The Big House Triumphant

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The so-called Triumphal Arch into the grounds of Doneraile Court, County Cork. Believed to date from c.1830 and sometimes attributed to George Pain, it was erected during the lifetime of Hayes St Leger, third Viscount Doneraile whose family had occupied the estate since 1629 when Sir William St. Leger, Lord President of Munster acquired the lands for £1,800. The gateway was erected soon after a new road was made around the edge of the parkland to replace that which had previously run directly in front of the house. The Ionic capitals on the pillars to either side of the main arch contrast with the Doric order used for the pedimented lodge immediately inside the gates, although both presumably date from the same time. The two have recently been restored by the Office of Public Works.

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10 comments on “The Big House Triumphant

  1. decdun says:

    Very nice. Have to say the windows on the lodge are not very well executed – the sash boxes don’t seem to be inset into the reveals enough and the glazing bars are a bit on the heavy side. Pity. Did the OPW need to submit drawings on this before restoration? Shame to spend so much money but with a poorly realised outcome.

    • Thanks for your comment. I am open to correction on this, but I don’t believe the OPW is required to submit proposals on details like windows, otherwise my particular bête noire – the lodge at the Castleknock Gate in the Phoenix Park, Dublin – would not have uPVC windows. In any case, at least the gates and lodge have been restored, unlike the main house at Doneraile the greater part of which has shamefully been shuttered and in decline for the past twenty years since the Irish Georgian Society – which had spent £500,000 on restoring the place – handed it over to the care of the OPW…

  2. decdun says:

    Well – it would be acceptable not to have to submit drawings if the OPW were capable of executing good and authentic restoration. This example leaves me wondering.

  3. Gerald Mc Carthy says:

    Had a wonderful few hours at Doneraile Court on Sunday afternoon. The house and parkland looked splendid in the summer sunshine! I also visited St. Marys Churchyard and the grave of Mary Isobel St. Ledger who died in 1975. Her death brought to an end the St.Ledger connection with Doneraile after 400 years. Perhaps you might do a history of the family some time in the future?

    • Thanks for your comment. I am hoping to write more about Doneraile Court in due course, altho’ I feel the treatment of the house over the past twenty years has been very shabby; it deserves attention and restoration and at present is a wasted resource due to inaction on the part of the OPW.

      • ian lumkey says:

        Those empty rooms in Doneraile need a new life. Look at the sort of arrangement the National Trust did with Alec Cobbe at Hatchlands.

      • Thanks for that. Yes indeed, it is extraordinary that the state doesn’t enter into such arrangements with property in its possession – rather than leave it mouldering. Houses need to be occupied, so such a system makes total sense (but since when did common sense influence public policy…)

  4. Dougal Paver says:

    Such a shame to hear of Doneraile Court’s unhappy relationship with the OPW. In 1986 I spent a happy summer there as a volunteer labourer working for the Irish Georgian Society.

    The house was under the care of the marvellous Arthur Montgomery and local builder John Doyle supervised our efforts. There was a fabulous lady called Dorothy Hatton with whom I worked making replacement plaster mouldings and Gerry Ryan was on permanently in the background. (the hits of the summer were Lady in Red, Papa Don’t Preach and My Favourite Waste of Time and all three have pride of place in my iTunes collection).

    Part of the house had already been restored and my digs were one of the restored bedrooms in the bows on the east side of the house. The sun would wake me early and it was a delight to look out across the lawns to watch deer and rabbit grazing in the dawn light.

    There were two other lads there – Derek and Declan, from Waterford – and then towards the end of my tenure a couple of bonny lasses from Milan joined us. I was a seventeen year old kid from the suburbs of Liverpool and one of them took a shine to me and the rest will have to remain private.

    What a great summer. So many tales, not least the surprise visit of Hollywood legend Hurd Hatfield, whom we’d watched, wide-eyed, the night before on RTE 1 in his 1945 version of the Picture of Dorian Gray. I could go on…

    • Thank you for getting in touch and for your memories of working at Doneraile Court: its present condition, shuttered and not open to the public, is a sad state of affairs (and such a waste of all the time, money and effort expended by the likes of Arthur Montgomery, yourself and so many others). And yes, I remember Hurd H who I first met at a dinner in Cork and then used to see thereafter, sweet man.

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