Above: The west face of Lisnavagh House, County Carlow, Ireland, in the midst of the seismic operation that reduced the house in size by nearly two thirds. The man in the trilby is the 4th Baron Rathdonnell (my grandfather), standing with my late aunt Rosebud. The four men pictured are presumed to be Jack Halpin with either Matt Brien of Ouragh [sic]; Tom Neill of Station Road; Mick Byrne of Newcestown; Brian McCutcheon of Templeowen and / or Mick Gorman of Parc Mhuire. (Photo courtesy of Sheila Halpin and Tony Roche).


Located just south of the village of Rathvilly, County Carlow, Lisnavagh House was amongst the biggest houses in Ireland before its owners orchestrated a major reduction in 1952. The first stone of the rambling Gothic Revival mansion had been laid just over a century earlier.

In 1846, Captain William McClintock Bunbury, a 46-year-old naval officer, succeeded to Lisnavagh on the death an uncle. That same year, he was elected to fill his late uncle’s Westminster seat as the Member of Parliament for Carlow.

Lisnavagh has been in the Bunbury family since the 17th century, where the earliest recorded house was completed in 1696. William Bunbury, the Captain’s grandfather, had commissioned the architect Oliver Grace to build a new house but the project collapsed with William’s premature death in a horse-fall in 1778.

It was William’s son Colonel Kane Bunbury who paid the bulk of the estimated £16,000 to build the new house at Lisnavagh between 1846 and 1849; the money is thought to have come through Kane’s maternal grandfather, Redmond Kane, a successful attorney and property speculator.

The architect was the American-born Daniel Robertson. Having won the project in October 1846, Robertson managed to have the house designed, the specifications drawn up, a contractor selected and the site excavated by 23 January 1847 when Henry Kingsmill, the contractor, presented a silver trowel to Mrs McClintock Bunbury after she laid the foundation stone for the house.

Six weeks later, Kingsmill’s workforce was clocked at 130 men – 35 labourers, 28 stonecutters, 30 masons, 23 stone cleavers, five brick makers and nine men hired with carts – for which Captain McClintock Bunbury paid a wage bill of between £300-400 a week.

The construction of the main house took two and half years. Kingsmill’s team were also assigned to build new stables, haylofts, farm buildings, a schoolhouse, several outbuildings, a walled garden and, in due course, a gate lodge and three miles of cut-stone wall around almost the entirety of the estate.

According to the Farmer’s Gazette: ‘Every stone which was used in the various buildings — in the mansion house, the farmyards, demesne walls, and cottages — was dug out of the land, it being quite unnecessary to open a regular quarry, such was the abundance of stones in the land.’ The stone from the original 17th century house was incorporated into the new mansion, along with the fresh cut granite quarried from a nearby field. The brick was also sourced from Lisnavagh, while there may have been a lime kiln in the vicinity.

Copies of Daniel Robertson’s collection of 150 drawings are now held by the Irish Architectural Archive. He maintained a frequent, almost daily, correspondence with the Captain throughout the project, advising him on progress and asking his advice and direction on related matters. He also designed new formal gardens for the demesne, although a fountain and a conservatory commissioned from Turner was never installed

Shortly after the completion of the main house, a reporter noted:

‘Few edifices present so noble an appearance … The elegant mansion on the north side presents the appearance of an extensive quadrangle, every view that presents itself on the approach from that side being chaste and classical, combined with elaborate taste and skill – harmony and proportion (combined with comfort and convenience ) being evidently the object of the architect. The south side, comprising a magnificent suite of apartments, viz.- the drawing-room, library, dining-room, ante-chambers, etc., commands a splendid view of the surrounding country … [the project] exhibits substantial proofs that by the combined agency of A RESIDENT GENTRY, and the industry of the people, the county of Carlow may fairly look forward to future progress and prosperity.’

On 28 June 1849, the Captain noted in his diary that ‘a.m. arrival at Lisnavagh with Wife and Children for first time to take up our Residence there’.

In 1937, Lisnavagh House passed to the Captain’s great-grandson William McClintock Bunbury (1914-1959), 4th Baron Rathdonnell. He served with the 15th/19th King’s Royal Hussars in the Second World War and won a Military Cross for his role as commander of a tank squadron during Operation Market Garden.

Above: A very rare picture showing the present house complete, and the dismantling of the old house underway. The rubble is from the colonnade and verandah, which ran beneath the triple window (formerly Lord and Lady Rathdonnell’s bedroom) and the double window (the Rathdonnell’s dressing room). The tower is also visible on the right of the old building, with the ‘garage’ like entrance to the Grand Hall in front of it.

The effort of maintaining such a massive house, along with exorbitant building rates (a local tax), sporadic outbreaks of dry rot and financial concerns compelled Lord Rathdonnell and his wife, the artist Pamela Drew, to put Lisnavagh up for sale after the war.

It was nearly purchased by the English writer Evelyn Waugh who described it as a ‘large prosaic’ and ‘practical Early Victorian Collegiate building’. Waugh went so far as to print headed writing paper, with Lisnavagh at the top. However, he ultimately decided to abandon his notions of moving to Ireland.

Shortly after the Waugh sale fell through in 1947, Lady Rathdonnell asked her uncle Aubyn Peart Robinson of Caroe & Partners, architects, of Westminster, his views on Lisnavagh’s future.  Among his dramatic solutions was the idea that the house be reduced to its present size.

In 1951, ‘Rejuvenate the Positive’ became the Rathdonnells enthusiastic motto as they commenced an extensive reduction of the original Victorian structure. The aim, as Lady Rathdonnell penned in a diary of the project, was “to produce a 40-room hunting lodge out of an 80-room romantic rambling chateau’. She also painted a series of beautiful watercolours contrasting the original Lisnavagh with what the ‘new’ house might look like.

The project was overseen by Dublin architect Alan Hope (1909-1965), with Peart Robinson as the ‘prime planner’. They opted to preserve that part of the house that stood over the basement (the servants’ quarters), enlarging those rooms as necessary; the ‘grand’ rooms in the other part were demolished.

