Author: georgianireland (page 2 of 2)

Mount Bellew, Co. Galway

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A three storey seven bay central block with flanking pedimented wings attached by walls punctured by round arched windows, Mount Bellew’s remains lie close to the town of the same name in Co. Galway.  Neale illustrates the main facade breaking forward at its extremities into tripartite bays which frame the central feature of a doorway capped with an oversized urn and a Venetian window above.  However in reality the Venetian window rested behind a somewhat smaller urn, and the upper window mimicked the Venetian but lacked a central arch.  Nor is the porch and two free-standing columns clearly defined in Neale’s depiction.  The pedimented wings exhibit Wyatt windows capped with blind segmental arched tympanums (not rounded as in Neale) and two inward facing animal statues (whether lions or dogs is unclear) stand proud over the pediments completing the composition.  The house dates to the eighteenth-century and as noted in Neale’s account was altered in the early nineteenth-century.  It did not survive the architecturally turbulent 1930s unscathed however.  The estate was brought into the Land Commission portfolio in 1937 and the house was demolished in 1939 to provide stone to repair roads, at the reported outcry of the local inhabitants.

Mount Bellew_Detail

Mount Bellew Photo

From; J.P. Neale, Views of the seats of Noblemen and Gentlemen in England, Wales, Scotland, and Ireland, vol.III, London, 1823

“This pleasing Residence is situated about fourteen miles from Ballinasloe, upon one of the great roads from Dublin to the western parts of Ireland.  The House stands on a gentle swell, nearly half a mile to the South; between it and the road, runs the Shivan, spreading to a considerable expanse, as it proceeds eastward; the varied outline it then assumes, its wooded islands, and lucid waters bathing the opposite acclivity, form together a scene of no ordinary interest and beauty.  The Demesne extends by sunk fences across the road, which divides it almost into equal parts: that on the north side displaying Grounds tastefully laid out, Plantations sweetly grouped, or thickening into masses, over which the eye passes to a blue mountain in the distant horizon.

As the river advances, it spreads to an extensive lake; shewing to the traveller, by openings judiciously made, the Mansion on his right, with its scenery in parts descending to the water’s edge; while on his left, he is forcibly struck with the Church, its Tower, and Pinnacles, with all the distinctness of reality, presented on its bosom.  Winding from hence, or a little more easterly, it takes a direction to the South, and is lost in a deep wooded glen, after passing a bridge of many arches, over which the Eastern Approach to the Mansion runs through Woods and Lawns, by such sweeps as these admit of, to the Terrace in Front, where it connects with the Northern Avenue, and thence to the adjacent Offices.  The Mansion is elegant and commodious; the Hall is in three compartments, divided by screens of Ionic columns; the entire length is 63 feet, by a proportional width and height.  Ante-Rooms connected with the Hall, each 24 feet by 17 feet, 8 inches, open into a Gallery on one side, 32 feet by 26 feet, 17 feet high; and on the other side into a Dining Room, 34 feet by 21, 20 feet high.  The apartments contain a chosen collection of cabinet Pictures, another very extensive one of Prints, including those of all the Royal Cabinets of Europe: the famous one of the Louvre, Le Muse Frangais, not excepted; and, perhaps, the best private Library in this Kingdom.

Sir John Bellew, of Welly’s town, in the County of Louth, who represented that County in the Irish Parliament of 1639, married Mary, the second daughter of Robert Dillon, of Clonbrock, Esq., and was transplanted to the County of Galway, by the usurper Cromwell: at the Restoration he recovered part of his Estates in Louth, and settled at Bellew Mount, otherwise Barmeath„ in that County.  Christopher, his second surviving son, remained at Mount Bellew, and from him, in uninterrupted succession, descends the present Proprietor.

In the course of this lengthened period, it can afford no surprise that alterations have been made, both in the Lands and the House.  The fact seems to be, that, with few exceptions, the Possessors, were Improvers — that, in latter years, their names should appear associated with those of Morrisson, Leggat, and Dutton, does equal credit to the Employers and the employed; to enlarge on this subject would transgress our limits, enough to the traveller that we exceed not those of truth. 


