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 Irish Country House and the Art of John Nankivell​: Gaybrook, Mullingar, County Westmeath


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Gaybrook, Mullingar, County Westmeath

Partly windowless with a telling sag in the main roof, Gaybrook is here represented in the 1970s on the eve of its execution. It was then in the ‘last throes of its decay, its falling interiors highly dangerous to explore, and very dark’, the big forlorn block set over its wilding, but still ‘ravishing’ sunken Victorian formal garden - the lawns thick and lank, the pink and white roses turning feral as they scrambled up the tall yews that marked the steps that once gracefully descended to neat parterres. All of this a world away from the smart house occupied until 1960, its chicly presented rooms and well-tended garden photographed in the 1950s displaying a sort of grand formality that seemed a little too pretentious for its quaint rustic name, which in fact originated with a different, much earlier, house.

As a demesne, Gaybrook emerged in the eighteenth century out of Redmondstown, the forfeited lands of Edmund D’Arcy that were granted to John Gay in 1666, and it was perhaps he who built the first house here. It was still referred to as Redmondstown as late as 1743, when another John Gay was living here. According to his son, Nicholas, he was ‘a generous and hospitable man, but improvident’. By 1772, indebtedness brought Gaybrook (then described as being ‘now and for several years past in the possession of, and held and occupied by…John Gay’) into the court of chancery when the house, gardens and its ‘sundry parks’ (which were intriguingly called ‘the Ark’) were offered to the highest bidder for three years. The estate remained impaired however, and by 1784, Nicholas Gay, described as a person a ‘very high sense of honour…extremely tenacious about being in debt’ considering it ‘highly derogatory to the character of a gentleman’, decided to sell it.

A newspaper advertisement described the 450 acre demesne in considerable detail, ‘270 of which are within one fence; the home in the centre…. the house, though not a modern one, is convenient, and, with small expense might be made much more so, as there is an additional building of two rooms, roofed and glazed, but not finished within’. More significantly perhaps, it also suggested that to ‘a person disposed to build there is a most eligible situation in the midst of a lawn, of above fifty acres, from which may be seen the Curragh, the Wicklow Mountains, the lake…’ The property was eventually purchased by Ralph Smyth (descended from the branch that also established the Smythes of Barbavilla) and he soon proceeded to plan a new house, on a new site. Although its architect is not recorded, one possibility is the amateur architect Rev. Daniel Beaufort, the rural clerical polymath, rector of Navan, interested in architecture, map-making and agriculture who helped found the Royal Irish Academy. Beaufort was a frequent visitor to Gaybook, and seems to have assisted and advised the Smyths, even to the extent of collecting their rents. He had evidently been consulted about choosing a site for the new house, which he noted in his diary in 1786. Beaufort was an accomplished draftsman, though his designs are a little stiff and his ideas, rooted in mid-Georgian Palladianism, were somewhat old-fashioned.

The house was a tall, rather lumbering mass, three-storeys high on a raised basement, and though well-proportioned with refined interiors, eternally its restrained astylar classicism bordered on the dull, its deep plan – extending to five-bays contributing a bulky prominence likely to have been lessened, and certainly less blunt, had it been composed with symmetrical wings. The entrance front had three bays, the central bay advanced, to which an unusual semi-circular porch was added in the early-nineteenth century, ringed with Tuscan columns that heightened the architectural interest. On the garden front, shown here, its neo-classicism was expressed in the central bow, an elegant three-bay projection extending the full height, and in the Wyatt windows which flanked it on the ground floor. A long service wing was added in the 1830s by Robert Smyth, who succeeded his elder brother Ralph in 1827 and in 1830 married Frances Alexander, daughter of Nathaniel, Bishop of Meath. This was balanced somewhat by a conservatory on the opposite side, which had already been removed by the 1950s. Today, only the fading ghost of the terrace suggests there was ever a house here.

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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The Irish Country House and the Art of John Nankivell​: Kinturk, Castlepollard, Co. Westmeath


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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.

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: Alexander Pope


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Portrait of John Bowes, Lord Chancellor, Alexander Pope (1763-1835). Pastel on paper, RDS Collection, Dublin.

Alexander Pope was born in Cork in 1763, the son of artist Thomas Pope, and he trained under Hugh Douglas Hamilton as well as at the Dublin Schools. In 1777 and 1780, he exhibited drawings and small portraits in crayon at the Society of Artists Exhibition. He visited Cork and practiced there as a miniaturist for a few years before moving to London. He showed regularly at the Royal Academy up until 1821 with many of his portraits being engraved. Over the course of his career, he moved away from small pastel portraits inspired by Hugh Douglas Hamilton to focus on neo-classical full length portraits. He was married three times and died at home in Bedford Square in 1835.

Over the coming weeks, leading up to 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 will be sharing some of the works of the artists whose works were reassembled in that exhibition.

The above text and research was compiled by Aoife Convery in 2018.

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Cruinniú na nÓg 2020: Free Online Workshops for Children - 13 June


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The Irish Georgian Society and the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht are hosting a series of free online Cruinniu na nOg children's conservation and traditional craft workshops on Saturday 13 June.

Cruinniú na nÓg is a national day of free creativity for children and young people under 18.


