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Saunderscourt owes its name to Colonel Robert Saunders, to whom Oliver Cromwell granted lands comprising approx. 3,750 acres in 1669. The house at Saunderscourt was begun in the late 17th century and was described as “a fine courtly building of considerable extent” with a “rich and handsome façade”. The estate passed into the hands of the Gore family in the year 1730 with the marriage of the sole heiress of Richard Saunders to Arthur Gore, later first Earl of Arran of the Aran Islands, Co. Galway. After the death of the second Earl of Arran c.1809 Saunderscourt estate was abandoned for some length of time before it was finally sold by the third Earl to Arthur Giles, Esq. in 1860. The house passed next to John F. Kane, Esq. who sold it to Crosby Harvey of Kyle in 1889. Captain Harvey demolished the house c.1891, presumably to save on rates.
Among the surviving buildings on the estate is a very fine late 18th century triumphal arch linking two gate lodges. The first edition ordnance survey indicates the building standing in a clearing and approached from the main north south road. From here one could proceed through the arch towards the house or continue to the north east to other parts of the demesne.
It is thought that the gate lodge went out of use at the time of the second Earl of Arran’s death c.1809, quickly falling into a state of disrepair. A.Atkinson notes the imposing character of this grand entranceway in his description of the then abandoned Saundercourt estate in “The Irish Tourist” c.1815:
“I proceeded toward Saunderscourt, the once respectable residence of the late Earl of Arran…
I arrived within view of the splendid arch and lodges, which on an elevated position above the public road, form a grand outpost to this concern…
I felt my heart impelled by a sentiment of sympathy…by the neglected and ruinous aspect of Saunderscourt, no longer the seat of nobility, nor of that munificence and national hospitality for which it was once so remarkable”.
The building comprises a tall classic archway flanked by a pair of single storey over basement pavilions to which the archway is connected by four curved flanking walls with niches. The archway is finely constructed, with two orders of architectural treatment: engaged Tuscan columns to the front and rear support a triangular pediment, while a semicircular arch with moulded architrave is supported on Tuscan piers, all executed in limestone. The arch itself is of brick, faced with stone and with some plaster detailing to the sheltered surfaces. The pavilions are small two-bay pyramidal roofed structures, with basements concealed when viewed from the east. They have slated hipped roofs, limestone surrounds to the openings and brick and rendered walls. The connecting curved brick walls are of comparable height to the pavilions and have curved niches with limestone surrounds. They connect to the pavilions with a single return bay, square to the pavilion.
WORKS COMPLETED TO DATE:
TOTAL RESTORATION COSTS TO DATE EX. VAT €227,102