Lighting up the Night

The sad end of the main house at Loughcrew, County Meath is well-known. The building was said to be the subject of a curse: ‘Three times will Loughcrew be consumed by fire. Crows will fly in and out of the windows. Grass will grow on its doorstep.’ And so it came to pass. The house, designed in severe neo-classical style by architect Charles Robert Cockerell in the early 1820s, did indeed suffer three fires, the last occurring in 1964 and leading to the demolition of its remains a few years later, so that now the Naper family, resident on the estate since the 1650s, live in the former yard buildings. Today just parts of the facade’s great Greek Ionic portico show where it once stood, but elsewhere on the surrounding land, more active restoration has taken place. 

A short distance to the west of the remains of the old house at Loughcrew stands a late-medieval church associated with St Oliver Plunkett who was born here in 1629. The church has a large, three-storey residential tower at the west end, as was often the case with such buildings erected during the late 14th and 15th centuries when much of the country was disturbed by feuding between different families and not even religious buildings were safe from attack. Entrance to the church was via a door at the west end and the interior appears always to have been relatively simple, with a single chapel opening on the south side, the upper portion of the window here being divided in two by a central spandrel featuring the Naper coat of arms. Unlike many such sites, the church continued to be used for services throughout the 17th and 18th centuries. Despite being renovated and re-roofed in 1818, it was abandoned 25 years later when a new place of worship was built elsewhere. 

Immediately adjacent to the old church lies the Loughcrew estate’s walled garden, parts of which are believed to date back to the arrival of the Naper family here in the mid-17th century; there is, for example, a classical arched gateway dated 1673. Over the past couple of decades, much of the garden, which had fallen into neglect has been restored and a number of the earlier features – such as a canal and a formal parterre, been re-instated. Some features of an earlier settlement on the site have also been uncovered. Meanwhile, later aspects of a fashionable country house garden, like the 19th century taste for deep herbaceous borders, can once more be found. Loughcrew and its gardens are a work in progress, but already much has been achieved and the future promises even more. 

Over the coming weeks, every evening Loughcrew gardens are hosting a musical Lightscape open to the public. Further details, and information on ticket purchase, can be found at 

9 comments on “Lighting up the Night

  1. Larry Byrne says:

    That sounds really nice. I booked a couple of tickets as it will be a lovely Christmas diversion. Thanks for the tip.

  2. Richard Edwards says:

    It’s a great pity that so many big houses in Ireland have been lost neglect or plunder. It’s good to know the courage of those who struggle to keep what’s left going. Doesn’t the lighting transform the look of the place though? Is that the same treeluminations crew who are lighting the place at Oakfield Park?

    • Thanks for getting in touch. The company responsible for the lighting here is called Installations of Light based in Magherafelt: I don’t know if it was also responsible for the work at Oakfield Park I’m afraid.

      • Richard Edwards says:

        I think that must be the one. I don’t suppose there are many of them about.

        It’s a lovely article. It is a blessing that there are even ruins left of these old homes. There was a big house near Banteer called Rosnalee – not a single stone of it left.

      • Steve Burke says:

        Hi All,

        Just to clarify, Loughcrew Lightscape was a collaboration between designer Walter Holt from Installations of Light and lighting designer Israel Del Barco who developed the sculptures of light.

        A job done well by all.

      • Thank you; happy to carry the clarification…

  3. Jim says:

    Those echium pininana have done rather well since the summer.

  4. Emma Richey says:

    Lovely light show and particularly like the trees in the park

  5. […] that this altar tomb commemorates the parents of St Oliver Plunkett (mentioned here last week, see Lighting up the Night « The Irish Aesthete). However, the monument carries an inscription in Latin noting that it was erected to commemorate […]

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