All Tied Up in a Bow

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The double doors leading from drawing to dining room at Ballinlough Castle, County Westmeath are recessed within a large arched bow. And there are further bows evident in the delicate plasterwork that runs around the alcove and features garlands of flowers and leaves caught up in ribbon. The style is essentially rococo in spirit even though the room and its decoration date from c.1790, one of those anachronisms that one encounters in Ireland where a fondness for certain forms could sometimes linger long after they had fallen out of fashion elsewhere.

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La Porte √Čtroite

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The early 18th century entrance to Ballinlough Castle, County Westmeath, an exceptionally tall and narrow door with segmental pediment above, added one suspects to indicate the owners were aware of classical architecture. Incorporating an older structure, this section of the castle is of two storeys and of a seven-bays, the three advanced centre bays rising to an attic which features the family coat of arms (dated 1617 and presumably therefore taken from its predecessor). Like the door, the windows are taller than usual, that on the floor immediately above the door having a round top. A late 18th century extension to the immediate left of the photograph below will be discussed at a later date.

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Decorative Dining

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A detail of the plasterwork around a door leading from dining room to drawing room at Ballinlough Castle, County Westmeath. This extension to the much earlier house dates from c.1790, its design generally attributed to the amateur architect Thomas Wogan Browne. Browne also undertook similar work at Malahide. where the chatelaine Margaret Talbot was sister to Ballinlough’s then-owner Sir Hugh O’Reilly. The style is an eclectic blend of classical and gothic, and yet the assured delicacy with which it is applied (who can resist an ‘eggcup’ urn perched atop the pilaster) makes the result irresistible. As for Browne, he died – seemingly by his own hand – in 1812, two years after which his brother sold the family estate in County Kildare to the Jesuit order; ever since it has been a boarding school for boys known as Clongowes Wood College.

Step Inside

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The entrance to a bedroom on the first floor gallery of Ballinlough Castle, County Westmeath. Probably dating from c.1740, the oak door frame is notable for exaggerated height and narrowness. Its geometric formality and that of the adjacent wainscotting provide a decisive contrast to the exuberant rococo plasterwork above the frame, a feature repeated throughout the two-storey hall and stairs to create an enchantingly theatrical interior.

The Delight of Good Design

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A first-floor room in Ballinlough Castle, County Westmeath which has preserved its early 18th century wainscotting and corner chimneypiece which, as was the style of the period, lies almost flush with the wall. It’s all quite simple, and quite perfect. Unquestionably one of the most charming houses in Ireland, Ballinlough will be the subject of more thorough exploration before too long.