The Office of Public Works (OPW)-Maynooth University Archive and Research Centre at Castletown House is the recipient of a new archival donation by the family of the late Desmond FitzGerald, the 29th and last Knight of Glin. The rich trove includes personal papers, correspondence and photographs that reflect FitzGerald’s life’s work—fighting for the preservation of Ireland’s Great Houses.
An internationally respected expert on Irish art and furniture, his furniture archive was donated to the OPW-Maynooth University Archive a number of years ago. For 10 years, FitzGerald served as a member of Maynooth University’s Centre for the Study of Historic Irish Houses and Estates advisory committee.
FitzGerald’s belief in protecting Ireland’s built heritage is evident in this latest tranche of records. The unique collection of personal papers, correspondence, newspaper articles and photographs not only demonstrates his passion for the conservation and preservation of country homes across Ireland but also his role in a variety of significant preservation bodies, including the Irish Georgian Society, and academic bodies, such as the Centre for the Study of Historic Irish Houses and Estates at Maynooth University.
Speaking about the archive, Professor Philip Nolan, President of Maynooth University said: “We are honoured to receive Desmond FitzGerald’s personal papers and are very grateful to his family for sharing this fascinating archive with us. Desmond was an iconic figure in the world of Irish country house studies and a champion of its preservation. His papers present us with a rich tapestry of history, insights, research, images and opinions which will speak to all with an interest in preservation. It’s fitting that his collection will be kept in at Castletown, a house so dear to his heart.”
The Glin archive now contains:
- A database of Irish ‘traders’ (master craftsmen commissioned to make unique pieces of furniture) which dates back to the early 18th Century and contains details of their skills, types of furniture and copies of their ‘trade labels.’
- Correspondence between FitzGerald and other global experts regarding renowned artefacts such as a Waterford Crystal chandelier dated 1760 that once belonged to James Fitzgerald, 1st Duke of Leinster, Carton House, Co. Kildare.
- A letter to Desmond FitzGerald from Seamus Heaney in which he refers to his scholarly contributions to the conservation and preservation of Ireland’s architectural heritage as “a beautiful act of piety and a mighty act of scholarship.”
- His correspondence with government departments and various bodies including the Centre for the Study of Historic Irish Houses and Estates, OPW, Irish Georgian Society and Irish Heritage Trust.
The OPW-Maynooth University Archive and Research Centre at Castletown was established to facilitate the care and study of archives and other sources dealing with the history of Irish estates, their houses and their inhabitants. It also facilitates research in the decorative arts. The Archive and Research Centre is located on the second floor of Castletown House in Celbridge, Co. Kildare.
Caption - Professor Terry Dooley, Maynooth University, Dame Olda FitzGerald and archivist Nicola Kelly, inspect the Glin Archive, donated to Maynooth University and the OPW, by the family of the late Desmond FitzGerald, the 29th and last Knight of Glin. The archive includes his personal papers, correspondence and photographs reflecting his life’s work on Ireland’s Great Houses.