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Fota House Restoration

  • Architect:
    Architectural Services, OPW
  • Award Type:
    Regional Award 2003
  • Location: Munster
Fota House Restoration


Southern Over €3,000,000

Fota, like so many other major Irish houses has had mixed fortunes over the past number of years. Changes of use, ownership, and the perpetual shortage of funds have placed many of our large historic houses under threat. Fortunately however, Fota now seems to be established on a course of conservation, which will enhance the significance of the building with its rich interiors. The installation of services, an often difficult problem, has been carried out with care, bringing unseen essentials such as fire protection and wiring up to modern standards without compromising the beauty of the interiors. Plasterwork and paintwork have been meticulously researched and repaired. This is the kind of conservation which a building of this importance richly deserves.

Architect's Comment
The initial priority for The Fota Trust was to secure the external envelope through reroofing of the wings and renewal of external render. The original render had previously been fully removed and partially replaced with a hard cementitious render. Rusting iron bars in the walls of the Portico had lead to spalling of stonework. Water ingress onto the ends of the timber beams in the Entrance Hall, which supported solid walls above had led to the transfer of considerable weight onto the Scagliola columns and resulted in cracking and damage to the decorated plasterwork band of wreaths and crests. Wet rot, dry rot and weakening of joists due to excessive notching threatened the structural integrity of a number of floors. A portion of the ceiling in the Drawing Room had collapsed. Ceilings throughout the Ground Floor were examined and, where necessary, consolidated and repaired. Ceiling joists were strengthened using a steel cable to introduce compression to the floor, thereby reducing deflection. Missing sections of the ceiling plaster were repaired, the many damaged fragments were salvaged, consolidated and pieced into the new work. Destroyed sections of plasterwork were modelled or cast so that elements such as the rose garland, could be restored. Other damage resulting from dry rot was carefully treated while retaining the existing fabric and decorative detail. All services were upgraded and new fire protection introduced. The existing decorative scheme was consolidated and re-integrated, where necessary.

Clients Comment
Fota House was designed by the renowned irish architect Sir Richard Morrison and his son William for John Smith Barry. The House dates from 1825 though it incorporates an earlier hunting lodge which was altered and adapted by the Morrisons. It contains a wealth of interior detailing, rich plasterwork, elegant doorcases and architraves, scagliola columns, marble fireplaces and fine stone detailing. The interiors are complimented by a painted and stencilled decoration scheme by the firm of Sibthorpe from the 1890s. The restoration and exhibition highlights this wealth of craftsmanship. The principal rooms are left largely unfurnished, allowing visitors to concentrate on the architectural detailing of the house. Touch-screen installations focus on elements of architecture, conservation and social history.