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Heritage Week 2020 - A Very Nice Folly Indeed

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4 min read

Heritage Week 2020 - A Very Nice Folly Indeed

4 min read

Heritage Week 2020 - A Very Nice Folly Indeed

Heritage Week 2020 is a great time to reflect on one of the many heritage projects the Creative Ireland Programme has supported. In 2018 the programme assisted with the conservation of the Gloster Arch, an important Georgian folly in the heart of rural Offaly.

300 year-old Gloster House is a magnificent Palladian mansion at the foot of the Slieve Bloom mountains, surrounded today by extensive gardens incorporating terraces, water features, woodland and lakes. The house and folly were designed by Sir Edward Lovett Pearce, the extraordinary young architect who became the predominant architect of Georgian Ireland before his premature death at 37. Today his legacy includes the Irish Houses of Parliament (the Grattan Parliament in College Green), Castletown House and much of the Palladian architecture of Georgian Dublin.

It is believed that Gloster House and Folly date from 1720’s when the owner of the estate Edward Lovett Pearce commissioned Pearce to remodel Gloster following his inheritance of the place. The folly which was intrinsic to Pearce’s design of the house and grounds is twenty feet high and consists of a triumphal arch, flanked by obelisks on substantial plinths and was described as “a structure of national importance for its architectural quality and association with one of Ireland’s greatest architects”. 

It is majestically situated in sight of the dining room of the main house and frames the gardens, farmlands and woods of this beautifully landscaped estate. The estate remained in the Lloyd family until it was sold in 1958 and in 2001 new owners began an extensive conservation programme to restore the house and gardens to their former grandeur. 

Following on from the 2017 publication of ‘Flights of Fancy: Folies, Families and Demesnes in Offaly’ written by Rachel McKenna, Offaly Creative Ireland team devised a programme of conversation for several follies in the county and work began on the Gloster Arch conservation. 

Above:

Following on from the 2017 publication of ‘Flights of Fancy; Follies, Families and Demesnes in Offaly’ written by Rachel McKenna, Offaly Creative Ireland team devised a programme of conservation of  several follies in the county and work began on the Gloster Arch conservation in 2018.

By then the folly had all but disappeared under a cloak of dense ivy. To proceed with the conservation work the ivy had to be carefully cleared and the roots treated to ensure no further regrowth. In clearing the ivy the team revealed two flanking walls that had not been seen for years. Over the summer of 2018 skilled craftsmen cleared the site of vegetation before both the folly and its wing walls underwent full restoration. In repairing and stabilising the structure the team has ensured its long-term survival and providing another example of what can be achieved in preserving our architectural heritage. 

The Gloster Arch conservation project was supported by Creative Ireland along with the BHIS, the Follies Trust, the Apollo Foundation, Offaly County Council and the owners of Gloster House. 

Read more about the conservation work at Gloster House here

Photo Credit: Rachel McKenna 

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