Permission granted for Aldborough House redevelopment

Derelict mansion was second-biggest private residence in Dublin after Leinster House

Reliance Investments Ltd plans to refurbish the 18th century Aldborough House on Portland Row for use as offices

Reliance Investments Ltd plans to refurbish the 18th century Aldborough House on Portland Row for use as offices

 

Planning permission has been granted for the conversion of the last Georgian mansion built in Dublin into an office complex, despite criticism of the project by the Department of Heritage and conservation organisations.

Reliance Investments Ltd plans to refurbish the 18th century Aldborough House on Portland Row for use as offices in addition to building two new five-storey “office wings” in its grounds.

Built in the the late 1790s by Edward Stratford, second Earl of Aldborough (although not fully completed until 1803, two years after his death), Aldborough House was the second-biggest Georgian private residence in Dublin, after Leinster House.

Located in the northeast inner city, the house has been vacant for much of the last two decades and is in an advanced state of decay largely due to severe water damage and vandalism.

An Bord Pleanala granted permission for the conversion of Aldborough House into an office development, but ordered the top floor level of the glazed links between the buildings and be omitted
An Bord Pleanala granted permission for the conversion of Aldborough House into an office development, but ordered the top floor level of the glazed links between the buildings and be omitted

The department said it welcomed proposals to conserve and repair the “highly significant protected structure” and bring it back into use. However, it said the height and location of the new office wings would “dominate the historic building and could compromise its architectural integrity”.

Dublin City Council had approved the development, but it was appealed to An Bord Pleanála by An Taisce and the Irish Georgian Society.

An Taisce said the proposed development would “engulf and emasculate Aldborough House”. The conservation plan submitted by the developer “repeatedly seeks to reduce the importance” of the house to suit the proposed development, it said. Any new development should be “clearly subservient” to the historic house.

Grave concerns

The Irish Georgian Society said it had “grave concerns about the scale and intensity of new development and the extent of internal alteration proposed”.

The board granted permission, but ordered the top floor level of the two glazed links between the new office buildings and Aldborough House be omitted.

Despite being built as an aristocratic townhouse, Aldborough House has spent little time in residential use since its construction. In 1813, it was bought by a former Cistercian monk, Prof Gregor von Feinaigle, who used it as a school, and by the mid-1840s it had become an Army barracks.

Throughout the 20th century it was in State ownership. In the 1940s its gardens were lost when they were taken over by Dublin Corporation for the construction of social housing, leaving it with very limited grounds.

It was used as a depot for the Department of Posts and Telegraphs, and remained in almost continuous use up until 1999 when it was sold by by Telecom Éireann, at the time of its privatisation, to the Irish Music Rights’ Organisation (Imro).

Although it had been considerably altered through the 20th century, it was in the last 17 years that its decline set in. Imro had intended to use it as its headquarters, but this plan fell through in 2005 and it sold the house on to a company called Aldborough Developments, which got planning permission in 2006 to convert it to a private hospital but was subsequently wound up.