Proposed N11/M11 road improvement scheme, Co. Wicklow
Through this submission the Irish Georgian Society notes its serious concerns about the impact of the proposed N11/M11 road improvement scheme on protected structures and historic designed landscapes lying within the designated route corridor options. It also wishes to express its dismay at the apparent lack of any consideration given to the impact of these options on sites and areas that are of regional and national heritage significance.
The Irish Georgian Society is a membership organisation, which encourages and promotes the conservation of distinguished examples of architecture and the allied arts of all periods in Ireland. These aims are achieved through our education programmes, by supporting and undertaking conservation works, publishing original research, planning participation and fundraising. The Society has had a marked and widely acknowledged impact on the conservation of built heritage in the state and has wide experience of the problems associated with the restoration, repair and maintenance of the fabric of historic property.
Approximate locations of the Cottage Orne and of the Goulding Summerhouse
Picturesque and designed landscapes of Wicklow
County Wicklow is often referred to as the Garden of Ireland and has been a renowned destination for tourism and for artists since the eighteenth-century. The draw was, as it is today, the picturesque landscape and its surprising dramatic topography and ancient and more recent woodlands. Given its proximity to Dublin, the area subject to the current road improvement scheme historically drew most attention and formed the subject of celebrated works by artists such as Thomas
Roberts (1748-1777), George Barrett (1732-1784) and William Ashford (1746-1824). Its picturesque qualities were further explored in publications such as Thomas Fisher’s Scenery of Ireland (1796) and Thomas Milton’s Seats and Demesnes of the Nobility and Gentry of Ireland (1783).
The current road improvement scheme would have a devastating impact on the distinctive character of an area which has drawn visitors for centuries and would see the irretrievable loss or significant diminution of multiple sites through demolition or massive earth works.
The Irish Georgian Society’s submission considers the impact of the proposed routes on the following houses and landscapes: Dargle Cottage (protected structure), Kilcroney House (protected structure), Hollybrook House (protected structure), Bellvue Demesne, Tinnapark House (protected structure), and Mount Kennedy House (protected structure).
The Dargle River valley was perhaps the best well known of Wicklow’s scenic destinations in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and was described in 1796 by Jonathon Fisher as follows:
The Glen called the Dargle is in the county of Wicklow, 10 miles from Dublin. It commences near Tinnehinch… and extends for about one and a half mile. It is formed by two hills separated by a close and deep precipice, through the bottom of which, a rapid stream forces its passage over large detached rocks in a winding direction towards Bray, where it unites with the waters of the Irish Channel. Fisher, 1796, Scenery of Ireland, plate XXIV
The current road proposals would have a direct and severe impact on the northern end of the valley. This picturesque area is the home of an important garden situated on either side of a steep river gorge that was laid out by Sir Basil and Lady Goulding in the 1940s. Two protected structures lie within the gardens: Dargle Glen/Cottage (RPS ref. 03- 36 ), a cottage orné built for Sir Basil and Lady Goulding to the designs of Michael Scott and Partners; and the Goulding Summerhouse (RPS ref 03-37) described by the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage as:
A starkly modernist structure whose impact is made all the greater by its idyllic well-wooded setting. Perhaps the most dramatic and memorable later 20th-century building in the whole county.
The Blue Corridor and notably the Yellow Corridor Options would have an overwhelming impact on this highly sensitive site which, together with the garden, house and summerhouse, survives as one of the most important designed landscapes of the mid to late twentieth century in Ireland.
Goulding Summerhouse (image source: The Modern House)
Approximate locations of the Cottage Orne and of the Goulding Summerhouse
Kilcroney House (Dublin Oak Academy)
The same Corridor Options would completely destroy the setting of Kilcroney House (RPS ref 03-35) which lies to the south of Dargle Cottage, with the Blue Corridor running in very close proximity to the main building and associated structures.
The entry for Kilcroney in the Record of Protected Structures in the Wicklow County Development Plan reads as follows:
Extensive, Tudor gothic-revival house of circa 1850 designed by Daniel Robertson for Dr Lloyd, Provost of Trinity. It is built of granite ashlar with transom and mullioned windows, drip labels, crenulations, gables and pinnacles. On the right-hand side is a four-stage tower and out offices which are designed to look like the main (house).
The NIAH Survey of Historic Gardens and Designed Landscapes records the presence of Kilcroney on the 2nd edition Ordnance Survey Maps and, in the Initial Overview, notes that the site footprint remains visible, the boundary remains defined, and that there has not been significant development.