After much of what Lady Rathdonnell described as ‘bashing’, hacking’ and ‘opening up’, the house was ‘cut in two’ in June 1952, along the line of the old kitchen, which today serves as the library. (A stone balcony was installed above the ‘new’ library windows.) The demolition team of eight was headed up by Jack Halpin, a Tullow man who had cut his teeth working on blitzed buildings in London. Mr Halpin’s team took down all of the granite stones on the west face gable by hand and crowbar, numbered them and then re-erected the gable as part of a new south-facing front.

As the E.S.B. Rural Electrification Scheme had reached the Rathvilly area by 1951, the Rathdonnells took the opportunity to replace the old carbide gas lighting system. Likewise, they recruited Robert Jacob of Waterford to install a new oil-fired boiler in place of an earlier central heating system from 1929.

Nearly 175 years after the Captain and his family moved in, and nearly seventy years after the reduction, Lisnavagh House is working smoothly as both a family home and as one of Ireland’s most upmarket country retreats for weddings and events. The house is now run by William McClintock Bunbury, a grandson of the 4thBaron Rathdonnell, and his wife Emily. A reception room on the east side of the house, completed in 2016, was designed by the Bunburys in conjunction with Anthony Johns Landscape Design, combining 1000 square foot of the original stables and outbuildings with a 1000 square foot new with a granite facade.



Below: An excellent aerial photograph of the front lawn at Lisnavagh, taken during the summer drought of 2018 by Carl Whinnery (carl@ballandwolf.com) showing where the inner and exterior walls of the vanished section of the house once stood, including two bay windows. 

Lisnavagh House-0172


William Robert McClintock Bunbury, my grandfather, was born in 1914. Educated at Cambridge, Bill – as his friends called him – was married in 1937 to Pamela Drew, a fun-loving artist from the Lake District whose ancestry combined banking and printing. Just weeks before their marriage Bill’s father died and he succeeded as 4th Baron Rathdonnell at the age of 23. During the Second World War, Bill served with the 15th/19th King’s Royal Hussars, commanding a team that helped round up several of the senior Nazi leaders, including Hitler’s successor Admiral Doenitz in June 1945. Lisnavagh House was not yet a century old by the time Bill returned from the war. The first stone of the massive mansion had been laid by his great-grandmother on 23 January 1847.

Lisnavagh - Time Out.
Time Out. L-R: ___ (of Clonmore)?, Jack Halpin (Tullow), ___(of Clonmore)? , Matt Brien (Ouragh), Tom Neill (Station Road), Jer Byrne (Newstown), Peter McGrath (Tullow) and PJ Roche. With thanks to Tony Roche.

The Lisnavagh Archives contain a letter to the 4th Lord Rathdonnell from Aubyn Robinson of Caroe & Partners, College Street, Westminster, written in 1947. Aubyn was an uncle of Lady Rathdonnell (aka Pamela Drew), who was herself a noteworthy artist. Her ‘before-and-after’ watercolours, which gave the architect his general steer, are framed and hanging in the house today. Aubyn’s letter set out what he considered to be the future options for Lisnavagh – reduction in size, a new-build or a move to another house; together with various shapes and sizes of drawings, some of them very rough, in connection with the reduction of the house to its present size. One drawing marked in red the part of the house which stood over the basement (the servants’ quarters) which was ultimately the part of the house they chose to preserve, with modifications, enlarging as necessary the rooms in it. Meanwhile, the ‘grand’ rooms in the other part of the house were demolished. Pamela and Aubyn jointly master-minded the reduction of the house, in conjunction with the late Alan Hodgson Hope (1909-1965) and his Dublin firm of architects. The latter subsequently presented their drawings to the Irish Architectural Archive, Merrion Square, Dublin. In addition, the archive has copied all or most of the outsize drawings, by Daniel Robertson and others, kept in the studio at Lisnavagh.

Once the decision to reshape the house was taken, my grandmother went at it with full throttle. ‘Rejuvenate the Positive’ was her New Year’s resolution. ‘Only the Best Will Do’, she scrawled in her notebook. When my brother William transcribed these notebooks (see below), he was struck by the fact that there were no regrets. Moreover, every single change had been carefully planned. The simple brief was “to produce a 40 room hunting lodge out of a 80 room romantic rambling chateau’. The book is peppered with Grannyisms – ‘bash a hole’ … ‘desultory destruction’ … and also reveals that she enjoyed dancing to a radiogramme until 3am on occasion!

THE IRISH TIMES carried the following advertisement on Friday, April 11, 1952, which was repeated in short on Sat 19th April and in full on Sat 26th April.

Sale Thursday 15th May. Lisnavagh, Rathvilly, Co. Carlow. Furniture, Schiedmayer Pianoforte, Sèvres Chandelier, Porcelain, Paintings etc. Owing to extensive alterations of the residence we have been instructed by the RT. HON. LORD RATHDONNELL to dispose of a residue of Furniture, Pictures, etc., of which the following is a basic résumé – Schiedmayer Grand Pianoforte; SUITE OF LOUIS XV GILT FURNITURE of Settee, 6 Single and 6 Armchairs, pair of Gilt Foot Stools; interesting Louis XVI Carved and Gilt Settee, pairs of Gilt Chairs, Carved Gilt Mirrors, Console Table, Mahogany Dining Table on pod. Settees. SÈVRES CHANDELIER, pair Sèvres Chandeliers, pair Sèvres and Ormolu Candleabra, large Sèvres Clock, Suite of Damask Curtains, with gilt and caved wood cornices; Occasional Tables, Tallboys, Chairs, etc.; usual Bedroom Furnishings of Toilet Tables, Chests of Drawers, Washstands, etc.
PAINTINGS include Large Painting of Reclining Figure by GUERCINO: ‘Set of Four Paintings’; ‘The Life of Our Lord’, after Pannini; pair of Classical Landscapes by ORIZONTE; also other paintings after VANDYKE [sic], Lely, Massot, Montanini, etc.
MIAA, Auctioneers, 110 Grafton Street. Tel. 77309 and 72532. Established over a century.


