22/08/2012 Restoration and conversion of West Wing at Russborough House – major tourism asset
Jimmy Deenihan TD Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht will tomorrow (Wednesday 22nd August, 2012) officially open the restored West Wing of Russborough House, Blessington, County Wicklow.
Russborough House is an important national heritage asset. The West Wing was originally built in part to house the very best of race horses. The internal accommodation in part of the West Wing to this day still shows the stone columns and arched ceilings that formed the original stables from the mid 18th century. When Sir Alfred & Lady Beit purchased Russborough in 1952 the west wing was entirely converted to residential accommodation.
“As we are now in the middle of Heritage Week I am delighted to have this opportunity to visit what is known as ‘the jewel in the crown’ of our great houses. The focus this year, for Heritage Week, is on built heritage and the contribution it makes to our quality of life, jobs and tourism. These new apartments at Russborough certainly meet that objective. The project to restore and convert the West Wing of this imposing 18th century Palladian mansion, into self catering accommodation is an innovative idea. The west wing now comprises two apartments which can accommodate up 16 people and will add greatly to the tourist offering and potential of county Wicklow and the region” said the Minister.
The conservation project was jointly undertaken by both the Beit Foundation and the Irish Landmark Trust following extensive damage to the West Wing caused by fire in February 2010 along with the further incremental damage done by thousands of gallons of water used to extinguish the fire.
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Russborough House is a stately house situated near the Blessington Lakes in County Wicklow and is reputed to be the longest house in Ireland. It is an example of Palladian architecture, designed by Richard Cassels for Joseph Leeson, 1st Earl of Milltown and built between 1741 and 1755. The interior of the house contains some ornate plasterwork on the ceilings by the Lafranchini brothers, who also collaborated with Cassels on Carton House.
In 2009 it was decided to convert the West Wing to self-catering accommodation. In February 2010, whilst the west wing was in the hands of the building contractors, the West Wing caught fire. It took a full 18 months i.e. to autumn 2011 to restore the West Wing to the position it was in at the time of the fire. It then took a further six months to spring 2012 until the original restoration project could be fully implemented. The West Wing now comprises two separate apartments one called ‘the Beit Residence’ and one called ‘the Garden Apartment’.