The Irish Country House and the Art of John Nankivell: Kinturk, Castlepollard, Co. Westmeath
Posted by IGS
Kinturk, Castlepollard, Co. Westmeath
Drab in its garb of modern pebbledash and out-scaled by bulky, non-descript institutional buildings in car parks, the long plain garden front of Kinturk stands poised on its grassy terraces, looking somewhat inured to its setting. It represents a large nineteenth-century addition to the Georgian house of the Pollard family, whose long association earned them the right to name the adjoining village. The Pollards trace their descent in Ireland to Captain Nicholas Pollard who, participating in the Earl of Essex’s campaign during the Nine Years War, was rewarded with lands in Westmeath. His son built a castle at Rathyoung, in evidence by 1659 when it is shown in the townland of ‘Kilturk & Rathyong’. After early marriage alliances with important local dynasties, the family were quickly assimilated and before the end of the century, their property erected into a manor and renamed Castlepollard, Walter Pollard set the family roots even deeper when he rebuilt the mediaeval parish church in 1679, placing the family vault in the south transept.
By the eighteenth century a new house had been built at Kinturk, immediately south of the village with a large demesne spreading away to the south east. The entrance front, facing north west, represents the Georgian building inherited by William Dutton Pollard on the death of his elder half-brother Dillon in 1803. Most likely built by their father William around the time of his marriage in 1763, it is a tall, rather conventional, three-storey block of five-bays, with a simple tripartite plan, just one room deep and retaining some attractive rococo plasterwork. In 1821 William Dutton Pollard engaged the London architect Charles Robert Cockerell to remodel and extend the house, Cockerell having been brought to Ireland by James Lenox Naper to design a new house at Loughcrew. Cockerell, whose pursuit and methodical study of the antiquities in Greece and Asia Minor between 1810 and 1817 helped to expand knowledge of Greek architecture and brought a new rigour to neo-classicism, added an assured tetrastyle Ionic portico to the entrance front, neatly integrated with the existing rhythm of the window openings. His choice of Greek Ionic capitals on unfluted columns, also used on a larger scale at this time at Loughcrew and at the Hanover Chapel in London, is interesting given that after reviewing Naper’s completing house, and unhappily considering it ‘sadly plain’, vowed to ‘never again use the Athenian order except in small scale’. Cockerell also extended the façade with short, single-storey wings, set back slightly on either side and decorated with a niche. These helped to integrate the seven-bay, wide-eaved block built across the rear to form the new garden front with its advancing big-windowed central frontispiece. Inside, this provided a suite of three grand rooms with restrained neo-classical decoration, accessed by an impressive toplit stair hall at the heart of the plan, which with a spinal corridor rather seamlessly united the two phases of building.
Three of William Dutton Pollards grandsons – Walter, Francis and Montague - inherited Castlepollard in succession between 1892 and 1915. Montague succeeded just a week after the death of his eldest son, William, killed in action in India but outlived him by just a few months, dying in August that year. Castlepollard then passed to his second son Arthur, who sold the house in 1934 to the Sisters of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary who operated a mother-and-child home here until 1971 when the property was acquired by the Midlands Health Board.
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.
Kevin V. Mulligan is an independent architectural historian.