Castletown House was the first Palladian style house in Ireland. It was built between 1722 and 1792 for William Conolly, who was the Speaker of the Irish House of Commons. It’s not far from Dublin and on my route from the city to Clane, where I’ve been staying this week, so after I’d been to the IMMA I decided to make a visit.
I made a tour of the house – self guided as I arrived an hour before the final guided tour. It took close to an hour to get round all the rooms, and I took the opportunity to talk to the room guides to find out more about the house to supplement the information in the guide book. The house had been quiet on a grey day so they seemed quite pleased to be diverted by a curious Englishman.
The main house is flanked with two “service wings” – the kitchens were located in the west wing, which now houses while the stables were in the east wing, now converted into the visitor reception and book shop. The wings are connected to the main building by Ionic colonnades. Following the Palladian tradition, on the ground floor the main living rooms are at the back of the house, which faces north. Quite sensible in the Italian climate – the rooms are not so likely to be overheated by the direct sunlight. But not such a good idea in Ireland. On a cool grey afternoon the rooms were decidedly chilly!
The front of the house is dominated by the entrance hall which is two storeys high. It has a chequered marble floor and ionic columns. The decor is relatively plain, however.
The dining room was converted from two smaller rooms in the 1760’s.
The Butler’s pantry. Food would have been brought here from the kitchens prior to be taken into the dining room
Round to the back of the house – this is the Red Drawing Room
Then into the Green Drawing room which, located immediately behind the main entrance hall, would have been the main reception room on the ground floor.
An impressive Georgian period musical clock
The Print room
one of the most important rooms at Castletown. It is the only fully intact eighteenth century print room left in Ireland. During Lady Louisa’s time it became popular for ladies to collect their favourite prints and then arrange and paste them on to the walls of a chosen room, along with decorative borders. …….. the Print Room can be seen as a scrapbook of mid eighteenth century culture and taste.
The last of the reception rooms on the ground floor – the State Bedroom. Here, William Conolly would receive guests during the morning while sitting up in his bed or being dressed – just like Louis XIV at Versailles. Conolly clearly had visions of grandeur.
Back round to the front of the house and into the the staircase hall. The elaborate rococo plasterwork was created by the Philip Francini, who, with his older brother Paul, had worked at a number of Irish houses including Leinster House for in Dublin and Russborough House which I visited last year.
Upstairs now and into the Blue Bedroom which is decorated and furnished in Victorian style
The Boudoir – the lady of the house’s territory!
Finally into the Long Gallery
one of the most celebrated rooms at Castletown, and is unique in Ireland. Originally intended as a picture gallery …… (it) became a space for informal entertaining unlike the grand state rooms downstairs.
After looking round the house I decided to explore the grounds which extend south of the house down to the River Liffey and the town of Cellebridge
An ice house
A classical style temple
complete with columns removed from the Long Gallery during it’s redecoration in the 1760s. This temple, visible from the from the south front of the house, was erected in honour of Sarah Siddons, the actress.
Dark clouds looming!
A view of the house across the lake
Raindrops started to fall
Not long afterwards the heavens opened. Wearing only a jacket I took refuge under a tree while it eased off.
It was getting close to 6 o’clock when the house and grounds were closed, so I headed back to the car to drive the 10 miles or so to my hotel in Clane.