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RCB Library Notes

‘Earl’s Gift’ map conserved and showcased at the Visual Window to an Ecclesiastical World exhibition

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 launched on Tuesday, 7th May, 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. Admission is free, and members of the Church of Ireland and others are encouraged to visit to view this unique and extraordinary collection in the purpose–built Architecture Gallery of the Irish Architectural Archive – the IAA – (Tuesday to Friday, 10am–5pm) until Friday, 30th August. 

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 here.

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 Revd Charles Douglas by Robert Craig in 1830.

The Hon Revd Charles Douglas (1791–1867) was the second son of the 14th Earl of Morton. Ordained in the Church of England, he came to Ireland as rector of Donagheady in 1825 and continued to serve there until retirement in 1857. Clearly of significant independent means, Douglas was able to commission this survey map of the lands where he had laid out a house and planned demesne on the former ‘Earls Gift Castle’ estate, which had been 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 unknown.

The 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 repair of specific items, this beautiful work of art by surveyor Robert Craig has been brought back to life.

Conserving the Earl's Gift Map
Conserving the Earl's Gift Map

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