The History of Adare Manor

A history of excellence

The 840-acre Adare Manor estate is one-of-a-kind because its founder, the second Earl of Dunraven, was one-of-a-kind. He set aside the fact he was crippled with gout to oversee the creation of a legacy fit for his family.

History in the making

In 1832, Lady Caroline Wyndham was keen to give her husband something to focus on other than his own debilitating condition. Knowing her husband missed being able to partake in the usual activities of a landed gentleman, she encouraged him to undertake something that would cement the legacy of the family and change the fortunes of the village of Adare, forever. So, empowered with a new lease of life, the Earl called upon the best architects, craftsmen, designers and builders to help him realise his vision and indulge his famous eccentricities. And so, Adare Manor was born.

A Manor as unique as the man

Whether it was boredom, opulence or good-old-fashioned indulgence, the Earl pushed mason James Connolly and designers James Pain and George Richard to the limits of their abilities and their patience. For starters, he outlined his vision to create a ‘Calendar House’ adorned with no less than 52 chimneys, exactly 365 leaded glass windows and a number of other elements of ascending size to represent the 12 months and four seasons of a calendar year. Next, he insisted that the turreted tower entrance be situated not in the middle as it usually would be, but in one corner of his new home. Finally, he ensured that as many local labourers as possible be used so that their employment would help their families through the famine that devastated Ireland through the mid 19th century.

From plan to perfection

As unconventional as his taste initially appeared, the Earl’s magnificent Gothic romance would become a sensation. From the multiple arches and magnificent gargoyles, to the elaborate bay windows and exquisite decorative finishes, the Manor was a miracle of both craft and engineering. However, it was the Gallery that would truly become the standout feature of Adare Manor. 132 feet long, 26.5 feet high and lined on either side with 17th century Flemish choir stalls, it took its inspiration from the great Hall of Mirrors in Versailles, and was just as impressive.

When celebrated designer E.W. Pugin was brought in from London to oversee the interior finishes that would complement the masterful build, the Manor’s magnificence was taken to even greater heights. From the stairwells and ceilings to the features and many, many fireplaces, he provided an interior to match the spectacular exterior.

The next generation takes it to the next level

Owing as much to his frequent changes of mind as to the scale of the project itself, the Earl never lived to see the completion of his great vision. In 1852, at the age of 67, he died some twenty years after his wife first suggested he do something ‘constructive’ with his spare time.

With the same dedication to being different that his father possessed, and with much more energy, the third Earl took over the project and immediately set about ensuring that the 840 acres surrounding the Manor were as impressive as it. Together with young architect Philip Charles Hardwick, they created sweeping parklands and gardens cultivated with specimens from near and far.

The assortment of trees they hand picked included a magnificent cedar of Lebanon which they placed along the bank of the trout-rich river Maigue, as well as beeches, monkey puzzles, cork, aspen and flowering cherry. Amongst them, they placed Ogham Stones dating from the early 5th century to the middle of the 7th century. Finally, perhaps as a nod to his father’s eccentricity, they created a small pet cemetery close to the Ogham Stones with carved memorials to the beloved Dunraven pets.

Quae Sursum Volo Videre

In 1860, some 28 years after it was first started, Adare Manor was finally completed. It remained in the Dunraven family until 1982, when it was sold to an investment consortium by Lady Dunraven. Over the next 25 years it would go through multiple restorations and expansions to include a new River Wing, indoor swimming pool and conference room (1989), a golf course (1995) and an 8,000-square-foot clubhouse complete with pro-shop, bar and dining room (1999).

At the start of 2016, Adare Manor closed for a short time so that we could maintain the personality, preserve the legacy and modernise this one-of-a-kind home, so that it continues to be a magical place for the next 185 years. To do this, we are guided by the philosophy and motto of the great Earl of Dunraven; quae sursum volo videre – what is heavenly I would see.

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