‘Built by King John, plumbed by Adele Astaire’
When Paddy Leigh Fermor wrote this in a letter to The Duchess of Devonshire (“Debo”), Lismore Castle in County Waterford, Ireland, had been in the Cavendish family for centuries, since it was built by King John in 1185 and purchased from Sir Walter Raleigh in 1602. Since that time Lismore has been besieged, lain derelict, rebuilt and redecorated. The 6th Duke of Devonshire was responsible for the castle’s renovations from 1812-1822 that resulted in its present Gothic Revival appearance. During the mid-19th century, Sir Joseph Paxton (the designer of The Crystal Palace) made additions to the battlemented turrets and façade, while John Gregory Crace, the leading maker of Gothic Revival furniture, and his partner designer A.W.N. Pugin were commissioned to transform the ruined chapel into a medieval-style banqueting hall. The hall has huge perpendicular stained-glass window, choir-stalls and Gothic stenciling on the walls and roof timbers. Pugin also designed chimney-pieces and furnishings and the castle contains some of the finest examples of domestic Pugin furniture still in private hands. The most recent renovations done by William Cavendish, Earl of Burlington, and his wife Laura bring the castle into the 21st century. In 2005 Lord Burlington converted the derelict West Wing into a state-of-the-art contemporary gallery and arts center. Since then Lismore Castle Arts has organized over 50 exhibitions along with an annual program of lectures, residencies and workshops. Lord Burlington will give Royal Oak members an illustrated personal tour of Lismore castle, where Adele Astaire, wife of the younger son of the 9th Duke of Devonshire—and also sister and former dancing partner of Fred Astaire— lived until her husband’s death in 1941. Lord Burlington will guide us through the Castle’s fluctuating 800 year history; show the remarkable Pugin interiors; trace the Cavendish family’s American connections; and explain how the castle has evolved into a much loved family home, as well as a center for international contemporary art and education.
This lecture is generously supported by Mr. Al Messina and Mr. Ken Jennings.
Thank you to our co-sponsors The Irish Georgian Society, Inc., St. George’s Society of New York, and American Friends of Attingham.