looks at influences such as traditional architecture, shortage of timber, why and how furniture was painted, and the characteristics of designs made by a range of furniture makers. The incorporation of natural materials such as bog oak, turf, driftwood, straw, recycled tyres or packing cases is viewed in terms of use, and durability. Chapters individually examine stools, chairs and then settles in all their ingenious and multi-purpose forms. How dressers were authentically arranged, with displays varying minutely according to time and place, reveal how some had indoor coops to encourage hens to lay through winter. Some people ate communally or slept in outshot beds, in the coldest north-west, all this is illustrated through art as well as surviving objects.
€40.00, The White House Historical Association, 2021 Hardback, 212 pages. When considering the design of the President’s House yet to be built in the emerging Federal City of Washington, President George Washington asked after a young Irish builder he had learned of while visiting in Charleston, South Carolina. Soon James Hoban appeared in Washington’s Philadelphia office with his credentials. By 1792, Hoban was at work on the building site, having won the competition for the design of the President’s House. Washington had placed him in charge of the entire project, with all carpentry, stonemasonry, and brickwork under his supervision. The resulting structure, accomplished in time for President John Adams to take residence in November 1800, fulfilled Washington’s vision and is today one of the most recognizable landmarks in the world. Yet of the millions of people who know the White House are likely to find Hoban’s work more memorable than his name. With this anthology, the world’s most knowledgeable scholars on James Hoban introduce us to him, presenting the story of his life, influences, and work. The essays are followed by an illustrated catalog of nearly 100 images of historic Dublin, Irish Country Houses, the White House, and sites known to James Hoban in America.
€45.00, Durer Editions, 2021 Hardback, 66 pages. For over 30 years Simon Watson has exhibited his photographs in Europe and the U.S. including solo shows at the late Richard Anderson Gallery in New York and the Auschwitz Museum in Poland. More recently he has shown his paintings at the Galerie Rideau de Fer in France. His work is included in museums, public and private collections worldwide. Watson has been a regular contributor to The New York Times T Magazine, W Magazine, Vogue, Vanity Fair and many other titles worldwide. His recent book The Lives of Others was published by Rizzoli in 2020. In this publication, Watson explores an eighteenth-century Georgian house on Dublin’s storied Henrietta Street. The house has a history of transformation, from the grand city home of wealthy merchants to the inner-city tenement dwelling for the poverty stricken. In a gentle Proustian fashion, the house reveals a quiet melancholy and the slow passing of time. The photographs in this volume were made over several years. The work is intended to be a poetic and intimate portrait.
€38.00, Jonathan Cape, 2021 Hardback, 416 pages. As the sun set slowly on the British Empire in the years after the Second World War, the nation's stately homes were in crisis. Tottering under the weight of rising taxes and a growing sense that they had no place in twentieth-century Britain, hundreds of ancestral piles were dismantled and demolished. Perhaps even more surprising was the fact that so many of these great houses survived, as dukes and duchesses clung desperately to their ancestral seats and tenants' balls gave way to rock concerts, safari parks and day trippers. From the Rolling Stones rocking Longleat to Christine Keeler rocking Cliveden, Noble Ambitions takes us on a lively tour of these crumbling halls of power, as a rakish, raffish, aristocratic Swinging London collided with traditional rural values. Capturing the spirit of the age, Adrian Tinniswood proves that the country house is not only an iconic symbol, but a lens through which to understand the shifting fortunes of Britain in an era of monumental social change. Lavishly illustrated in full colour, with over 50 photographs.
*Limited signed copies available while stocks last* €14.95, Martello Publishing, 2021 Paperback, 208 pages. A Little History of the Future of Dublin is the work of Ireland’s most respected commentator on the urban landscape. In the book, Frank McDonald explores visions of the city, from the work of the Duke of Ormonde to Abercrombie's Dublin of the Future, through the excesses of the Celtic Tiger, to the decisions taken in the aftermath of the property crash. The book finishes with a plan for how the city could once again become one of the great small capitals of Europe.