Posted on 26-08-15

Citation;  McKenna, M. (2015) Mount Bellew, Co.Galway.  Available at (Accessed dd/mm/yyyy)

Alessandro Galilei Birthday

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Alessandro Galilei

Alessandro Galilei was born on this day in 1691. An Italian trained architect, he arrived in London in 1714 at the bequest of Robert Molesworth and was invited to Ireland by Molesworth in 1718, bidding unsuccessfully for the design of St Werburghs Church in Dublin and later making designs for William Conolly at Castletown. Galilei was unsuccessful in Ireland and returned to Italy in 1719 where his most notable work is the design the front facade of St. John Lateran for Pope Clement XII, completed 1735.


Posted on 25-08-15

Citation;  McKenna, M. (2015) Alessandro Galilei Birthday.  Available at (Accessed dd/mm/yyyy)

Castlegar, Co. Galway

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Richard Morrison designed Castlegar for Sir Ross Mahon around 1801.  The Mahon’s had resided in Castlegar from around 1711 when the Earl of Clarincarde signed it over to Bryan Mahon on a permanent lease.  Morrison’s house replaced an earlier dwelling on the same site.  The two storey three bay principal facade breaks forward into a deep bow at its centre, pronouncing the form of the oval entrance hall on the exterior.  The composition is a fine example of early nineteenth-century spared classicism, and although the fenestration reacts against the eighteenth-century stoic regularity of same, the building maintains an aesthetically pleasing balanced symmetry.  The plan (below) displays a series of 1:1 (square) and 3:2 spaces wrapped around a central staircase hall.  The illustrated piano nobile clearly outlines the main function of the house –  lavish entertainment – with all the modern necessities, a breakfast room, drawing room, dining room, study, and of course billiards room.  The house is still in private ownership and modern self-catering accommodation is offered in the accompanying stables.

From; J.P. Neale, Views of the seats of Noblemen and Gentlemen in England, Wales, Scotland, and Ireland, vol.III, London, 1823

“Castlegar is situated at a distance of about six miles from the Town of Ballinasloe, and one from Ahaseragh.  It has been for many years the residence of a branch of the Mahon family; but until it came into the possession of the present proprietor, very little was done towards its embellishment.  The natural character of the Grounds does not display any features particularly bold or striking: their undulating forms, however, are very pleasing; and exhibit, on the whole, a fine of example park scenery.  The Plantations are of considerable extent, and executed with great judgement; and indeed all the improvements of the Grounds are very highly creditable to the taste of the proprietor.  The House, which was very commodious, was pulled down about ten years back, and the present Edifice erected on its site, from the plans, and under the direction of Mr. Morrison.  There has been no attempt at architectural display in its external form; but it is much admired for simplicity of design, and justness of proportions.  Its interior arrangement is, however, highly commodious and elegant.  The entrance is from the north, through a Hall which is decorated with Doric columns; and the principal floor contains a Library, 31 feet by 20 feet; an oval Saloon, of 28 feet by 24, the Ceiling of which is supported by Corinthian columns.  A Drawing Room, 32 feet by 22, connected with the Library and Saloon ; and a Dining Parlour also connected with the Saloon, of 32 feet by 22 ; with the Breakfast Parlour; and the principal Staircase which is executed in Portland stone, and is particularly admired; it is placed in the centre of the House, betwixt the Hall and Saloon, and is lighted from a Dome of very tasteful construction, having Galleries opening from it on either side, separated by screens of Scagliola columns, in imitation of Sienna marble.  The design is at once simple and elegant, which, as well as the whole of the interior arrangements, reflects very great praise on the classical taste of the architect employed



Posted on 19-08-15

Citation;  McKenna, M. (2015) Castlegar, Co.Galway.  Available at (Accessed dd/mm/yyyy)

Nathaniel Hone the Elder Death 1784

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Nathaniel Hone

Nathaniel Hone the Elder died on this day, 14 August 1784. He was born in Wood Quay, Dublin to a family of goldsmiths. Hone married in 1742 and settled in London where he built a very successful artistic practice.  Though his art is heavily influenced by classicism he never visited Italy.  His younger brother Samuel, who was also an artist, was an elected member of Accademia del Disegno in Florence in 1752, and Samuel succeeded in having Nathaniel elected in absentia on 14 January 1753.

