Buildings at Risk

Charleville Castle, Tullamore, Co Offaly

Thu, Jul 3, 2014, 01:00

Why is it of interest? Charleville Castle is an extravagantly proportioned Gothic Revival castle, built by Francis Johnson between 1800 and 1812 for the 1st Earl of Charleville, Charles Bury. It is widely regarded as Johnson’s masterpiece in the Gothic Revival style. The castle remained in the Bury family until Colonel Howard Bury moved to Belvedere House just outside Mullingar in 1912. Since then, it has had mixed fortunes, partly due to a protracted lease on the castle, separate to the large farm and woodlands which are managed by the Hutton-Bury family.

What state of dereliction is it in? The principle first-floor reception rooms, the ballroom and the diningroom are in reasonable repair however the upper floor is in a perilous state.

The cantilevered oak staircase to the second floor is in need of extensive repairs. The adjoining chapel lies open to the elements with broken or displaced windows and no roof. Across the yard, the ornamental stables block is in dire need of restoration. The castle yards are in disarray.

What repairs have been carried out? The roof of the main block of the castle was partially repaired by the Charleville Castle Heritage Trust, managed by Dudley Stewart between 1999 and 2006 with grants from the American Ireland funds and the Heritage Council. The trust, which currently fundraises for works on the castle through open-air festivals, no longer has a lease on the property.

Who is championing its cause? The Charleville Castle Heritage Trust has a team of volunteers who provide ad hoc security to the castle and immediate surrounding area. An Taisce placed the Charleville Castle stable block as the building of highest risk of dereliction nationally in 2013.

“The 2003 conservation report [funded by the Heritage Council] by James Howley states that Charleville is one of the most significant historic designed landscapes in Ireland and a cultural and natural landscape of European importance, containing a rich architecture heritage with buildings of national and international importance,” says Ian Lumley from An Taisce.

“The estate needs an immediate and long-term strategic plan to maintain and enhance its irreplaceable landscape quality and buildings. There is major potential to benefit from EU Structural and Rural Development funding. The lodging of a current planning application by the Hutton Bury family to repair and enhance access through the ‘Red’ entrance gates from Tullamore is welcome.”

Lumley continues, “urgent action is needed to arrest further deterioration of the stable buildings for which [some] grant funding is available. Designed by Francis Johnson with, and immediately adjoining the main castle, these are described in the 2003 report as “one of the most architecturally accomplished stable yards in Ireland”.

Amanda Pedlow, heritage officer with Offaly County Council also has a keen interest in finding a viable solution for Charleville Castle.

“The lack of a legal structure for Charleville Castle needs to be rectified so that outside agencies can be brought into its governance. I would like to see An Taisce, the Heritage Council and the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht come together to look for solutions for this huge conservation project.”

What happens next? A conservation plan on Charleville Castle, the adjoining chapel and stable block commissioned by David Hutton Bury, the owner of Charleville Castle and demesne has just been completed by conservation architect, James Howley. This extensive report, also funded by the Heritage Council, complements the earlier report on the historic designed landscape and will hopefully offer some direction for this internationally significant castle. If you know of an important building that has fallen into disrepair email buildingsatrisk@irishtimes.com

SYLVIA THOMPSON

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