25 July 2017

Enjoying a village
hall and estate
cottages in Adare

The Village Hall and Clubhouse faces the Main Street in Adare, Co Limerick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Patrick Comerford

I found myself once again this afternoon in Adare, Co Limerick, on my way to the bus from Limerick and Dublin, and once again admired the Village Hall and Clubhouse in Adare and the terraces of dormered cottages on Fair Green, designed in the early 20th century Arts and Crafts style.

A plaque on the village hall declares: ‘This hall was erected in the year 1911 by Windham Thomas Wyndham Quin 4th Earl of Dunraven for the benefit of the people of Adare.’

Lord Dunraven (1841-1926) was a colonial under-secretary in the British government in the 1880s and a member of the first Senate in the Irish Free State after independence. He commissioned the village hall in 1907, and when it was completed in 1911 it became a noticeable landmark in Adare. It stands on a prominent site at the junction of roads and closes the vista from the main road into the town from the east.

The style and form of the hall mark it out on the streetscape, with its variety of architectural features and roof types. The hall is positioned behind a club and billiards room facing the main street, with a façade of domestic scale. The symmetry of the front façade belies the large scale of the building and gives it a domestic appearance.

The hall was designed by the English-born architect, William Clifford Smith, who was working in Limerick City. His other works in the area included Shannon Rowing Club in Limerick, the former Bank and Post Office in Foynes, Co Limerick, and what is now the Belltable Arts Centre on O’Connell Street, Limerick.

Smith’s design for the Village Hall in Adare is an adaptation of the style of the English architect Charles Voysey (1857-1941), who was influenced by AWN Pugin and William Morris.

Voysey’s houses featured white rough rendered walls with horizontal ribbon windows and huge pitched roofs. They are recognised for their simplicity, originality and total abandonment of historical tradition. His style and works are considered formative works in the evolution of the Modern Movement in architecture.

In Adare, Smith built a village hall that was much more conventional, informal and domestic. The stonework is well crafted and the variety of materials and ornamentation create a striking façade.

The estate cottages in Adare were designed by William Clifford Smith and Detmar Jellings Blow (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Smith also worked with the English architected Detmar Jellings Blow (1867-1939) in designing the two terraces of dormered and gabled cottages that radiate north and west from the hall.

These cottages are designed in a style similar to the earlier 19th century estate cottages of Adare Manor and are a significant part of the overall design of the estate. They have overhanging roofs with rustic posts, lean-to dormer windows, verandas to the front, half-hipped slate roofs and rendered chimney-stacks. Outside, there are timber boundary fences and gates.

The architect Detmar Jellings Blow (1867-1939) built his reputation on his work in the Arts and Crafts style. Blow, who had romantic socialist views, was one of the last disciples of John Ruskin, and as a young man he accompanied Ruskin on his last journey abroad.

Blow’s architectural work was influenced by his mentors Ruskin, William Holman Hunt, William Morris and Philip Webb, the architect of Clouds (1886), the Wyndham family’s country house in Wiltshire. Blow was present at Morris’s death and organised his funeral procession.

Much of Blow’s early work was, like that of his contemporary Edwin Lutyens, was in the Arts and Crafts style, and at one point, Blow and Lutyens contemplated forming an architectural partnership. Instead, in 1906 he formed a partnership with the French architect Fernand Billerey (1878-1951).

Blow designed various properties for Hugh Grosvenor, 2nd Duke of Westminster, and from 1916 to 1933 he worked almost exclusively as the estate manager for the Grosvenor estates, including large estates in Cheshire and vast tracts of Belgravia and Mayfair in central London.

The Village Hall and the Arts and Crafts cottages form an interesting cluster in Adare, but this afternoon I could see how they are often over-looked by tourists who concentrate their focus and their cameras on the earlier thatched cottages.

The estate cottages in Adare are designed in the Arts and Crafts style, influenced by John Ruskin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

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