Nathaniel’s artistic career led him to become one of the founder members of the London Royal Academy in 1768, and he exhibited a total of sixty-nine oil paintings and miniatures between 1769 and his death in 1784.  He did not always find agreement with his fellow artists in the Royal Academy however and in 1775 painted the above painting, the Conjurer, as an attack on the president of the Academy Joshua Reynolds, who Hone felt depended too much on the motifs and poses of the Old Masters.  The painting was exhibited as part of the Royal Academy exhibition but quickly removed owing to a female nude figure in the work reported to be a likeness of fellow RA artist Angelica Kauffman.  It was not reinstated and instead Hone exhibited it as the centrepiece of his one-man show in 70 St. Martin’s Lane, probably the first of its kind to be held in Britain or Ireland, featuring sixty-six works in total.

He died at his home, 44 Rathbone Place, London, on 14 August 1784 and was interred six days later in Hendon churchyard.  This painting now forms part of the National Gallery of Ireland collection.


Posted on 14-08-15

Citation;  McKenna, M. (2015) Nathaniel Hone the Elder Death 1784.  Available at (Accessed dd/mm/yyyy)

Borris House, Co. Carlow

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When discussing the inspiration for and influences on architectural design in Georgian Ireland, it is seldom noted that the genealogy of a particular family has a great bearing on the scheme they chose to construct.  This does however have some exceptions, Borris House, Co. Carlow being among their number.  It received an extensive remodelling in the early decades of the nineteenth-century in the manner of the Tudor Gothic.  These were overseen by the then owner Thomas Kavanagh whose family had resided on the estate since the fifteenth-century.  The house was constructed around 1731 and later enclosed in its Gothic envelope to the designs of father and son Richard and William Vitruvius Morrison, and was one of the earliest uses of Tudor Gothic detailing in Ireland in the nineteenth-century.  Some of the beautiful interiors mentioned in Neale’s account are attributed to George Stapleton, son of the notable stuccodore Michael Stapleton.

From; J.P. Neale, Views of the seats of Noblemen and Gentlemen in England, Wales, Scotland, and Ireland, vol.II, London, 1823

“The situation of Borris is undoubtedly one of the most noble in the Eastern part of the Kingdom of Ireland.  The grounds are highly wooded with full grown timber, and rise boldly from the banks of a
mountain torrent, which intersects the demesne, and falls into the Barrow, a very considerable navigable river, which forms one boundary to the Grounds.  The Mansion stands in the best point for command of prospect, overlooking a rich tract of well wooded country, terminated by a fine range of mountains, and was erected about seventy years ago; but in its original form, the building was without any pretensions to architectural beauty, and in its interior arrangements not sufficiently commodious.  It has, however, undergone within the last seven years, a most material improvement, and may certainly be ranked now among the principal of the residences of the Gentry of this kingdom.

The style of Architecture adopted, is that of the period of Henry the Eighth, of which period, though so many beautiful examples are extant in England, yet, in this country, Borris may be considered as unique: this particular style was selected, as being appropriate to the antiquity of the Family of the possessor; and, also, from its very picturesque character, harmonizing so much better with the surrounding scenery than a Mansion of Grecian architecture possibly could.

The interior is so arranged now, as to render it not only complete in its accommodation, but grand in its ornaments and decorations, particularly the Saloon, the principal apartment, the ceiling of which is highly adorned, and supported by groins of a slight curve resting on pillars of Scagliola: in the Spandrils of the arches are Shields supported by eagles.  The whole has an appropriate and happy effect, doing much credit to the taste and ability of Messrs. Morrison, sen. and jun., under whose direction, and from whose designs, the improvements in the Mansion were produced.

The Family of Kavanagh, (or rather Mac Murchad, for Kavanagh is but a surname adopted by one of the progenitors of the House), is one of the most ancient and most illustrious in Ireland ; and can trace their descent in a right line from Dermod Mac Murchad, king of Leinster, whose fatal passion for Devorlagh, wife of Ruarc, king of Breffany, in the reign of Henry II. was the immediate cause of the subjection of this kingdom to the English power.  Of the same Family was Art. Mac Murchad, the celebrated and successful adversary of King Richard II. in his Irish wars, and the ultimate cause of his deposition: vide Leland’s History of Ireland, Vol. I. Book 2nd, Chap. 5. This Mac Murchad was one
of the four kings of Ireland, who, with O’Connor, O’Neale, and O’Brien, were offered the honour of Knighthood by King Richard II., and who expressed their surprise that he should consider the offer of such an honour any accession to their dignity, they having been Knighted according to the laws of their Country, at seven years old.  Several interesting anecdotes of this Family are interspersed in the Histories of Ireland.”


