03 August 2019
Two libraries tell
some of the stories
of West Limerick
The two neighbouring small towns or villages of Dromcollogher and Broadford in West Limerick have their own libraries, each with a unique design and each with an important place in architectural legacy and local history.
The Carnegie Library in Broadford is a detached, two-bay, single-storey library, built in 1917. It was designed by the architect Richard Caulfield Orpen (1863-1938), an important architect in the Arts and Crafts movement in Ireland, and it is a fine example of early 20th-century library architecture.
Orpen has been described as ‘the originator of the bungalow in Ireland,’ and this library, in many details, resembles the ideal Arts and Crafts bungalow of the early 20th century.
The library, on the west end of the village, was funded by donations from Scottish-American businessman Andrew Carnegie, who built over 600 libraries throughout Ireland and Britain.
Orpen’s plans for the building were influenced by both Edwardian and the Arts and Crafts styles, with a wide range of materials from tooled limestone, roughcast rendered walls, slate roof to a lead clad timber roof to the porch and windows in a variety of shapes and styles, from elongated to horizontal shapes.
The features of this library include a gable-fronted break-front, a rough-cast rendered chimney-stack, timber clad eaves, square-headed window and door openings, multiple-pane timber casement windows, and a timber battened door.
The Dublin-based architect Richard Francis Caulfield Orpen was born at Oriel, Blackrock, Co Dublin, on 24 December 1863, and lived there until 1900. He was the eldest son of Arthur Herbert Orpen, a solicitor, and a grandson of the Right Rev Charles Caulfield, Bishop of Nassau. The painter William Orpen (1878-1931) was the youngest of his three brothers.
Orpen was educated at Saint Columba’s College, Rathfarnham, and Trinity College Dublin. He originally hoped to make a career in art – his father was a keen amateur artist – but he took up architecture instead, supposedly ‘for family reasons.’
He spent four years as a pupil in the office of Thomas Drew, and stayed on as managing assistant for another seven years. During those year, he began taking part in the annual excursions of the London Architectural Association.
Orepn set up his own practice at 22 Clare Street in 1888 or 1889. His commissions came largely from landed families and the professional classes, designing houses in provincial Ireland and in suburban Dublin.
The Irish Builder said in 1904 that Orpen was ‘the originator of the bungalow in Ireland,’ and that he had designed ‘quite a colony of pretty red-tiled gabled houses in the fashionable residential district of Foxrock.’
Orpen worked extensively in the Church of Ireland too. He succeeded Drew as the architect to Christ Church Cathedral in 1910, and was also the architect to Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin, Saint Canice’s Cathedral, Kilkenny, Trinity College Dublin and Saint Columba’s College, Rathfarnham.
Orpen practised from 22 Clare Street, 7 Leinster Street, and 13 South Frederick Street, Dublin. He formed a partnership with Page Dickinson in 1910, but this came to end when Dickinson left at the beginning of World War I.
Orpen continued to practise on his own. His commissions included war memorials and rebuilding country houses destroyed in the War of Independence and the Irish Civil War. His continued to work until 1932.
He was the first president of revived association Architectural Association of Ireland (1896-1898), a Fellow of the Royal Institute of Architects of Ireland (FRIAI, 1906), of which he was honorary secretary (1904-1905), vice-president (1911-1913), and president (1914-1916), and an associate and later a member of the Royal Hibernian Academy.
Although never as famous as his brother, Orpen was also a cartoonist and painter in watercolours, and he exhibited at the Water Colour Society of Ireland. In 1895, he became honorary secretary of the Arts and Crafts Society of Ireland, under the presidency of the Earl of Mayo. He was appointed a guardian of the National Gallery of Ireland in 1914, and was also honorary secretary of the Municipal Gallery.
He married on 7 March 1900 Violet, daughter of Colonel Robert Caulfield, of Camolin House, Co Wexford. They had no children.
He died aged 74 on 27 March 1938 at Coologe, the house in Carrickmines he had designed for himself and where he had lived from about 1907.
The library in neighbouring Dromcollogher is a very different building from Orpen’s library in Broadford. This circular building is a memorial to the 48 victims of thetragic cinema fire in Dromcollogher on 5 September 1926.
The ‘Memorial Library’ marks the site of this tragedy.