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.

In praise of the decorative ‘Irish’ lobby - Patricia McCarthy


Posted by IGS

The following article is taken from the 2016 edition of the Irish Georgian Society Review, our annual members' magazine.


Russborough, Co.Wicklow

It might seem surprising that even as short an essay as this might be devoted to such a mundane space. Lobbies are, after all, generally small spaces that connect with rooms or apartments, through which we pass when visiting country houses, often without a second glance. In our eagerness to see the more ‘important’ rooms, these spaces are sometimes not given the attention they deserve. However, it should be stated at the outset that this is not about just any lobby: it is about a particularly Irish architectural feature that can be found in a number of Irish houses, not always in the country. It can be defined as a lobby that is usually located on the first floor; is not a landing, is self-contained, usually top- lit (often via an opening in the ceiling by a lantern in the floor above), and from which access is gained to bedrooms and other rooms. It could be called a vestibule or even an ante-room. The late John Cornforth, architectural editor of Country Life, described it as ‘one of the happiest features in Irish country houses, and Maurice Craig mentions ‘these architecturally-treated upstairs central lobbies’. They come in different shapes - rectangular, octagonal, square, round, oval; they can be large or small, but they are often highly decorative spaces. It is interesting to look at some of them.


Bellamont Forest, Co Cavan


Bedroom lobby at Bellamont Forest, Co Cavan (courtesy of Ganly Walters)

First used at Bellamont Forest, Co. Cavan (c.1728) by Sir Edward Lovett Pearce, this form of lobby was taken up by his successor Richard Castle at Hazelwood, Co. Sligo (1731), Russborough (1741), Bellinter, Co. Meath (c.1750), in unexecuted plans for Headfort, Co. Meath (c. 1750) and in an early plan for Castle Coole, Co. Fermanagh (c. 1730). There is one at Edermine, Co. Wexford (c. 1839), and at Mount Henry, Co. Laois, and probably in many other houses. A visitor to Hazelwood shortly after it was built described the ‘Octagon Lobby, from each side of which a door opens into a Bed Chamber. This Octagon is Illuminated by a large Lanthorn in the Roof in the midst of the Octagon is a Well, with a Ballastrade around, which gives Light to the Stairs’. At Castle Coole, the lobby is a spacious rectangular room, two storeys high and lit by an oval skylight. It is interesting to note that this house, with this distinctively Irish feature, was designed by the English architect, James Wyatt in 1790.


William Ashford (1746-1824) Mount Kennedy, Co Wicklow, 1785; oil on canvas. (Yale Centre for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection)

The same architect drew up plans for Mount Kennedy, Co. Wicklow in the 1770s, which were modified in the 1780s when the house was finally being built under the supervision of Thomas Cooley. While it is on a Cooley plan of 1781, whose was the original idea of the spacious octagonal lobby with its circular lantern? At Vernon Mount, Co. Cork (now, sadly, lost), seven doors leading off the lobby were painted as trompe l’oeil niches in monochrome with statues and urns, by the Cork artist Nathaniel Grogan, and the lobby itself surrounded by eight Corinthian columns.


Lobby of Vernon Mount with Nathaniel Grogan painted door panels (Courtesy of the Irish Architectural Archive)

At Bellinter there is a dramatic entrance opening from the staircase to the lobby - a semi-circular arch, supported by two entablatures each, in turn supported by two Corinthian columns and pilasters. Compared to other lobbies, the layers of architectural detail here tend to be heavy and overstated. Russborough’s spacious lobby is lit by an elegantly-decorated oval lantern: the Ionic columns at each end of it were a later insertion to stabilise the roof. The only description to hand of this lobby being used is an account by Lady Louisa Conolly, in which she refers to the space as a ‘saloon’ at Bellamont Forest, when Lord Colooney, the only son of the earl of Bellamont, died in 1786. His body was laid out ‘in the saloon in the attic story for three days...the Saloon, which is supported by pillars and lighted by a cupola, and hung with black cloth; as also the cupola which was lighted with tapers and constantly attended by upper servants, appointed to succeed each other night and day.’ This room, however, is the spacious rectangular first-floor lobby, where doors to the bedrooms and to the staircases are located, quite similar to Russborough. A screen of columns at each end of the space supports the oval lantern that is enriched with decorative plasterwork.


Thomas Penrose, Lobby to the Bed Chambers at Lucan for Ag. Vesey, April 1776. (Courtesy of National Library of Ireland, AD1593, Lucan House Collection)

Thomas Penrose’s drawing for Lucan House in Dublin demonstrates how attractive these lobbies can be. Also in Dublin, the approach to the lobby in the Provost’s House at Trinity College (begun 1759) is a theatrical experience - from the first landing of the octagonal main staircase, the Corinthian order of the lobby can be seen, as can the wrought-iron balustrade by Timothy Turner around the opening in the floor above, the Ionic order on that (second) floor and finally, the lantern itself with its decoration of carved floral wreaths. As the highest of the architectural orders, the Corinthian indicates the importance of the first floor; and the visitors’ arrival at the Saloon, the most important room in the house. The architect of the house is unknown, but it is attributed to either John Smyth or Henry Keene. Apart from its use for the Bellamont wake, the purpose of these spaces is so far unknown. For visitors they were simply a means of getting from one space to another. At Trinity College when Provost Francis Andrews entertained, the lobby was an integral part of the processional route. But in most houses it must have been seen only by overnight visitors. Nonetheless, these interesting spaces are worth our attention, if only to wonder why so much money was spent in creating and decorating them if their only purpose was to provide light. But perhaps that was the point of them.

