Saturday, July 9, 2011

Cork Chapter visit to Limerick on 20th May, 2011

On 20th May, 2011, the Cork Chapter of the Irish Georgian Society made an outing to County Limerick. Our first stop was at Ash Hill Stud in Kilmallock where we were welcomed by Simon Johnson. Having been treated to morning coffee with delicious cakes and bracks, we were given a summary by Simon of the rich history of his family and its associations with the house. Ash Hill was originally built for Eyre Evans (the entrance carries the Evans family motto) and is an interesting mix of Georgian and neo-gothic styles. The present Georgian house was built by Chidley Coote in 1781. Here the important stucco ceilings are similar to those found in the salon at Castletown, County Kildare. In the 1830s Eyre Evans employed Charles Anderson to build the front of the house in a Gothic style that included two large towers. Due to excessive rates in the 1960s these were removed. Simon elaborated on the changes made by his mother which included removing the original staircase and replacing it with a timber paneled family room, the timber having been salvaged from Castle Cor, Kanturk. This resulted in the front door being relocated to the courtyard side of the house. Having viewed the exterior and outbuildings our convoy repaired to the Mustard Seed at Ballingarry for lunch.

A former Presentation convent, the Mustard Seed Restaurant and Hotel represents a tasteful restoration and change of use of a historical house. Our lunch, hosted by proprietor Dan Mullane, was the highlight of our outing. We were treated to salads from the garden and delights such as jellied ham hock, duck confit and goats cheese fritters followed by fresh berries and meringue. The Mustard Seed is highly recommended for a special treat and IGS members may avail of discounted rates. Luckily our lunch prepared us for the cross country zig-zag to Ballinvirick House near Askeaton!

Ballinvirick is an early Georgian house originally the home of the Royce family in the mid eighteenth century. Presently it is in the final stages of restoration by its new owners, the Fleming family who purchased the property in 2004. Our afternoon was delightful and as the sun shone we wandered through the formal and informal gardens. Our hosts, Mark and Kate Fleming, provided home made lemonade and biscuits and were most informative on their restoration project and anecdotes on the house. Relaxed and refreshed we gathered ourselves for our final pursuit.

When we arrived at Curragh Chase House it was late afternoon. From the steps our chairman Kevin Hurley read a synopsis on its history from The Abiding Enchantment of Curragh Chase - A Big House Remembered, by Joan Wynne Jones (neé De Vere), published in 1983. One could only imagine the fantastic interior with, for example, plaster work by John Flaxman. The house was the home of the de Vere family where the famous poet Aubrey De Vere was born in 1814. Sadly the mansion was destroyed by fire in 1941 and only the outer walls remain today. The estate now forms part of a forest park administered by Coillte. Our final treat was tea and homemade chocolate biscuits served on the steps of Curragh Chase. Many thanks to committee members Catherine Fitzmaurice and Dr. Alicia St. Leger for putting the finishing touches to a marvelous day!

Cork Chapter Visit to Crosshaven on 17th April 2011

Members of the Cork Chapter gathered at Holy Trinity (Templebreedy) Church of Ireland in Crosshaven (courtesy of the Rev. Isobel Jackson) on a cloudy, cool Sunday morning on 17th April 2011. The poor weather was soon forgotten as members heard of the fascinating history of the church from Chapter Head, Kevin Hurley. He revealed some of the interesting stories and design features of the building which was the creation of architect William Burges in 1864-1866. Burges also designed St. Fin Barre’s Cathedral in nearby Cork city. Members enjoyed looking around the church and the children’s choir was starting practice as the group left the building to travel the short distance to Fort Camden.

Improved weather and a warm welcome greeted the group at the entrance to the fort. Situated on either side of the entrance to Cork Harbour, Camden and Carlisle Forts were substantially developed in the 1790s to guard the area from attack by the French. They are fine examples of classical Coastal Artillery Forts. Camden remained in use until the mid-twentieth century and was acquired by Cork County Council in 1989 as a tourism project. It was later abandoned and vandalised, but has recently begun a new lease of life thanks to the hard work of a local group ‘Rescue Camden’ in conjunction with Crosshaven Tourism. The enthusiasm of the guides was infectious as they led the group through some of the many buildings, gun emplacements and tunnels on the site. The guides brought the fort back to life with their explanations of its history and the many stories associated with the site. The group saw evidence of recent work in clearing back overgrown vegetation and the start of careful building restoration. It was clear to see the excellent strategic siting of the fort in the magnificent setting of the harbour entrance. Thanks to Deirdre and Noel Condon for helping to organise our visit.

All that walking around the fort meant that members of the group had worked up a good appetite for lunch at the nearby Royal Cork Yacht Club. The club, now situated in the attractive setting of Crosshaven, was originally founded in 1720 on Haulbowline Island in the harbour. It is the oldest yacht club in the world and a brief talk on its history was given after the meal by club archivist Dermot Burns and by Dr. Alicia St. Leger who has published a history of the club. They pointed out some of the important historical paintings and other artefacts on display in the clubhouse.

