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.

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


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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


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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, www.theirishaesthete.com

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Young Irish Georgians: 2022 Fundraising Project


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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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Irish Georgian Society Conservation Grants Programme 2022


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2021 IGS conservation grant pledges clockwise from top left: Dromdiah House, Co. Cork; Larchill Arcadian Gardens, Co. Kildare; St Eugene's Church, Co. Tyrone; Temple House, Co. Sligo; and Termon House, Co. Donegal.

The Irish Georgian Society is inviting applications for its Conservation Grants Programme 2022 with submissions accepted until Monday 21st February. A total of €40,000 will be available which will comprise €30,000 from IGS London and €10,000 through the newly created Homan Potterton Conservation Grant.

Structures of architectural interest from across the country are eligible for funding from IGS London while the Homan Potterton Conservation Grant is available only to Georgian buildings of architectural merit anywhere in the counties of Meath or Westmeath.

Since 2014 the Irish Georgian Society’s Conservation Grants Programme has been generously funded by IGS London during which time the Society has supported over forty conservation projects that have included country houses and castles, thatched cottages and historic townhouses, architectural follies, and churches. Projects have included repairs to roofs, windows and rain water goods, the restoration of painted and stained glass windows, support for conservation plans and building appraisals, and other conservation initiatives.

In 2021 the Society pledged grants for the following projects:

  • Kildrought House, Co. Kildare (€3000)
  • Temple House, Co. Sligo (€750)
  • Termon House, Co. Donegal (€2500)
  • Kilderry House, Co. Donegal (€3000)
  • St Eugene’s Church, Omagh, Co Tyrone (€3490)
  • Larchill Arcadian Gardens, Co. Sligo (€3000)
  • Kilburry House, Cloneen, Co Tipperary (€3500)
  • Dromdiah House, Co. Cork (€4000)
  • St Paul’s French Church, Co. Laois (€4000)
  • 8 Upper Pembroke Street, Co. Dublin (€2750)

Applications for the 2022 grants programme must be submitted by 5pm on Monday 21st February with forms available to download here.

For articles on previous grants recipients, please click here.

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

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Desmond Guinness Scholarship 2021 Winner Announced


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Long gallery castletown
Long Gallery, Castletown, Co. Kildare. Image courtesy of OPW

The Irish Georgian Society is delighted to announce that the Desmond Guinness Scholarship 2021 has been jointly awarded to Deirdre Cullen and Siobhan Osgood.

Deirdre Cullen is a PhD student at University College Dublin where her thesis, the Long Gallery at Castletown: a rare example of the neoclassical taste for painted rooms 'all’antica' and an expression of the intellectual and cultural worlds of Ireland’s eighteenth-century elite, is being supervised by Dr Conor Lucey. Deirdre will use the DG Scholarship to help fund archival research in three UK archives (the British Library, the West Sussex Record Office and Suffolk Archives), as well as conduct site visits to key neoclassical interiors across England, from Heaton Hall in Manhcester to Fawley Court in Buckinghamshire. It is anticipated that the archival research and site visits will prove critical in informing Cullen’s comparative analysis of the Long Gallery within the genre of the painted room 'all’antica' and the wider genre of neoclassical painted decoration in Britain and Ireland.

Siobhan Osgood is a PhD student at Trinity College Dublin where her thesis, Architecture of the former Great Northern Railway of Ireland, is being supervised by Professor Christine Casey. William Hemingway Mills was the chief engineer for the GNRI but before this during the period 1865-69, he was engineer-in-chief for the Andalusian Railway in Spain where he constructed the Córdoba-Belmez line. Osgood wishes to explore this trans-national relationship of architectural styles and influences of engineering expansionism and its subsequent impact in an Irish context. The Desmond Guinness Scholarship will facilitate archival research at the Railway Historical Archive and Railway Library at the Museo del Ferrocarril in Madrid. The DG scholarship will also help fund Osgood’s site visits to the landmark railway stations of Atocha and Charmarrín and assist in funding Osgood’s travel along the Córdoba-Belmez line visiting the original stations, thus completing a comprehensive research trip into William Hemingway Mills and his work on the Andalusian Railway.

