Kilkenny tree lodge collapse an ‘architectural tragedy’

Internationally significance structure in Kilkenny now a ruin

 

The only known surviving example in Ireland or Britain of an 18th century lodge built with tree trunks is in danger of being permanently lost, in what a leading conservation architect called “one of the greatest architectural tragedies of recent years”.

John Redmill said the Rustic Lodge at Belline, Co Kilkenny, demonstrated the theory of the time that the classical temples in ancient Greece had been derived from wooden structures.

“The Rustic Lodge is – or, rather, was – a late 18th century building not much bigger than a generous garden shed. What made it of international significance, and utter charm, was that it was in the form of a Doric temple made out of tree trunks.”

Following “eight years of neglect, compounded by indecision and inaction, this little gem finally collapsed in the last few weeks and is now a total ruin, a huge loss to Ireland’s and Europe’s cultural heritage”, Mr Redmill told The Irish Times.

He recalled photographing the lodge in 2005 when it was still intact as part of a conservation report commissioned by the Irish Georgian Society. But since then, “nothing positive ever happened – except occasionally talking around tables”.

Donough Cahill, the society’s director, said it had been campaigning for several years to “highlight the plight of this architectural gem”.

But the Rustic Lodge at Belline, owned by James Coleman, had been “sadly compromised following the collapse of its portico, chimney stack and the remains of its much decayed roof” – even though it is listed on Kilkenny’s Record of Protected Structures.

Mr Cahill said recent research had revealed more about its origins as one of a number of follies built in a “carefully designed parkland landscape” by Belline’s resident at the time, Peter Walsh, a patron of the arts and agent of the Earls of Bessborough.

John McCormack, of Kilkenny County Council, said it had served a planning enforcement notice on Mr Coleman in May 2012 “for failing to undertake works to prevent this protected structure from becoming or continuing to be endangered”.

“Legal proceedings commenced in October 2012 and, since then, there have been four separate court appearances in relation to this prosecution while the council sought to negotiate with the owner. A full hearing of the case is listed for October 7th next at Carrick-on-Suir District Court.”

Mr Coleman, who could not be contacted for comment, bought the 91-acre Belline estate in 2003 for €3 million.

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