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.

2019 Desmond Guinness Scholarship awarded to Cora McDonagh


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Dr Conor Lucey, Cora McDonagh, Dr Kathryn Milligan, Michael Wall

The 2019 Desmond Guinness Scholarship was awarded to Cora McDonagh to support her PhD research on ‘Irish Country House art collections: Exhibitions, Estate Expenditure and Civic Bequests 1814-1914.’. Ms McDonagh is a PhD candidate at Maynooth University.

Dr Kathryn Milligan's study on ‘Exhibiting, viewing and selling art in Dublin, 1845-1849’ was also acknowledged, and she was awarded the Desmond Guinness Prize.

The Scholarship and Prize were presented by Dr Conor Lucey at the IGS Members Christmas Party at 12 Henrietta Street on Saturday 7 December.

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Alice Davis Hitchcock Award for Dr Conor Lucey


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The Alice Davis Hitchcock award for 2019 has been awarded to Dr Conor Lucey for his book Building Reputations. Architecture and the artisan, 1750–1830, published by Manchester University Press.

Taking a cue from a burgeoning revisionist scholarship devoted to early modern vernacular architectures and their relationship to the classical canon, this book rehabilitates the reputations of a representative if misunderstood historic building typology – the brick terraced house – and the artisan communities of bricklayers, carpenters and plasterers responsible for its design and construction. Opening with a cultural history of the building tradesman in terms of his reception within contemporary architectural discourse, subsequent chapters consider the design, decoration and marketing of the town house in the principal cities of the eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century British Atlantic world. Drawing on extensive primary source material, from property deeds and architectural drawings to trade cards and newspaper advertising, Building Reputations considers the artisan as both a figure of building production and an agent of architectural taste.

Dr Conor Lucey is Assistant Professor in the School of Art History and Cultural Policy, University College Dublin. Dr Lucey is a former editor of Irish Architectural and Decorative Studies, the Journal of the Irish Georgian Society, and currently sits on the Desmond Guinness Scholarship committee. He is the 37th and current president of the Royal Society of Antiquaries.

The ADH award is given annually to the author of a literary work which, in the opinion of the Society of Architectural Historians of Great Britain award committee, provides an outstanding contribution to the study or knowledge of architectural history. The work must be by a British author (or authors), or deal with an aspect of the architectural history of the British Isles or the Commonwealth, and have been published within the past two years.

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City Assembly House Christmas Opening Hours


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The Irish Georgian Society offices will close on Monday 23 December at 1.00pm, and will reopen on Thursday 2 January, resuming normal office hours of 9.30am to 5.00pm.

The IGS bookshop will open on Sundays (12.00pm to 6.00pm) for the month of December, and will remain open until 6.00pm on Monday 23 December. You can collect purchases from the bookshop until 23 December.

(Image: Nicola Woods)

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IGS submission on James Joyce's House of The Dead, Usher's Island


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Re. Planning application for no. 15, Usher's Island, Dublin 8 (protected structure)

Ref. 4300/19

This planning application proposes to change the use of an eighteenth-century house of national heritage and cultural importance from a visitor centre to a hostel with spaces for 56 no. beds and a café at basement level, for associated demolition and construction works, and for the provision of new mechanical services.

No. 15 Usher’s Island is described in The Buildings of Ireland – Dublin (Casey, 2005, pp.671-2) as follows:

No. 15 looks c. 1800 but is evidently a house of c. 1775 built for a grain merchant, Joshua Pim. A standard three-bay house of four storeys over a basement and two-room plan with simple Neoclassical interior detail. It is celebrated as the setting of Joyce’s short story The Dead, and in the 1890s it was home to Joyce’s grand-aunts. Recently restored.

The National Inventory of Architectural Heritage identifies the building as ‘James Joyce House of The Dead’ ( Reg No 50080346) and describes it as being of National interest. It adds the following appraisal:

… It was used in 1987 by John Huston as the set for the film version. Its proportions and decorative doorcase are typical of Dublin Georgian townhouses. Together with numbers 12 and 14 it contributes positively to the historic character of the south quays, occupying a prominent position which closes the vista from Blackhall Place and the James Joyce Bridge. It has been recently restored, and its top storey reinstated.

The Irish Georgian Society wishes to raise the following concerns it has about the development proposals.

Insufficient information provided

As a protected structure of National interest, it would have been expected that comprehensive details of all the proposed works would have been provided with the planning application. While it is noted that the Impact Assessment identifies issues that could be considered during the planning process, the Irish Georgian Society is of the view that these should have been resolved at an earlier stage. Of particular concern is the need to fully resolve the following:

  • fire safety requirements
  • development of services layouts and installation of a series of “bulky service equipment”
  • designs for an external steel stairway and platform lift
  • details of works to the granite steps
  • treatment of chimneypieces etc
  • alterations to internal doors
  • details for the proposed basement cultural space/retail & coffee shop. In the absence of any proposed kitchen facilities, its viability is unclear.