€31.65, Manchester University Press, 2021 Paperback, 272 pages. Painting Dublin, 1886-1949 examines the depiction of Dublin by artists from the late-nineteenth to the mid-twentieth century. Artists' representations of the city have long been markers of civic pride and identity, yet in Ireland such artworks have been overlooked in favour of the rural and pastoral. Framed by the shift from city of empire to capital of an independent republic, this book examines artworks by Walter Osborne, Rose Barton, Jack B. Yeats, Harry Kernoff, Estella Solomons and Flora Mitchell, encompassing a variety of urban views and artistic themes. While Dublin is already renowned for its representation in literature, this book will demonstrate the many attractions it held for Ireland's artists, offering a vivid visualisation of the city's streets and inhabitants at a crucial time in its history.
€55.00, Four Courts Press, 2021 Hardback, 404 pages. This book contains a history of the early buildings of Trinity College, from the Elizabethan Quadrangle up to the residential ranges of the early eighteenth century. Among all those red-brick buildings only the Rubrics remains, albeit much altered, to suggest what Trinity College looked like before the 1750s, when replacement of the early buildings began. Why and when were new buildings added to the College, beyond the original Quadrangle? How were they funded? Who designed them? Where were materials sourced? What can be said about the architecture of the buildings, all of which, apart from the Rubrics, were pulled down in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries? Who managed their construction on the College’s behalf, and who carried out the building work? How were essential services provided? The book answers all of these questions, and en route it explores an almost forgotten event, the disastrous fire of February 1726/7, in which at least one house in Library Square was destroyed and several more were damaged. The second part of the book explores the community of residents of the early buildings up to the end of the nineteenth century when the range known as ‘Rotten Row’ was pulled down, leaving the Rubrics as the only representative of the early College. Where did Trinity’s students come from: geographically, socially, and denominationally? What were residential conditions like? What is known about College servants? Who lived in the old College buildings? Some famous names appear – for example the colonial governor of Connecticut John Winthrop, Oliver Goldsmith, the United Irishman Henry Sheares, Douglas Hyde – along with others who are less well-known but whose stories are nonetheless remarkable. The book ends with a memoir of the Rubrics in recent times.
Approximate Formality, €38.00, Anne Street Press, 2021 Hardback, 188 pages. Approximate Formality discusses the origin, originality and potential of towns and town plans in Ireland, from earliest times to the Famine, so they can be understood as a part of European and world culture. When people are genuinely looking for more sustainable ways to live lightly on the earth, this book opens the possibility of sustainable re-use of these brilliant places, bringing life back to what is actually an instant environment, based on an understanding of their significance. The book’s intention is to highlight the originality and excitement of these places, not just as old things re-made, but as potentially a whole new way of looking at living.
€27.95, Irish Academic Press, 2021 Paperback, 200 pages. Dark Beauty focuses on the minute detail in Harry Clarke’s stained-glass windows, particularly in the borders and lower panels of his work. Clarke’s brilliance as a graphic artist is clearly visible in his book illustrations, which are imbued with precise attention to intricate designs, and he applied the same lavish focus to every facet of his stained glass. The title ‘Dark Beauty’ refers to the duality of Clarke’s work that sees delicate angels juxtaposed with macabre, grotesque figures, and represents the partially hidden details that dwell in the background of his windows – motifs, accessories, flora, fauna and diminutive characters – which may be missed in light of the dominance of the central subjects. The authors spent many years photographing Clarke’s windows in Ireland, England, America and Australia, and the resulting 60,000 photos have been carefully whittled down to 300 glorious images. Dark Beauty will provide lovers of Clarke’s stained glass with the opportunity to view previously obscured or unnoticed details in all their unique beauty and inspire their own travels to view Clarke’s work.

