Lissadell House and Gardens, Sligo, Ireland
HOUSE TOUR: our guided tour of the house is 45 minutes in length. This time has been selected as the most convenient for all our visitors. As you come towards the house from the panoramic walk, you will see the house as it was designed to be seen by the Architect, Francis Goodwin, from the East (which is the front of the house), rising from the simplicity of the gravel & grass platform, with no clutter around it. You will enter Lissadell through the porte cochere at the side of the house, up the steps and through the main doors. You will walk through the hall (paved with Kilkenny marble), and first visit the Billiard Room, and next the Gallery (from which you can see the view from the Bow Room windows made famous by the poet W. B. Yeats); you will then visit the Ante Room, the Drawing Room (from which you can again see the views through the "Great Windows open to the South" which enchanted the poet) and the Dining Room. These reception rooms are on the ground floor. Next you will proceed downstairs to the Kitchen, Servant's Hall, pantries, wine cellar, china room, housekeeper's room, butler's room, the garden room, the contemporary literature room, the nursery room with children's toys, and various other staff & work rooms. You will leave through the subway from the sunken courtyard, which leads visitors back up towards the Coach House.
The guided tour does not take you upstairs to the private family rooms, where seven children (mainly teenagers) & their friends hang out. Every parent knows what teenagers' bedrooms look like. They like to have their photographs all around the house (as in any family), particularly in the Servant's Hall, which is their favourite place for hanging out with their friends.
The Gallery at Lissadell with its Grand Piano (1820), and Organ by Hull of Dublin (1812)
Robert Gore Booth (1805 – 1876) was born in a Regency style house with bow windows on the shores of Drumcliff Bay, by the site of the present walled Lower Garden.
The old house by the sea shore in 1820 (above left). The garden to the left survives, and is today known as the Alpine Garden. 1775 Map of Sligo showing the old house (right)
Following several years abroad, Robert decided to build a grander home for his family, and commissioned English architect Francis Goodwin to build him a new house at Lissadell. By 1836 the new house was finished: built of local cut grey limestone in the Neo-Classical Greek Revival style, it stands grey and austere on an eminence overlooking Sligo Bay, and at the foot of the magnificent Ben Bulben. There are no outbuildings to mar the simple, classical lines, and likewise no attics. The outbuildings are connected to the house by a service tunnel which runs from a sunken courtyard to the avenue and stable yard, and staff quarters are in the basement.The limestone was quarried locally at Ballisodare (location of Yeats’ Salley Gardens). Francis Goodwin was so proud of his design that it featured in his book “Domestic Architecture” (on display in the Gallery), the only private residence to do so.
The entrance to the house is by the Porte Cochère, through which the magnificent Ben Bulben is framed. The house faces Knocknarea, “That cairn heaped grassy hill where passionate Maeve is stony still”, and has magnificent views over Sligo Bay. Inside, the house is full of light and brightness – in the Gallery, the Bow Room, on the Great Staircase, and in the Drawing Room. The poet W.B. Yeats evoked this beautiful sensation of light in the words:-
"The light of evening, Lissadell, great windows open to the south ...".
Atlantic sunset: view from the Bow Room at Lissadell south over Sligo Bay
The Drawing Room has stunning views of Ben Bulben, Knocknarea and Sligo Bay, and is now home to a remarkable series of AE paintings. The Bow Room has a wonderful collection of Regency books, reflecting the tastes of Caroline Susan Goold, who married Robert Gore Booth in 1830. She was clearly a well read and fashionable lady, who ordered all the new London publications for her drawing room at Lissadell. The library of books also reflects the interests of later residents; the adventurous spirit of her son Henry, the sailor, and the Victorian scholarly and devotional works used to educate her grandchildren. The Bow Room, and a small suite of rooms behind, later served as the main living and sleeping rooms of the family of Gore Booth siblings living in near poverty in the 1960s and 70s (see the Lissadell Affair in our Gabrielle Gore Booth section), when the remainder of the house was unlived in.
The drawing room (left), and AE's children at play
The Gallery, formerly the Music Room, has remarkable acoustics. It is oval in shape, lit by a clerestory and skylights and is 65 feet in length. It still has its original Gothic Chamber Organ made by Hull of Dublin in 1812, and also a walnut full size 1820 Grand Piano. The Gallery is famous for two superb suites of Grecian gasoliers by William Collins, a chandelier maker of the Regency period. The gasoliers were lit by a gasometer on the estate and as late as 1846 Lissadell was the only country mansion in Ireland lighted with gas generated locally at its own purpose built gasometer.
The images on the Dining Room pilasters were painted in 1908 by Casimir Markievicz, husband to Constance Gore Booth. Casimir clearly had an indulgent brother in law in Josslyn Gore Booth.
The Dining Room (above left) and the Brown Bear brought back from the Arctic by Henry Gore Booth (right)
The anteroom was a favourite roomof Constance Gore Booth, and was known as her ‘den’. Indeed she has engraved her name on one of the windowpanes. This room is now home to many of her artistic works, including her sketch of the painter Sarah Purser, and her drawings of Molly Malone.
The Ante Room (above left) and the engraved windowpane (right - photo James Connolly PicSell8)
The Billiard Room (below, right) contains the memorabilia collected by Henry Gore Booth, fifth baronet of Sligo. Henry has two claims to distinction: his children and his enthusiasm for sailing. Sailing summers cruising off Norway with a friend gave Henry a taste for Arctic adventures. He built his own boat, the 46-ton yacht Kara, and in 1882 mounted an expedition to rescue the explorer Leigh Smith, who presented him with photographs of the expedition in gratitude, and these are now on display (below, left), togheher with his library of navigational books.
Paintings of the Russian Revolution hang on either side of the staircase in the Hall at Lissadell, accompanied by Karl Marx
The cantilevered staircase is made of polished limestone, and the iron balusters are adorned with golden eagles.
Goodwin's sketch of the staircase (above left) and the staircase as built.
The Basement includes the Servants’ Hall, Butler's Pantry, Kitchen and pantries, the Bakery, Wine Cellars, China Room, Butler's bedroom, Housekeeper's room and the maids sleeping quarters.
Below, clockwise from left: the China Room, the basement corridor from the Kitchen to the Contemporary Literature Room, the Garden Room and the original Fire Hydrant.