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.

Castletown House – A Golden Opportunity


Posted by IGS

Bring the lands into public ownership

A letter by Donough Cahill originally published on The Irish Times:

Sir, – The recently featured article on the sale of lands immediately to the rear of Castletown House, Co Kildare, raises great concerns for the future protection of one of the most architecturally significant buildings of Ireland’s Georgian period (“Celbridge landholding with ‘future development potential’ for €5 million”, July 6th).

The Irish Georgian Society has called for the State to bring the lands into public ownership through the Office of Public Works and so forever safeguard the setting of Castletown.

The urgency of this is illustrated in the marketing materials for the site that were highlighted in The Irish Times article which suggests they have a “future development potential”. It should be noted that this is entirely aspirational as the lands are currently zoned for open space and amenity and which, given their proximity to Castletown, is an objective that should never be changed.

In purchasing Castletown in 1967, Desmond Guinness acquired 120 acres to the front of the house “so as to preserve them” and in doing so provided a protective envelope that secured its setting and protected views extending to the south. While some housing was subsequently built, the greater part of the historic demesne remains intact. This is a testament to the success of Desmond’s vision and the subsequent custodianship and management of Castletown by the Castletown Foundation and by the Office of Public Works.

Extending the State’s ownership of land in the Castletown demesne would not just protect the setting of the house but would also greatly enhance the amenity value of its parklands. It is noted that Castletown House & Parklands was the fifth most popular visitor destination in Ireland in 2019 attracting 965,632 visitors. This additional landholding would present opportunities for visitors to further explore and utilise the parklands to the rear of the house and would facilitate and secure the current access route from the M4 motorway. As one of the most important historic buildings in Ireland, it is incumbent on all with an interest in and responsibility for our heritage to ensure that Castletown House is protected for the present and for future generations. Ever since the demesne was broken up in the 1960s there have been aspirations to reunite the house with its historic landscape. It seems that now, after over 50 years, a golden opportunity has arisen for the State to achieve this. – Yours, etc,


Executive Director,

Irish Georgian Society,

Dublin 2.

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Dublin's Heritage Buildings Show launched by Minister for Heritage, Malcolm Noonan


Posted by IGS

Minister for Heritage Malcolm Noonan, TD officially launching the Dublin's Heritage Buildings Show in Merrion Square Park, Dublin, Saturday 11th June 2022

The Irish Georgian Society wishes to thank all those who made the Dublin’s Heritage Buildings Show in Merrion Square park on Saturday 11th & Sunday 12th June 2022 such a success.

We wish to thank our partners, Dublin City Council’s Conservation and Heritage Offices, in particular Charles Duggan, Heritage Officer and Niamh Kiernan and Mary McDonald, Architectural Conservation Officers, and Sarah Halpin and Mary-Liz McCarthy, Conservation Research Officers, as well as DCC’s Department of Parks and Biodiversity for hosting us in Merrion Square Park. The Dublin’s Heritage Buildings Show is an action of the Dublin City Strategic Heritage Plan, and was part-funded by the Heritage Council’s County Heritage Plan Grant Scheme.

The exhibition was formally launched at noon on Saturday by Minister Malcolm Noonan, TD, Minister of State for Heritage with Lord Mayor Dr Alison Gilliland, Councillor and IGS Vice President, Camilla McAleese.

Together they praised the highly skilled traditional building skills craftspeople who agreed to give over their weekend to demonstrate at the Dublin’s Heritage Buildings Show and promote the importance of using appropriate traditional methods and materials in the conservation of our built heritage.

Over two dozen craftspeople actively demonstrate key traditional building skills needed for the conservation of old buildings including: sash window repairs, stained glass & fanlight conservation, stone carving, dry stonewall construction, use of lime-based mortars and hemp; brick pointing; brick making; decorative plasterwork; ironwork, slate roofing, gilding and wallpaper making.