Above (L-R): Jack Halpin; Lord Rathdonnell (?); Rosebud (aka Rosemary McClintock Bunbury, who had a birthday party at this time); Matt Brien; Tom Neill of Station Road; Mick Byrne of Newcestown. (Photo courtesy of Sheila Halpin and Tony Roche).

I previously blamed ‘roof rates’ as one of the core reasons the house was felled but, in September 2019, my father corrected me: There was no such thing as “roof rates” although the county council Building Rates were based on Valuation which was largely according to roof area;  I am not even sure if the Valuation on the house dropped after the size was reduced.   That said, local taxes were a heavy demand on the estate’s resources. ‘

On May 14th 1952, Pamela wrote ‘Ghastly Auction by Messrs. North, very wet, much given away’. The next line in her book was ‘June: House cut in TWO’.

The demolition project was overseen by Jack Halpin of Tullow, father of the late Willie and Sheila Halpin; it was Sheila who supplied several of the images for this tale. Jack’s grandfather James Halpin was a bootmaker based on Main Street, Tullow. Jack’s father William Halpin was a colourful fellow who climbed to the top of the steeple of the Catholic church in Tullow to install the steeplejack in about 1878. Shortly afterwards he joined the newly formed Royal Dublin Fusiliers.

Betty Scott told me Jack Halpin had eight men helping him take down the bulk of the house. My father reckons it was only four and that they, like Jack, had learned the art of demolition in London after the war. As he writes: ‘Jack had cut his teeth on blitzed buildings in London and was engaged to begin breaking out new doorways, etc. before a contractor came to do the main task.   The contractor never materialized and Jack continued.   He was more than overseer but not really a full contractor.   Each Saturday he produced an invoice to my father summarizing the week’s expenditure, mainly pay;  at the bottom was “To self and supervision – £10”   Quite amazing!   (The agricultural wage then was about £5).   Jack, his son-in-law P.J. Roche and Mick Gorman were the core workforce but there must have been more at times, and farm men when available.’ My father’s father would draw the wages of Jack and his three accomplices every week, just like he drew wages for all the other farm hands. There was no contract like with present day builders.

My father adds: ‘As these photographs show – having provided extra doorways as needed – they broke a hole through the building just outside where the kitchen, now library, is.   They then took down the west face, looking down the Lime Walk, numbering the stones, and reerected it in the gap;  later the middle of the building was demolished.    The whole job could not have cost more than £12,000.  (Had a quote for an extra bathroom of late?).   For that the house, as now is, was wired, got a modern hot water system (very rare in Ireland at the time!) and central heating that worked, and the old building was completely removed … The E.S.B. Rural Electrification Scheme reached here in 1951, so electricity was an opportunity to replace the old carbide gas system which had lit the house for many decades. Central heating had been installed in 1929 (which must have been massively disrupting and involved the redecoration of the entire house).   This had to be adjusted to the new layout, still thermosyphon, and a new oil-fired boiler installed.  Robert Jacob. Waterford. in charge.   And yes, this included the hot water, the previous system having produced one bath every four hours!”

fullsizeoutput_1e70Above: A rare photo of Lisnavagh before the reduction; everything except the three roomed block immediately beside the portico was felled. The half moon lawn is still there today.

Most of the house came down by hand but machines came in to carry the rubble away. Andy Verney has a theory that the terraces became compacted at that time by those machines, so much that they are now prone to flooding. Some of the stone from the old house certainly went down the Front Avenue; Andy Verney says you can see it poking up every now and then. Some may have gone down the Back Avenue to the Gate Lodge although Andy says that when he arrived circa 1964, one of his first tasks was to rebuild that road for which they got their granite from over by Haroldstown.

At the same time the house was being dismantled, Major Hugh Massy was summoned north from his home at Killowen to assist PJ Roche in stripping all the oak from the horrid Victorian stain, black or ginger, from the condemned rooms for the new library; tables and chairs, mirrors, doors and windows, all the library bookcases, went into the bath of caustic soda in the backyard to emerge pale and lovely.


Above (L-R): PJ Roche (facing away); Betty Scott, an O’Toole who apparently worked at Lisnavagh House; Jack Halpin (holding hat); tall woman who worked at Lisnavagh; Brian McCutcheon of Templeowen; Mick Gorman of Parc Mhuire; Matt Brien of Ouragh. (Photo courtesy of Sheila Halpin and Tony Roche).



Lisnavagh Alterations 1951

Motto: The quickness of hand deceives the eye law


Superseded by Only the best will do


Contents. 2

[Initial Notes] 4

Planners & Bashers who came to inspect. 4

[The Day to Day Diary] 5

  1. 1951. 9

Diary of Events (continued) 9

  1. 1952. 9
  2. 1953. 11
  3. 1954. 12

Cottages – September 1953. 12

Scott’s 12

Elliot’s 13

Gahan’s 13

Gate Lodge. 13

Demolition. 14

November 1954. 14

Library. 15

18th March 1953. 15

Lisnavagh Reconstruction “Plan Four” [i.e. Job Lists!] 16

1 – Coach Porch (Luggage Entrance) 16

2 – Porch. 16

Note – Cellars 16

3 – Front Passage. 16

4 – Coat & Drying Room. 17

5 – Smoking Room/Gun Room. 17

6 – Library. 17

7 – Hall. 18

8 – Dining Room. 18

9 – Play Room [Schoolroom] 19

10 – Kitchen. 19

11 – Scullery. 20

12 – Larder. 20

12A – Game Larder. 20

13 – Service Square. 21

14 – Pantry. 21

15 – Gents 21

16 – Back Hall. 22

17a – Store (under stairs) 22

17b – Back Passage. 22

18 – Back Porch. 23

19 – Servants’ Sitting Room. 23

20 – Outside WC and wash place. 23

[Initial Notes]

Plan was first made in June 1950.

Window bashed out in Old Servant’s Hall by R & Peter [Hornby?] on Good Friday 1951.

