Buildings at risk: Aldborough House, Dublin

Campaigns to halt the ongoing deterioration of this 18th century building, once used as a school and an army barracks, have been unsuccessful

Mon, Mar 31, 2014, 11:42

Why is it significant?
Aldborough House is the second-biggest Georgian private residence in Dublin, surpassed in size only by Leinster House. Built in the late 18th century on Portland Row, Dublin 1, it has a tall, three-storey central block flanked by quadrants which led to pavilions – one with a chapel and the other with a private theatre.

Its first owner Edward Augustus Stratford, the second Earl of Aldborough, died within three years of its completion and left the property to his widow, Lady Aldborough who remarried but died 18 months after her first husband. Following a decade of legal wranglings, Lord Aldborough’s nephew, Colonel John Wingfield, took possession of the house and sold the contents.

Aldborough House had various uses: it was a school run by former Cistercian monk, Prof Gregor von Feinaigle; an army barracks; and, when in public ownership, a depot for the Department of Posts and Telegraphs. More recently, it was owned by Telecom Éireann and the Irish Music Rights Organisation which had planned to locate its headquarters in the building but couldn’t meet the restoration costs.

It was sold in 2005 for €4.5 million to a company called Aldborough Developments which got planning permission in 2006 to convert it to a private hospital. This development never went ahead and the property is still owned by a north Dublin businessman, Philip Marley, whose companies Ely Property Group and Ely Properties are under liquidation.

What state of dereliction is it in?
Aldborough House is in very poor repair. Its main chimney pieces were removed at the end of the 19th century. The garden statuary was sold. In the 1940s the garden was used by Dublin Corporation for social housing. Rooms were altered to accommodate office space but it is only in the past decade that it has been seriously neglected. One of the pavilions has also been destroyed.

What repairs have been carried out?
Dublin City Council (DCC) served enforcement proceedings against the current owners to carry out repairs to the roof. This didn’t happen and the lead was stolen from the valley and parapet gulleys, leading to terrible water damage. In December 2011, DCC authorised emergency roof repairs to weatherproof the building.


Who is championing its cause?
The Irish Georgian Society and An Taisce have campaigned for its restoration – or at least prevention from dereliction.

“In spite of the recent measures taken by DCC to protect the roof and perimeter security, Aldborough House is facing ongoing deterioration,” says Ian Lumley of An Taisce. The Five Lamps Arts Festival has also formed a group of people concerned with the fate of the building. “It has great potential as a focus building for community arts with an exhibition space, theatre and offices. Different students of architecture and interior design have already re-imagined it as a costume museum among other things. We’ve lots of ideas but no funds,” says Roisin Lonergan, artistic director of the Five Lamps Arts Festival.

“There are no shortage of uses. What’s required is that the building is acquired by a suitable charitable trust. The Bank of Ireland [which holds the deeds], Dublin City Council and community organisations need to come together to find a solution,” says Lumley.

What happens next?
It’s difficult to say. Will liquidators for businesses owned by Philip Marley sell it on? Will Dublin City Council buy it and seek ideas for its future use?

Or will it fall into further dereliction with neither buyer nor benefactor to restore it?



If you know of an important building that has fallen into disrepair email: buildingsatrisk@irishtimes.com

 

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