The final visit of the day was to Crosshaven House. The Cork Chapter originally saw this building in 2004 when it was undergoing restoration, so it was very interesting to return to the house now that it is complete. It was built in 1769 by William Hayes and is prominently sited in the centre of Crosshaven village. The main five bay house is flanked by free-standing wings or pavilions. Members of the group admired the fine cantilevered staircase, the attractive plasterwork in the principal rooms and the lovely sense of space and light in the building. Ted Emery kindly facilitated this visit.

Thanks are due to all of those who kindly provided access to the church, fort, yacht club and Crosshaven House. Thanks also to Kevin Hurley for his work in organising a most enjoyable day.

Cork Chapter Visit to Fota House on 20th March, 2011

On Sunday 20th March Cork Chapter members enjoyed an afternoon at Fota House on Fota Island about ten kilometres east of Cork city. The visit began with the large group being divided into two and guided around the house by committee members Geraldine O’Riordan and Dr. Alicia St. Leger.

The building started life as an 18th century hunting lodge for the Smith Barry family. It was substantially enlarged in the 1820s for John Smith Barry to the design of renowned architects Richard Morrison and his son William. Further additions followed in the late 19th century when a billiard room and conservatory (later converted into a gallery) were added. It remained in the Smith Barry family until 1975 and is now under the care of the Irish Heritage Trust.

Members of the Cork Chapter explored the house, admiring the skilled craftsmanship, fine decoration and the many attractive features of the building. Set in the beautiful surroundings of an arboretum and gardens, the views from the main rooms are particularly striking. Of equal interest were the extensive staff quarters, including the kitchen and the wet or game larder with its carousel for hanging game.

Following refreshments in the hall, the group then gathered in the beautiful drawing room to hear a presentation by Dr. Edward McParland of the Department of the History of Art and Architecture, Trinity College, Dublin. Dr. McParland centred his talk on St. Mary’s Church, Pope’s Quay, Cork - a striking classical building designed by Cork architect Kearns Deane for the Dominican Order. Built in the 1830s and dedicated in 1839, the church had later additions. Dr. McParland’s engaging talk described not only the architecture of St. Mary’s, but also the fascinating story behind its construction. Local politics, church rivalry and interesting fund-raising activities were all part of the colourful origins of this attractive building set on the banks of the River Lee.

Dr. McParland’s excellent talk was followed by a draw for three copies of Tarquin Blake’s publication ‘Abandoned Mansions of Ireland’. The book features remarkable photographs of ‘abandoned mansions’ all over Ireland. For three lucky recipients, it was a welcome bonus at the end of a very pleasant and enlightening afternoon at Fota House. Thanks to Kevin Hurley who organised the event and to the staff at Fota House for all their help.

Thursday, March 10, 2011


Irish Georgian Society
Conserving Ireland’s Architectural Heritage



Patron: Mrs. Myrtle Allen




Sunday, 20th March 2011 @ 2.30pm

2.30pm Meet at Fota House for registration etc.

2.45pm Guided Tour of House by Geraldine O’Riordan and Dr. Alicia St. Leger

3.45pm Illustrated lecture on St. Mary’s Church, Pope’s Quay by Dr. Edward McParland of the Department of the History of Art and Architecture, Trinity College, Dublin, author of ‘James Gandon’ and ‘Public Architecture in Ireland’.

4.15pm Refreshments followed by draw for copies of ‘Abandoned Mansions of Ireland’ by Tarquin Blake

5.00pm Event concludes

Fota House: Historically important country house and demesne, seat of the Barry-Smith family until 1975 and altered and enlarged to the design of one of the most influential architects in Ireland during the nineteenth century, Sir Richard Morrison. Originally a hunting lodge, Fota was enlarged into a "Regency mansion of stucco" in the early nineteenth century by John Barry-Smith. The original seven-bay house remained the centrepiece of Morrison's classical composition, enlivened by the finely crafted Grecian limestone portico and tripartite opening above. The addition of flanking wings is a classical Palladian-style feature, this style further referenced in the suggestion of pediments on the gable-fronts. The Fota House demesne once comprised the whole island, the survival of its notable demesne structures, distinguished gardens and formal layout adds significantly to Ireland's national heritage. [NIAH 20907572] The house is now operated by the Irish Heritage Trust and is surrounded by the world famous arboretum. The restaurant will be open during the day serving lunches and snacks.

Dr. Edward McParland will lecture on St. Mary’s Pope’s Quay was built in the first half of the nineteenth century and was designed by Cork architect Kearns Deane, while the portico was added by Deane and Woodward. The ashlar and carved limestone façade was clearly executed by skilled craftsmen, while the fine interior is attributed to John Pyne Hurley, the baldacchino is attributed to Scannell of Cork, while the pulpit and high altar were designed by George Goldie and added in the 1880s. [NIAH Cork City 20512203]

Dr. Edward McParland is lecturer in the department of the history of art and fellow of Trinity College Dublin and author of “Public Architecture in Ireland, 1680-1760” This innovative book examines the public architecture of Ireland from 1680 to 1760, a crucial period during which the country undertook the combined tasks of recovering from war and constructing a new and stable society. New buildings, and new types of buildings, were needed to express and sustain this society. Architectural historian Edward McParland explores the role of public architecture in this enterprise, focusing on public buildings as works of architecture and art, while also discussing the political, social, and economic contexts in which they were built. More than one hundred specially commissioned photographs by David Davison beautifully document this cultural process. By drawing on extensive research in archives throughout Britain and Ireland, Edward McParland documents in vivid detail the architectural and social importance of these remarkable public buildings.

