So, as 2020 draws to a close, how stands the Irish country house? Indeed, in some instances, does it still stand at all? Certainly, the past couple of decades have produced a great deal of information on the subject, and today much more is known about our historic properties, thanks to considerable scrupulous research and many recent publications (the Irish Aesthete has a shelf-long list of new books on his Christmas wish list). But does our being better informed lead to these buildings being better appreciated, and better cherished?
Certainly, there are instances where Irish country houses have been scrupulously restored, both by the state and private individuals. And many of those who have inherited such properties valiantly continue to devote themselves to making sure this legacy will pass to the next generation. What supports exist to assist them in the undertaking? What are the obstacles, what the challenges?
But other country houses have been lost – and a considerable number remain at risk of loss. To what extent does Ireland pay lip service to its architectural heritage? When it comes to our country houses, how well – if at all – is existing legislation enforced? What protection do they enjoy from decay or ill-conceived alterations? Are owners who fail to look after their historic properties taken to task? And are those who do make an effort duly rewarded?
So many and such complex questions. I shall be attempting to tease out a few of the answers in an online lecture available on the Irish Georgian Society website for a week (only) from tomorrow, December 1st called ‘The Irish Country House in the 21st century: Ruins and Restoration’. You can find more information on www.igs.ie/events (Please note, there is a fee for viewing, and you must book before 3pm tomorrow).