Public & private improvements in eighteenth-century Ireland : the case of the Conynghams of Slane, 1703-1821
Citation:Livia Hurley, 'Public & private improvements in eighteenth-century Ireland : the case of the Conynghams of Slane, 1703-1821', [thesis], Trinity College (Dublin, Ireland). Department of History of Art and Architecture, 2009, pp 375, pp 116
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The origins of the concept of improvement lie in the mid-seventeenth century and can be defined as the creation of a new landscape within which new estate villages were laid out, old settlements were restructured and revived, industries and agricultural settlements were established, and the nexus of the demesne - the country seat – was renovated or built entirely new. The Conynghams, who were owners of vast estates in Donegal, acquired the Slane estate in 1703 and took on the mantle of the ‘improving landlord’, undertaking public and private schemes which embraced the fundamentals of improvement ideals. The aim of this study is to establish a narrative which fills out the Conynghams’ story over a period of one hundred and twenty years. It illustrates the direct results of the family’s patronage and of their collaboration with entrepreneurs on the estates and beyond. In the context of the built environment, the work discusses primarily the execution of industrial architecture, engineering works and urban design. In the appraisal of the family’s most outstanding and lasting schemes, the study draws parallels with analogous plans carried out elsewhere in Ireland, and architectural setpieces are defined within the realm of the architectural and urban history of eighteenth-century Ireland. The research method used in the preparation of this work focussed on three principal sources, namely primary and secondary documentary sources, and the on-site investigation of extant structures on the Conyngham estates. Archival material, not only in Ireland, but also in England, Spain and (through the internet) Australia, revealed a wealth of information about the Conynghams and their schemes. Together with historiographical publications relating to the Conynghams, which provided significant foundations for extant histories of the family and their estate affairs, additional printed material such as parliamentary acts, contemporary newspapers and travel writings, first edition 6" Ordnance Survey maps and unpublished theses were used to support the outcome of the primary manuscript research. The results of the examination of all documentary sources were supplemented with a high level of fieldwork, involving detailed on-site inspections of extant structures, primarily Slane Mill and its associated waterworks, the Boyne Navigation and the architectural elements of Slane Village. These investigations were in turn informed by eighteenth-century technical treatises, in order to reconstruct the buildings and engineering works in their original eighteenth-century state. The body of the thesis is divided into six sections. The first two chapters chronicle the Conynghams’ purchase of the Meath properties, the involvement of William Conolly in early developments at Slane, and the inheritance issues of the next generation of the family. Presented in these two chapters is an informative context for an introduction to the next set of Conyngham improvers, and a background to their participation in future estate improvements. The following three chapters relate to the main bulk of improvements carried out at Slane between 1760 and the last decades of the century. These improvements encompass the building of Slane Mill, the development of Slane Village and the completion of the Boyne Navigation. The sixth and final chapter seeks to complete the picture of the life of the Conynghams’ most distinguished family member, William Burton Conyngham, renowned not only as a tireless patron of the arts and a Wide Street Commissioner in Dublin, but also, as this work will show, architect of extensive improvements on the family estates in the latter half of the eighteenth century.
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Author: Hurley, Livia
Qualification name:Master in Letters (M.Litt.)
Publisher:Trinity College (Dublin, Ireland). Department of History of Art and Architecture
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Type of material:thesis
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