Headfort HouseTourism Wednesday, October 20th, 2010
Over two hundred years old and designed by the renowned Irish architect, George Semple for Earl of Bective, Sir Thomas Taylor, work on Headfort House began in the 1760s and was completed sometime in the early 1770s.
Headfort House was and constructed from Ardbraccan limestone. Its magnificent exterior is matched by an equally impressive interior, designed by the influential Scottish architect Robert Adam in 1771. Lord Headfort commissioned Robert Adam to create a decorative scheme for the state rooms of the house, inspired, no doubt, by his father-in-law’s (Hercules Langford Rowley of Summerhill) engagement of the fashionable architect for improvements to the interior of Langford House in Dublin.
Headfort is now Adam’s only significant surviving work in Ireland.
Adam’s designs took in every aspect of the design of a room including colour schemes, fixtures and fittings. Although his designs are somewhat diluted in areas at Headfort, as Adams was not responsible for overseeing any of the works, they place Headfort among the most important and influential country houses in Ireland. Added to this, there is a very comprehensive set of design drawings which combined with other surviving written and drawn records, constitute one of the best archives for any of Ireland”s great country houses.
The Taylor family continued to reside in Headfort House until 1949, when the fifth Marquess and Marchioness of Headfort converted their stately mansion into a preparatory school, creating a self-contained house for themselves in the east wing, which has now been sold. The sixth Marquess died in 2005 and the seventh Marquess now resides in London.
Much of the original furniture, which was also designed by Adam to complement his lofty interiors, is still in place. Some items were recently bought by the state, with a view to their being displayed in the house eventually. These items, including pier glasses and tables, are undergoing restoration in Kilkenny Castle, as part of an ongoing exhibition of Irish Furniture. The school uses the main house and one of the wings and, to this day, is still surrounded by spacious grounds. Sadly the furnishings from the magnificent Chinese Drawing Room have long since gone.
The newly restored Robert Adam Eating Parlour at Headfort House, historic home of the Marquis of Headfort, was officially opened recently in the presence of local and national dignitaries, including the founder of the Irish Georgian Society, Desmond Guinness.
The world-renowned Robert Adams expert, Eileen Harris, spoke of the restoration of the paintwork of the room, which involved up to eight painters who worked a total of around 8,000 man-hours to achieve the stunning effect that can be seen today.
The Headfort Trust was assisted with funding from the Heritage Council, Department of Environment, Meath County Council, the World Monuments Fund, the Irish Georgian Society and many private donors. The trustees of Headfort Trust and their chairman, Dick Blakiston Houston, now await further funds for the restoration of the remaining Adams rooms.
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