Why not give someone the gift of membership this Christmas? Your gift will not only provide someone with access to historic properties and events to enjoy but will provide a unique way to support IGS. Your gift will be presented with a welcome letter stating it came from you, with a list of our events for members, an Irish Society Review and a special gift of 'Saving Graces' book, a collection of watercolours by Peter Murray featuring recipients of IGS's Conservation Grants programme.

Pick from a selection of Irish Georgian Society cards and cards illustrated by Rachel Corcoran (handmade in Dublin). Cards are blank for your own message and range from €3.00 - €4.50!

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Kilmacurragh House will be renovated under the renewed National Development Plan!


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Sir David Davies, President of the IGS, is pleased to note that after 25 years of OPW care, Minister Patrick O’Donovan has announced that Kilmacurragh House, Co. Wicklow will be renovated under the renewed National Development Plan.

It is significant that the renovation, which will include reinstatement of the building's roof, restoration of its windows and doors, and the conservation of external wall finishes, will allow the house built in 1697 [a rare example of the Queen Anne Style in Ireland], to become once again the centrepiece and focus of the hugely successful National Botanic Gardens.

The IGS welcomes this latest development in the OPW's plans, which will complement the recent acquisition of an additional 55 acres of land from Coillte, including the Walled Garden and Deer Park.

About Kilmacurragh

The Acton family acquired lands at Kilmacurragh in the latter part of the 17th-century and shortly afterwards constructed a new house in the Queen Anne Style that is attributed to Sir William Robinson (1643-1712), Surveyor General of Ireland. This comprises a five-bay, two-storey over basement house, with an attic storey incorporated into a wide pedimented break-front, and with a steeply pitched roof and projecting eaves. The cornice and doorcase of the house are of timber which Maurice Craig suggests may once have been a common practice though is now rare with the Red House, Youghal, Co. Cork representing one such survivor. Mark Bence-Jones noted that the house had rooms with fielded panelling and a good staircase. Two flanking wings were built c. 1848 on the site of earlier structures and contained a ballroom and dining room respectively.

In the 18th century a formal Dutch-style landscape park was laid out around the house following the fashions of the period, and elements of this, such as the remains of canals and sweeping vistas, survive in the present garden. A great transformation of the landscape park commenced in the 1850s and continued over the next 50 years. With the collaboration of David Moore, curator of the Royal Botanic Gardens in Dublin, the Acton family assembled a remarkable collection of mostly wild origin plants during what was a golden era of botanical exploration. Kilmacurragh was sold by the Acton family in 1944 and over the course of the following half-century the house and gardens fell into decline. In 1996, a 52-acre portion of the house and gardens became part of the National Botanic Gardens of Ireland since when the gardens have been magnificently restored.

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Desmond Guinness Scholarship 2021 open for applications


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The Hon. Desmond Guinness (1931-2020)

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, material culture and design history, 1600-1940. 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.

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 €2,000. The award will be made before the end of December 2021.

Deadline for applications extended to 2PM on Monday 6th December.

Please note the following:

  • Applications must be made online through this form:
  • No additional information or any other accompanying material will be accepted.
  • All questions must be answered and incomplete applications will not be considered. Late applications will not be accepted.
  • The Scholarship will not cover tuition fees.
  • A confidential reference supporting the applicant (with subject heading 'Desmond Guinness Scholarship 2021 Reference) should be sent via email to This emailed reference must be received directly from the reference provider's own email address (not the applicant's) and arrive by the closing date.

If you have any further queries about the scholarship please contact:

Emmeline Henderson ( or by phoning 01 679 8675.

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Open to the public: 'Stepping Through the Gate: Inside Ireland's Walled Gardens'


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Open Tuesday - Saturday, 10am - 5pm. Last admission 4:30pm.

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 forty 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. A catalogue can be purchased from the IGS bookshop.

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Ireland’s Historic Gardens two-part documentary on RTÉ ÓNE


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Photo of Robert O'Byrne courtesy of TVPR

Sunday 26th September & Sunday 3rd October

6.30 – 7.30pm


Ireland’s Historic Gardens is a two part documentary written and presented by author and historian Robert O’Byrne (Luggala Days, The Irish Georgian Society - A Celebration, Romantic Irish Homes, Ruins of Ireland); and produced and directed by David Hare (Great Lighthouses of Ireland, Ballyfin - Portrait of an Irish Country House; and Henry McIlhenny, Master of Glenveagh).