Life in the Country House in Georgian Ireland (Yale University Press, 2016) by Patricia McCarthy can be purchased from the IGS bookshop ( as hardback or paperback.

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National Policy on Architecture Public Consultation


Posted by IGS


The IGS has welcomed a public consultation process by the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht for a new National Policy on Architecture. In its submission the Society recommended a series of objectives relating to the financial and regulatory environments, and to communities and education. It noted a particular urgency for financial assistance to be given to all local authorities to appoint conservation officers to be champions, at a local level, to both implement architectural heritage policy and to promote good design and quality in new architecture in historic cities, towns, and villages. The Society has also called for greater architectural and conservation expertise to be provided in the planning process, both at local authority level and on Bord Pleanala, and for the adoption of a review of Part IV (conservation) of the Planning Act which contains recommendations that are very badly needed in order to make the legislation work more effectively.

Download the IGS submission here.

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COVID-19 Update for Irish Georgian Society


Posted by IGS

Due to the latest information from the HSE and the nationwide lockdown with COVID-19, the Irish Georgian Society has made the following decisions in relation to their events and programmes. This post will be updated on an ongoing basis.

Last Updated: 6 May 2020

City Assembly House

  • The building and IGS offices are closed until June, dates TBC. Staff will be working remotely.
  • 'Dublin Fragments: The Pearson Collection' is now closed until further notice.
  • Any queries in relation to events booked or future bookings, please email

Membership Events

All the events listed below have been postponed taking guidance from the HSE. The Irish Georgian Society will be reviewing the situation on COVID-19 in the coming months and will keep all those concerned updated with events postponed and future events planned.

Conservation Education

IGS Bookshop

  • Due to the developing situation with COVID-19, the bookshop is now closed.
  • We are still accepting orders online at - these will be posted once a week until circumstances change. Please allow at least 1-2 weeks for delivery.

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RE: Submission on Planning permission for development at a site at No.'s 47, 48 and 49 Kildare Street


Posted by IGS

In January the IGS welcomed a decision by Dublin City Council to comprehensively refuse permission for the demolition of a terrace of Georgian houses constituting the Kildare Street Hotel. This decision was appealed by the applicants to An Bord Pleanala on which the IGS has made a robust submission calling for the application to be refused once again. Read submission below...


An Bord Pleanala

64 Marlborough Street

Dublin 1


4 March 2020

Re: Planning permission for development at a site at No.'s 47, 48 and 49 Kildare Street and No.'s 1 and 2 Nassau Street, Dublin 2 comprising the demolition of nos. 47, 48 and 49 Kildare Street and No. 1 Nassau Street and demolition of the modern twentieth century fourth storey to No. 2 Nassau Street.

Case reference: PL29S.306595

Dublin City Council reference: 4414/19

Dear Sir or Madam,

The Irish Georgian Society wishes comment on the appeal submitted to An Bord Pleanala by Ternary Limited regarding the proposed redevelopment of nos. 47, 48 and 49 Kildare Street, Dublin 2.

Kildare Street lies on the route of the former Coote Lane which was widened and renamed following the commencement of Kildare House in 1745. Over subsequent decades it emerged as one of the most desirable addresses in Dublin with the Georgian Society Records (1912, vol. IV, p. 83) noting the survival at that time of ‘several’ Georgian houses. Sadly many of these have since been lost including those on Kildare Place at the southern end of the street which prompted the foundation of the Irish Georgian Society by Desmond Guinness in 1958. The current refurbishment of long derelict buildings across the road from this site is welcomed and demonstrates the viability of restoring and reusing traditionally built buildings that have deteriorated over time.

Kildare Street remains one of Dublin’s premier thoroughfares and, in addition to Dáil Eireann, is home to multiple national institutions whose buildings contribute greatly to its distinctive character. Regrettably the evolution of the street has not always been successful with a considerable number of fine Georgian houses replaced during the second half of the twentieth century by monotonous new office blocks that contribute little of interest to the streetscape.

The Irish Georgian Society is strongly of the view that the current proposal to demolish the series of Georgian houses that today constitutes a part of the Kildare Street Hotel will similarly denude the character of the street and further erode the historic building stock of Georgian Dublin. The Society contests the purported justification for these works as set out in the Conservation Assessment Report (p. 37) and refutes the suggestion that cumulative changes to the building and inappropriate maintenance of their fabric provide reason for their demolition.