Holes clipped and sawn in yew hedge – June 1950.

Next window bashed out by Massy – June 1951.

China Closet move to Cellar – June 1951 ([E Parlour?])

2 fireplaces hacked out by Jack Elliot on July 26th 1951

July 1951 – Hay started electrifying.

Planners & Bashers who came to inspect

June 1950                    Aubyn Peart Robinson, prime planner& architect, Consultant in Chief

June 1950                    J J Butler, Architect (Sacked, wet)

July 1950                    Alan Hope, Architect

September 1950          Hyland, Quantity Surveyor

September 1950          Jacobs (plumber)

October 1950              Cleere, Kilkenny, (contractor)

November 1950          [Colfie?] & Keogh (contractor)

November 1950          John Eastwood and Sons (several sons)

? 1950                         McCall

January 1951               Hutchinson & Hay (electricians)

January 1951               Curtin & Quinn (plumbers – faded away)

May 1951                    ESB chaps

June 1951                    Carbery

June 1951                    Halpin

July 1951                    Thos. Powell (architect) for church

August 20th 1950        John Halpin (contractor) Fixed for start. [Perhaps 1951, not 1950?]

[The Day to Day Diary]

Monday, 27th August 1951

  • J Halpin arrived to start operations on Back Door, etc. (leading to much more).
  • Brought his tackle and kit & consulted with F Parker about timber, doors, etc.

Tuesday, 28th August 1951

J Halpin, Builder, Labourer

  • Started to bash Back Door out of “Scullery” to yard.
  • Also to bash out old Coal House door to release door head piece (granite) for Back Door, old Store Room door for “Back Hall” & old Servant’s Hall door for other “Back Hall” door near Pantry.
  • Settled two glazed oak doors (large 4’9” wide) for New Dining Room & swing door
  • Oak fronted, for Dining Room/Serving Room door
  • Halpin started to move “kitchen”/”scullery” door to left (Gas pipe [hell?])
  • Gave Halpin Wash House for his kit
  • (Old stick House cleared by farm)

Wednesday, 29th August 1951

J Halpin personally for short time AM only, Builder, Labourer

  • They fixed headstone to “Back Door” from “Scullery”, it looks magnificent – and finished ope for door hacking out.
  • Continued hacking out new ope (8 ft) for Coal House – decided, as yesterday, to take this out up to Roof Beam, frame it round & hang double gates, bolted & padlock.
  • They shifted door and frame from old Boot Hall for new Kitchen/Scullery door, also shifted old China Closet door – and part of surround.
  • Astonishing revelations in old Boot Hall door, held up by a mere inch, where excavated for main gas pipe.
  • (Farm cart clearing rocks)

Thursday, 30th August 1951

J Halpin, for a couple of hours, Builder (Brien), Labourer

  • Built up masonry over “Back Door” from Scullery, leaving electric wire pipe.
  • Built up “Bicycle House” door where previously damaged by sticks.

Friday, 31st August 1951

J Halpin all day, Builder (Brien), Labourer

  • Foundations for new “Kitchen” door to Scullery made & much work done on this & sides of Back Door from “Scullery”.

Saturday, 1st September 1951

(Half Day) – J Halpin, Builder, Labourer

  • Started to build up old doorway from “Kitchen” to Scullery & make up surround to Back Door.
  • Planned door to Back Hall from Serving Room.
  • Decided to postpone painting & preparing for painting for another fortnight, to concentrate on the downstairs work.
  • Rang Hope’s office & got details:- 22 foot long  – 2 RSJ’s 12’ x 8’ x 65 lbs
  • J Langham Esq paid Halpin as follows:-

[There’s nothing written here and no evidence that anything was attached to the small space left on this page.  Perhaps there was some paperwork left loose between this page and the next?]

Sunday, 2nd September 1951

[Blank page, facing the previous day’s notes, but no evidence of anything previously attached.]

Monday, 3rd September 1951

Halpin AM, Builder (Brien), Labourer

  • Building up door from New Kitchen to “Scullery”.

Tuesday 4th September 1951

Halpin all day, Builder, Labourer, 2 painter/cleaners

  • These 2 were cleaning down kitchen ceiling & walls and repairing cracks in ceilings and preparing walls for new plaster.
  • Building up around door into Scullery, casing off “Back Door” concrete jamb.
  • Opening door into Back Hall, nearly done.
  • Jacobs here, starting his man off on job.
  • Fixed future Library lights with Hay.

Wednesday, 5th September 1951

Halpin, Builder, Labourer

  • Bashing hole for door from Back Hall to Serving Square.
  • Making concrete side and finishing top of Scullery/Kitchen door.
  • Started preparing for foundations for larder partition.

Thursday, 6th September 1951

Halpin all day, Builder, Labourer

  • Preparing foundations for partition in Larder.
  • Finishing surround of Kitchen/Scullery door.
  • Bashing and supporting new door from Serving Square to Back Hall and setting concrete side to it, supporting jamb.
  • New left hand side to Back Door from Scullery to Yard set in concrete.
  • Plumber trying to empty heating.  Ben assisted him with hose pipe.
  • Hay fixed pipe from infernal engine in cellars to assist plumber
  • [Hay] at new Library and Nursery lights

Friday, 7th September 1951

Halpin (short time AM), Builder, Labourer

  • Finished opening door from Back Hall to Serving Square and started on opposite door from Back Hall to Back Porch.
  • Concrete preparations for Larder partition
  • Second side for Back Door from Scullery set in concrete.
  • Plumber dismantling boiler.
  • PR worked at Yew Hedge also.

Saturday, 8th September 1951

Halpin all morning, builder, labourer

  • Fixed second side (in concrete) of door to Back Hall from Serving Square, having taken off other side’s casing and moved in cupboard.
  • Continued work on Back Hall/Back Porch opening; and set lintels in concrete for these doors and Larder door.
  • Measuring up & checking for Dining Room, upstairs & down.  Decided to remove fireplace from own future bathroom.
  • R Jacobs rang up pm checking on fittings.