The Irish Georgian Society would like to take this opportunity to thank all those who applied for the scholarship in 2021. There was a notable number of high calibre applications.

The Society would also like to extend our gratitude to the Desmond Guinness Scholarship assessors (Professor Christine Casey, TCD; Associate Professor Alison FitzGerald, Maynooth University; Dr David Fleming, UL; Professor Kathleen James-Chakraborty, UCD; Associate Professor Conor Lucey, UCD; Dr Anna Moran, NCAD; and Primrose Wilson, OBE; ) for their generosity in sharing their academic expertise and investing their time in evaluating the applications.

Siobhan Osgood DG Scholarship 2021
Spanish station at El Vacar Villaviciosa and the GNRI station at Dundalk showing the similarities in their design.

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The IGS Bookshop Presents: A Christmas Gift Guide


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Christmas Gift Guide

The IGS team has specially curated a bookshop gift guide for you and yours during this Christmas season! Stop by the City Assembly House between now and 23rd December to do your holiday shopping.

Bookshop hours are Monday through Saturday, 10AM to 5PM. The shop will be closed starting 24 December and will reopen on 5th January. If you plan to shop online - make sure to check out the 2021 Christmas final post dates so your package arrives at its final destination before the 24th of December.

With the countdown to Christmas well and truly on - we've rounded up our favorite publications and stocking stuffers that are sure to make someone very happy! All items are currently in stock in the bookshop and also available at shop.igs.ie.

€20.00, Zest Publications, 2020 Hardback, 108 pages. Artists Eva and Letitia Hamilton and their four sisters lived through the transition from British rule to a newly independent Ireland. They had to adapt to a conservative and patriarchal society in which roles for women were clearly defined. Navigating this environment required compromise and determination. This book book narrates how they made that journey.

