Minister of State with responsibility for the Office of Public Works (OPW), Patrick O’Donovan, T.D., has announced a major project to conserve and preserve the historic Kilmacurragh House in Co. Wicklow. One of the last Queen Anne-style houses in Ireland, Kilmacurragh House at the heart of the National Botanic Gardens Kilmacurragh has lain derelict since it was destroyed by fires in 1978 and 1982. The OPW now plans to stabilise the building and roof the structure to save this important historic house and conserve it for the enjoyment of generations to come.
Speaking at Kilmacurragh, Minister O’Donovan said, “the OPW and I are delighted that the Government’s infrastructure investment of €5.45 million under the renewed National Development Plan will help us to protect and enhance Kilmacurragh House through sensitive conservation.“
“When Kilmacurragh came into the care of the OPW in 1996, the house was already a ruin and although so much has been achieved under the expert leadership of Head Gardener Seamus O’Brien to restore the gardens with their world-famous collection of Himalayan rhododendrons to their former glory, it will significantly contribute to visitors’ experience to see the historic house’s structure also being carefully preserved and its exterior restored by our OPW conservation specialists. Ultimately, this project will give visitors a sense again of the architectural importance and history of the house at the centre of these magnificent gardens and support two of the NDP’s key objectives to strengthen rural economies and communities and to enhance amenity and heritage.”
The vision for Kilmacurragh House is to preserve the building as one of the earliest unfortified country houses in Ireland. Some local protection works will be completed before this winter and the main works will commence on site in 2022. The project will address structural issues and close the building from the elements by restoring the external appearance of the house, including reinstatement of the roof and restoration of existing external windows and doors, stabilisation of the internal floor structure, and conservation of external wall finishes. As an important historic building and protected structure, the OPW will retain to the greatest extent possible all existing fabric.
This is just the latest development in the OPW’s plans to invest in and develop the National Botanic Gardens at Kilmacurragh. In 2019, the Office of Public Works acquired an additional 55 acres of lands from Coillte, which included the Regency Walled Garden and the historic eighteenth-century Arcadian Deer Park. This acquisition re-unites the house and botanic gardens with important elements of the historic demesne. The purchase of the Deer Park is particularly noteworthy, as its surrounding walls and ha-has are virtually intact and are a significant part of the original Dutch Park that surrounds the house. Exciting plans are underway to restore important landscape features within the Deer Park and also to return the Walled Garden to its original Regency design. This will double the area presently open to visitors and, when complete, will ensure Kilmacurragh’s place among the Great Gardens of Britain and Ireland.