Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Architecture note

There's a nice bit of exposure for Newbridge House in Donabate, County Dublin in Tuesday's Times (UK). The Times notes the recent attribution of the house's design to :

James Gibbs, architect of St Martin-in-the-Fields and the Radcliffe Library in Oxford. Newbridge [House], begun in 1747, is now known to be the first significant building in Ireland designed by a leading British architect.

As the story indicates, the house is now publicly owned (by Fingal County Council) having been purchased by its predecessor in that area, Dublin County Council, in 1985. But in a bit of blog nit-picking, we should note that the attribution to Gibbs has been known since 2001. However the general point -- that surprisingly little is known about the houses of the old Irish aristocracy -- stands. Many of the owners of the big houses left, shall we say, in a hurry, during the War of Independence and especially the Civil War in 1920-22, and there was a chronic drain thereafter as the properties proved to be not viable economically (much like their English counterparts) but the government was not willing to step in (unlike their English counterpart).

Amongst the ironies associated with the resurgence of interest in the old houses is one noted by this recent Irish Times article (subs. req'd): the house was formally opened to the public in 1986 by then minister Ray Burke, an interlude in less dignified activities for Mr Burke which culminated in time in the 'Joy (as they'd never have said at Newbridge House). Anyway, the house has had the advantage of continued input from a family descendant, Alec Hobbe, who lives in Surrey but has returned to Dublin frequently to stay involved with the old homestead.

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