25 April 2018

A musical note on links
between a house in Lichfield
and a house in Waterville

Iveragh Lodge in Waterville, Co Kerry, built by John Clementi in 1858, is on the market for €310,000 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Patrick Comerford

I have been staying overnight at Saint John’s House in Lichfield, following last night’s lecture at the Lichfield Civic Society on the Wyatt Family of Weeford and the family’s contribution to the architectural legacy of Britain and Ireland.

However, in January, on my previous visit to Lichfield – like so many others – I stayed at the Hedgehog Premier Inn on Stafford Road. And during my visit to Ballinskelligs last week I came across an unusual connection that links Lichfield with Kerry and the house once known as Lyncroft House with a house in Waterville known as Iveragh Lodge.

Iveragh Lodge is a detached, L-plan, four-bay, two-storey former fishing lodge. It was built in 1858 by John Clementi in 1858 as a shooting lodge. It was bought in 1884 by the original Commercial Cable Company as its Waterville offices and as the superintendent’s residence.

The Transatlantic Telegraph Company ran the first undersea cable connecting Europe to America. New office buildings were completed in 1899, but Iveragh Lodge remained the superintendent’s residence until the company sold its Waterville properties in 1964.

The house, sometimes known as the Cable Station Manor House, then became a private residence. It is now on the market with an asking price of €310,000. This is a beautiful four-bedroom period house on mature grounds on a large plot with a terraced viewing area. The house includes a porch, hallway, two reception rooms, a kitchen, dining room, utility room, sun lounge and four bedrooms. There are large lawned areas and mature grounds.

The house includes a two-bay, single-storey range with a half-dormer attic, a single-bay, single-storey projecting porch at the front, a single-bay, two-storey recessed end bay to right and a single-bay, two-storey gabled projecting end bay at the left, with a single-storey canted bay window to ground floor.

There is a two-bay, two-storey double-gable-fronted side elevation at the east, with a single-storey canted bay window on the ground floor. There is a single-bay two-storey return at the back rear on the south side.

There is a pitched slate roof with clay ridge tiles, tall coupled chimney-stacks, a group of four diagonal chimney-stacks and curvilinear bargeboards. There are sandstone rubble walls with ashlar quoins and a limestone datestone above the entrance, 1858. There are sandstone lintels and reveals, but the windows are uPVC replacements. There is a bay window with a slate roof at ground-floor level.

The house was renovated internally in the mid-20th century to provide residential use. I understand the house retains many of its interior features.

The plaque at the entrance to Iveragh Lodge misspells John Clementi’s name (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

A plaque at the entrance reads:

Iveragh Lodge. Built in 1858 as a shooting lodge by J Clemanti.

The Commercial Cable Company purchased the lodge in 1884 for the superintendent’s residence and as the company’s first office.

The office was later enlarged by an extension to the south of the lodge. It was used until 1889, when the new office building was constructed.

The bachelor quarters were built along the northern boundary of the site.

The building continued as the superintendent’s residence until 1962 when the company closed the Waterville Station.

However, the name of the original builder of the house is misspelled on the plaque on the gate pier. Iveragh Lodge was first built in 1858 by John Muzio Clementi, a son of the composer Muzio Clementi (1752-1832) and his third wife Emma (née Gisborne).

Muzio Clementi was a composer, pianist, teacher, conductor, music publisher, editor and piano maker. He was known as ‘the father of the pianoforte,’ the ‘father of modern piano technique,’ and the ‘father of Romantic pianistic virtuosity.’

He was born Muzio Filippo Vincenzo Francesco Saverio Clementi in Rome on 24 January 1752, the son of Nicolo Clementi and Magdalena Kaiser. The child Clementi was a prodigy and was brought to England at the age of 14 by George Pitt’s son-in-law, Peter Beckford (1740-1811), who promised the boy’s father to have the boy provide music at his estate.

But Beckford was more interested in hunting than music, and left the youth to his own ways. Clementi practiced for hours on end each day, building up an unrivalled technique. He was soon touring Europe, and on one of those concert tours, he took part in a piano-playing contest with Mozart – who found Clementi’s playing impressive but devoid of emotion).

It is said he had a notable influence on Beethoven. In pre-revolutionary Paris, he played with great success for Marie Antoinette, and later played for the Habsburg Emperor Joseph II in Vienna. He also wrote four symphonies.

Back in England, Clementi’s celebrity as a performer was not matched by business acumen. He invested in a London company, Longman and Broderip, that soon went bankrupt. Eventually, Clementi & Co prospered as publishers. But Clementi’s large corpus of educational music, including piano-lesson staples such as his Gradus ad Parnassum and Sonatinas, diluted his reputation as a composer, even though they sold handsomely.

Clementi also developed a reputation as a piano manufacturer. He preferred a light, transparent action on his pianos, but his firm’s most noteworthy innovation was a ‘harmonic swell,’ developed by Clementi’s partner, William Frederick Collard.

Clementi’s pianos embody both the era’s musical evolution and the highly developed technique and taste of Clementi himself, squaring a tendency towards bigger, louder instruments with the older Classical virtues of clarity and clean articulation.

Clementi married his first wife Caroline Lehmann in 1804, and his second wife, Emma Gisborne, John Clementi’s mother, in 1811 at the Old Church, St Pancras, London.

Muzio Clementi moved to Lichfield in 1830, and made his home at Lyncroft House, which was built in 1797. However, he never performed publicly in Lichfield. He died on 10 March 1832 at Evesham in Worcestershire. When he was buried in Westminster Abbey on 29 March 1832, his coffin was carried by three former pupils, Johann Baptist Cramer, Ignaz Moscheles and the Dublin-born pianist and composer John Field (1782-1837). Field died five years later in Moscow.

Some years later, John Clementi married Charlotte Grace, daughter of George Grace, on 28 January 1849 at Saint James’s Church in Piccadilly, London.

John Clementi built his house in Waterville in 1858. I have been unable to trace his life story after he sold Iveragh Lodge, or whether he ever returned to Lichfield after his father’s death. His brother, the Revd Vincent Clementi (1814-1899), was ordained in the Diocese of Canterbury and later lived in Canada. A nephew, Sir Cecil Clementi Smith (1840-1916), was Governor of Sri Lanka (Ceylon), and later generations of the Clementi family included diplomats, bankers, sculptors and Anglican priests.

Today, Muzio Clementi’s former home in Lichfield, Lyncroft House, is the Hedgehog Vintage Inn.

Today, Lyncroft House in Lichfield is known as the Hedgehog Vintage Inn (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

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