Monday, 10th September 1951

Halpin (all day), builder, labourer

  • Mr R Jacob came and checked up.
  • {Jacob] tried to persuade me to invest in an Aga – I was rather shook by fuel consumption reduction, i.e. 8 ½ to 5 ½ tons, BUT you must have a few horsepower in hand.   Country Life demands great scope in cookery.  So what.
  • Also Bendex, says he, and a Drying Room (See “Coats”).
    [Coats? Where? Ed J]

Tuesday, 11th September 1951

Halpin (?), Builder (½  day), Labourer

  • Hay fixed RADIOGRAM to play by candlelight – whoever achieved a husband who gave them a Birthday Present of a Radiogram that played by candlelight.   So we danced.

Wednesday, 12th September 1951

Halpin all day, Builder, Labourer

A lot of Larder planning.  He says the marble shelves to be put on concrete benches.  Very good idea.   Scullery nearly finished.

I flew to London pm “for consultations” & to inspect a Governess.

Monday, 17th September 1951

(Hon T B McClintock Bunbury 13 today)

Returned from London about 4pm.

Great work has been done & another builder employed (at our expense) to bash holes for Jacob (pipe holes) & so

[nothing written after “so”]

Tuesday, 18th September 1951

Halpin all day, Builder (Brien), Labourer and Builder for Jacob punching holes

Further cementing in Larder for marble benches.

Planning Dining Room work

Wednesday, 19th September 1951

Builder (Brien) and Labourer and builder for Jacob, punching holes

Halpin came pm for consultations & got cracking – even over Drains

Thursday, 20th September 1951

Builder (Brien), Labourer, Builder for Jacob (punching holes)

The Big Battalions at it – they are clearing out everything to make our new Dining Room.  And the doors & casings & the shelves & every [trace?]. ANY MINUTE NOW.

Called on Hope for Kitchen & Gents detail plans, & a most Go-Ahead sketching party was held.   Madly confident, left for North.

Friday, 21st to 28th September 1951

Halpin, his builder, the plumber’s basher & the labourer have achieved a whole lot.  They have cleared out the doors downstairs & the kitchen door upstairs & supported the floors & bashed the wall between the China Closet and the Store Room & it looks most promising.   Upstairs they have removed the mantelpiece in the ex-kitchen and bashed away up [into Raft?] & got everything ready for the Big Guns. The ceilings in the Chins Closet & Passage are 11’4” and 11’3” respectively, whereas the Old Store Room is 11’1” – So what? (Fake it!) – with the false beams I long for.  The Bright Boy suggests abolishing upstairs wall & putting a partition instead, as tons of stone carrying nothing!  Very good progress.

Saturday, 29th September 1951

Halpin, Builder, Labourer, Plumber’s Basher

Great conclusion by our architect Halpin to use only 12’ x 6” x 65lb RSJ in place of two, after removing upper storey stonework (& then the other may do the “Library”).   He has got everything well [taped?] to date and asked for information on “Safe” & ceiling for Dining Room.

Sunday, 30th September 1951

Brilliant Lord Rathdonnell.  Why not a Strong Room in cellar?  So we plan it in the small vault cellar under present Back Passage, future Dining Room section.

R says fake Dining Room ceiling too (so get & draw it).

Monday, 1st October 1951

Halpin, Builder, Plumber’s Basher & Labourer

They moved out the Blarney Stone & got a lot of extra timber supports, etc. and got on with clearing out over kitchen upstairs, to be my beautiful bathroom, & ready to bash [for?] more.  They are tidy workers.  We measured “Strong Room” vault in cellar.   Arch 5’3” & door 6’9”, so intend rebuilding granite front of Safe onto Arch way, smoothing and lime washing the whole & hey presto!

No Plumber, so rang Jacobs – Excuses and hold-ups & Damn the fella.   Kept Jim Doyle idle half the day.   What’s the use.    Hay here, & much rounding up.

Wednesday, 31st October 1951



11th September

Radiogram plays to petrol-produced [current?]  Thanks to Mr Hay

30th October

ESB connected up, so we are lit for the first time.

Diary of Events (continued)

12th December, 1951

Electric Bath

26th December, 1951

Major M occupied New Room (Bed No4)

28th December, 1951

R slept in New Dressing Room, Bedroom No 3 on Plans.



New Schoolroom

23rd, January 1952

Lady R returned from Switzerland to eat in new Smoking Room.  (Pantry also used by this time).   Also, new bedroom, No 5 on plan, very dry, warm and comfortable.

16th February 1952

New Dining Room dined in.

19th February 1952

APR came to stay, in Bedroom No 6, new for this occasion.

20th February 1952

Great case in Dublin, wherein Lord Justice Dickson pronounced favourable verdict in [?] Wanton Tenant for Life.

28th March 1952

New Spare Room (Bed No 1) ready with its own Bathroom (Cold & Cold running water)

29th March 1952

HotBox a huge success, dancing ‘till 4.30am in New School Room.

13th April 1952 – Easter

New Hall.   Tea, Drinks & Supper.   Guests entertained.

5th May 1952

Oil-Burning Boiler lit, & HOT WATER.   Cent. Heat at 60° throughout.

14th May 1952

Ghastly auction by Messrs North.   Very wet.   Much given away.

June 1952

House cut in TWO.

July 1952

Drawing Room gable started being taken down & numbered.   [Jammet?] sent down by Hope.  He did drawings & surveys & got the clues for New Gable.

Oak suite put into Lady R’s Room & used more pieces to be done.  But very lovely.

APR came planning Cockloft gable.

August 1952

Cockloft gable done.

September 1952

Cockloft Bedroom gable new steel window fitted.

Skylight in Cockloft done. SUPER.

Red Drawing Room carpet laid on Upstairs Landing.

October 1952

Experimental stripping of Library Book Case Door started and started something.

Very good auction of surplus material.

Planning goes on in a desultory manner.

Demolition continues & much stripping of [more?] stripping of oak.   PJ trained to do this.


