06 Oct 2022

Offaly families set to hunt their heritage

Flights of Fancy lecture by Rachel McKenna & honorary life memberships Thursday 7th December

Offaly families set to hunt their heritage

Offaly History are hosting Rachel McKenna, Architect for Offaly County Council on Thursday, 7 December 8pm at Offaly History Centre, Bury Quay, Tullamore, as she launches 'Flights of Fancy; Follies, Families and Demesnes in Offaly'.

This will be proceeded by the presentation of Honorary Life memberships to Fergal MacCabe, Celestine McNeill and Brendan Ryan for services to County Offaly history and the Society.


All welcome.

Flights of Fancy; Follies, Families and Demesnes in Offaly by Rachel McKenna has just been published by Offaly County Council at £30. It’s a large format coffee-table type book with over 350 pages, in full colour and hard cover.

At the Tullamore launch of Flights of Fancy: Follies, Families and Demesnes in Offaly, the author, Rachel McKenna (Architect, Offaly County Council), will discuss the premise of the book which seeks to describe and illustrate the built heritage contained within the country house demesnes of county Offaly. It will look at the remarkable range of follies within the county including towers, eye catchers and gazebos. From the grotto at Charleville, designed by Hester the 1st Countess of Charleville in the 1740s and ‘built… (in the words of Sir Charles Coote) to give employment to the poor… in a season of scarcity’. To the first monumental column in Ireland designed by Samuel Chearnley a protégé of Sir Laurence Parsons of Birr Castle (3rd baronet), and erected in Emmet Square in 1746. It will include the three follies on adjoining estates in Ballycumber along with Offaly’s oldest remaining folly the classical arch at Gloster designed by Sir Edward Lovett Pearce around 1730.
The lecture will also cover the families who were responsible for their creation based on memoirs, diaries and publications, touching on John Warneford Armstrong of Ballycumber House, Rev Franc Sadleir of Mullagh Hill and Count Louis le Warner de Hamon of Prospect House. It will be illustrated with contemporary and archive photographs, dwelling on historic maps to gain an understanding of the landscaped demesnes into which the follies were set.
This collection of follies provides group of architecturally rich demesnes within Offaly while highlighting the importance of such structures. These structures, sometimes overlooked, provide a vital, tangible link back to the demesnes and families which created them.This is a public lecture so do go along. Rachel will sign copies of the book and you get a chance to meet lots of other people and enjoy Christmas-style refreshments.

This is a fine publication mixing the detailed research and illustrations of Rachel McKenna with fine photographs by James Fraher, archival material, family portraits and studies of the big house and demesne in which the folly sits. In that way it is the first study to be published of houses and demesnes in Offaly other than those of Birr Castle and Charleville Castle.  It is to Rachel’s credit that she also designed the book.

So all are invited to the conferring ceremony and the illustrated talk on Thursday 7 December at 8p.m. Offaly History Centre (beside Tullamore DEW) and your personalised signed copy of this unique and engaging book. Your chance to congratulate three people who have done much for Offaly History and Heritage.

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