The Irish Georgian Society has called for urgent State action to save what remains of historic Vernon Mount House in Cork, which was gutted in a suspected arson attack.
It should include a survey by engineers with conservation experience, and an archaeological investigation of the debris inside to recover whatever items of the 18th-century property’s noted internal features may have survived Sunday’s huge blaze.
IGS executive director Donough Cahill said the council should safeguard and consolidate the building to ensure it will “continue to play a role as a unique Cork landmark”.
He also said: “An enormous amount of time and money has been spent in seeking to safeguard Cork’s finest neo-classical villa, and this would all be to waste if an immediate push is not taken to save what remains and to plan for the future. The time to act is now.”
The society, which first flagged its concerns about the future of the protected but privately-owned Georgian villa in the 1950s, urged Cork County Council to step in soon.
Mr Cahill said he had examined drone footage of the gutted structure which shows that significant elements, including its distinctive bowed front and convex side bows, as well as its chimney stacks and side walls, survived the blaze.
“Though clearly much has been lost internally, key structural sections that give the building its identity remain standing and must be stabilised,” he said.
“Once the site is made safe, the next priority should be an archaeological sifting of the interiors with the aim of salvaging artefacts that may have survived.”
He cited the example of Clandon Park in Surrey — one of the UK’s finest Palladian mansions — which burnt down last year and which the National Trust plans to restore.
Experts recovered plasterwork fragments, an early 18th century state bed, and other items from the debris.
“One wonders what might be found in Vernon Mount,” he said.
The society said there is precedence for the rebuilding of fire-damaged historic buildings, including Slane Castle in Meath, Powerscourt in Wicklow, and most recently, St Mel’s Cathedral in Longford.
The council considered a compulsory purchase order of Vernon Mount House, but ruled it out on cost grounds.
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