€45.00, Irish Academic Press, 2021 Hardback, 308 pages. This book tells the untold story of the women who were the faces of the British administration in Ireland. As the wives of the country’s viceroys, the vicereines were once the fashionable figureheads of social, cultural and charitable life at Dublin Castle, in the days before Irish independence. Exploring the portraits, papers and personal objects they left behind, this book sets out to recapture their lost legacies. Fabrics shimmer, flowers blossom and pearls glint in the painted world of the vicereines. But behind these genteel images were activists and advocates who, as the studies in this book reveal, touched almost every facet of Irish life. Campaigns to develop hospitals, relieve poverty, promote Irish fashions, and, remarkably, mitigate what several perceived as the injustices of British rule in Ireland, are just some of their overlooked initiatives. The experiences and papers of the vicereines have much to tell us, not only about official Ireland but also about those whose identities are largely lost to history, such as orphans, artisans and the working poor. Often sympathetic but sometimes apathetic, the contrasting attitudes of the vicereines suggest a fresh, more inclusive reading of the British administration in Ireland, as viewed not only through its men but also its women. Featuring essays by leading scholars and based on original sources, including diaries and letters, this beautifully illustrated book brings together text and image to create new and illuminating portraits of forgotten women.
€39.00, Hardback, 568 pages. Cork University Press, 2020. This major illustrated study investigates farmhouse and cabin furniture from all over the island of Ireland. It discusses the origins and evolution of useful objects, what materials were used and why, and how furniture made for small spaces, often with renewable elements, was innate and expected. Encompassing three centuries, it illuminates a way of life that has almost vanished. It contributes as much to our knowledge of Ireland’s cultural history as to its history of furniture. This is a is a substantially different book from Irish Country Furniture, 1700-1950, published by Yale UP in 1993 and reprinted several times. The new book now incorporates the findings of a lot of recent research. Nearly all the black and white pictures in the 1993 book are now in colour, or have been changed for the better, and now include different examples (except archive pictures). Many of the author's fieldwork photographs from the late 1980s, have been digitised and will now be published for the first time. The extent has almost doubled; there are an extra 120 illustrations; the main text has been fully updated and revised; there is a new chapter ‘Small Furnishings and Utensils’ and there is a new Preface by Louis Cullen. Reflecting the considerable addition of new material, the time scale is also broadened to include discussions of objects and interiors up to 2000. It represents extraordinary value. The book looks at influences such as traditional architecture, shortage of timber, why and how furniture was painted, and the characteristics of designs made by a range of furniture makers. The incorporation of natural materials such as bog oak, turf, driftwood, straw, recycled tyres or packing cases is viewed in terms of use, and durability. Chapters individually examine stools, chairs and then settles in all their ingenious and multi-purpose forms. How dressers were authentically arranged, with displays varying minutely according to time and place, reveal how some had indoor coops to encourage hens to lay through winter. Some people ate communally or slept in outshot beds, in the coldest north-west, all this is illustrated through art as well as surviving objects.
€40.00, The White House Historical Association, 2021 Hardback, 212 pages. When considering the design of the President’s House yet to be built in the emerging Federal City of Washington, President George Washington asked after a young Irish builder he had learned of while visiting in Charleston, South Carolina. Soon James Hoban appeared in Washington’s Philadelphia office with his credentials. By 1792, Hoban was at work on the building site, having won the competition for the design of the President’s House. Washington had placed him in charge of the entire project, with all carpentry, stonemasonry, and brickwork under his supervision. The resulting structure, accomplished in time for President John Adams to take residence in November 1800, fulfilled Washington’s vision and is today one of the most recognizable landmarks in the world. Yet of the millions of people who know the White House are likely to find Hoban’s work more memorable than his name. With this anthology, the world’s most knowledgeable scholars on James Hoban introduce us to him, presenting the story of his life, influences, and work. The essays are followed by an illustrated catalog of nearly 100 images of historic Dublin, Irish Country Houses, the White House, and sites known to James Hoban in America.
€45.00, Durer Editions, 2021 Hardback, 66 pages. For over 30 years Simon Watson has exhibited his photographs in Europe and the U.S. including solo shows at the late Richard Anderson Gallery in New York and the Auschwitz Museum in Poland. More recently he has shown his paintings at the Galerie Rideau de Fer in France. His work is included in museums, public and private collections worldwide. Watson has been a regular contributor to The New York Times T Magazine, W Magazine, Vogue, Vanity Fair and many other titles worldwide. His recent book The Lives of Others was published by Rizzoli in 2020. In this publication, Watson explores an eighteenth-century Georgian house on Dublin’s storied Henrietta Street. The house has a history of transformation, from the grand city home of wealthy merchants to the inner-city tenement dwelling for the poverty stricken. In a gentle Proustian fashion, the house reveals a quiet melancholy and the slow passing of time. The photographs in this volume were made over several years. The work is intended to be a poetic and intimate portrait.
