by ehistoryadmin on August 27, 2020

Desmond Guinness, Castletown & The Irish Georgian Society

Desmond Guinness, who passed away last week, made an immense contribution to the preservation of the architectural heritage of Ireland with the saving of Castletown House in Celbridge and the co-founding of the Irish Georgian Society among his many legacies.

Following the destruction of historic Georgian buildings in Dublin in 1957, he helped revive the Irish Georgian Society the following year. Desmond’s article in the Spring 1958 Bulletin of the Irish Georgian Society is available to read here: Irish Georgian Society Bulletin 1958



Desmond Guinness purchased Castletown House and surrounding 120 acres for the Society in the 1960s, with The Office of Public Works accepting the property on behalf of the State in 1994. Below is an report on the re-opening of Castletown House Celbridge from the Nationalist and Leinster Times of 7 July 1967.

Nationalist and Leinster Times 7 July 1967

Georgian Society at Castletown opening

“We are now the best-housed amenity group in the world,” said the Hon. Desmond Guinness of Leixlip Castle, welcoming hundreds of members of the Irish Georgian Society to the re-opening of Castletown House, Celbridge, on Saturday evening.
It was recently purchased for the Society by Mr. Guinness. Former home of Lord Carew and family, Castletown is the largest private residence in Ireland and has many unique features.
No more ideal day could have been chosen for the colourful “At Home” as many racegoers returning from the Curragh availed of the opportunity to view the huge building which is remarkably well preserved.
Voluntary workers have refurnished sections of the house, and the ranks of these do-it-yourself painters and cleaners are growing daily in response to the appeal by Mr. and Mrs. Desmond Guinness.
Students are to be accommodated in the upper storey. Some of the main reception rooms have been furnished with period items, paintings and prints, and it is hoped to have more furniture and paintings donated.
University students have joined members of the trinity College Archaeological Society and townspeople of Celbridge in the formidable task of cleaning and painting the interior of the building; it is hoped to restore the impressive façade to its former glory.
Mr. Guinness announced that the £7,500 required to meet immediate needs, £4,000 has been subscribed, and his recent trip to the U.S. had netted sufficient to cover the central heating costs.
He especially thanked the local Committee led by Mrs. Lena Boylan, wife of local Dáil Deputy Mr. Terence Boylan, and the voluntary workers. Castletown will be open to public on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays, 2 to 6 p.m.
It was built in 1772 for the then Speaker of the House of Commons, Mr. William Conolly, who preferred to be to be known as Mr. Conolly of Castletown, and scorned offers of a title. Unique features of the house include the long gallery and the print room, the former providing a view of Conolly’s Folly, a remarkable obelisk in the spacious grounds.

Georgian Society would later be housed in Castletown House in Celbridge.



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