Wilton House on College Square North, Belfast. Dating from the early 1830s, the neo-classical building was originally constructed as two houses and is believed to have been designed by Thomas Jackson, a young Waterford-born architect who had recently gone into partnership with the older Thomas Duff of Newry. Towards the end of the 19th century, the pair of houses were combined into one so as to operate as the Hotel Metropole. In 1907 it began to be used as a mission hall for the Adult Deaf and Dumb Organisation which through various incarnations remained on the site until 2011. Since then it has sat empty and falling into dereliction, although at least the property still stands, unlike many others in the immediate vicinity which were lost to bombing and subsequent demolition during the 1970s. Wilton House was finally sold last year to developers who have lodged a planning application to convert the house into eight apartments, with a seven-storey extension to the rear containing a further 19 apartments.
‘In 1280, Richard de Burgh was virtually ruler of Connacht, and on June 28, 1283, there was a grant given him and his wife, Margaret, of the land which Emmelina, late Countess of Ulster, held in Ulster. It is therefore more than probable that Emmelina, Dowager Countess of Ulster, suggested to the Red Earl, to make a foundation for the Carthusian Order in Connacht. Anyhow, in or about the year 1280, Richard de Burgo established a monastery for the Chartreuse brethren at Kinalehin, doubtless, colonized from Hinton. King Edward I was favourably disposed towards the new foundation, and, on July 27, 1282, issued letters, dated from Rhuddlan, guaranteeing English protection “for the prior, monks, and lay brothers of the Carthusian Order, de Domo Dei, in Kinalehin”…John de Alatri, Bishop of Clonfert, Papal Nuncio and Collector, was a munificent patron of the Kinalehin house from 1281 to 1295, in which latter year he was translated by Pope Boniface VIII to the Archbishopric of Benevento. His successor, Robert, an English Benedictine monk of Canterbury, was consecrated at Rome by Gerard, Bishop of Sabina, in December, 1295 It is evident from the State Papers that these two bishops of Clonfert were in the favour of the Holy See and of Edward I, and both were on intimate terms with the Red Earl. The Carthusians had also a friend in Stephen de Fulburn, Archbishop of Tuam, who was Lord Justice of Ireland in 1286. William Bermingham, his successor, was also a generous patron, to the detriment, as it would seem, of the English Dominicans of Athenry.
‘The next entry we meet with concerning Kinalehin is in the ecclesiastical taxation made by order of Pope Boniface VIII, in 1302, which, however, was not completed till the year 1307, under Pope Clement V. In this taxation, the Carthusian Priory of Kinalehin, written “Kenaloyn,” is valued at £6 13s. 4d., the tenth being given as 13s. 4d. It is stated to be in the deanery of “Dondery” – now Duniry – in which there were then five rectories, namely, those of Duniry, Lickmolassy, Kinalehin, Lickerrig, and Kilconickny – and six vicarages, viz., Duniry, Lickmolassy, Kinalehin, Kilcorban, Kilmalinoge and Drummackee. The vicarage of Kinalehin is valued at £1 7s. 4d. yearly, and the tenth at 2s. 83/4d.- the sum total of the deanery of Duniry being given as £22 2s. 8d.
Richard de Burgo, Earl of Ulster, was almost at the pinacle of his power in 1307, and on June 15, 1308, he was appointed for a time as Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. In November, 1307, Robert, Bishop of Clonfert, died, and a licence to elect was issued by Edward II on December, 7 of the same year. The chapter elected Gregory O’Brogan Dean of Clonfert, to the vacant see, who received restitution of temporalities on March 22, 1308. A few months later, Edward de Burgo was provided by Pope Clement V as Provost of Tuam.’
‘The Bruce invasion occasioned considerable unrest in the years 1315-1318, and though the fortunes of war seemed to favour Edward Bruce (who was joined by his brother Robert, in 1317), the victory of Faughart, near Dundalk, on October 14, 1318, established the English power more securely than before.