The Irish Georgian Society also wishes to highlight the following provisions of the Dublin City Development Plan:

Section 11.1.1 of the Development Plan states that “built heritage contributes significantly to the city’s identity, to the collective memory of its communities and the richness and diversity of its urban fabric.”

Policy CHC1 of the Development Plan is “to seek the preservation of the built heritage of the city that makes a positive contribution to the character, appearance and quality of local streetscapes and the sustainable development of the city”.

Section 16.10.17 of the Development Plan concerns the ‘Retention and Re-Use of Older Buildings of Significance which are Not Protected’ and states that “the re-use of older buildings of significance is a central element in the conservation of the built heritage of the city” and that “in assessing applications to demolish older buildings which are not protected, the planning authority will actively seek the retention and re-use of buildings / structures of historic, architectural, cultural, artistic and/or local interest or buildings which make a positive contribution to the character and identity of streetscapes.”


Dublin’s heritage of Georgian buildings is intrinsic to its identity and its preservation has long been accepted as a staple of good planning and conservation practice. The current proposal to demolish those Georgian houses forming part of the Kildare Street Hotel runs contrary to this and would see the irreversible loss of part of the city’s built heritage. As per the provisions of Section 16.10.17 of the Development Plan, the retention and re-use of these historic buildings should be championed by Dublin City Council to ensure they continue to form part of our national heritage.

The Irish Georgian Society is of the view that the buildings proposed for demolition make an important contribution to the character of Kildare Street, that the applicants have provided no justification for their replacement, and so recommends that this planning application be refused.

Yours sincerely,

Donough Cahill

Executive Director, IGS

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Launch of 'Dublin Fragments: The Pearson Collection' at the City Assembly House


Posted by IGS

The Irish Georgian Society's Spring exhibition was officially launched at the City Assembly House on Thursday 20 February. Journalist Frank McDonald officially launched the exhibition, while Peter Pearson, Donough Cahill and IGS Chairman Michael Wall welcomed invited guests and supporters to the City Assembly House.

A number of Peter Pearson's paintings of Dublin scenes are available to purchase over the duration of the exhibition. If you have queries about making a purchase, please contact the IGS Bookshop (


Adam, Phil, Peter and Jerome Pearson


Anne Fitzgerald and Carole Cullen


Arran and Shirley Henderson and Ally Kay


Bob Moore Lavinia Jobson John Jobson and Naomi Jobson-Moore


Caroline Stephenson and Marion Byrne


Charlotte O'Connor and Susan Seeger


Leanne Bellouny, Alannah Pollard, Roisin Lambe and Zoe Coleman


Desiree Shortt and Eoin Higgins


Emmeline Henderson and Silvie Cahill


Harry Hutchinson and Dr Melanie Hayes


Ivor McElveen and Adam Pearson


James Paul McDonnell and Denise Kelly


Karin O'Flanagan


Michael Wall and Simon Nugent


Michael Wall, Frank McDonald, Peter Pearson and Donough Cahill


Naomi Jobson and Gordon Douglas


OPW Commissioner John McMahon and David Sheehan


Peter Pearson, Shane Byrne and Andrew Smith


Phil Pearson and Michael Craig

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Irish Georgian Society Conservation Grants Programme 2020


Posted by IGS


Previous recipients clockwise from top left: St. Paul’s French Church, Co. Laois (2019), 7 Arch Bridge, Co. Meath (2018), and Stradbally Hall (2017)

The Irish Georgian Society is inviting applications to its' Conservation Grants Programme 2020. The Irish Georgian Society has fundraised a total of €50,000 and grants will be awarded with priority given to protected structures and recorded monuments of significant architectural merit.

The Irish Georgian Society’s Conservation Grants Programme is generously funded by IGS London. Over the last six years, the Society has supported over thirty significant conservation projects from around the country, that have included works to country houses and castles, thatched cottages and historic townhouses, architectural follies, and churches.

Full list of 2019 recipients

  • Myrtle Grove, Co. Cork: window repairs to nationally important unfortified late 16th century house.
  • Jamesbrook Hall, Co. Cork: window repairs to house dating to c. 1780.
  • Temple House, Co. Sligo: window repairs to house built c. 1820.
  • Ballyarthur House, Co. Wicklow: repairs to decorative plasterwork in late 17th century house.
  • Ballycumber folly, Co. Offaly: repair works to walls of architectural folly constructed c. 1830.
  • St. Kevin’s Church, Dublin 8: restoration of stencilled decorative scheme from c. 1870 designed by architect George C. Ashlin.
  • St Paul’s French Church, Co. Laois: repair works to mid-19th century cast-iron windows.
  • St Catherine’s Church, Dublin: repair works to clock face in tower of important mid-18th century church.
  • Royal & Prior School, Co. Donegal: grant for conservation report for mid-19th century structure.

Application forms must be submitted by 5pm on Monday 2nd March 2020 and can be downloaded here.

For articles on previous grants recipients from 2014-2019, please click here.

Decisions on the allocation of grants will be made by early May at which time applicants will be informed.

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