Posted on 09-08-15

Citation;  McKenna, M. (2015) Borris House, Co. Carlow.  Available at (Accessed dd/mm/yyyy)

Vincenzo Scamozzi Death 1616

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Scamozzian Ionic Castle Coole


Vincenzo Scamozzi died on this day in 1616. His publications were of great importance to eighteenth-century architecture and included ‘The Mirror of Architecture’ published in English by William Leyburn in 1708. He is probably best remembered for the Scamozzian Ionic capital seen here on the front facade of Castle Coole constructed between 1789 and 1798 to designs by James Wyatt.


Posted on 07-08-15

Citation;  McKenna, M. (2015) Vincenzo Scamozzi Death 1616.  Available at (Accessed dd/mm/yyyy)


Bessborough, Co. Kilkenny – J.P. Neale

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Bessborough was constructed in the 1740s to designs by Francis Bindon.  It was altered by T.M. Deane in the nineteenth-century and burned in 1923 along with many other country houses.  It was rebuilt around 1929, purchased by the State in 1971, and is now known as Kildalton College, an agricultural college run by Teagasc.  The entrance front has nine bays with the central three breaking forward while the garden front – illustrated by Neale – displays six window bays with the central four breaking forward and an unusual arrangement of Venetian Windows.

From; J.P. Neale, Views of the seats of Noblemen and Gentlemen in England, Wales, Scotland, and Ireland, vol.II, London, 1823

“Bessborough is situated toward the eastern end of a fine country, called by way of eminence the Golden Vale, distant about seventy miles south from Dublin.  The ancient name of the Mansion was Kildalton, and the Owner having forfeited it by being engaged in the Rebellion of 1641, it was granted to Sir John Ponsonby, an officer in the Parliament army, the immediate ancestor of the present noble Proprietor.

Brabazon, first Earl of Bessborough, in 1744, pulled down the large ancient building which formerly stood here, and erected the present Mansion on the site of it.  It is constructed of hewn stone, extending in front above 100 feet, and in depth 80 feet, from a design of Francis Bindon, a native of Ireland, who had visited Italy, and who professed the arts of painting and architecture; his name stands among the earliest of the Irish artists: he lived in intimacy with Swift, Delany, and Sheridan, and died much respected in 1765. The Hall is large, handsome, and in some respects unique, for it is adorned by four Ionic columns of Kilkenny marble, each of the shafts consisting of one entire mass, 10 feet 6 inches high.  The Saloon and Dining Room are furnished with several fine Pictures, deserving the attention of the connoisseur; particularly a Night Piece; Peter’s Denial, by Gerard Segers, formerly belonging to Monsieur De Piles; a Nativity, by J. Jordaens; three fine old copies after Corregio; Birds, by Hondekoeter; Dead Game and Fruit, by F. Snyders and De Bos; with several Landscapes by Lucatelli and Horizonti.  In the Corridor, leading to the principal staircase, are placed two horns of the moose deer, remaining fast to the skull: they were found at the farm of Belline, in November, 1781, and are supposed to be the largest ever discovered; the length of each horn, from the extremity to the tip, is 6 feet 1 inch.

The Edifice itself is situate in a fine well wooded plain, bounded on the north by the great chain of the Walsh Mountains, on the summit of the principal of which is a remarkable Pagan altar, dedicated to the sun, and said to have been the Table of Fin Macornall the Fingal of Ossian.  (Vide Milton’s Irish Views).

The south side of the plain is bounded by the Suir, a navigable River, which in its progress through the Golden Vale, runs long the foot of a high range of hills, and divides the counties of Kilkenny and Waterford.  The surrounding Park is very beautiful; it is watered by a rivulet called the Shara.

In England, the Earl of Bessborough has an estate at Sysonby, in the county of Leicester; and a seat at Roehampton, in the county of Surrey.

(Our View, was taken from a Drawing by the Earl of Bessborough.)”


