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.

Kilmacurragh House will be renovated under the renewed National Development Plan!


Posted by IGS

Sir David Davies, President of the IGS, is pleased to note that after 25 years of OPW care, Minister Patrick O’Donovan has announced that Kilmacurragh House, Co. Wicklow will be renovated under the renewed National Development Plan.

It is significant that the renovation, which will include reinstatement of the building's roof, restoration of its windows and doors, and the conservation of external wall finishes, will allow the house built in 1697 [a rare example of the Queen Anne Style in Ireland], to become once again the centrepiece and focus of the hugely successful National Botanic Gardens.

The IGS welcomes this latest development in the OPW's plans, which will complement the recent acquisition of an additional 55 acres of land from Coillte, including the Walled Garden and Deer Park.

About Kilmacurragh

The Acton family acquired lands at Kilmacurragh in the latter part of the 17th-century and shortly afterwards constructed a new house in the Queen Anne Style that is attributed to Sir William Robinson (1643-1712), Surveyor General of Ireland. This comprises a five-bay, two-storey over basement house, with an attic storey incorporated into a wide pedimented break-front, and with a steeply pitched roof and projecting eaves. The cornice and doorcase of the house are of timber which Maurice Craig suggests may once have been a common practice though is now rare with the Red House, Youghal, Co. Cork representing one such survivor. Mark Bence-Jones noted that the house had rooms with fielded panelling and a good staircase. Two flanking wings were built c. 1848 on the site of earlier structures and contained a ballroom and dining room respectively.

In the 18th century a formal Dutch-style landscape park was laid out around the house following the fashions of the period, and elements of this, such as the remains of canals and sweeping vistas, survive in the present garden. A great transformation of the landscape park commenced in the 1850s and continued over the next 50 years. With the collaboration of David Moore, curator of the Royal Botanic Gardens in Dublin, the Acton family assembled a remarkable collection of mostly wild origin plants during what was a golden era of botanical exploration. Kilmacurragh was sold by the Acton family in 1944 and over the course of the following half-century the house and gardens fell into decline. In 1996, a 52-acre portion of the house and gardens became part of the National Botanic Gardens of Ireland since when the gardens have been magnificently restored.

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Desmond Guinness Scholarship 2021 open for applications


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The Hon. Desmond Guinness (1931-2020)

The Desmond Guinness Scholarship is awarded annually by the Irish Georgian Society to an applicant or applicants engaged in research on the visual arts of Ireland including the work of Irish architects, artists and craftsmen, material culture and design history, 1600-1940. Preference will be given to work based on original documentary research.

The Scholarship is intended primarily for applicants who are not yet established at an advanced professional level in research or publication of the visual arts.

The Scholarship does not have to be awarded in any one year, and the decision of the assessors, appointed by the Irish Georgian Society, is final. The total value of the scholarship fund available for distribution is in the region of €2,000. The award will be made before the end of December 2021.

Deadline for applications extended to 2PM on Monday 6th December.

Please note the following:

  • Applications must be made online through this form: https://forms.gle/3ZC2dDHSgUTi...
  • No additional information or any other accompanying material will be accepted.
  • All questions must be answered and incomplete applications will not be considered. Late applications will not be accepted.
  • The Scholarship will not cover tuition fees.
  • A confidential reference supporting the applicant (with subject heading 'Desmond Guinness Scholarship 2021 Reference) should be sent via email to emmeline.henderson@igs.ie. This emailed reference must be received directly from the reference provider's own email address (not the applicant's) and arrive by the closing date.

If you have any further queries about the scholarship please contact:

Emmeline Henderson (emmeline.henderson@igs.ie) or by phoning 01 679 8675.

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Open to the public: 'Stepping Through the Gate: Inside Ireland's Walled Gardens'


Posted by IGS

Open Tuesday - Saturday, 10am - 5pm. Last admission 4:30pm.

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 forty 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. A catalogue can be purchased from the IGS bookshop.

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Ireland’s Historic Gardens two-part documentary on RTÉ ÓNE


Posted by IGS

Photo of Robert O'Byrne courtesy of TVPR

Sunday 26th September & Sunday 3rd October

6.30 – 7.30pm


Ireland’s Historic Gardens is a two part documentary written and presented by author and historian Robert O’Byrne (Luggala Days, The Irish Georgian Society - A Celebration, Romantic Irish Homes, Ruins of Ireland); and produced and directed by David Hare (Great Lighthouses of Ireland, Ballyfin - Portrait of an Irish Country House; and Henry McIlhenny, Master of Glenveagh).

The two, hour long programmes examine the history of Ireland’s country house gardens over the last 400 years during which time garden design has reflected political and social changes taking place within the country. In the seventeenth century, for example, the decision to plant your garden in the French or Dutch style reflected your political allegiance.

The story begins at Lismore Castle, which has the oldest continuously cultivated garden in Ireland - before this, what we recognise as gardens could only be found in friaries, monasteries and convents, all of which were closed down or destroyed during the Dissolution of the Monasteries, started by Henry VIII in the mid-sixteenth century.

