Georgian Society to Irish Georgian Society 1908 – 2008

This exhibition celebrates the hundredth anniversary of the founding of the Georgian Society and the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of its successor the Irish Georgian Society.

The idea for creating a record of eighteenth-century buildings in Ireland goes back to 21st February 1908, the date on which the original Georgian Society was inaugurated at a public meeting held at the Royal Irish Academy, Dawson Street, Dublin. Intended from the start as a short-term project, the Society undertook the first serious recording of post-1700 domestic architecture in Ireland. The results of each year’s work were published in annual volumes – The Georgian Society Records of Eighteenth–century Domestic Architecture – to be distributed to the Society’s members only. The first four volumes (1909 – 1912) dealt exclusively with Georgian Dublin while the fifth and final volume (1913) included the rest of the country. A further related volume – Georgian Mansions in Ireland by Society committee members Thomas U. Sadleir and Page L. Dickinson – appeared in 1915 but by then the Society itself had been dissolved. The original drawings and photographs were to be presented to an Irish public institution which would undertake to make them available for future reference. However this did not happen, and today parts of the Society’s collection can be found in the holdings of a number of national institutions including the Irish Architectural Archive.

In 1958 following a public outcry over the destruction of two important houses in Kildare Place, Dublin, and fifty years to the day after the founding of its predecessor, the Irish Georgian Society was founded by the Hon. Desmond Guinness and his late first wife, Mariga, at Carton, Co. Kildare. While it too sought to record buildings and collect photographs, the new society differed from its predecessor in that it also actively campaigned to preserve buildings.

When the Irish Architectural Archive was founded in 1976, one of its first purchases was the Irish Georgian Society’s collection of photographs; the purchase money was put towards the restoration of Doneraile Court, Co. Cork. This very extensive collection contains a number of photographs taken for the original Georgian Society thus providing a direct link between that pioneering body, its successor and the Archive.