The two, hour long programmes examine the history of Ireland’s country house gardens over the last 400 years during which time garden design has reflected political and social changes taking place within the country. In the seventeenth century, for example, the decision to plant your garden in the French or Dutch style reflected your political allegiance.

The story begins at Lismore Castle, which has the oldest continuously cultivated garden in Ireland - before this, what we recognise as gardens could only be found in friaries, monasteries and convents, all of which were closed down or destroyed during the Dissolution of the Monasteries, started by Henry VIII in the mid-sixteenth century.

Fashions in garden design changed from Italian Renaissance style (Portumna Castle), to the rigid formality of the Baroque era, exemplified by straight lines and symmetry (Kilruddery, and the Royal Hospital, Kilmainham). This in turn gave way to sweeping Arcadian landscapes (Ballyfin), totally man-made, but designed to look natural. In the nineteenth century, garden design moved back once more to formality and structure (Abbeyleix and Powerscourt) until, inevitably, a wilder, informal aesthetic became, and remains, popular (Mount Usher and Dereen). Follies, glasshouses, and walled gardens all have important parts to play in the evolution of Irish garden design.

The story of Ireland’s country house gardens is also the story of the men and women who commissioned, designed, and maintained them, including the Earl of Charlemont, generations of the Acton family, and William Robinson.

Robert O’Byrne visits seventeen significant and influential gardens and meets gardeners, historians and owners, each of whom adds insight and knowledge to the fascinating story of Ireland’s country house gardens. Ireland’s Historic Gardens is produced and directed by David Hare of Inproduction TV for RTE, in association with the Office of Public Works and the Irish Georgian Society

*Robert O'Byrne, former vice-President of the IGS, has curated a unique exhibition of some fifty specially commissioned paintings of Irish Walled Gardens by four leading artists, which will be launched by the Irish Georgian Society later this month in the City Assembly House, South William Street, Dublin. Stepping Through the Gate: Inside Ireland’s Walled Gardens, will be of exceptional interest to anyone with an interest in Irish gardens and gardening. The exhibition will run from Friday 24th September until late November 2021.


Robert O’Byrne has become one of Ireland’s best-known writers and lecturers specialising in the country’s fine and decorative arts. He is the author of more than a dozen books, among them Luggala: The Story of a Guinness House and Romantic Irish Homes. 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 is also a contributor to The Burlington Magazine and the Irish Arts Review. Since 2012 he has written an award-winning blog, and a book of his photographs from this – The Irish Aesthete: Ruins of Ireland - was published in March 2019: his photographs can also be seen on Instagram, @theirishaesthete

Robert has a passionate interest in Ireland’s architectural and horticultural heritage, and has written extensively about both. During 2021/22 he is curating two exhibitions examining the history and evolution of Irish country house gardens, including her walled gardens, across three centuries. He is also presenting a two part television series on the same subject on RTE One television, and is co-editing a book on Ireland’s historic gardens due to be published next year.

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IGS London presentation to Castletown House


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On Friday the 27th of August, John Barber, the chair of Irish Georgian Society London and John Redmill, Patron and Board member of Irish Georgian Society London were able to present Castletown House with the porcelain desk set bought by the late Della Howard at the 2009 Christies auction of the effects of the Knight of Glin.

Della, a great supporter of the Irish Georgian Society over many years, was keen that the desk set went to Castletown House. As it happened, the house is about to set up a new room with Lady Louise Conolly's writing table and they needed a desk set for it and this is perfect size and style for the table to be used. Della would have been delighted.

Pictured below (L-R) John Barber (Chair IGS London), Mary Heffernan (General Manager at OPW, Historic Properties, Heritage Services) and John Redmill (Patron and Board Member of IGS London)

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