Thursday, 28 March 2013

Templemore Abbey, Co. Tipperary

Templemore Abbey is another of Ireland's lost architectural treasures. This extensive neo-Gothic mansion was destroyed by revolutionary forces during the Irish War of Independence in 1921. The abbey, or priory as it was sometimes known, had been in the hands of a local land owning family, the Cardens. The family originated in the English county of Cheshire but came to Ireland in the wake of the Cromwellian settlement in the seventeenth century. In 1787 the family was raised to the baronnetcy, with the senior male enjoying the title 'sir' from then on. The house seen in the image below dates from the 1860s, and was built on the site of a previous house erected c. 1820. The new house combined aspects of the Elizabethan style with the increasingly popular neo-Gothic, and was complete with battlements, turrets, and pinnacles, all for purely decorative purposes. 

During the War of Independence (1919-21), north county Tipperary was a hotbed of republican activity. In response to this government forces commandeered private properties where troops would be stationed. This was the case with Templemore Abbey where B Company of the Auxiliaries were based from 1920. The Auxiliaries were more commonly known as the 'Black and Tans', due to the colours on their uniform, and came to be especially despised by some locals due to a number of alleged atrocities. When the Auxiliaries departed the Abbey in May 1921, the local brigade of the IRA received orders from the central command, allegedly coming from Michael Collins, to burn the house so as it could not be used in the event of British forces returning in the future. The burning of the house was undoubtedly also a symbolic act of vengeance against the Cardens, themselves a large local land owning family. The house was subsequently raised to the ground; nothing remains save the gate lodge and a partially intact stable block.  

The angle of the image above shows the true extent of the scale of the house, which was said to have comprised some sixty rooms. 

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Bantry House, Bantry, Co. Cork

Of all great Irish country houses, Bantry House surely enjoys one of the most idyllic locations, overlooking the glorious Bantry Bay, surrounded on each side by the rugged Caha Mountains. The house there is in the possession of the Shelswell-White family, the descendants of the earls of Bantry. The present house is largely a nineteenth century construction, but with a significant central section dating from the early eighteenth century. Construction on the house commenced in 1710 by the original owners, the Hutchinson family. The house, originally known as Blackrock, was a detached five bay two storey house, and was a noble Classical structure, displaying strong elements of the Queen Anne style. This structure forms the central part of the house we see today. 

In 1765 Richard White purchased the house from the Hutchinsons. The Whites had up to then lived at nearby Whiddy Island. They had strong ties with Limerick, and had initially prospered as a merchant family. Better known as 'Councillor White', Richard was a well-known local politician. His son Richard received the title 'Baron Bantry' in 1797, and was subsequently made the first earl of Bantry in 1817. Upon the death of the childless fourth earl, William Henry, in 1891, the title became extinct. 

The above image shows the house in its current form. The house was transformed in the nineteenth century, with additions being made to the east and west of the original eighteenth century structure, as well as to the south, giving it a t-shape appearance. The bow wings, in the centre of the picture above, adorned by the balustrade were added in 1820, while the south extension, facing the sea to the right, was an even later addition, from 1845.

The view of the house towards Bantry Bay. To the right is the decorative stable block added in 1845.

In 1796 Bantry Bay was the scene of an event of international importance, when a French revolutionary force, led by General Hoche attempted to land in the bay. Their goal was to the creation of a revolutionary Irish state, along the lines of revolutionary France. This expeditionary force was made up some fifty ships and thousands of men. The attempted invasion was doomed, however, due to bad weather, and not a single ship landed successfully.

Thursday, 7 March 2013

Gurteen le Poer, Gurteen, Co. Waterford

This large Elizabethan style house at Gurteen sits picturesquely along the banks of the River Suir. Although situated within the boundary of Co. Waterford, the house straddles the boarder with Co.Tipperary, and the small village of Kilsheelan. The present house, which much resembles a castle, dates from 1866, but the history of Gurteen extends back centuries to the arrival of the Normans in the 1100s. The house owes it history to a Norman family, the Powers, who by the seventeenth century held the titles of Viscount Power and earl of Tyrone. These titles, however, became extinct in 1742. The castle remained in the hands of the de la Poers until 1988, when it was bought by the internationally renowned Austrian artist, Gottfried Helnwein.

The house was designed in the Elizabethan Revival style, combining elements of Gothic. It was built by Edmond de la Poer, with construction commencing in 1863.  The architect chosen was Samuel Ussher Roberts, who went on design the castle at Kylemore, Co. Galway, and a number of buildings at nearby Portlaw, Co. Waterford. The house took three years to complete, at a cost of £10,000. Some time after de la Poer received the title of 'count'. This was not a royal peerage but rather a papal title, and was granted to him by Pope Pius X.

The monumental gardens 

Mrs de la Poer and child