February 1953

Library chimney “Gerry” built

March 1953

Foundations for New Gable begin.

Terrace and flagging outside south front laid “Wyram [?] Court SW7”

April 1953

Old Library bookcases hacked out & started stripping.

Plans for New Library hatched.  HCM & P & Matt [?]

May 1953

Hall arch built up as no better plan forthcoming.

June 1953

Gable building

July 1953

Gable completed

September 1953

Slow Joe Broe came to do cabinet making on bookcases.

Matt on shutters.

October 1953

Very good

December 1953

Matt at Library still.

[Arty?] did screen for chimney breast, Spanish leather all refixed.

(Xmas, still in old “Anti Hall”)


January 1954

Slow Joe Broe returned to finish bookcases & portrait niches.

J Ryan (O’Hara’s) came with sanding machine to do floor.

16th January 1954

Library was ready (?) and our first night in it.   Hot Box form, it looked wonderful.

February 1954

[Desultory?] demolition.

Council drawing odd loads of stone, etc. throughout.

Work ceased.


March 1954

Work on terraces continued.

6th April 1954

APR came – Plans for Library’s terrace.   This finished in April.


August 1954

A little bashing.

October 1954

Indoors.  Finishing touches.

3rd November 1954

Byrne’s bulldozers & two lorries swept all away.

Cottages – September 1953


(Good to fair)

Roof repairs?  Check roof slates.


Back gutter.  Paint iron shed roof.

Main wall – small [I Apron?] to turn water.

S End wall – DAMP.

Re-point end wall, plaster & dash & whitewash.

See later about plastering inside.   Larger window for Back Room.

[Sketch Plan]

Sycamore Tree to be cut.

Walls 1’6”.



Roof repairs – slates.


Back Bedroom window – hole – none.

N End gable – re-plaster.

Porch.  Curtains?   Build up screen.

Shed.   C/iron roof, painting.

[Sketch Plan]


Fair (Rather worse)



S End Gable

(Later on)


Ceilings, floors, plaster on walls.

[Sketch plan]

Gate Lodge


Chestnut tree to go (S of house)

2 copper beech.   Dying, ivy – both to go?

[Sketch of bay window]

[Sketch of exterior window detail]

Sleeping Part

A – Door Steps



D – Roof to come off

Pig Sty Roof

[Sketch Plan, showing “Drain”, “Needs Damp Course”, etc.]

Living Part

Electric wiring?

Sept 1936

Door Steps

Gate: Patches. 3 new bars.  Crack at hinge.

10 years ago – painted last.

Inner door and New Partition making Lobby

New ceiling put in (A)

Gutters wanted.   Downspouts.

[Sketch elevation]

[Sketch Plan with “Plaster repairs under archway”, “General Pointing”]

[Many Blank Pages follow]


November 1954

Byrne’s Bulldozer

(International T9) [or TD?]

Wednesday, 3rd November 1954

11am – 1pm

1pm – 6pm

1 Lorry 11am – 6pm

1 Lorry 11am – 1pm.   Only 1 hour pm (engine trouble)

Thursday, 4th November 1954

Bulldozer. 8.30 am – 6.30pm (1 hour dinner)

1 Lorry.   Defective AM [?] 8.30 – 12.30.  1.30 – 6.30

1 Lorry.  8.30 – 6.30.

Friday, 5th November 1954

Bulldozer. 8.30 – 6.30 (1 hour dinner)

Lorry.  8.30 – 6.30 (1 hour dinner)

Saturday, 6th November 1954

Bulldozer.  8.00am – 12.30pm

1 Lorry. 8am – 12.30

1 Lorry. 8am – 12.45?


2 Lorries & Bulldozer.  45 minutes pm.

The driver of the bulldozer then performed a certain amount of maintenance on the International T9 ([Bucyrus Erie??]) Bulldozer & went off about 4pm.


(First used, 8pm 16th January 1954!)

18th March 1953

Stripped oak throughout.


Insulation by Tentest, Celotex???   Stainex, [Ronnk] ?

Carpet from old Library.

Black wool hearth mat.

No skirtings needed.

Window trimmings

Stripped oak (see over) [See sketch]

Green velvet curtains

Green pelmets, hung close to ceiling on boards.   Rufflette runners.

[Sketch of E Window]

Wanted:           3 pieces of architrave 10’11”


2 shutters.  16” x 7’

10’ 8” narrow panelling

4 arches window heads

3 narrow strips between, 7’ high.

8 sashes

[Sketch of W Window]

[Sketch of Bay Window (S)]

[Several Blank Pages]

Lisnavagh Reconstruction “Plan Four” [i.e. Job Lists!]

 1 – Coach Porch (Luggage Entrance)

Repair ceiling and paint it.

H[1] Fit lantern

H Bell?

2 tubs for flowers or concrete or stone tubs

Boot wipers – iron boot scraper.  14/7?

2 – Porch

New front door (Door from N. side. Old front porch.)

Lift flags to hold mat for boot wiping

New door to passage (From old front porch.  S. Side)

Alcove opposite front door if poss.

(later) Door on partition to Library.

H – Lantern on ceiling (Gilt bronze (3) switch)

Invisible flat door in place of cellar door.

Paint pearl white or [can’t read this]

Note – Cellars

  1. Stairs (front)
  2. Boiler Room
  3. Back of Boiler Room – for oil storage?
  4. Wine Cellar A & B
  5. Coal cellars and connecting passage to back
  6. China Closet
  7. Store Room
  8. Back Room (Entrance).   Halpin has built up [damage?] and made door good.
  9. Strong Room
  10. Store Room (under Pantry)
  11. Back Stairs (Yard)
  12. Others

3 – Front Passage

Paint pearl white oil all over.

Concrete skirtings, flush if possible or with a small moulding, painted grey.

Doors all oak – stripped.

Stone flags cleaned up and smoothed down.

Lanterns – ([Walker?]) 2

Switches (Gold or brass) 1 2 3

M – Magenta felt curtains. Rehang.

4 – Coat & Drying Room

[Off Cistern?]