€38.00, Jonathan Cape, 2021 Hardback, 416 pages. As the sun set slowly on the British Empire in the years after the Second World War, the nation's stately homes were in crisis. Tottering under the weight of rising taxes and a growing sense that they had no place in twentieth-century Britain, hundreds of ancestral piles were dismantled and demolished. Perhaps even more surprising was the fact that so many of these great houses survived, as dukes and duchesses clung desperately to their ancestral seats and tenants' balls gave way to rock concerts, safari parks and day trippers. From the Rolling Stones rocking Longleat to Christine Keeler rocking Cliveden, Noble Ambitions takes us on a lively tour of these crumbling halls of power, as a rakish, raffish, aristocratic Swinging London collided with traditional rural values. Capturing the spirit of the age, Adrian Tinniswood proves that the country house is not only an iconic symbol, but a lens through which to understand the shifting fortunes of Britain in an era of monumental social change. Lavishly illustrated in full colour, with over 50 photographs.
*Limited signed copies available while stocks last* €14.95, Martello Publishing, 2021 Paperback, 208 pages. A Little History of the Future of Dublin is the work of Ireland’s most respected commentator on the urban landscape. In the book, Frank McDonald explores visions of the city, from the work of the Duke of Ormonde to Abercrombie's Dublin of the Future, through the excesses of the Celtic Tiger, to the decisions taken in the aftermath of the property crash. The book finishes with a plan for how the city could once again become one of the great small capitals of Europe.
€31.65, Manchester University Press, 2021 Paperback, 272 pages. Painting Dublin, 1886-1949 examines the depiction of Dublin by artists from the late-nineteenth to the mid-twentieth century. Artists' representations of the city have long been markers of civic pride and identity, yet in Ireland such artworks have been overlooked in favour of the rural and pastoral. Framed by the shift from city of empire to capital of an independent republic, this book examines artworks by Walter Osborne, Rose Barton, Jack B. Yeats, Harry Kernoff, Estella Solomons and Flora Mitchell, encompassing a variety of urban views and artistic themes. While Dublin is already renowned for its representation in literature, this book will demonstrate the many attractions it held for Ireland's artists, offering a vivid visualisation of the city's streets and inhabitants at a crucial time in its history.
€55.00, Four Courts Press, 2021 Hardback, 404 pages. This book contains a history of the early buildings of Trinity College, from the Elizabethan Quadrangle up to the residential ranges of the early eighteenth century. Among all those red-brick buildings only the Rubrics remains, albeit much altered, to suggest what Trinity College looked like before the 1750s, when replacement of the early buildings began. Why and when were new buildings added to the College, beyond the original Quadrangle? How were they funded? Who designed them? Where were materials sourced? What can be said about the architecture of the buildings, all of which, apart from the Rubrics, were pulled down in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries? Who managed their construction on the College’s behalf, and who carried out the building work? How were essential services provided? The book answers all of these questions, and en route it explores an almost forgotten event, the disastrous fire of February 1726/7, in which at least one house in Library Square was destroyed and several more were damaged. The second part of the book explores the community of residents of the early buildings up to the end of the nineteenth century when the range known as ‘Rotten Row’ was pulled down, leaving the Rubrics as the only representative of the early College. Where did Trinity’s students come from: geographically, socially, and denominationally? What were residential conditions like? What is known about College servants? Who lived in the old College buildings? Some famous names appear – for example the colonial governor of Connecticut John Winthrop, Oliver Goldsmith, the United Irishman Henry Sheares, Douglas Hyde – along with others who are less well-known but whose stories are nonetheless remarkable. The book ends with a memoir of the Rubrics in recent times.
Approximate Formality, €38.00, Anne Street Press, 2021 Hardback, 188 pages. Approximate Formality discusses the origin, originality and potential of towns and town plans in Ireland, from earliest times to the Famine, so they can be understood as a part of European and world culture. When people are genuinely looking for more sustainable ways to live lightly on the earth, this book opens the possibility of sustainable re-use of these brilliant places, bringing life back to what is actually an instant environment, based on an understanding of their significance. The book’s intention is to highlight the originality and excitement of these places, not just as old things re-made, but as potentially a whole new way of looking at living.
€27.95, Irish Academic Press, 2021 Paperback, 200 pages. Dark Beauty focuses on the minute detail in Harry Clarke’s stained-glass windows, particularly in the borders and lower panels of his work. Clarke’s brilliance as a graphic artist is clearly visible in his book illustrations, which are imbued with precise attention to intricate designs, and he applied the same lavish focus to every facet of his stained glass. The title ‘Dark Beauty’ refers to the duality of Clarke’s work that sees delicate angels juxtaposed with macabre, grotesque figures, and represents the partially hidden details that dwell in the background of his windows – motifs, accessories, flora, fauna and diminutive characters – which may be missed in light of the dominance of the central subjects. The authors spent many years photographing Clarke’s windows in Ireland, England, America and Australia, and the resulting 60,000 photos have been carefully whittled down to 300 glorious images. Dark Beauty will provide lovers of Clarke’s stained glass with the opportunity to view previously obscured or unnoticed details in all their unique beauty and inspire their own travels to view Clarke’s work.

Why not give someone the gift of membership this Christmas? Your gift will not only provide someone with access to historic properties and events to enjoy but will provide a unique way to support IGS. Your gift will be presented with a welcome letter stating it came from you, with a list of our events for members, an Irish Society Review and a special gift of 'Saving Graces' book, a collection of watercolours by Peter Murray featuring recipients of IGS's Conservation Grants programme.

Pick from a selection of Irish Georgian Society cards and cards illustrated by Rachel Corcoran (handmade in Dublin). Cards are blank for your own message and range from €3.00 - €4.50!

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