Houses through the pages

By Amy Lewis

Published 29/10/2016 | 00:00

Above and top of page: line drawings from the book, by David Rowe.
Above and top of page: line drawings from the book, by David Rowe.
Newbay House (top) and Loftus Hall are among over 1,000 houses featured in the book.
Newbay House (top) and Loftus Hall are among over 1,000 houses featured in the book.
Above and top of page: line drawings from the book, by David Rowe.
Mark McGillick, Wexford Library; David Rowe, author; and Professor Kevin Whelan launched the book.
Teresa Wickham and Frank Skelton at the launch.
Mary and Terrence O'Byrne attending the launch.

A new book chronicling the history of some of Wexford's most magnificent houses was recently released by local authors David Rowe and Eithne Scallan.

Launched in Wexford library last week, 'Houses of Wexford (2nd Edition)' is the updated version of the original sell-out book by Ballinakella Press. It gives an insight into the history of over 1,000 Wexford houses including Johnstown Castle, Loftus Hall, Bargy Castle, Horetown House and Rathaspeck.

Director of the Keough Naughton Notre Dame Centre Professor Kevin Whelan, who wrote the foreword for the book, launched the new edition in front of over 60 people in Wexford Library.

'It was a great evening and we had a very large audience. Professor Whelan spoke at length on a wide range of subjects from architecture to history to personalities that lived in the houses,' said Dearbhla Ní Laighin of Wexford Library. 'He brought in anecdotes from his own childhood which was very interesting.'

Professor Whelan was joined by Dr Hugh Weir of Ballinakella Press, who also made a speech to the crowd.

The new edition discloses further historical, architectural and genealogical information on over 1,000 Wexford houses, both those that are still standing and others from throughout history. In fact, ten per cent (105) of the houses recorded have been demolished, while an additional six per cent (63) of them are either derelict or ruined.

Along with some of the more well-known larger houses, the book features homes associated with tanneries, rectories, parochial houses, mills, schools, railways, barracks, coastguard stations, workhouses and lighthouses. It embraces the homes of strong farmers, as well as the little-known homes of the minor gentry.

Among the listings of each house are their names with translations, associated families, townlands, locations and directions, the present condition of the residences, detail on architectural features and family history. Illustrations by David Rowe depict the more striking features of each building.

The book begins with a forward from Professor Kevin Whelan, in which he describes the volume as a 'marvellous book that anyone interested in either architecture or County Wexford simply cannot afford to be without.'

'This is not just a volume about architraves, pilasters and cucumber sandwiches. These one thousand houses comprise an intimate and essential component of the identity of Wexford. They offer invigorating examples of high quality design, and a plethora of inspiring precedents as to how to build and site houses in the wonderful Wexford landscape. They are a source of enduring beauty as well as a tangible connection to the past. These houses are also much-loved family homes, as well as striking architectural objects. Long may they thrive,' he wrote.

The original 'Houses of Wexford' was published in 2004 by Ballinakella Press. Due to its popularity and the gathering of new information, the producers asked the co-authors David and Eithne to update the work. After one year of research and writing, the result is 499 pages of carefully organised information.

As former head of An Taisce, David Rowe has a rake of experience in the field of heritage and history. He has also provided illustrations for many books, including several collaborations with different authors - Eithne being one of them. Co-author Eithne Scallan is equally as experienced, having worked as a historian and authored many books on subjects such as Celtic Linen and the Wexford Festival Opera. She has also made contributions to the Wexford Historical Society journal over the years.

The new book has been hailed as a fantastic resource for historians, topographers and estate agents, while it has also been written in a way that is very accessible for members of the public. It costs €90 to buy and is also currently available in Wexford Library.

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