One of Cork’s finest stately mansions is to get a new lease of life after a €2m restoration by the Office of Public Works (OPW).
Significant conservation works at Doneraile Court in North Cork have been unveiled at the 18th-century house at the centre of one of Ireland’s most intact Georgian estates.
The development is part of the OPW’s “strategic conservation plan” for properties in the region aligned with Fáilte Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands necklace of visitor attractions, said an OPW spokesperson.
“In line with Government and OPW policies, a Changing Places facility has been incorporated into the refurbishment works. This facility provides suitable changing facilities for individuals with disabilities and additional physical needs.” In addition, a lift has also been installed which will allow all visitors access to the first floor and exhibition spaces.
Minister of state Patrick O’Donovan said: “I am absolutely delighted to be able to announce the provision by the OPW of these new facilities at Doneraile.
“Both are a positive contribution to the full inclusion, equality and rights of disabled people within our community. They also allow us to offer access to all areas within Doneraile House so that the full visitor attractions on offer can be experienced and enjoyed by all.”
Deputy Mayor of the County of Cork Deirdre O’Brien, said: “I must commend the OPW for their continued commitment and conservation works to Doneraile House and to the rejuvenation of the overall estate, while making it one of the best visitor attractions in the region.”
Labour Party TD Seán Sherlock said that it is a testament to the work the people of Doneraile have put into the area to make it the jewel in the crown of North Cork tourism.
“I’m delighted that we’re all playing a part in bringing this to fruition,” he said. “The Elizabeth Bowen exhibition in the upstairs part of the house will be particularly worth seeing. It’s a vitally important piece of history. And it really speaks to the historical canon of literature that comes from North Cork, when you think of writers like Canon Sheehan and Elizabeth Warren herself, so it’s wonderful that we have this in our midst in North Cork.
Other highlights of the restoration project include the refurbishment of the staircase hall and staircase, the opening of nine new rooms on the first floor where an entire exhibition area has been created, a new render to the east wing of the house, and new staff facilities and the refurbishment of the lodge.
A comprehensive conservation management plan for Doneraile is also being launched. The plan was prepared by chartered architects and historic building consultants, Rodney Melville and Partners, as well as the OPW.
It outlines the investments required to ensure that the house, landscape, estate buildings, ecology, and gardens, can be protected and conserved for future generations.
The next phase of work identified will see the orangery re-instated adjoining the house. This will allow for a greater opportunity for the OPW to host cultural events and enhance the operations of the site.
On the first floor, a set of exhibitions covers the early settlement of the lands at Doneraile from the time the lands came into the ownership of the St Legers, and the 19th and early 20th century history of the St Leger family including reference to Canon Sheehan, Lady Castletown, and US Justice Oliver Wendall Holmes.
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