The construction of a new motorway in such close proximity to Kilcroney would be entirely contrary to the provisions of national legislation for the protection of our built heritage and can’t possibly be considered a suitable solution for the improvement of the N11/M11.
Kilcroney House (image source: Dublin Oak Academy)
Approximate location of Kilcroney House
To the east, the Green Corridor and Red Corridor Options would have a hugely detrimental impact on the setting of another protected structure, Hollybrook House (RPS ref. 07-06), while the Blue Corridor would also compromise the building. Hollybrook was built c. 1831 to the designs of the noted architect William Morrison who had previously worked on nearby Kilruddery with his father Richard. In the Record of Protected Structures for County Wicklow, the house is described as follows:
Important, Tudor, gothic-revival house by William Vitruvius Morrison, 1838. An energetic essay of granite ashlar with transom and mullioned windows, gables and tall stacks. Clock tower, stables and folly tower.
In its appraisal of the house, the NIAH notes that it:
…is in relatively original condition even though it has suffered considerably from fire and by subdivision into individual dwellings. The setting has been diminished with the selling of most of the demesne.
Though its setting has been compromised through the loss of much of its historic parkland, the proposed route options would largely erode what remains.
Hollybrook House (image source: Gibbons Architecture)
Approximate location of Hollybrook House
Though Bellevue House was demolished in the 1950s and its demesne has since been divided up for use as a golf course and farmland, it retains some of the very best picturesque qualities for which it was previously celebrated. Most notable of these is the view from The Octagon and banqueting room which is situated on a
ridge above the ancient woodlands of the Glen of the Downs, a designated Nature Reserve. In 1796 it was observed that from here “there is an extensive view of the Scalp, the Sugar-loaf hills, Dromin, Howth, Dalkey, Lambay, Dunran, and Kindlestown hill” (Ferrar, J., 1796, A View of Ancient and Modern Dublin). If either the Orange Corridor or Pink Corridor Options were implemented, the view looking north would include not just the current dual carriageway but a motorway that would forever compromise the character and special qualities of the surrounding landscape.
Approx. location of The Octagon. The red corridor runs through the Glen of the Downs
To the west of Kilpeddar, the Blue Corridor Option would have a significant impact on the setting of Tinnapark House (RPS ref. 12-05) and would also have a detrimental impact on Organic Life, an enterprise which pioneered organic horticultural in Ireland. Established in the mid-1980s, its carefully designed areas of production exploited the shelter provided by historic planting.
The entry for Tinnapark in the Record of Protected Structures describes it as a “five-bay, two-storey, gable-ended house of circa 1800 with rough-cast walls, Doric porch, sash windows with Georgian panes and natural slates on the roof”. In its appraisal of the house, the NIAH notes that it is “a well preserved early 19th-century house which is in good and substantially original condition, and has retained its original setting”.
Tinnapark House (image source: NIAH)
Mount Kennedy House
Immediately to the south lies Mount Kennedy House (RPS ref. 13-20) which is among the most architecturally sigificant houses in Co. Wicklow, and is a building of national architectural importance. It was built c. 1782 to the designs of James Wyatt, one of the most noted architects in Ireland and Britain of the time. In his recently published biography of Wyatt, John Martin Robinson observed that “Wyatt's work exerted a major influence on neo-classical architecture and decoration in Ireland, where a far higher proportion of his buildings has survived than in England” (2012, James Wyatt (1746-1813), Yale).
Mount Kennedy House (image source: The Irish Times)
Mount Kennedy House is described as follows in the Record of Protected Structures:
Highly influential, neo-classical house designed by James Wyatt and executed to an exceptionally high standard. The façade, of five bays and two storeys over a basement has an engaged, pedimented, tetrastyle portico with a Diocletian window on the first floor.
Ferrar (qv) wrote enthusiastically of Mount Kennedy in 1796: .
Delightful views!–where’er we turn the eye,
Still varied prospects crowd upon our sight;
These charms the senses, and the thoughts employ.
And wrap the mind in tranquil, calm delight.
In The Seats and Demesnes of the Nobility and Gentry of Ireland (1783) Thomas Milton described the setting of Mount Kennedy as follows:
It is situated on an eminence and from the rear, or east side, commands a fine view of the sea, at the distance of about two miles; the country which the eye runs over in the interval is extremely beautiful. The west view, overlooking the demesne, is bounded at some distance by mountains, which form a bold termination of the prospect… There are, perhaps, few places in Ireland superior in beauty to Mount Kennedy.
