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 (neƩ 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.