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Restoration of Joseph’s Cottage

  • Architect:
    Architectural Services, OPW
  • Award Type:
    Best Conservation / Restoration Project 2003
  • Location: Leinster
Restoration of Joseph’s Cottage


Eastern between €300,000 and €3,000,000

This shepherd s cottage is symbolic of hundreds if not thousands of similar vernacular dwellings scattered throughout the countryside. In their time they provided shelter and comfort, but with increasing prosperity many have been abandoned for new houses which offer a higher standard of living than was provided by the earlier buildings. This project has taken the cottage from a derelict state and with careful, sensitive repair and conservation is an example of how these buildings can be brought back into a sustainable use. The project makes a contribution not only to architectural conservation but also to the ongoing debate and discussions on the current issues of living in the countryside.

The use of traditional materials, in particular the re-application of lime rendering sends out a clear signal to those who mistakenly think that exposed rubble stone is a "traditional" material. These materials, combined with simple modern interventions have produced a model which can be followed by others who see presently see these buildings only as problems.

The final piece to the project is the viewing point and terrace, focusing the visitor on the obelisk in the Coronation Plantation with its particular flora and fauna, across the river Liffey to the south.

Architect's Comment
Josephs Cottage has been described as a polite vernacular two--storey cottage located in the Wicklow Mountains National Park, built circa 1840 to house the senior shepherd of the Downshire and Blessington Estate. The condition of the cottage had deteriorated very seriously during the years preceding commencement of the restoration.

The last occupants had been airlifted from the site in bad snows during the mid 1980 s, when that area of the Wicklow Mountains was cut off for a significant time. Since then the cottage had lain empty and had suffered considerably at the hands of plunderers and harsh winters alike.

The brief consisted of the restoration of the cottage and the creation of facilities for the National Park Rangers and for the future use as a visitor point for the western edge of the National Park. This entailed two public spaces on the ground floor, the reception area and the exhibition facility with a dramatic double height space carved out at the gable, and two staff spaces on the first floor, the kitchen and office.

The insertion of a tectonic lightweight stair offset from the two remaining granite treads, ties the new and old elements together. The palate of materials used was limited to Irish oak, local granite gravels, Wicklow granite, terracotta tiles, mosaic tiles, glass and stainless steel with lime wash, lime plaster and lime paint applied to the faces of the massive, breathing , walls.

Clients Comment
Joseph's Cottage lies in the townland of Kippure East. It became known as Joseph's cottage, being named after the last occupant, Joe McLoughlin, who lived there for many years. To the south, the River Liffey divides it from Ballinabrocky townland. This area is known as the Coronation Plantation and formed part of the Downshire Estate. The Marquis of Downshire, to mark the coronation of King William IV, planted it in 1831. An obelisk was erected at that time, to mark the occasion and still exists. Joseph s Cottage belonged to the Downshire Estate (vesting order 1950). It is believed to have been built in the mid-nineteenth century.

To the east of Joseph's Cottage lies the ruins of another cottage. A system of stone walled fields lies around these cottages and the remains of lazy beds for potatoes are still visible. The cottage came into the ownership of a Colonel Denis Darley (Sallins), in the 1950's, and was later sold to William McEnery of Malahide Castle, who in turn passed it on to his son Éamonn. The cottage was in extremely bad repair when purchased by the State in 1994. In 2001 Dúchas The Heritage Service of the Department of the Environment and Local Government, in conjunction with the Office of Public Works, undertook the task of restoring the cottage and these works were completed in 2002.