Exhibitors included:
Glasshaus Studio
Smith & Henderson
George O'Malley Plastering
The Traditional Lime Company
The Old Builders Company
Maclyn Joinery
Stoneware Studios & Conservation Technology
Nolans Group
David Skinner & Sons
Crannog Roofing
Ecological Building Systems
Conservation Technology
Forgecraft: artist blacksmiths
Dry Stone Wall Association of Ireland
Society for Protection of Ancient Buildings Ireland

In addition to the traditional building skills demonstrations there were conservation and residential amenity information stands from:

Dublin City Council’s Architectural Conservation & Heritage Offices
Dublin Civic Trust;
Register of Heritage Contractors
Upper Leeson Street Area Residents Association
South Georgian Core Residents Association
Irish Georgian Society

Thanks are due also the cultural institutions on the square who graciously opened their doors for tours:
Goethe-Insitut Irland
Irish Architectural Archive
Irish Traditional Music Archive

National Gallery of Ireland
O’Connell House
Oscar Wilde House

Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland

In tandem with the traditional buildings skills demonstrations and visits to cultural institutions on Merrion Square there were a series of walking tours focusing on the architecture, designed landscape and conservation of Merrion Square and its environs.

The Irish Georgian Society wishes to thank everyone who opened their doors and lead tours, in particular; James Howley, FRIAI; Kieran O'Brien, Director, Grafton Architects; Rob Goodbody, local historian, planner and conservationist; Jeffrey Jones, DCC gardener; Graham Hickey, Conservation Director, Dublin Civic Trust; Eamonn Kehoe, Director, Shaffrey Associate Architects; Kevin Blackwood & Alice Bentley, Kevin Blackwood Associate Architects; Aideen Ireland, Committee member, RSAI; Laura Conlon, Senior House Manager, Notre Dame; Seán Potts and Iarfhlaith Ó Dómhnaill, ITMA team members; Simon Lincoln, Exhibitions & Outreach Officer, IAA; Martin Burns, Creative Director, Oscar Wilde House.

Additionally, the Society would like to thank all those who delivered the series of architecture, conservation and designed landscape lectures on Sunday 12th June: Shona O'Keefe, Chairperson, SPAB Ireland; Shane Nolan, BLFI Committee Member; Colm Murray, Architecture Officer, The Heritage Council; James Howley, Howley Hayes Cooney Architects; and Damian Murphy, Architectural Heritage Officer, NIAH.

On Saturday 11th, for younger attendees to the Dublin's Heritage Buildings Show, there were Cruinniú na nÓg children’s workshops. This was a wonderful facet to the show and we greatly appreciate the time invested in preparing and delivering the workshops on stone carving by Philp Quinn of Stone Mad; wallpaper making by David Skinner of Skinner & Sons; fanlight making by Liam McCorkell of Glasshaus Studios; gilding and stencilling by Ruth Bothwell of Decowell; traditional joinery techniques by Sven Habermann of Letterfrack Conservation; and lime rendering by Edward Byrne of The Traditional Lime Company.

It was fantastic to see the high level of engagement and participation at these ancillary Dublin’s Heritage Buildings Show events, as well as the enthusiasm and appreciation of the public who visited the exhibition over the course of the weekend to receive free, accurate and impartial advice on traditional methods and materials needed to best conserve their Dublin heritage buildings.

The Dublin's Heritage Buildings Show represented a coming together of the conservation community: state; semi-state; non-governmental organizations; and independent conservation practitioners and professionals. Without all these stakeholders' generosity and support it would not be possible to deliver the exhibition and allied activities.

Critically, the last word of thanks goes to the Dublin's Heritage Buildings Show funder: The Heritage Council; the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage; Creative Ireland; the Upper Leeson Street Area Residents Association; and the South Georgian Core Residents Association.