Posted on 04-08-15

Citation;  McKenna, M. (2015) Bessborough, Co. Kilkenny.  Available at (Accessed dd/mm/yyyy)

Sir Joshua Reynolds’ Birthday

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Sarah Bunbury

Sir Joshua Reynolds born on this day in 1723. In this portrait Lady Sarah Bunbury (nee Lennox) is depicted sacrificing to the Three Graces. Lady Sarah lived her later life in Celbridge House (now Oakley Park) beside Emily at Carton House and Louisa at Castletown. An engraving after this image is in the Print Room at Castletown.


Posted on 16-07-15

Citation;  McKenna, M. (2015) Sir Joshua Reynolds’ Birthday.  Available at (Accessed dd/mm/yyyy)


Hughes Cottage, Co. Tyrone

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Hughes Cottage

The cottage where New York Archbishop John Joseph Hughes was born in 1797. It was painstakingly moved from outside Augher, Co. Tyrone to its current location in the Ulster American Folk Park in Omagh, Co. Tyrone. Although born into humble surroundings, Hughes was responsible for overseeing the construction of St Patrick’s Cathedral in Manhattan, New York in the 1850s……/…/Buildings/Ulster-Buildings/Hughes-House


Posted on 15-07-15

Citation;  McKenna, M. (2015) Hughes Cottage, Co. Tyrone.  Available at (Accessed dd/mm/yyyy)

Under the Gaze of a Goddess

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009_RDR_Fireplace 3


Vesta (Greek Mythology: Hestia) Roman goddess of the hearth, and domestic architecture and governance. This is a popular mask which formed the centrepiece of numerous eighteenth-century chimneypieces including this piece from the Red Drawing Room at Castletown House, Co. Kildare. Fire of course is an age old symbol of life, and the Vestal Virgins were the keepers of the eternal fire of Rome. This piece was designed by Sir William Chambers and appeared in his 1759 publication A Treatise on Civic Architecture, a copy of which was at Castletown. Drapery swags from which a central facial mask is revealed continue outwards to wrap around the flanking cruciform border through which they protrude via stylised acanthus masks in an altogether symmetrical scheme.

Chimneypiece, Red Drawing Room, Castletown House

Lady Louisa Conolly, wife of Squire Thomas and mistress of Castletown, mentioned this chimneypiece when she wrote to her sister Lady Sarah in February 1768, ‘Our chimney pieces are come over, therefore we shall soon furnish our House, which will be a great diversion to me’. The chimneypieces referred to were made in London and transported to Castletown to adorn the newly remodelled reception rooms. A similar design appeared in Isaac Ware’s Designs of Inigo Jones and Others in 1731, in which the vertical swags are tied at their finals and the head on the central mask is more exposed, and William Kent also employed this design in Holkham Hall, Norfolk for Thomas Coke first Earl of Leicester. In Ireland this design was used in Lord Kildare’s Dublin townhouse (now Leinster House), his country seat at Carton House, and No.6 South Leinster Street which was built c1760 for Attorney General Philip Tisdall.

Chambers' Design
Chambers’ Design
Ware’s Design

At Castletown, the image of Vesta also appears in the stuccowork on the walls of the staircase hall, sculpted-in-situ by Filippo Lafranchini in the 1760s. Inspiration for the stucco masks may have been found in contemporary publications such as Bernard de Montfaucon’s L’antiquit Expliquee, a book that is believed to have had an influence on the Lafranchini stuccowork in the Apollo room at 85 St. Stephens Green. In Ancient Rome, the design of a temple dedicated to Vesta was governed by the principles of the Corinthian order; therefore it is little surprise that the figures at Castletown reside in rooms whose cornices are that of the Corinthian. Could this be the signature of William Chambers and his dogmatic approach to neo-classical design?

Vesta_Staircase Hall
That the subject of the mask is Vesta is indicated through the lack of iconography accompanying the piece, the context in which it is used, and the cloaking of the mask. Vesta watches over the fire which represents the life and wellbeing of Castletown and its inhabitants, and she can be read as an exceptional domestic governess for the young Lady Louisa to aspire to. Elsewhere at Castletown masks are identifiable through their accompanying symbols; Hercules rests above the first floor doorway in the staircase hall, identified by his lion pelt, and illustrates the strength through which said governance can be achieved.




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Posted on 13-07-15

Citation;  McKenna, M. (2015) Under the Gaze of a Goddess.  Available at (Accessed dd/mm/yyyy)


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