A magnificent 17th country home set in one of Ireland’s most visited parks is set to open to the public tomorrow for the first time in half a century.
It is hoped that the Office of Public Work's (OPW) extensive work on Doneraile Court, near Mallow in north Cork, the former residence of Sir William St Leger, Lord Deputy of Munster in 1629, will help boost visitor numbers to the region.
Mayor of the County of Cork, Cllr Christopher O’Sullivan, said the restoration is of regional significance: “Cork County Council is consistently working towards maximising the potential of the tourist offering across the county and manages a range of highly successful visitor attractions. Investing in the development of Doneraile Court along with other sites like Mallow Castle will mean a significant return for the region in the long run."
The house sits in some 400-acres of walled parklands whose design was inspired by the famous architect, Capability Brown. The property was home to 13 generations of the St Leger family until it was sold to the State in 1969. The home has remained closed since.
However, the park is one of Ireland’s most visited free-entry sites. With nearly half a million visitors annually, it surpasses The National Museum of Ireland, Fota Wildlife and Blarney Castle in popularity. And while tea rooms have operated from the courtyard for some time, the house itself was closed to the public.
However, the OPW has restored the ground floor, installed a visitor reception area and interpretive exhibition areas in the three main reception rooms. The OPW said it hopes to secure more funding to continue the restoration to other areas of the house where ambitious targets to almost double visitor numbers to the park over the next seven years are in place.
The council has organised a street-party to celebrate the opening of the house with a series of ‘Re-Imagine Doneraile’ festivities taking place in the park and town from 1pm to 5pm.
Meanwhile, draft plans to connect three key amenities in nearby Mallow in a bid to boost the town as a visitor destination have also been unveiled.
The county council held a public information session in the town last night to discuss emerging plans for the development of the gardens and historic landscape at Mallow Castle, together with the main public spaces at Mallow Town Park and the Spa House park as part of a long-term strategy to connect the amenities to each other and integrate them into the wider townscape.
The 34-acre town park, which lies to the south west of Mallow Castle Demense on the banks of the Blackwater, was originally part of the overall demesne. The park was given to the people of Mallow for use as an amenity in 1907 by the then owner of Mallow Castle, Katherine Jephson Norreys, and was bought by the county council in 2015.
The Spa House to the north east of the town was built in 1828 by MP Charles Denham Orlando Jephson following the discovery of “a spring of moderately tepid water” with medicinal qualities in 1724. Mallow became famous as a spa resort in the 18th and 19th centuries.