Lord Mayor Councillor Alison Gilliland welcome address at the Dublin's Heritage Buildings Show
Emmeline Henderson, IGS Assistant Director; Niamh Kiernan, DCC Architectural Conservation Officer; Malcolm Noonan, TD, Minister for Heritage; Michael Wall, IGS Chairperson; Alison Gilliland, DCC Lord Mayor; Camilla McAleese, IGS Vice-President; & Charles Duggan, DCC Heritage Officer.
Attendees and participants at the launch of the Dublin's Heritage Buildings Show
Attendees and participants at the launch of the Dublin's Heritage Buildings Show
Nolan's Group brick maker speeking explaining the craft to Minister Noonan and Lord Mayor Alison Gilliland with Shane Nolan, MD, Nolan's Group
Nolans Group brick maker explaining the craft to Minister Noonan and Lord Mayor Alison Gilliland with Shane Nolan, MD, Nolans Group
Shona O'Keefe
Minister Noonan discussing traditional building skills with Shona O'Keefe, Chair of the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings in Ireland
Pat Lynch of McLynn Joinery
Pat Lynch, McLynn Joinery explaining timber sash window joinery details to the Lord Mayor Alison Gilliland and Minister for Heritage, Malcolm Noonan
Edward Byrne of the Traditional Lime Company
Charles Duggan, DCC Heritage Officer, Niamh Kiernan, DCC Architectural Conservation Officer, Alison Gilliland, DCC Lord Mayor with Edward Byrne of the Traditional Lime Company
Dry stone wall & dignitaries
Camilla McAleese, IGS Vice-President; Niamh Kiernan, DCC Architectural Conservation Officer; Alison Gilliland, DCC Lord Mayor; Malcolm Noonan, Minister for Heritage; Michael Wall, IGS Chairperson with Ken Curran, DSWAI, Chair; & Stephen Barcoe, Dry Stone Wall Association of Ireland committee member

Minister and family
Minister Malcolm Noonan and family with stone carver, Philip Quinn of Stonemad
Paddy Byrne discussing roofing techniques with exhibitor Niall O'Regan of Crannog Roofing
Acquilla Cooper & Jonathan McCormick of Forgecraft: artist blacksmiths demonstrating
Dry Stone Walling Association of Ireland practitioners demonstrating
Nolans Group pointing
Demonstration of pointing by Nolans Group
Sven Habermann of Letterfrack Conservation teaching traditional timber jointing techniques at the Cruinniú na nÓg children's workshops in the Irish Architectural Archive, 45 Merrion Square.
Kieran O'Brien, Director, Grafton Architects leads a tour of the ESB project, Fitzwilliam Street to participants at the Dublin's Heritage Buildings Show
RSAI entrance hall
Dublin's Heritage Buildings Show participants arrive at 63 Merrion Square for a tour of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland from RSAI Committee Member, Aideen Ireland.
NGI tour
Kevin Blackwood and Alice Bentley of Blackwood Associates Architects lead a tour explaining their conservation work at the National Gallery of Ireland, Merrion Square to Dublin's Heritage Buildings Show participants.
Rob Goodbody
Rob Goodbody, local historian, planner & architectural conservationists, and author of RIA Irish Historic Towns Atlas, Dublin, Part III, 1756-1847 leads a walking tour tracing the history & development of Merrion Square to Dublin's Heritage Buildings Show participants

Dublin's Heritage Buildings Show participants enjoying live traditional music from the Georgian era from Irish Traditional Music Archive team members Seán Potts (uilleann pipes) and Iarfhlaith Ó Dómhnaill (fiddle) in the ITMA HQ, 73 Merrion Square.

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In Harmony with Nature, the Irish Country House Garden 1600-1900


Posted by IGS

The Irish Georgian Society presents

In May 2022, the IGS will explore the history of the Irish Country House Garden at the City Assembly House, Dublin, with the launch of In Harmony with Nature: The Irish Country House Garden 1600-1900. Alongside this unique exhibition, Stepping Through the Gate: Inside Ireland’s Walled Gardens will return to the walls of the O’Connell Room, and feature specially commissioned paintings of Irish Walled Gardens by four leading artists. Curated by Robert O’Byrne, former vice-President of the IGS, both exhibitions are not to be missed and will be of exceptional interest to anyone with an interest in Irish gardens and gardening. The Exhibition will be open to the public from 20th May to late July, Tuesday-Sunday (10am-5pm).

In Harmony with Nature: The Irish Country House Garden

While the changing landscape of the Irish countryside has been extensively examined in recent decades, the evolution of gardens attached to country houses remains under investigated.

This exhibition will explore the history of the Irish Country House Garden using paintings, engravings and photographs as well as film and other media creating an exciting, engaging and informative experience.

