County Cavan

15 November 2019

This unusual building in County Cavan has been attributed to Richard Castle since the late eighteenth century,though more recently its design has been associated with Edward Lovett Pearce. Since 1906 it has been an agricultural college and is now run by Teagasc which has entirely re-roofed the building and plans other extensive works of repair and conservation. An imposing two-storey block (originally with contemporary wings) of red brick and local sandstone, Ballyhaise was built for Brockhill Newburgh, M.P. (c.1659-1741), some time in the 1730s, seemingly over an earlier structure. From a research perspective the building is remarkable for a feature invisible to the eye, a vaulted roof structure of solid brick which is rarely found in eighteenth-century architecture and was surely conceived of as fire prevention. A fire devastated nearby Bellamont Forest in 1741.

Grand in concept, if not fully realised in execution, the ground plan of the original seven-bay block shows some notable innovations, not least the projecting oval bow on the long axis of the rear elevation. This is an early example of a feature which was supposedly introduced into Ireland by Castle in the late 1730s, perhaps by way of Britain, and ultimately derived from European planning of the mid-seventeenth century. The geometry, however, is not quite correct here, and there are hesitancies evident in the crafting of the oval saloon. Rare early eighteenth century sash glazing bars survive at the rear, complete with blocks at the intersections.

Further reading:

Mark Bence-Jones, Burke’s Guide to Country Houses. Volume I, Ireland. London, 1978. Maurice Craig, The architecture of Ireland from the earliest times to 1880, London, 1982.

Georgian Society, The Georgian Society Records of Eighteenth-Century Domestic Architecture and Decoration in Dublin, vol. v. Dublin, 1913.

The Knight of Glin, ‘Richard Castle, architect, his biography and works’ in Bulletin of the Irish Georgian Society, 7, no. 1 (Jan – Mar 1964), 32-38.

Kevin V. Mulligan, The Buildings of Ireland: South Ulster, New Haven & London, 2013

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