A stone on the central archway of the former barracks in Ballyshannon, County Donegal carries the date 1700 but the person responsible for the building’s design remains unclear. Rolf Loeber proposes William Robinson who until that year acted as Surveyor General in Ireland. However, Alistair Rowan and others have put forward the name of Thomas Burgh who succeeded to that position in 1700. Either way the property is, as Donegal County Council’s own Area Plan states ‘of national importance’ and therefore its present condition of neglect must be regretted. In 1760 an official report drawn up on the state of barracks around the country noted that this one ‘hath been suffered by Neglect to fall into Ruin, insomuch, that excepting the outside Walls of the Building, the Whole will require and entire Repair.’ Over two and a half centuries later, little seems to have changed.
Besides it’s age ,is this building really of national architectural importance .
Historically perhaps this Barracks represents all to vividly a time Donegal people may prefer to forget .
Architectural merit; prototype of an emerging new typology, early classical building in Ireland, example of civic planning and urban design, high quality construction details and excellent quality of build that has allowed the building to have many uses, What ideology do Donegal possibly wish to forget, housing soldiers or housing a shirt factory , carpet shop, or pub ?
The building is of both national and international importance. It is one of the earliest examples of purpose-built residential units for a professional, permanent standing army, not just in Ireland, but world-wide. Such residential barrack-building was still in its infancy in 1700, with only France and to a lesser extent Spain having engaged with the concept up to that point. Ireland stands out in the eighteenth century as a unique example of a country-wide innovative engagement with the concept, paid for from Irish taxes voted by the Irish parliament sitting in Dublin. While some may wish to perceive these buildings as evidence of a past history defined by colonial occupation and oppression, most have come to recognise them as what they really are: unique architectural gems that give us a vivid insight into important aspects of our cultural, economic, political, architectural and military heritage. You only have to visit the National Museum in the old Collins Barracks in Dublin (originally built c. 1704-10 and known as the Royal Barracks) to see this in action in the twenty-first century. For more, have a look at the map here: http://barracks18c.ucd.ie/
Any idea who to contact for access?
Unfortunately not: I was passing through the town when I took these pictures a couple of years ago…