It will open c.1600 with sites around castles and fortified houses such as those at Lismore, County Waterford and Portumna, County Galway, and it will end with two great island gardens created just before the First World War: Garnish, County Kerry and Lambay, County Dublin.

The exhibition will consider what makes our gardens different from those found in other countries. What plants were favoured during which eras? Who were the most significant plantsmen and women? What role did owners play in laying out a garden? Who were the most important gardeners? What new species were introduced to Ireland, especially in the 19th century?

Country House Gardens

Stepping Through the Gate: Inside Ireland’s Walled Gardens

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 fifty 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.

Digging New Ground, the Irish Country House Garden 1650-1900

To coincide with these exhibitions the Irish Georgian Society has published Digging New Ground, the Irish Country House Garden 1650-1900. Edited by Finola O’Kane and Robert O’Byrne, this book investigates the history, design and planting of the Irish country house garden and considers garden making as an art form in all its dimensions. It is available in the City Assembly House, on the IGS shop website and in all good bookshops.

Digging New Ground

Photos by Robert O'Byrne

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'Stepping Through the Gate: Inside Ireland's Walled Gardens' at Kylemore Abbey


Posted by IGS

The following blog post was written by Jessica Ridge, Marketing Manager at Kylemore Abbey.

2022 marks the 21st anniversary of the historic restoration of Kylemore Abbey's Victorian Walled Gardens by the Benedictine nuns, who run the heritage estate in the west of Ireland. This important conservation project returned Mitchell Henry's beautiful walled gardens to their Victorian glory and won the prestigious Europa Nostra Award in 2002.

To mark the anniversary, Kylemore Abbey will host an Irish Georgian Society exhibition of paintings of walled gardens at Kylemore Abbey's Fordham Hall from 5 March - 30 April*. This is the first of a larger programme of events which will take place over the coming years in preparation of a yearlong celebration of 25 years of the Victorian Walled Garden Restoration in 2024/5.

Speaking on the announcement of the exhibition, Executive Director of the Irish Georgian Society, Donough Cahill remarked: “This exhibition is an ideal opportunity for the Irish Georgian Society to partner with Kylemore Abbey in celebrating the 21st anniversary of the opening of Kylemore’s magnificent Victorian Walled Gardens. The Benedictine nuns’ achievement in restoring these gardens has created a lasting legacy that is enjoyed by tens of thousands every year and, together with Kylemore’s historic buildings, nurtures an enthusiasm for visitors in the preservation of Ireland’s rich heritage.”

Featuring renowned Irish gardens, including the Victorian Walled Garden at Kylemore Abbey, the specially commissioned exhibition by The Irish Georgian Society comprises fifty paintings by four leading Irish artists: Lesley Fennell, Andrea Jameson, Maria Levinge and Alison Rosse.

Speaking on behalf of the Kylemore Trust, Conor Coyne, Executive Director said "we are delighted to welcome the Irish Georgian Society’s touring exhibition featuring some of Ireland’s most beautiful walled gardens, painted by four talented Irish artists. As a non-profit organisation, with a dual mandate for heritage preservation and the support of monastic life, our gardens are the embodiment of Kylemore’s mission: to preserve for Ireland a place of beauty, tranquility and spiritual peace. We are delighted to partner with the Irish Georgian Society on this project, and look forward to welcoming many visitors to see this exhibition over the next month or so."

Curated by Robert O'Byrne, the exhibition is of interest to anyone with an interest in Irish gardens, gardening, or painting. Access to the exhibition is included with admission ticket to Kylemore Abbey & Gardens. Paintings will be available for purchase with proceeds to the Irish Georgian Society and The Kylemore Trust.

(* excl. 25 & 26 March)

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NEW BOOK ALERT: Digging New Ground - The Irish Country House Garden 1650–1900


Posted by IGS

Digging New Ground: The Irish Country House Garden 1650-1900

Edited by: Finola O'Kane & Robert O'Byrne

What gives the Irish country house garden its distinctive character? A verdant light, lush grass, bold trees and green-fingered generations of care. The Irish country house garden sits at a precise point where nature, culture and history meet, and continues to be a place where the Irish, British and European horticultural traditions potently collide.