Fashions in garden design changed from Italian Renaissance style (Portumna Castle), to the rigid formality of the Baroque era, exemplified by straight lines and symmetry (Kilruddery, and the Royal Hospital, Kilmainham). This in turn gave way to sweeping Arcadian landscapes (Ballyfin), totally man-made, but designed to look natural. In the nineteenth century, garden design moved back once more to formality and structure (Abbeyleix and Powerscourt) until, inevitably, a wilder, informal aesthetic became, and remains, popular (Mount Usher and Dereen). Follies, glasshouses, and walled gardens all have important parts to play in the evolution of Irish garden design.

The story of Ireland’s country house gardens is also the story of the men and women who commissioned, designed, and maintained them, including the Earl of Charlemont, generations of the Acton family, and William Robinson.

Robert O’Byrne visits seventeen significant and influential gardens and meets gardeners, historians and owners, each of whom adds insight and knowledge to the fascinating story of Ireland’s country house gardens. Ireland’s Historic Gardens is produced and directed by David Hare of Inproduction TV for RTE, in association with the Office of Public Works and the Irish Georgian Society

*Robert O'Byrne, former vice-President of the IGS, has curated a unique exhibition of some fifty specially commissioned paintings of Irish Walled Gardens by four leading artists, which will be launched by the Irish Georgian Society later this month in the City Assembly House, South William Street, Dublin. Stepping Through the Gate: Inside Ireland’s Walled Gardens, will be of exceptional interest to anyone with an interest in Irish gardens and gardening. The exhibition will run from Friday 24th September until late November 2021.


Robert O’Byrne has become one of Ireland’s best-known writers and lecturers specialising in the country’s fine and decorative arts. He is the author of more than a dozen books, among them Luggala: The Story of a Guinness House and Romantic Irish Homes. 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 is also a contributor to The Burlington Magazine and the Irish Arts Review. Since 2012 he has written an award-winning blog, www.theirishaesthete.com and a book of his photographs from this – The Irish Aesthete: Ruins of Ireland - was published in March 2019: his photographs can also be seen on Instagram, @theirishaesthete

Robert has a passionate interest in Ireland’s architectural and horticultural heritage, and has written extensively about both. During 2021/22 he is curating two exhibitions examining the history and evolution of Irish country house gardens, including her walled gardens, across three centuries. He is also presenting a two part television series on the same subject on RTE One television, and is co-editing a book on Ireland’s historic gardens due to be published next year.

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IGS London presentation to Castletown House


Posted by IGS

On Friday the 27th of August, John Barber, the chair of Irish Georgian Society London and John Redmill, Patron and Board member of Irish Georgian Society London were able to present Castletown House with the porcelain desk set bought by the late Della Howard at the 2009 Christies auction of the effects of the Knight of Glin.

Della, a great supporter of the Irish Georgian Society over many years, was keen that the desk set went to Castletown House. As it happened, the house is about to set up a new room with Lady Louise Conolly's writing table and they needed a desk set for it and this is perfect size and style for the table to be used. Della would have been delighted.

Pictured below (L-R) John Barber (Chair IGS London), Mary Heffernan (General Manager at OPW, Historic Properties, Heritage Services) and John Redmill (Patron and Board Member of IGS London)

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Celebrating the Irish Country House Garden


Posted by IGS

From 23rd September to late November, the IGS is hosting Stepping Through the Gate: Inside Ireland's Walled Gardens. Click here to learn more.

Tourin, County Waterford

Andrea Jameson (Stepping through the Gate, Inside Ireland’s Walled Gardens)

The present house at Tourin was built in 1840 to replace an earlier residence, incorporated into a 16th century tower house, closer to the river Blackwater. The walled garden here is approached along a gravelled broad walk, to one side of which the Victorian rock garden has recently been restored. The walk, lined with rhododendrons, camellias and magnolias, eventually reaches the entrance to the old walled garden. This lies adjacent to the old tower house and probably dates from the late 18th century. Running to several acres, it is still in active use, even though some of the original features have been lost over time. A brick-faced wall, for example, was once lined with greenhouses. Today their place has been taken by a deep bed which contains over 100 specimens of Bearded Iris that add dazzling colour here each May and June.

In the summer months, Tourin’s walled garden is replete with cutting plants such as Sweet Pea, Salvias, Agapanthus, Phlox, annual Cosmos, Sweet William and others. At a point close to the centre of the west wall, a seated bower is annually smothered in scented climbing roses. But the garden also produces generous quantities of fruit and vegetables every year. One substantial section is given over to apple trees, while plums can be found in abundance along one side of a walk. Meanwhile, the surviving greenhouse is filled with tomato and similar plants. A fenced-in area offers accommodation to a number of chickens who provide fresh eggs for Tourin’s owners. The walled garden at Tourin offers an excellent example of how such a facility can be adapted to changing times, while still remaining faithful to its original purpose.

Robert O’Byrne

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