Emo Court

Located not far from the village of Emo, Emo Court is a country villa designed by the architect James Gandon (1742 - 1823), best known for his great public buildings, which include the Custom House and the Four Courts in Dublin. The house is built in the neo-classical style, which reflects the architecture of ancient Greece and Rome. At the entrance, four Ionic columns support a pediment. Pavilions on either side of the main house are decorated with reliefs of Coade stone. On the left panel, which represents Agriculture, winged cherubs sow, reap and gather in corn.

The right panel represents the Arts. One cherub plays a harp, another paints, and, at the centre of the panel, two cherubs, representing Architecture, unfurl the plans for Emo Court. At either side of the front hall doorway, trompe I'oeil paintings create the illusion of curved archways. Screens of green marble Ionic columns divide the saloon that runs from the front of the house to the back. And pilasters - rectangular columns with gilded capitals - rise from the richly inlaid parquet floor to the dome of the copper rotunda. Gandon designed Emo Court in 1790 for John Dawson, the First Earl of Portarlington. But nearly 200 years passed before Emo Court became the grand house that it is today.

When the Earl died in 1798, the house was incomplete. No more work was done until the 1835, when the second Earl hired the English architect Lewis Vulliamy and the Dublin architects known as Williamson to complete the garden front and work on the interior.

Another Dublin architect, William Calbeck, was hired in 1860 by the third Earl. Calbeck oversaw the building of the copper dome on the rotunda, as well as work on the interior. He also supervised the construction of a bachelor wing. When the last of the Portarlingtons left Emo Court in 1920, the house fell into decline. The Jesuits purchased the house in 1930 and used it as a seminary.

In 1969, the order sold Emo Court to Mr Cholmeley-Harrison. With the advice of Sir Albert Richardson and Partners, he began the laborious process of realising Gandon's vision for Emo Court and its grounds. Today, the house, garden and park of Emo Court are owned and managed by the Office of Public Works.


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