J – Cistern Jacketed

Radiator for drying with cock wooden racks to be fixed over it, Farmhouse style.

Other racks for luggage at E End.

Shelves for spare hats, boxes of hats, etc. built into old window.

Hanging cupboard from Oriel Room (Front)

White cupboard for cartridges


Narrow cupboard for files

Clean down.  Whitewash.

H 1 large white light and white switch.

1 power plug

5 – Smoking Room/Gun Room

Paint lichen green

Paint woodwork. Copy present Drawing Room.

J – Radiator? ? Yes.  No.

Drawing Room door (later on) Done.

Fireplace with open hearth.  5’6” x 4’. From Library. Or from Boudoir.

Book case, shelves (from Hall)

H Gilt chandelier.  White Balls.

3 brass lamps.  White shades, tinted inside.

Gilt switches (2) Walker.

Bell push.

Red Damask curtains.   Rails from old Smoking Room.

Drawing Room pelmet, wooden part only or red Damask pelmet & tiny fringe.

Carpet from Entrance Hall with it’s own mat from Smoking Room.   Beat and scrub with Ammonia Soda [?]

6 – Library

Panelled ceiling.

Book cases to be fitted and faked.

Room to fit book cases!

J  Ceiling [?!] radiator.  Heat.  Floor?  2 radiators.

Dining Room (oak) fireplace & open hearth.

& Library mirror.

Window woodwork from present Drawing Room.

Double doors from Library/Drawing Room to go between Library & Hall in corner.

Or use book doors, with Dining Room doors outside.

Library carpet & floor from old house.

M  Library curtains & new to match.

M  Wallpaper?

H Gilt or brass switches ([Walker?])

Bell push


  • 2 from Library
  • 2 New Lizard [?] bronze
  • 2 ??

[On a separate piece of paper (the back of a job application letter)…]

Double Floor (if enuf.)

Stable boards laid upside down over ordinary deal floor, secret nailed.

[There is a cross-section sketch of this]

7 – Hall

Build arch. (Concrete Blocks and plaster) Cloisters arch?

Stone fireplace.   From Back Hall & Open hearth.

French window (Order new)

Plasterer: Make up false window.

Paint pearl white.   Rough cast, or stipple – by Xmas (please).

Stone floor, tidied up.

J – Heating pipe?  Propose radiator in horizontal position under desk.

Wooden pelmet from Smoking or Dining Room.

Grey Morocco tapestry from Duke of Wellington’s [vestibule?]

Red velvet drop curtain from Garden Entrance. + wooden pelmet. Red corded.

Sheep Rug from PR’s Bathroom (cleaned)

Oak furniture & Samarang bits & easy chairs

H Table lamps, 4 plugs.  Gilt/Bronze switches (Walker).

8 – Dining Room

Paper ceiling?

Fireplace from Smoking Room & Open Hearth.

J – No Central Heating?  1 Radiator.


Ceiling paneled & beams & [clear? – above? Tudor & feudal?]  Gilt strips from Drawing Room.

Doors = 1 & 2 from Stair Case Hall.

Library Hall & Smoking Rm doors & Swing Door unswung, from Back Passage/Garden Entrance to be used in partition to Service Square (all caustic, stripped and dull polish).

Framework & shutters from Smoking Room side windows.

Double skirtings from Hall under stairs.

(Sideboard to get caustic later?)

Runners and rails from Smoking Room.

Tapestry curtains relined and rehung.

M Wooden pelmets from Smoking Room (side) & bits.

Carpet to be rotated to fit.


In Nooks, much felting & paper all over.

H Wall lights – Gilt/brass switches.

New Red shades.

Table light in Gilt/Bronze (Walker)

9 – Play Room [Schoolroom]

J – Radiator to be moved into corner.

Parquet ply-wood, like Ox & Cam Club?


New floor from Old House

Remove bells

French window from Gun Room – open out – to be used in south window.

Shutters from Hall. & Smoking Room front

Small window – permanently shut

Lower windows to ground

Window seats in other two 2 windows.[2]

Wooden pelmets from Smoking Room (front window) & Dining Room

Plaster coloured walls.   White ceiling.

Flat bookshelves from Schoolroom

White skirtings?   Lined[?] woodwork.

Doors – Try glass door from Hall – as second door into Dining Room.

Fireplace.   Gun Room.  Black marble.

Big [B…..?]

6’3” x 4’

White Damask curtains from Smoking Room

Large ones for front (shortened).   ½ pr for small window & 1 ½ prs for 3 hole – E side window – Repairs to rufflettes


10 – Kitchen

J  – Make tiled corner (see drawing)

Formica or traffolyte ordered.    Pipes in chase [or?] boxed in cornice. [What drawing?]

Esse Major with flue to Bedroom No4 in VENTILATOR. (Vent Axia?)

Twin stainless steel sinks (adjoining)

Electric water heater, above in corner.

Plate rack drainer – in corner.

Roller towel below this at window [level?]

Tea towel & rubber holder, on widow.

Pot Rack around top of tiles.

Cup hooks below Pot Rack, for things.

Cement – Smooth window cill & tiles.

Drop-flap table to be fitted below for staff dining (from old pantry)

Dresser, entire South wall lowered with built in cupboards below.

Service hatch through door to Service Square

Low cupboard for serving table

Shallow cupboard (Bottles, tins, etc.)  (Make doors from shutters)

Primrose plastic curtains (lined) & Pelmet

Paint white glossy.  Ceiling white.

Grey woodwork & canary yellow.   Glazed doors.

Stone flags retained.

[On next page, below Scullery, but presumably referring to Kitchen:]

Kitchen dresser (use shutters horizontally)

Cupboards (Nicholl’s boot) doors 2’4” x 1’4”

11 – Scullery


Vegetable racks

New glass for doors

Whitewash.  Redo with Snowcem      8/X/52

Pale grey paint for doorways (glazed)

Stone flags

H  Light & switch

Bakelite shade etc

Brush & mop rack

12 – Larder

Divided by gauze from Game Larder (see plan)

Marble slabs on top of concrete benches

Wooden racks at end to be painted

Hooks.  All whitewashed.

