Saturday, July 9, 2011

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.

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