In Connacht, the death of Felim O’Connor at the battle of Athenry, led to a civil war, and in 1318, Turlough O’Connor had a rival in Cathal O’Connor. The Red Earl, weary of war alarms, retired to the Abbey of Athassel, Co. Tipperary, leaving his vast estates to his grandson William. The English in Thomond got a crushing defeat at Dysert O’Dea, on May 10, 1318. No wonder that the Carthusian monks of Kinalehin felt insecure. What with the retirement of the Red Earl, the constant attacks on Sir William de Burgo, and the internecine feuds of the Irish, the year 1320 found the brethren of the Domus Dei on the slope of Sliabh Echtge, in a pitiable plight. The worthy Bishop of Clonfert died in 1319, and no election of a successor could be made for two years, “owing to the fighting in these parts,” as stated in the brief appointing his successor, John (Archdeacon of Kilmacduagh), in 1322. Accordingly, in 1321, the priory was suppressed by order of the General Chapter of the Grande Chartreuse, and in the same year the Carthusians left Kinalehin for ever. Sir William de Burgo died in 1324, and the Red Earl died penitently with the Augustinian monks of Athassal, on July 29, 1326, being succeeded in his title and possessions by his grandson William, murdered in 1333.
It only remains to add that in 1371 the Franciscans were given the ruinous priory of Kinalehin by Pope Gregory XI, and the friary was built in 1372. It flourished till 1740.’
After last Wednesday’s sad spectacle of the decaying former hospital in Ballinasloe, County Galway, here is a more positive example of what can be done with such properties. The Richmond Surgical Hospital on North Brunswick Street, Dublin originally opened in 1811 in what had once been a 17th century convent. Eventually in 1895 a new building was begun on the site, designed by Dublin practice of Carroll & Batchelor in the then-fashionable English Renaissance idiom employing red brick and terracotta. The U-shaped hospital has a central block with two wings that thrust forward, each with two floors of balconies for convalescents to enjoy light and fresh air, and each topped with ogee-shaped copper domes. The Richmond continued to operate as a hospital until being closed in 1987 during one of the era’s rounds of health service rationalisation. Thereafter it served for a time as a courthouse but in 2013 was bought by the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation, which body last year opened the building as an education and event centre thereby demonstrating that an old hospital can find a new purpose.
The slowly decaying carcase of the former St Brigid’s Hospital in Ballinasloe, County Galway. Opened in 1833, it was originally called the Connacht District Lunatic Asylum, one of more than twenty built across Ireland during the middle decades of the 19th century. Many of them, including this one, were designed by Dublin architect William Murray who drew on the plans and ideas of his cousin, Francis Johnston: he had been responsible for the first such public institution in Ireland, the Richmond Lunatic Asylum (now part of the Dublin Institute of Technology campus) built 1810-14. St Brigid’s design was inspired by ideas developed at the end of the 18th century by philosopher and social reformer Jeremy Bentham about how best to manage inmates in large institutions. He conceived of a building which he called a Panopticon (from the Greek panotes, meaning ‘all seeing’) which was originally circular, those in charge occupying the central section and thus able to observe what was happening around them. The Ballinasloe hospital is a variation on this theme. Here, as was also the case in the slightly earlier Limerick Lunatic Asylum likewise designed by Murray, wings radiate on four sides from a central block which provided accommodation for the governor and other members of staff: access to the wings and their extensions was only possible via the central block, the importance of which is emphasised by the clock tower topped by copper ogee dome. St Brigid’s is vast. At the turn of the last century, for example, it had more than 1,150 inmates and after that date further buildings were constructed on the site. After closing down in 2013, today most of it stands empty and decaying, like so many other historic properties that are the responsibility of the Health Service Executive. The longer the building stands empty and neglected, the more likely it will fall into further decay – or worse be subject to the kind of vandalism from which other similar former institutions have suffered. The state owns St Brigid’s: its present condition sets a poor example of care for what is supposed to be a ‘protected structure’.
Encircled by yew trees, here is the Temple of Mercury in the grounds of Dromoland Castle, County Clare. The building dates from the early 18th century, and appears on an estate map of c.1740 which shows it to have been of a elaborate formal layout that included avenues and terraces, as well as vistas of which this would have formed part, since it stands at the crossing of two straight paths. The temple features eight Doric columns supporting a timber dome covered in lead atop which perches a bronze statue of Mercury.
