Crafting, heritage and a Wellington chest

Learn about pineapples at Rathfarnham Castle or how to build a bottle collection, as part of this year’s Heritage Week

Boot room

Born in what is now the Merrion Hotel, Arthur Wellesley, the first Duke of Wellington, is famous for winning at Waterloo and inventing that staple of an Irish summer: wellies. The master military strategist also had his moments as a furniture designer. The tall, seven-drawer chest, now known as the Wellington chest, was made to his specifications to see him and his requisites around the battlefields of Europe in the days before the idea of travelling light kicked in. Popular from the 1820s on, Wellington chests soon started to come in all shapes and sizes, including some with a built-in secretaire drawer. An upcoming sale at Mullen’s of Bray, Co Wicklow, features just such a chest, which dates from about 1880. A plainer classic, it has an estimate of €250-€350. The auction ends on August 13th.

Crafting Ireland

As Craft Month, the all-island celebration of craft and design that takes place every August continues, there are plenty of exhibitions to inspire creativity, and find new things to drool over.

Clay/Works at Dublin Castle showcases the work of Ceramics Ireland members and is the largest annual exhibition of ceramics in Ireland. It ends on August 27th.

In Kilkenny, six artists come together from different disciplines. Frances Crowe, Lisa Fingleton, Bernadette Kiely, Eva Lynch, Gus Mabelson and Clodagh Molloy share a touching approach to their work. Part of the Thomastown Creative Arts Festival, the exhibition ends on August 20th. Full details on Facebook.


Also in Kilkenny, Made Local at the DCCI Gallery, showcases 28 amazing makers, from glasswork to weaving, silver to ceramics. It ends October 28th.

Heritage happenings

Kicking off today, Heritage Week has upwards of 1,500 events countrywide. There is free admission to all Office of Public Works sites on Saturday, August 12th, and additional events at many, including basket weaving at Castletown House on August 13th and 14th and a demonstration of conservation crafts at Ormond Castle, Carrick-on-Suir on August 15th.

The intriguingly titled Fricassé of Frogs and Cold Claret tour of Rathfarnham Castle on August 19th and 20th invites visitors to dive into the dining habits of the elite. According to Jeanie Rochford, who devised and will present the tour, Henry Loftus, Early of Ely, used Rathfarnham Castle as his party house in the 1770s, spending vast sums on kitting it out in lavish style. These were the days when society hosts would rent pineapples to adorn their dining tables, and Rochford points out that there are plenty of pineapples, a symbol both of wealth and hospitality, to be spotted in the Castle’s ornate plasterwork. The tour draws on menus; written accounts, including by noted scribe Mary Delaney; and archaeological evidence, such as wine bottles, ceramics and jelly glasses.

On August 16th, Philip Crook gives a lunchtime talk on his conservation work on three Harry Clarke panels at Cork’s Crawford Gallery, plus insights on projects with the V&A and National Gallery. See also a fascinating new Collection Care and conservation section of the Crawford’s website, supported by the Heritage Council at

Head out to Bere Island on August 18th, where Chris Sullivan will do a show and tell of his bottle collection, including giving advice on collecting and identifying finds. There is an open day at the Conservation Letterfrack workshop in Connemara on August 20th, offering insight into traditional woodworking techniques and conservation approaches.

Events are mostly free, but booking is essential for many. Heritage Week runs until August 20th.,,,,

Gemma Tipton

Gemma Tipton

Gemma Tipton contributes to The Irish Times on art, architecture and other aspects of culture