Castletown House – a golden opportunity

Bring the lands into public ownership

Sir, – The recently featured article on the sale of lands immediately to the rear of Castletown House, Co Kildare, raises great concerns for the future protection of one of the most architecturally significant buildings of Ireland’s Georgian period (“Celbridge landholding with ‘future development potential’ for €5 million”, July 6th).

The Irish Georgian Society has called for the State to bring the lands into public ownership through the Office of Public Works and so forever safeguard the setting of Castletown.

The urgency of this is illustrated in the marketing materials for the site that were highlighted in The Irish Times article which suggests they have a “future development potential”. It should be noted that this is entirely aspirational as the lands are currently zoned for open space and amenity and which, given their proximity to Castletown, is an objective that should never be changed.

In purchasing Castletown in 1967, Desmond Guinness acquired 120 acres to the front of the house “so as to preserve them” and in doing so provided a protective envelope that secured its setting and protected views extending to the south. While some housing was subsequently built, the greater part of the historic demesne remains intact. This is a testament to the success of Desmond’s vision and the subsequent custodianship and management of Castletown by the Castletown Foundation and by the Office of Public Works.

Extending the State’s ownership of land in the Castletown demesne would not just protect the setting of the house but would also greatly enhance the amenity value of its parklands. It is noted that Castletown House & Parklands was the fifth most popular visitor destination in Ireland in 2019 attracting 965,632 visitors. This additional landholding would present opportunities for visitors to further explore and utilise the parklands to the rear of the house and would facilitate and secure the current access route from the M4 motorway. As one of the most important historic buildings in Ireland, it is incumbent on all with an interest in and responsibility for our heritage to ensure that Castletown House is protected for the present and for future generations. Ever since the demesne was broken up in the 1960s there have been aspirations to reunite the house with its historic landscape. It seems that now, after over 50 years, a golden opportunity has arisen for the State to achieve this. – Yours, etc,

DONOUGH CAHILL,

Executive Director,

Irish Georgian Society,

Dublin 2.