Woodwork pale grey

Stone flags

Plain light on wall; Bakelite shade (& switch in scullery)

12A – Game Larder

New Yale lock on door to Back Yard

Racks & Hooks as before, painted grey

Walls whitewashed

13 – Service Square


Space under to house trolley

BUZZER each way

Stone flags

Cupboard for brushes, etc (See [Higgins?] plan)

BAIZE on door

Paint white shiny oil & pale grey woodwork

Glazed doors, with a service hatch through kitchen door

H Hanging Bakelite shade Ceiling light, Ball

Bell-Board indicator

By Oct 29th

14 – Pantry

(By Oct 29th…. By Dec 14th)

Twin drainer – steel sinks

Formica behind – Re-centre racks (racks over)

Plate rack – drainer at end

Decanter rack over.  Towel holder.

Cupboard for silver (Baize lined and Yale lock)

Low cupboard with counter top.

Shallow cupboards for silver over this (18” clear)

H   Light hanging over sink.  White Shade. 100W.

Lino on the window cill

Flap table under, for cleaning silver on.


Counter top cupboards with narrow cupboards over for glass/china. Make the doors for this of windows, hinged 4 x 3 x 1’6”

2 doors under for cleaning things

The rest cupboards

Paint glossy white.  All cupboards & woodwork glossy grey.

Stone flags

Old pantry cupboards – 7’5” x 7’8” wide, in two halves.  Bottle one 5’9” wide x 5’4”.  6 drawers 6’10” x 2’6”.  Bottle rack 6’10”. Tray rack 4’10”.

15 – Gents

Glazed – borrowed lights

Stud partition with door near fireplace (door from upstairs)

Divided shutter against window & stud partition with door to divide off WC (door from upstairs in Bedroom 3 cupboard)

Use windows from kitchen and from Scullery (on sides) to make borrowed on iside partition to Back Hall

Paint all shiny white

M    Use curtains from Green Bachelors room

2 short racks & runners

& Spy pictures

Green rubber lino floor? Or grey marble lino.

New WC

Basin in alcove.  Mirror ordered at [The?] Dunne, Capel St


H   One light will give enough for WC through borrowed light

16 – Back Hall

Hope [3]

Grey marble lino – 28 yds ordered 7/X/52

Cupboards all round to be all painted Pale Med.Gray (Shiny)

Shiny white walls

Shiny grey woodwork (Curtains?)

Hunting Boot Cupboard – Linen Cupboard  – Large one – & Jam cupboard. Spare leaves rack.

J Teak sink.  New sink from Old Pantry (for boots) (& flowers)  Drawers under draining boards for boot cleaning things.

Flower vase cupboard at side& bin for dead ones, built up in corner next [to] porch.

Whip Rack (on partition of Gents)

Fireplace (concrete, open hearth)

Big Table (plastic cover) for valetting.

H   Light, central ball, large, 3 switches (Bakelite)

Gum-Boot Rack with seat over it

M Curtains

Veneer Door – Big squeezer wanted.

17a – Store (under stairs)

Paint white.   White wash.

Light on wall over door.

Shelves – Lino wanted


Stone floor

Yale lock

Ventilation, gauze in door panel.

17b – Back Passage

(Lantern)   (Walter)

Double swing doors – Re-hang with butt hinges (2 each).   Brass screws.

2 spring push squeezers on backs.

New and wider STOP all round front face.

Fit stationary, uplifting head piece.


18 – Back Porch

Light in centre, hanging (ball)

Glaze all doors

Paint all Pale Grey

Meters.   Fuse diagram – to be completed and framed.

Letter table & Bell & chair.

Rack for wet Macks & coars

Big mat (for boots).

Baize Door +

19 – Servants’ Sitting Room

Carpet?   Oak Room?   sold

Light in centre (shade)

Lamp (a plug by fire)

Add door cupboard for crockery?

20 – Outside WC and wash place

I suggest we convert outside WC to garage for van and build…

BATHROOM for men servants. (Wanted – see Plan 4)

…under Back Stairs[4]

Bash Door [under Back Stairs] (Impossible)

J    Put in basin (from Gent’s Turret)

New WC & bath tub (shower?)

Connect up cold water supply, intercept it on it’s way to outside WC and put in electric heater – about 12 gallon.

Paint white


APR, 12, See Aubyn Peart Robinson

Aubyn Peart Robinson, 4

Back Door, 5

Back Hall, 5, 6

China Closet, 4, 5, 8

Dining Room, 5

Halpin, 5, 6

Halpin, John, 4, 5, 6, 7


New, 5, 6

Kitchen, 6

Langham, J, 6

Library, 6

Scullery, 5, 6

Servant’s Hall

Old Servant’s Hall, 4, 5

Serving Room, 5, 6


[1] There are several items marked with an “H” in red crayon. “M” in pencil or “J” in green crayon, presumably referring to individuals who were assigned the task in question.   “H” is surely an electrician?   George Hay?   “M” might be Me, as in Granny? Or possibly Hugh Massy?? – Was he around?   “J” must be the plumber – Jacobs?

[2] Many items on the list have tick marks, indicating that they were completed, but this has an “X” so presumably the idea was abandoned like the items with the strikethrough text… which would explain why there are no window seats in the Schoolroom!  Some other items on the list have no tick marks and were also never done.

[3] …a reference to the architect, Alan Hope, rather than a plea for help, one hopes!

[4] It’s hard to be certain of the exact sequence of thoughts, but the text high-lighted blue seems to have been added in later, perhaps in a different hand, and it appears there was some debate about what the best thing to do with this area was, and how.

[5] Major H.C. Massy and the painter P.J. Roche (a son-in-law of Jack Halpin) carried out all the stripping of the oak, as my father recalls, ‘from the horrid Victorian stain, black or ginger;   tables and chairs, mirrors, doors and windows, all the library bookcases, went into the bath of caustic soda to emerge pale and lovely.’