steeped in history
Harristown demesne was purchased by the La Touche family in 1768 and a spacious Georgian mansion was erected by Whitmore Davis in a dominant position overlooking the River Liffey. The old house of three stories was destroyed in 1891 and a smaller two storey house sits well in its place. The diocesan architect, James Franklin Fuller, oversaw the restoration of the house at the same time as he rebuilt the small Church of Ireland church at the entrance to the estate. The omission of the third storey allows for an unusual amount of light into the house through a cleverly constructed lantern light. Thus the move from the airy and bright downstairs rooms is complemented by a rush of light from the upstairs hallway. Another interesting feature is the tunnel that runs underground for some 80 metres from the stable yard into the basement.
Carnalway church is adjacent to the front entrance of the estate and Fuller rebuilt it in the Hiberno Romanesque style similar to that of his masterpiece at Millicent. The church also has stain glass windows by Harry Clarke and Sir Ninian Comper. The La Touche’s were Huguenots expelled from France. They made their way to Ireland and moved into banking, weaving and politics. The partners of La Touche Bank were the original stockholders of the Bank of Ireland which opened for business in 1783.
The second generation of the La Touche’s in Ireland included John who built Harristown and his descendants occupied the house until 1921. They were people of integrity and the history of the area endorses this. The last John La Touche of Harristown died in 1904 and it marked the end of a colourful era. He became a Baptist convert through the teachings of C.H.Spurgeon and built the church in Brannockstown as well as the National School. Probably the most interesting visitor to Harristown during his tenure was John Ruskin, celebrated Victorian writer and art critic, whose relationship with the family and in particular Rose brought both joy and sorrow to all concerned.
The estate was bought in 1946 by Michael and Doreen Beaumont who set about restoring Harristown to its former glory. They completely renovated the house and installed furniture and pictures from their former home Wootton in Buckinghamshire the interior of which had been designed by Sir John Soane. Doreen Beaumont brought some of the Soanian influence to bear on her new home and thus the colours she used are not those traditionally associated with an Irish Georgian house. Further there are other finishes and artefacts that reflect a more eclectic approach to interior design. On the ground floor the ceilings stand 18 feet high and the front hall is a magnificent double room off which open the 3 main reception rooms the library, drawing room and dining room.
However, the best kept secret of this house is the 16th Century Chinese Wallpaper in a sitting room leading off the drawing room which depicts birds in strong vibrant colours. Among the other curiosities is an upstairs room finished in oak panelling taken from a Tudor house in England and a set of French Empire pelmets. The house is open to the public and in the current year it is open on the following dates.
Public Opening Dates 2019
*Groups by prior appointment
7th - 18th January, 9am - 1pm (Mon - Fri)
4th - 15th February, 9am - 1pm (Mon - Fri)
1st - 28th May, 9am - 1pm (Mon - Sun)
17th - 25th August, 9am - 1pm (Mon - Sun)
9th - 13th September, 9am - 1pm (Mon - Fri)