The era of Irish big houses and revival castles began with an idea. The idea was a simple change in warfare- the invention of guns and cannons.
This is Ashford Castle, a glamorous 19th century Victorian revival castle at Cong, County Mayo.
Hang on, but how did the invention of guns manage to change architecture?
Well, imagine you are living in a medieval castle, well built to keep you safe from your enemies. You have thought of every possible kind of defence that you could install in your fortified house to make it difficult to impossible for sword bearers and crossbowmen to get at you.
Westport House, a Palladian style big house of the mid 1700's.
In fact, nothing is more important to you than your safety. You don't
care so much about luxury and comfort. You are even prepared to compromise on hygiene. But you want to be safe in your castle, and that's that.
then, along comes your enemy with a newly imported cannon from the
continent and makes a pile of rocks out of your castle. Sugar. You
didn't think of that possibility, did you?!
What's next? You still have your wealth because there already is a banking system in existence. So, you can rebuild. Would you build the same kind of residence again?
Of course not. Why? Because with the invention of cannons a whole medieval belief system about being able to defend oneself and whole approach to lifestyle putting this idea of defending oneself first before anything else, simply went out the window. It was now outdated. In the blink of an eye.
This meant, the rich and powerful had to reinvent themselves. How do we want to live now?
And reinvent themselves they did.
Picturesque Tulira Castle in County Galway, Ireland, was originally a tower house (on the right), built by the Burke's in the 15th century. In the late 19th century the castle was remodelled into a revival castle (left) designed for luxury living.
After that time, residences of the gentry started featuring bigger windows and displaying the wealth of the owners.
With the onset of the 18th century a new ascendancy that had come to power as a result of the Cromwellian invasion was building a new style of residence. See Strokestown Park House on the next photo, a Palladian mansion built in the 1740ies.
The styles of posh residences from then on reflected the prevailing building styles that existed in England at the time. Again, the current invaders set the standard. Every new style of the Irish castles, usually named after English monarchs, such as 'Tudor', 'Victorian' and 'Georgian', brought a new style of architecture.A totally new lifestyle came along with these residences also. The display of wealth became very important for your social status. Find out all about the associated life style in the series of articles below.
Visit an unusual posh residence, one with a very unique family history, in the next two articles.
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Many thanks, Colm and Susanna
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Copyright 2014 by Colm Sweeney and Susanna Lambeck www.enjoy-irish-culture.com