Accessing Fota: by car via the Cobh road or by train via the Cork to Cobh line (15 minute walk from Fota station to Fota House). Parking: parking is available with a fee of €3 to be paid when exiting the facility.

Advance booking is essential. Tickets cost €15 (members) €20 (non-members) including refreshments and must be purchased in advance by completing the application form below. N.B. Full details: name, address, contact details & membership no. etc., of all persons attending the tour must be provided.

Terms & Conditions: Participation at the discretion of the committee. No bookings accepted without payment. Attendees must provide own transport.

Details upon request via email to Kevin Hurley: or 087-9266826

A Visit to Some Cork City Churches and Former Churches

There was a strong sense of ecumenism at the Cork Chapter's final event for 2010. The event, organised by Edmund Corrigan, was a Saturday morning visit on the 20th. November to two Roman Catholic churches and two former Church of Ireland churches. Our group began our tour at the Catholic Church of St Peter's and Paul's.

St. Peter's and Paul's Church was designed by E.W. Pugin and George Ashlin. The church is much loved by Corkonians of every persuasion including children who love to visit the church in order to count its numerous angel motifs that adorn the building. Its Gothic revival architecture sets it apart from other Cork churches. Building work was initiated by the then Parish Priest, Fr. Murphy, of the Murphy Brewery family in 1859. Public subscription contributed to the completion of the church in 1866. The lavish interior was and continues to be a joy to visitors and worshippers alike.

The former Church of Ireland, St. Paul's Church was next on our itinerary. The church, latterly a factory, was built in 1723. Today, it proudly displays its first floor elegant tall round-headed windows. Its entrance is graced by tall ashlar pillars dating from 1785. But what really delighted our group was the building's incredible ornate plaster ceiling. A rare sight indeed.

The former Church of Ireland, St. Peter's and the Catholic Church of St. Augustine's were the subjects of the second half this pleasant morning's tour. St. Peter's is reputedly the oldest church standing in Cork. Today, it serves our city as The Vision Centre. We were given a most interesting talk by Tarquin Blake who introduced us to his exhibition, "Abandoned Mansions of Ireland." Finally, our group, having made our way on foot to the last of four churches, the Catholic Church of St. Augustine. After welcome festive treats such as coffee and mince pies, enjoyed at the priory, we rounded off our morning with a tour of this beautiful 1940's church. Our appreciation was conveyed to our hosts and to Edmund Corrigan for a most seasonal and enjoyable Four Churches Event.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Cork Chapter Visit to Cobh County Cork

The last Saturday of October 2010, turned out to be one of those cherished mellow autumn days that set the scene for the Cork Chapter's Cobh autumn outing. The town of Cobh is spoilt for choice when it comes to assembling an itinerary for a visit. But Dr. Alicia St. Leger selected wisely when she chose three places of interest for the Chapter's trip. As our group was gathering to register on that autumn morning, one could not but be impressed by the magnificence of the location occupied by our first building, Cobh Museum. Sitting, as it does on a hill, overlooking the harbour, it is the perfect place to get a sense of the importance of the town of Cobh as an outstanding place to visit.

Alicia St. Leger gave a most interesting short talk on Cobh Museum. It was built in 1854 as a Presbyterian Church in the Gothic style of architecture. It was known locally then, as the Scots Church. Today, it houses articles of interest reflecting the cultural, social and maritime history of Cobh and the Great Island.

The second part of our visit led our group downhill to the town proper and to the Sirius Arts Centre. This Victorian structure was given life in 1854 as a clubhouse for the Royal Cork Yacht Club. A status occupied until 1966 when the yacht club moved across the harbour to Crosshaven. In 1988, the vacant clubhouse in Cobh was given another lease of life to serve as an arts centre. Today, the building continues to provide unparalled views of the harbour.

Having realised two elements of our itinerary, our party was ready to enjoy a fine lunch in Pearse Square. Fortified, we then made our way to get to the third and final part of our itinerary, the monumental St. Colman's Cathedral. Here we had plenty of time to relax and take full advantage of a fascinating tour led by Ms. Ann Wilson who generously plied us with local stories. Ann Wilson was passionate in her outline of detail as she pointed out the highly elaborate intricate detail of both the interior and exterior of this internationally renowned masterpiece. St. Colman's was designed by E.W. Pugin and G.C. Ashlin in 1868. Our appreciation was conveyed to our hosts for the day and to Dr. Alicia St. Leger for planning and oganising a splendidly varied Cobh visit for the Cork Chapter.