Archive of the Month
“Earl’s Gift” Map Conserved and Showcased at the Visual Window to an Ecclesiastical World Exhibition
by Dr Susan Hood
The RCB Library’s exhibition showcasing a selection of the Church of Ireland’s historical architectural drawings – entitled A Visual Window to an Ecclesiastical World – was recently launched by the Archbishop of Armagh, the Most Revd Dr Richard Clarke, at a special reception in the Irish Architectural Archive, 45 Merrion Square, Dublin.
The exhibition is now open to the public and will run until the end of the summer, on Friday 30 August 2019. Admission is free and all are welcome to view this unique and extraordinary collection in the purpose–built Architecture Gallery of the Architectural Archive – the IAA (Tuesday to Friday 10am–5pm) – further details see here. A series of lunchtime lectures for Heritage Week are listed below.
Curated by Dr Michael O’Neill FSA, and involving the collaboration of the RCB Library with the IAA, the exhibition draws on his extensive research into the Church’s architectural history, which has included the digitization of almost 9,000 individual drawings to safeguard them for future generations. All of the originals are safely housed in the Library, but to reduce their wear and tear and showcase them to a wider audience, the entire collection was systematically digitized and catalogued in the Library, and freely available to view online at this link.
A Visual Window to an Ecclesiastical World showcases a selection of the originals, which are arranged chronologically and thematically, guiding viewers through a representative selection of the overall collection and literally open a window to the past, telling the story of who designed these buildings – why and when they were built (or rebuilt). There is an excellent representation of virtually every diocese of the Church and of churches and glebe houses throughout Ireland, north and south.
One of the items on display is the recently repaired and conserved early 19th–century map of the “Earl’s Gift” Demesne showing lands near the town of Donemana, Co. Tyrone, in the parish of Donagheady and diocese of Derry. These lands were colourfully surveyed for the Hon. Revd Charles Douglas by Robert Craig in 1830.
As Dr O’Neill has shown in a particularly section of the main exhibition, glebe–houses (rectories, parsonages) and (historically) glebe lands (farmland) were the residences of the parochial clergy in their respective parishes, enabling them to easily and regularly provide pastoral care to their parishioners and to be a visible presence in the wider community. This deceptively simple statement belies the fact that for over 150 years (to the 1830s), senior clergy of the Church of Ireland were quite pre–occupied with the question of the availability of glebes and glebe–houses as an incentive to clergy to reside in their parishes. Like the churches, funds were also administered for glebe purchase, and glebe–house building (and rebuilding), through the aegis of the Board of First Fruits in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Glebe houses in rural parishes often had associated farm outbuildings (offices).
Glebe house plans and particularly the drawings of the outlining and associated lands are particularly scarce, when makes this particular example all the more significant not just from a local history perspective but also the in wider national context of assessing the property ownership scope of certain members of the Established Church clergy.
In this case, the Hon. Revd Charles Douglas (1791–1857) was the second son of the 14th Earl of Morton. Ordained in the Church of England, he came to Ireland as rector of the parish of Donagheady in the diocese of Derry in 1825 and continued to serve there his death in 1857. Further details are provided in the clerical succession list for the diocese of Derry and Raphoe, originally compiled by Canon JB Leslie, and further edited and revised by Canon David Crooks.
Clearly of significant independent means, but also benefiting from the grant funds available, Douglas was enabled to commission a professional surveyor, Robert Craig, to measure out his property, and draw the survey map of the lands where he had laid out a house and planned demesne on the former “Earls Gift Castle” estate.
This estate which originally extended to 1,000 acres was formerly associated in the 17th century with Sir John Drummond who laid out the original “Earls Gift Castle” and town of Donemana. But for this survey map which provides visual evidence of the castle, associated farmyard parish church, church lands and outlying areas, the association of over 95 acres of these lands with one Church of Ireland cleric might have remained relatively unknown. Indeed the only parish history available in the Library collection, published in 1979, by the Revd E.T. Dundas, makes no mention of it.
The colour map depicts various field boundaries, and the location of townlands, including Benown where the original parish church was located, as well as the castle, farmyard with stables and other outbuildings, landscaped garden and pleasure grounds. Immediately to the north–east of these and connected by a road is the original parish church. Today this building is a ruin, having been replaced after disestablishment when the original had fallen into disrepair, in 1879.
The “Earl’s Gift” map was recently transferred to the Library’s custody from the diocesan registry in Derry and Raphoe in the context of a large consignment of diocesan papers. It had suffered the ravages of time, and was in need of urgent repair. Thanks to the expert intervention of Liz D’Arcy, at the Paperworks Studio for Paper Conservation, and availability of the Library’s Conservation Fund which allows for urgent interventions, this beautiful work of art by surveyor Robert Craig has been brought back to life.
Describing her work Liz D’Arcy explains the process:
The map consisted of pen, ink and bodycolour on a primary support of paper. A second sheet of paper was adhered to the reverse of the map also. The paper was badly damaged over the years and suffered from mould growth, heavy surface dirt, staining, creasing and tearing…
“…The first step in treatment was to remove the layer of backing paper from the map. The paper was then surface–cleaned with smoke sponge to remove the top layers of surface dirt. The second layers were removed using damp cotton swabs. This method gently lifts off any soluble surface dirt. The final cleaning treatment was to float the map on a support, in a tank of slightly alkaline water. Any remaining soluble dirt and staining was reduced during this process. The paper was also strengthened from the alkali added to the wash.
The tears were then repaired on the reverse of the map with Japanese paper adhered with wheat starch paste. Some areas of loss of paper were infilled with a similar Japanese paper. The paper was then gently humidified and placed under weight to reduce the creasing. The cleaner and more stable map was now ready to be framed in a museum quality frame. All boards and tapes used in the framing are acid–free and the glazing has an ultra–violet filter to protect the map…”
…The conservation and museum–quality framing will assist in the preservation of this important piece of history for generations to come
To support the RCB Library Conservation Fund, please see this link.
The Visual Window to an Ecclesiastical World exhibition is open Tuesday–Friday until the end of August in the IAA, 45 Merrion Square, Dublin.