Loss of integrity

Proposals for physical interventions and substantial additions to protected structures can be weighed up against and justified by the benefits of the intended end use of the building. In this case, the applicants propose to create new openings to the rear of the house at ground, first and second floor levels resulting in the loss of historic fabric and character, and to construct a new extension over four storeys. The Irish Georgian Society is of the view that the proposed intensive use of the house as a 56-bed hostel does not provide sufficient justification for the extent of these significant interventions.

Incremental damage

No. 15 Usher’s Island was built nearly 250 years ago and was not designed or constructed for intensive daily use. The Irish Georgian Society is of the view that the heavy foot fall that would arise from the building’s development as a 56-bed hostel would have an incrementally detrimental impact on its historic fabric. This would be contrary to the best interests of the protected structure and would be contrary to good conservation practices.

Development Plan

No. 15 Usher’s Island is designated as a protected structure (ref. 8198) in the Dublin City Development Plan (2016-22). The Plan contains the following provisions regarding the use of heritage buildings:

Identifying suitable and viable uses for certain heritage buildings can be a challenge and since an appropriately occupied building is the best way to ensure its protection, the development plan should reflect this and facilitate such appropriate uses, where these support the over-arching conservation objective [emphasis added]. (p. 182)

Changes of use of protected structures, which will have no detrimental impact on the special interest [emphasis added] and are compatible with their future long-term conservation, will be promoted (CHC2, p. 186).

The Irish Georgian Society is of the view that the proposed intensive use of No. 15 Ushers Island as a 56-bed hostel would not comprise an appropriate use for this building of national heritage and cultural importance and furthermore that it would have a detrimental impact on its special interest. On these grounds we recommend that permission be refused.

Yours sincerely

Donough Cahill

Executive Director IGS

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Financial Assistance for Architectural Heritage in 2020


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The Department and local authorities recently announced their funding schemes for 2020.

In the context of a particular building, especially one on the Record of Protected Structures, the best advice for the owner may be to contact the Conservation Officer in their Local Authority. They will be able to advise on the various types of funding available to assist with the building.

Built Heritage Investment Scheme and Historic Structures Fund 2020

The Built Heritage Investment Scheme and the Historic Structures Fund will operate again in 2020 with total funding of up to €4.3 million.

The Built Heritage Investment Scheme 2020 (BHIS) is for the repair and conservation of structures that are protected under the Planning and Development Acts. This Scheme aims to support a significant number of labour-intensive, small-scale conservation projects across the country and to support the employment of skilled and experienced conservation professionals, craftspeople and tradespersons in the repair of the historic built environment. The Department is piloting a ‘micro’ grant scheme within the 2020 BHIS for works of routine maintenance and minor repairs which, if successful, will operate on a national basis at a future time.

The fund is administered through the local authorities. The allocation for 2020 is up to €2.5 million.

Built Heritage Investment Scheme 2020 Circular

The Historic Structures Fund 2020 (HSF) is for conservation works to heritage structures, in both private and public ownership.

The primary focus of the Historic Structures Fund is on conservation and enhancement of historic structures and buildings for the benefit of communities and the public.

The fund is generally administered through the local authorities. The allocation for 2020 is up to €1.8 million.

Historic Structures Fund 2020 Circular

Historic Structures Fund 2020 – Appendix I – Form A (Applicant)

Any enquiries about funding under these schemes must be directed to the relevant local authority (Conservation Officer or other person in the local authority dealing with the schemes).

(Images: Beaulieu Garden Pavilion, Co. Meath and the O'Brien Column, Co. Clare - both recipients of funding through the BHIS)

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Castle Coole Study Day


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The IGS held a very special study day in Castle Coole, Co. Fermanagh on 12th November which explored the rich architectural heritage, decorative interiors and designed landscape of Ireland’s finest eighteenth-century neo-classical house. Held in partnership with the National Trust, the study day featured a host of leading scholars including as keynote speaker John Martin Robinson, author of the Yale University Press monograph on James Wyatt, Christopher Monkhouse, former curator of European Decorative Arts at the Art Institute of Chicago, and Dr Edward McParland, Fellow emeritus of Trinity College Dublin.

We also wish to thank the speakers who presented papers on the day, all of whom are leading figures in their fields and generously shared their knowledge with us. Castle Coole has been home to the Lowry Corry family since the late seventeenth century and continues to be the home of Lord and Lady Belmore. The Society is most grateful for their enthusiasm and support without which the study day simply would not have happened. Finally we wish to thank the National Trust for opening Castle Coole especially and its staff members in County Fermanagh who were hugely supportive in ensuring the seamless running of the event.

Castle Coole Study Day Speakers and Chairs (left to right): Dr Patricia McCarthy, Dr John Martin Robinson; Terence Reeve-Smyth, Primrose Wilson, Christopher Monkhouse; Lady Belmore, Lord Belmore, David Skinner, Emmeline Henderson, Donough Cahill, Frances Bailey, Dr William Roulston.

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