A Lost Palace


Today an unremarkable suburb of Dublin, Tallaght was for many centuries a frontier settlement, marking the edge of the Pale beyond which the Irish Aesthete’s more bellicose ancestors were inclined to engage in assault and pillage. A monastery had been established here in the eighth century by St Maelruan but it was sacked by the Vikings in 811 and suffered sundry other attacks thereafter. However, the religious link meant that when Tallaght came under the authority of the Archbishop of Dublin in 1179, a castle was built and this in turn became an archiepiscopal retreat. The old castle having fallen into dilapidation, it was largely rebuilt soon after 1729 by then-Archbishop John Hoadly but within a century this property too was deemed no longer suitable for habitation: in 1821 Archbishop Lord John Beresford disposed of the property by act of parliament and it passed into private hands. Another programme of rebuilding followed before the place was acquired in 1856 by members of the Dominican order whose St Mary’s Priory remains on the site still, incorporating a single tower of the original castle.
The engraving above shows the archiepiscopal palace not long before it ceased to serve this function and was largely demolished. A contemporaneous account by James Norris Brewer offers fascinating information about its appearance, the palace described as being ‘a spacious, but long and narrow, building, composed of the grey stone of the country, and is destitute of pretensions to architectural beauty. The interior contains many apartments of ample proportions but none that are highly embellished.’ These included a hall measuring twenty-one foot square and lit by two tiers of windows, and a drawing room thirty-three feet wide and twenty-one feet wide. All now long gone and recalled only by a handful of images such as this one.

8 comments on “A Lost Palace

  1. mark Donnelly says:

    This a far cry from the suburban villa (See House) that the Archbishop lives in today. Oh,
    for those halcyon days when the status of the position was reflected in the architecture of the incumbent’s dwelling.

    • I’m afraid times have changed and members of the Anglican hierarchy no longer expect to be housed in the same splendour as was once the case (look at what has happened to the Archbishop of Dublin’s former residence, St Sepulchre’s, in the capital: since the 19th century used as police offices…)

  2. Julian Sandford says:

    I congratulate you for reviving the word “archiepiscopal”. Quite splendid!

  3. What a nice rural retreat! Apart from those marauding ancestors… With phrases like “destitute of pretensions to architectural beauty” I doubt that Brewer would get a job with the Irish Times property supplement. Is it known who drew the image?

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