After the last post about Talbot’s Inch, County Kilkenny, here is another instance of the philanthropy displayed by Ellen, Dowager Countess of Desart: Aut Even Hospital. It dates from 1915 when built as a private hospital (today one of the oldest in Ireland) and follows the style of such facilities typical at the time, having a central two-storey administrative block from which radiate four single storey wings. The architect on this occasion was Albert Murray, then in his mid-60s and more conventional than William Alphonsus Scott who had designed the houses at Talbot’s Inch (it has been suggested that Scott’s drinking habits – W.B. Yeats referred to him as a ‘drunken genius’ – may explain why he did not receive this commission). However, there are some handsome touches, not least the exaggeratedly large entrance arch, within which are a pair of doors, the elaborately carved lower panels coming from the Kilkenny Woodworkers’ Company which had been founded by Lady Desart’s brother-in-law, Captain the Hon Otway Cuffe: a plaque in the entrance hall dedicates the building to his memory. Today, the cottage hospital, now owned by a private group, is engulfed by extensions dating from the 1980s and showing no sympathy for the original block. On the contrary, this looks poorly maintained and, as so often with our architectural heritage, one must fear for its preservation.
Boarded up and falling into dereliction: the former administration block of the workhouse in Mullingar, County Westmeath. Many of the other buildings that were part of this complex have since been given fresh purpose by the Health Service Executive (albeit with the introduction of uPVC windows: when will official Ireland ever provide a lead here?). However, this handsome house, which is at the entrance to the site, is in a wastefully poor state, only saved from total ruin by being constructed in sturdy limestone. Dating from 1841 and built in the Tudor-Gothic style to the design of architect George Wilkinson, the building’s present state is a shameful waste of state resources.