The NIAH Survey of Historic Gardens and Designed Landscapes records Mount
Kennedy on the 1st Edition Ordnance Survey maps (1836 – 1846) and notes that the same footprint and boundaries remain defined, that there has been no change in the location of entrances, avenues, woodlands or the drive. It also notes changes
in the historic landscape with the most notable perhaps being the development of a road into a dual carriageway. However, the integrity of the parklands around the house remains largely intact which is a fitting recognition of its significance and that of Mount Kennedy House itself.
This important surviving historic landscape is now threatened by the proposed Blue Corridor Option which would slice through the north-eastern section of the demesne, cut across the main avenue to the house, and result in the loss of its gate lodge. The eastern view to the sea recorded in 1783 would instead be obstructed by a motorway cutting across the parklands.
National and local authority plans and strategies
The Irish Georgian Society wishes to highlight the following provisions relating to the protection of our built heritage and landscapes in the Wicklow County Development Plan 2016-2022, the Architectural Heritage Protection Guidelines for Planning Authorities (2004/2011), the National Landscape Strategy (2015-25), and the European Landscape Convention which was ratified in 2002 by the Irish government:
Wicklow County Development Plan, Built Heritage Strategy (Chp. 10):
(it is an objective to)… ensure that the protection and conservation of the built heritage of Wicklow is an integral part of the sustainable development of the county and safeguard this valuable, and in many instances, non-renewable resource through proper management, sensitive enhancement and appropriate development;
(it is an objective to)… ensure the protection of the architectural heritage of Wicklow through the identification of Protected Structures, the designation of Architectural Conservation Areas, the safeguarding of designed landscapes and historic gardens, and the recognition of structures and elements that contribute positively to the vernacular and industrial heritage of the County;
Wicklow County Development Plan, Strategy for Tourism and Recreation (Chp. 7):
(it is an objective to)… protect Wicklow’s principal strengths and capitalise on the distinct tourism and recreational attractions that are on offer – scenic beauty, woodlands and waterways, coastal areas and beaches, and built and natural heritage;
(it is an objective to)… preserve the character and distinctiveness of scenic landscaped as described in the Landscape Categories of the County set out in Chapter 10;
Architectural Heritage Protection Guidelines for Planning Authorities (2004/11):
7.2.1 Conservation is the process of caring for buildings and places and of managing change to them in such a way as to retain their character and special interest. Historic structures are a unique resource. Once lost, they cannot be replaced. If their special qualities are degraded, these can rarely be recaptured.
National Landscape Strategy (2015-25):
Our landscape reflects and embodies our cultural values and our shared natural heritage and contributes to the well-being of our society, environment and economy. We have an obligation to ourselves and to future generations to promote its sustainable protection, management and planning.
The European Landscape Convention
the landscape has an important public interest role in the cultural, ecological, environmental and social fields, and constitutes a resource favourable to economic activity and whose protection, management and planning can contribute to job creation… The landscape is a key element of individual and social well-being and its protection, management and planning entail rights and responsibilities for everyone.
Ireland’s architectural heritage and its historic gardens and designed landscapes are intrinsic to the multi-layered character of its countryside. This is particularly evident in County Wicklow where its picturesque landscapes have been celebrated since the eighteenth-century through the work of artists and writers and continues through to the present day with the County having deservedly earned the moniker of ‘Garden of Ireland’.
If any of the various Corridor Options proposed for the N11/M11 Improvement Scheme are implemented, they would have a devastating impact on some of the county’s most important protected structures, historic gardens, and designed and natural landscapes. The picturesque setting of the cottage orné and summerhouse of Dargle Cottage would be ruined; the very future of Kilcroney House and Hollybrook House would be undermined; the celebrated views from the ridge above the Glen of the Downs would be forever compromised; the setting of Tinnapark would be significantly diminished; and a sizable portion of the historic designed landscape of Mount Kennedy House, a structure of national architectural importance, would be lost forever.
The protection of this heritage is embedded in the conservation and tourism objectives of the Wicklow County Development Plan and in conservation legislation while the National Landscape Strategy and the European Landscape Convention set out visions that should be applied to guide its sustainable management. The Irish Georgian Society is of the view that these provisions must be adhered to in order to protect the county and the country’s heritage and, as such, recommends that the proposed Route Options be set aside.