How Stained Glass is Made, 10.00am
A free children's conservation and craft workshop by Liam McCorkell of Glasshaus Studio, Navan, Co. Meath.


Gilding and Historic Paint Effects, 11.30am
A free children's conservation and craft workshop for Cruinniú na nÓg 2020 with Ruth Bothwell of Decowell Studio, County Antrim.


Georgian Architecture: its origins and inspiration, 1.00pm
A free children's illustrated talk by Arran Henderson of Dublin Decoded


Cracking Stone with Fire, Water, Plugs and Feathers, 2.30pm
A free children's traditional building skills workshop by Philip Quinn of Stonemad, Holycross, County Tipperary


Wood conservation workshop, 4.00pm
Dissolved insect poop and laser guns, the restoration of 200 year old doors in Carton House with Sven Habermann, Letterfrack Conservation, Co. Galway


Please note: to participate in these free conservation workshops, it is necessary to download Zoom (free to download) onto your computer/tablet or smart phone in advance of the workshop.

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'Capard: An Irish Country House & Estate' wins Nilsson Local Heritage Writing Award 2020


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Capard: An Irish Country House & Estate written by historian Ciarán Reilly and published by the Irish Georgian Society has won the prestigious Nilsson Prize for Local Heritage at Listowel Writers Week.

This award is for the best work of heritage or history published in Ireland within the last year. The 2020 Festival Awards were announced online, as the Festival was unable to go ahead as a result of the nationwide lockdown.

This book charts the history of Capard House and estate from the arrival of the Pigott family in Ireland in the 1560s to its present-day restoration. Lavishly illustrated throughout, the story of Capard challenges many of the stereotypical interpretations of the Irish country house.

The book is available to purchase online from the IGS bookshop, priced at €40.00 (hardback).

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Who are the Young Irish Georgians?


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YIG festive historic pubs of Dublin crawl, November 2018

The Young Irish Georgians (YIGs for short) were was originally established in the early 2000s, out of a desire to organise events for Irish Georgian Society (IGS) members aged 18 to 40. After a hiatus, the YIGs were revived in 2016, by Zoë Coleman, Programmes and Communications Coordinator and Roisin Lambe, Membership and Events Coordinator. Roisin and I felt that the YIG events were an important part of the Society’s outreach, and a way to engage younger members of the Society who are early career professionals, students or recent graduates, with an interest in attending events with their peers.


A fashion history tour of the Liberties, September 2016

The bi-annual ‘Conservation without Frontiers’ Summer School— run by the IGS in partnership with Ulster Architectural Heritage (UAH) since 2015—had demonstrated to us that amongst our younger members there is an appetite for organising events and site visits that demonstrated conservation in action, so the events we organised follow in this vein. In September 2017 we visited the recently restored Read’s Cutlers for an exclusive ‘behind the shutters’ tour of the building, which had been modified in 1764 as part of the Wide Street Commissioners.


YIGs at Newbridge House, Co. Dublin, February 2018

Our first event of 2018 took us to Newbridge House, Co. Dublin (c. 1747) on a crisp Saturday in February, where we were welcomed by Cathal Dowd Smith, Cobbe Family archivist and YIG member, who led us on a comprehensive tour of the house and stables, introducing us to the eclectic Cobbe collection held there, and the Family’s collection of Old Master paintings and Irish furniture.

In September our first YIG event of the autumn took us to Castletown House to visit the Castletown archive, on a tour led by Nicola Kelly, archivist at the OPW-Maynooth University Archive & Research Centre. Longstanding IGS member June Stuart generously welcomed us into her home at Kildrought House, Celbridge, for tea, before our tour of the Tea Lane Graveyard, a conservation project supported by the Irish Georgian Society in 2017.


YIG in No. 11 North Great George's St in March 2019

In February 2019, the YIGs enjoyed an architectural tour of North Great George's Street, with an introduction by architect Merlo Kelly, visiting No. 11, No. 26 and No. 38. For our summer event we ventured out of Dublin on a day trip to Limerick and Newtown Pery, learning about the development of the city throughout the 18th century, with a particular focus on the Newtown Pery area. IGS Limerick member Rose Anne White kindly led our group on a tour of No. 2 Pery Square.


YIGs at the rear of No. 2 Pery Square, now The People's Museum of Limerick, August 2019


YIGs outside 81 North King Street, December 2019

Our closing event of 2019 was a seasonal social in Smithfield, beginning with a visit to 81 North King Street, the home and practice of James Kelly, and taking a look at some built heritage on North King Street to place the house in context. Afterward we relaxed over some prints in Walsh's of Stoneybatter.


After hours tour of Dublin Fragments exhibition in the City Assembly House, February 2020

For our first event of 2020, we organised an evening tour of Georgian Leinster House, where we had the opportunity to see the recently restored rooms, with their beautiful plasterwork by Stapletown and the Le Franci brothers. Before the onset of the pandemic in 2020 we enjoyed an after hours tour of Dublin Fragments with curator Peter Pearson.

In tandem with the Irish YIG events programme, IGS London run a number of events for their YIG members throughout the year.

If you are interested in getting involved with the Young Irish Georgians, you can sign up to our mailing list, or if you would like to propose an event, please contact Zoë Coleman (

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