‘The village of Timoleague [County Cork] is situated on an arm of the ocean, which flows in between the hills, whose feet it washes. It is in the barony of Ibawn and Ballyroe, and eight miles S. W. of Kinsale. It was anciently a place of note, being much frequented by the Spaniards, who imported thither large quantities of wine, and tradition reports that it had fourteen taverns that sold Sack. But the harbour is now quite choked up with sand. A small river discharges itself here, called the Arigideen, or the Little silver Stream; it runs at the foot of an hill, formerly clothed with an oak grove for about a mile, in a picturesque serpentine manner. It passes by O’Shagnessey’s castle, the church-yard, and the walls of the Franciscan abbey. This venerable monastic edifice, whose ruins we have exhibited, was founded by William Barry, Lord of Ibawn ; the 17th December 1373 he died, and was interred in it. In 1400, it was given to Franciscans of the strict observance. John de Courcy, a Monk of this house, and afterwards Bishop of Clogher, with the assistance of James Lord Kinsale, his nephew, built the library, belfry, dormitory, and infirmary, and bequeathed liberally to it. He died in 15 18, and was buried in the church…’
‘Provincial chapters were held in this abbey in 1552 and 1563. Here are several tombs of ancient Irish families j as M’Carthy-righ’s, in the middle of the choir. West of it is an old broken Monument of the O’Cullanes, and on the right hand, that of the Lords de Courcy. The O’Donovans, O’Heas, and others, were interred here. By an inquisition taken, four acres and an half of land were found to belong to the abbey, which were then possessed by Lord Inchiquin, but now by Lord Barrymore. A considerable part of the tithes were granted to the college of Dublin. Near the church is a well, dedicated to the Virgin Mary, celebrated for miraculous cures. St. Molaga is patron of the parish, and it receives its name from an old monastic Cell dedicated to him, called Tea Molaga, or St. Molaga’s house…’
‘The building, though unroofed, is intire, for it was thoroughly repaired in 1604, It consists of a large choir with an aisle : one side of the said aisle is a square cloister arcaded, with a platform in the middle; this leads to several large rooms, one of which is said to have been a chapel, another a chapter-house, the third the refectory, besides a spacious apartment for the Guardian of the house, with kitchen, cellars, &c. the whole forming a large pile of building. There is an handsome Gothic tower, seventy feet high, between the choir and the aisle.’
The grandiously-named Woburn, which stands on the coast in north County Down. Designed by Dublin architect John McCurdy, the house was built in 1866-67 around an earlier seaside villa. This had been owned by wealthy mill owner John Gilmore Dunbar but was spectacularly enlarged into an Italianate mansion by his nephew and heir, George Orr Dunbar: the property subsequently passed to the Pack-Beresford family. Death duties obliged Woburn’s sale in the 1950s, after which it was bought by the Northern Ireland Ministry of Finance and converted into a borstal. More recently it became a training centre for prison officers but following the closure of this facility, the 43-acre site – on which many ancillary buildings had been constructed – stood empty until sold last year. The house’s future is unclear.
Last weekend saw festivities marking the 250th anniversary of Monksgrange, County Wexford. Completed in 1769, the house has remained in the ownership of the original builder’s descendants, something of a rarity in Ireland as is also the property’s extensive archive of documents, thoroughly mined over many years by Philip Bull for his recently-published book, Monksgrange: Portrait of an Irish house and family, 1769–1969 (Four Courts Press). In its simplified Palladian design, the building is representative of the aspirations of the country’s landed gentry in the mid-18th century, adopting and adapting aristocratic taste better to secure its own place in the then-social hierarchy. While Monksgrange has undergone some alterations and modifications over the past two and a half centuries, it retains an important place in the history of our architectural evolution.
Located on a narrow country road and exceptionally wide (and therefore impossible to photograph fully face-on), these are the entrance gates to Newberry, County Cork. It would appear that the outer pair of classical ashlar pillars dating from the 18th century and topped with eagles comes from an older entrance to the estate close to the adjacent church of St Senach. In the 1840s, the present gateway was created and the older pillars incorporated into this, but separated by rustic rubble walls from a smaller pair of pillars, this time crowned by pineapple finials. Sadly the Georgian Gothic lodge on the other side of the road has now fallen into ruin.
This 19th century domed greenhouse closes a vista inside the walled garden of Malahide Castle, County Dublin. The building is not original to the site: seemingly it came from a convent in south County Dublin and was installed here in recent years by Malahide Castle’s owners, Fingall County Council. It is a handsome addition to the walled garden, but the state of some of the roof timbers suggests insufficient maintenance.