Historic Irish Houses

Burning the Big House — an online lecture series

24 March at 7:00pm — 19 May 2022 at 8:00pm (Dublin)
25 March at 6:00am — 20 May 2022 at 5:00am (Melbourne)

The theme of this lecture series fills a gap in the historiographical debate, by focusing on the experiences of the Irish landed gentry and aristocracy during the revolutionary period 1920- 23, as seen through the prism of the burning of their Big Houses.

The series will conclude with a wider consideration of the subject, beyond Ireland and the revolutionary period, and examine the phenomenon of country house fires in Britain over the last three hundred years. Whether deliberate or accidental the impact of fire often resulted in the same trauma of death, loss, and homelessness.

Two lectures will be delivered live: the inaugural lecture by Terence Dooley on 24 March 2022 and the last in the series by Christopher Ridgway on 19 May 2022. The remaining six lectures will be pre-recorded. Each lecture will begin at 7.00pm and will be aired according to the following schedule:

24 March | Terence Dooley | Burning the Big House: the story of the country house during the Irish Revolution, 1920-23
31 March | Ann O’Riordan | Revolution, agrarianism and the burning of Ballydugan House, Co Galway, 1922
7 April | Jean Young | “A barbarous mania of incendiarism“: Big House burnings in Co Louth, 1921-23
14 April | Ciarán Reilly | “A smouldering mass of charred stones’: The burning of Big Houses in Offaly, 1920-1923
21 April | Gemma Clark | Munster’s ‘Campaign of fire’: Big House burnings in Counties Limerick, Tipperary and Waterford during the Civil War, 1922-23
28 April | Glascott Symes | “Ours must go in time’“: the burning of Senator Sir John Keane’s Cappoquin House, Co Waterford, February 1923
5 May | Robert O’Byrne | The ruined Irish Big House: reality and perception
12 May | Olwen Purdue | “Such troubled times“: the burning of Big Houses in Northern Ireland 1921-1981
19 May | Christopher Ridgway | Ablaze! Fire and the country house: a perspective beyond Ireland

Tickets for the online lecture series are free and can be booked through Eventbrite before 10 March 2022.

For a detailed account of the talks in this series, please see: Burning the Big House lecture series programme

20th Annual Historic Houses International Conference (hybrid format)

Exploring the Mental World of the Country House
9 – 11 May 2022 | Centre for the Study of Historic Irish Houses and Estates, History Department, Maynooth University

Country houses are masterpieces of material culture, they are triumphs of architecture, fine and decorative art, and landscape design, but they are also about the history and transmission of ideas.

In varying degrees their occupants (above and below stairs, indoors and outdoors) thought, conversed, read, and responded to their milieu through books, newspapers, as well as other media and forms of knowledge. In recent years country house libraries and archives have steadily revealed more evidence for how people in country houses fashioned themselves and their views of the world.

The Twentieth Annual Historic Houses Conference for 2022 will examine the intellectual background to the country house. What is the meaning of all those volumes in bookcases, did they do more than just decorate a room? How were they acquired, read, and put to use?

By what means did elite society exchange ideas, absorb new trends, and engage in wider debate, especially when at home in the country? To what degree was this knowledge valued and displayed in terms of stylish library design, and how did houses preserve, or neglect, their books and other records?

How did members of a household entertain or better themselves, what was popular to read with whom –men, women and children? The classics, natural history, literature, genealogy, fiction, and other subjects feature in many country house libraries, and very often a battered, plain copy of a publication will reveal more than the most pristine edition in a lavish ornamental binding. In what ways did books furnish minds as well as interiors?

Beyond the demesne walls how has the world of the country house been perceived and understood in fiction, poetry, drama and, more recently, film? How have these treatments shaped a wider understanding of the country house as a cultural and literary phenomenon?

Exploring the Mental World of the Country House will examine these and other related questions, and mark the twentieth anniversary of the Centre; the conference is likely to be a mix of real and online proceedings.

Related titles from Four Courts Press

Country House Collections
Their lives and afterlives
Terence Dooley & Christopher Ridgway, editors

Portrait of an Irish house and family, 1769–1969
Philip Bull