The Beauty of Birr

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Anne, Countess of Rosse (1902-1992) was one of the best looking and most stylish women of her generation. Birr Castle, County Offaly is full of mementoes of her tenure as chatelelaine including this chalk portrait which hangs above a mahogany chest on the return of the main staircase. Proposing her as an 18th century beauty, the artist was Anne Rosse’s brother, Oliver Messel (1904-1978). Originally renowned as a stage designer, in later years he achieved fame for the houses he created in the Caribbean.

A Template for Temples

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Birr, County Offaly is one of Ireland’s most perfectly planned towns. From 1817 onwards St John’s Mall was developed in an easterly direction by local landlord, the second Earl of Rosse. In 1833 at mid-point between two terraces of houses on the mall he built this impeccably simple, single-storey limestone Ionic-porticoed temple to commemorate his second son, the Hon John Clere Parsons, who had died five years earlier of scarlet fever just days before his 26th birthday. Since then John’s Hall, as it is called, has served a variety of purposes but almost 180 years after construction the building now stands empty awaiting a new use.