This massive Palladian mansion is located in the north of County Kildare. At first glance, its windows seem to go on forever. In fact, there are 365 of them, one for each day in the calendar year.
The original house block was built in 1722, as designed by Italian architect Alessandro Galilei for then speaker of the Irish parliament, William Conolly. Sir Edward Pearce later contributed the designs for the side pavilions and colonnades.
Castletown House is the largest house in the county designed and built in the Palladian style. During the early 1700’s, Andrea Palladio’s distinctive architectural style experienced a revival in England, and Anglo Irish Aristocrats followed suit, building a large number of Palladian manor houses, each one larger and grander than the next.
In 1724, with Castletown House still under construction, William Conolly died. The completion of the mansion was put on hold, and not undertaken again until 1758, when Conolly’s great nephew Thomas moved in with his 15 year old wife Louisa.
Lady Louisa took on much of the interior decorating, as evidenced by the Print Room, a stylish room favoured by fashionable ladies during this time period.
The exterior of Castletown House is set apart by its sheer size. As visitors approach on the long gravel drive, it appears as though the house is made almost entirely of windows. Also noteworthy on the grounds are some interesting monuments, including a 135 ft high obelisk that was commissioned for building as a work relief effort after a particularly hard winter in the area.
The interior of Castletown House is adorned with many original period furnishings.
Lafranchin Brothers, popular plaster craftsmen of Swiss-Italian background, completed the elegant plaster designs seen in the main hall.
Other notable interior features include:
•Print Room, located on the ground floor, is the only surviving room of its kind in Ireland, preserving the tradition of gluing black and white engravings and embellishments directly to the walls.
•Long Gallery, a public room located upstairs with dimensions of 80 ft long and 23 feet wide, houses three exquisite chandeliers made from Venetian glass, along with Pompeian decorations.
Castletown House has hosted a variety of residents over the centuries. The American poet Robert Lowell lived here during the 1960’s before the house was purchased in 1967 by Desmond Guinness, from the famous brewery family. He presided over the Irish Georgian Society, which has made the mansion it headquarters ever since.