Next week, on Monday 8th and Tuesday 9th May, the 21st annual Historic Houses Conference takes place at Maynooth University, County Kildare with the theme ‘Picturing the Country House’. The Irish Aesthete will be among this year’s speakers, giving a talk entitled The shifting lens: A Century of Photographing Ireland’s Ruined Country Houses.
Over the past 100 years, many of these historic properties have been either destroyed or left to fall into ruin. During the same period, how such houses are represented in photographs has also changed. In the early 1920s, pictures were taken to provide objective evidence of damage and loss: their primary purpose was functional. However, gradually other, more personal responses to ruined houses began to emerge, so that today it might be said there is a pocket industry in recording decay and neglect (the Irish Aesthete is guilty as charged). Might this change in approach have affected attitudes towards Ireland’s country houses, perhaps encouraging perception of them less as emblems of a foreign oppressor and more as gracious remnants of a former era, their loss more a source of regret than delight. Over 100 years, have these photographs helped to alter ways of thinking, or do they reflect the evolution of a different mindset? To be discussed at next week’s conference…
Derrynane, County Kerry
Regular followers will be aware that for the past couple of years, the Irish Aesthete has undertaken much research into the evolution of Ireland’s country house gardens, the evolution of which has not always been sufficiently appreciated. One of the areas where such gardens can be seen to best advantage is County Kerry, which enjoys the benefit of lying adjacent to the Gulf Stream as it passes this island’s Atlantic coast. In consequence, historic gardens of quite astonishing fecundity can be found throughout Kerry and these will be the subject of a one-day seminar – Designed Landscapes & Demesnes of Kerry: Their History and Conservation – to be held next Friday, September 30th in Killarney. The Irish Aesthete will be speaking at this event, offering an overview of the country’s designed landscapes (with a particular emphasis on those found in Kerry, of course). The seminar is free, but booking required, and further information can be found here: Designed Landscapes & Demesnes of Kerry: their history & conservation seminar | Irish Georgian Society (igs.ie)
Kells Bay, County Kerry
Next weekend marks the centenary of the destruction of Mitchelstown Castle, County Cork, the biggest country house burnt in Ireland during the War of Independence/Civil War. Designed by siblings James and George Pain, the castle was built in the 1820s for George King, third Earl of Kingston who demolished the previous Palladian house on the site; Lord Kingston specifically required that it be bigger than any other such property in the country. Alas, less than 100 years later it was looted and destroyed, and the site then cleared: a milk-processing plant now stands on the site. To commemorate the events of 1922, Doomed Inheritance, a conference on the destruction of Mitchelstown Castle and other such buildings during that troubled period of Irish history will be held in Mitchelstown, at which the Irish Aesthete will be giving a paper ‘The Ruined Big House: Perception and Reality.’ Further information on the conference can be found here: Doomed Inheritance History Conference Tickets, Fri 12 Aug 2022 at 19:00 | Eventbrite
As regular readers of this site will know, the Irish Aesthete has of late become much preoccupied with Irish country house gardens and their evolution across four centuries. At the moment, much of the investigation into this subject is being undertaken under the auspices of the Irish Georgian Society, part of a year-long project of which some elements (a recent two-part television documentary on some of the gardens, an exhibition of paintings of country house walled gardens) have already taken place, but others are yet to happen. One of the latter is a day-long conference scheduled to be held next week on Wednesday 17th November, The Irish Country House Garden 1650-1950: Digging New Ground. Organised in conjunction the Office of Public Works and taking place in Dublin Castle, the conference will feature a wide variety of speakers investigating different aspects of Irish country house gardens, from the history of walled kitchen gardens to the development of arboretums. The event is open to the public, but places must be booked in advance: it promises to be a most stimulating occasion, and will in turn lead to a new book on the subject to be published next year.
For more information on next week’s conference, please see: The Irish Country House Garden 1650-1950: Digging New Ground | Irish Georgian Society (igs.ie)