Among the primary objectives of the CSHIHE are the enhancement of public appreciation of Ireland’s built heritage and landscapes through research and scholarly publication on various aspects of Ireland’s historic houses and estates. The CSHIHE supports undergraduate, postgraduate and postdoctoral research at the National University of Ireland Maynooth. There are a number of ongoing research projects which include:
Irish Country House and the Great War
Decade of Centenaries
The Destruction of the Irish Country House
The Great Famine and the Landed Estate
Music and the Irish Country House Project
The Monksgrange Archive Project
Monksgrange (up until the 1890s called Grange) was built between 1759 and 1769 by Goddard Richards, descendent of one-time Governor of Wexford Solomon Richards, on the site of an outpost of a medieval Cistercian monastery, probably that of Graigue na Managh. It is situated in county Wexford under Blackstairs Mountain, close to the villages of Killann and Rathnure, and about 10 miles from Enniscorthy. The house has been continuously occupied by the same family, though twice the property has passed through the female line thus bringing about changes of name— from Richards to Orpen and then to Hill. An extensive collection of papers has survived in the house dating back to the late eighteenth century but mostly between the middle of the nineteenth century and the middle of the twentieth century. The collection was significantly augmented after the marriage of Adela Richards to Goddard Orpen in 1880 as a result of the latter progressively bringing into the house very large collections of papers from his own family, itself a significant Irish landlord and legal family. In addition, as a result of his work as a distinguished historian of medieval Ireland, there is a very large collection of Goddard Orpen’s research and scholarly papers. In the next generation Edward Richards-Orpen and his sister Iris Orpen were involved in the Arts and Crafts movement, to which Monksgrange significantly contributed, and the former became actively involved in social, economic and political issues in the Republic of Ireland, as did his son John Richards-Orpen. The papers of all of these are held in the collection.
Since 2008 Dr Philip Bull, an historian of Irish political history of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, has been organising and cataloguing the collection, itself a mammoth task. While generally in good physical condition, over the years the documents have become significantly disorganised and dislocated principally because of successive moves around the house. Philip Bull began his career in the Department of Western Manuscripts at the Bodleian Library so, in addition to his knowledge of Irish history, he brings to bear significant archival experience. It is estimated, given the size of the archive, that its organisation and cataloguing will probably not be completed until at least the end of 2016. It is hoped that a published catalogue of the archive and a book on the history of the house and its occupants will be available by 2019 for the 250th anniversary of its original completion.
The Monksgrange Archive Project is a joint venture of its owners the Hill family and of the Centre for the Study of Historic Irish Houses and Estates at Maynooth. Funding is being provided through the Centre in support of Philip Bull’s work.