By Lisa-Marie Griffith
The Irish Georgian Society, now in it’s 51st year, is Ireland’s Architectural and Preservation Society. Anyone with a love of Irish architecture and period houses will be familiar with the society. Its stated aim is ‘to encourage an interest in and to promote the conservation of distinguished examples of architecture and the allied arts of all periods in Ireland’. The society was formed in 1958 to protest and prevent Georgian buildings around Ireland from being demolished and to promote the preservation of this wonderful Irish architectural heritage. In the 1950s the Irish state, and unfortunately many of the builders, architects and planners in Ireland, did not care about this heritage believing that these buildings were a symbol of the British regime in Ireland and a reminder of how repressive this regime was. In 2009 we should all know how ridiculous this is and how important these buildings are to our cultural landscape and yet many Irish Georgian buildings are still under threat. The society agitates for the preservation of these buildings through appeals, publicity and education, and throwing it’s weight behind groups who are fighting for the preservation of buildings in their locality. Of all of their education and outread programs, the one that has struck me as the most interesting is the Traditional Building Skills Exhibition that is taking place this Saturday and Sunday (and in conjunction with Roscommon Co. Council) at Strokestown Park, Roscommon.
An innovative program and a key part of their larger conservation promotion program, the society invites traditional craftsmen with skills associated with the preservation of period homes to demonstrate their craft. These demonstrations include ‘thatching, slating, lime mortar use, repair of historic windows, dry stonewalling, decorative plasterwork and much more’ all undertaken with traditional historic methods (or as near as possible) that will maintain the fabric of these historic buildings. The exhibition shows people who own period homes that they can use traditional craftsmen to repair and replace parts of their house that may be damaged and in need of repair. They do not have to turn to modern alternatives such as PVC windows (one of the greatest modern threats to a period building). They use skills and materials from whatever period the house is from and keep these skills alive and accessible. It ensures the fabric of these buildings and houses are protected so it’s a fantastic way to protect and preserve these buildings in their original condition. I think it’s a really interesting exhibition even for the majority of us who do not own period homes because it promotes architectural heritage, local skilled craftsmen and local business as well as keeping historic skills alive!