Buildings of Central Leinster: Kildare, Laois and Offaly. By Andrew Tierney
This is the fifth volume in the Ireland series and Offaly History is delighted to have the county published and to such a high standard of scholarship from Andrew Tierney. Some of the entries for Offaly were co-written by Professor Alistair Rowan and Dr Michael O’Neill. To the author, to all the contributors, to the Buildings of Ireland Trust and to Yale we are very grateful.
Many of Ireland’s most rewarding and distinctive buildings may be found within the region. On the westernmost flank, by the Shannon, is Clonmacnoise, a cradle of early monasticism, with its Hiberno-Romanesque ruins, sculpted crosses and round towers. English urban settlement began in Pale towns such as Naas, Celbridge, Leixlip and Maynooth, with their towered churches. Much of the best Georgian streetscape appears in the settlements further west, at Mountmellick, Portarlington, Birr and Tullamore. Country houses include the Palladian mansions of Kildare, such as Castletown and Carton, and the romantic Castles of Offaly, notably Francis Johnston’s masterwork at Charleville Forest. Neoclassicism flourished in Laois, with grand houses by James Wyatt at Abbey Leix, James Gandon at Emo, and the Morrisons at Ballyfin. The Victorian contribution includes ecclesiastical buildings by A.W.N. Pugin at the Maynooth seminary and the convent at Birr, and by his Irish acolyte J.J. McCarthy. Among the highlights of Protestant architecture are G.E Street’s restoration of Kildare Cathedral and James Franklin Fuller’s fusions of Continental and Hiberno-Romanesque at Rathdaire, Millicent and Carnalway. From more recent centuries, the area boasts innovative work by Sir Edwin Lutyens, Michael Scott and Heneghan Peng.
Each place has its own detailed entry in the gazetteer. A general introduction provides a historical and artistic overview. Also included are plentiful maps and plans, over 100 colour photographs, full indexes and illustrated glossary. The result is both an indispensable reference work and an invaluable guide.
The Buildings of Ireland was founded by Sir Nikolaus Pevsner and Alistair Rowan as a sister series to those on England, Scotland and Wales. When complete, the series will guide the reader to all the buildings of significance in Ireland, in city, town and country, from prehistoric times to the present. Each area is described place by place in a detailed, comprehensive and incisively written gazetteer. A thematic and chronological introduction explains the broader context, and full indexes and a glossary are provided for ease of use. Each book includes maps, plans and a selection of over a hundred photographs to aid the explorer and bring the buildings into clearer focus.
Central Leinster, the fifth volume in the Irish series of Pevsner guides, covers counties Laois, Offaly and Kildare, extending southwards from the territory in North Leinster (1993), which itself is bookended to the north by the more recently published South Ulster (2012). It follows the established form for the series. The Introduction provides an overview of the three counties’ topography, architecture and building materials, with a comparative discussion on each period, arranged chronologically. The gazetteer entries follow, in alphabetical order. In some cases, churches are described before any public or commercial buildings, followed by domestic architecture and other structures of interest. Demolished buildings normally do not appear in the gazetteer, unless they form part of a succession of buildings on the site, or where – as in the case of larger country houses – estate buildings survive and warrant discussion. Similarly, demolished buildings in towns are described where they informed the design of a square or street line, but otherwise omitted unless mentioned in the discussion.
Andrew Tierney is a researcher in architectural history at Trinity College Dublin. He has an M.A. in the history of art and a PhD in archaeology from University College Dublin, and has taught at UCD, NUI Maynooth, and the Institute of Irish Studies at the University of Liverpool. In 2017 he published The Doctor’s Wife is Dead, which retells the true story of a suspicious death and murder trial in the early Victorian Tipperary.