This complex identity has often led historians to suppress any emerald-tinted concerns about land, property and empire that might overshadow a garden’s charm or indeed threaten its survival. Yet those concerns also lend the Irish country house garden a strange beauty, as memory, pleasure and tragedy glide along its avenues and sidle through its glades.

Breaking new ground through the presentation of fresh material and research, this book investigates the history, design and planting of the Irish country house garden from c.1650-1900. It considers garden making as an art form in all its dimensions, not least the relationship to contiguous buildings and natural features, as well as the colour, massing and individual habits of planting over three and a half centuries. Changes in fashion, habits of collecting, patronage, gender and networks are also investigated. Although the larger scale of landscape is considered, a primary aim is to address the smaller nature of gardens, and their many specific, often complex, design concerns.

Purchase Digging New Ground: The Irish Country House Garden 1650-1900 online!


Beauty and utility: The walled kitchen gardens of Ireland (Terence Reeves-Smyth)

The Seventeenth-Century Walled Garden in Ireland (Vandra Costello)

Buildings become Nature: Rustic Structures in Irish Country House Gardens, 1700–1750 (Ruth Musielak)

Humphry Repton’s ‘Irish expedition’: Sketches and Hints on Georgian Landscape Gardening (Stephen Daniels & Finola O’Kane)

The Landscape Gardens of John Sutherland (c. 1755–1826) (Patrick Bowe)

Sharp Gradients of History in the Nineteenth-century Irish Country House Garden (Finola O’Kane)

The Advent of Iron and Glass for the Victorian Country House Garden (Laura Johnstone)

A Chapter on Ireland (Jonathan Phibbs)

In Search of Paradise: Collecting Trees in Ireland (Thomas Pakenham)

Plant hunting and its influence on the Irish country house (Seamus O’Brien)

Digging Foreign Ground: An Irish Gardener in the United States (Robert O’Byrne)

The Historic Country House Garden in Ireland: challenges for the 21st century (Catherine FitzGerald)


Finola O’Kane MRIA is a landscape historian, architect, conservation specialist and a professor at UCD. Her books include Ireland and the Picturesque: Design, Landscape Painting, and Tourism, 1700–1840 (Yale, 2013), William Ashford's Mount Merrion; The Absent Point of View (Churchill, 2012) and Landscape Design in Eighteenth-Century Ireland: Mixing Foreign Trees with the Natives (Cork, 2004) and she is a former editor of Irish Architectural and Decorative Studies.

Robert O’Byrne is a writer and lecturer specialising in Irish historic houses and gardens and the author of more than a dozen books. 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 has also contributed to The Burlington Magazine and the Irish Arts Review. Since 2012 he has written an award-winning blog,

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Young Irish Georgians: 2022 Fundraising Project


Posted by IGS

Termon House
Image: Termon House, via Irish Landmark Trust

In 2021, our working group decided to nominate an annual fundraising project for the Young Irish Georgians to support, with the revenue raised from our events throughout the year supporting the chosen initiative. Our pilot project for 2022 will be Termon House, Co. Donegal: a former 18th century land agent's house in Maghery, near Dungloe, located in the heart of the Gaeltacht area. The house is cared for by the Irish Landmark Trust, and was previously supported through a conservation grant from IGS London.

Termon House was built c. 1770 for the land agent of the local landlord, the Marquess of Conyngham. The property consists of the house and adjoining stone-built dairy and barn set within a 3 acre plot. Much of this site is enclosed by a tall, tapering rubble stone wall built c. 1847 to provide famine relief for the local population affected by the Great Famine. Within these walls are also found the remains of an old lime kiin and a small clachán. The curtilage of Termon House encloses a landscape which has remained almost untouched since the mid 19th century and this with the combination of the famine wall and house, makes it the most historically significant property in the village.

The very extreme location of the house on the Atlantic shoreline means that it gets a constant battering from the weather. The funds we plan to raise will support essential repair work to the lime render surrounding the lower barn door, which will then be limewashed.

Our 2022 fundraising target is €2,000.

(Image: Termon House, via Irish Landmark Trust)

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