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Engaging with Architecture Programmes

Follies of Offaly

In November 2017 Flights of Fancy; Follies, Families and Demesnes  in Offaly by Rachel McKenna, county architect was published by Offaly County Council. It is hardback, full colour and over 350 pages  detailing 15 demesnes  – Charleville, Birr, Gloster, Tubberdaly, Ballycumber, Moorock, Busherstown, Prospect, Acres, Belview, Mullagh Hill, Ballyeighan, Hollow House, Kinnitty and Loughton. Available in local bookshops and Offaly History on Bury Quay for €30.00.

Gloster Arch from RMcKenna

In 2013, Offaly County Council commissioned a study of 11 follies in county Offaly with grant aid from the Heritage Council. The report was carried out by James Howley of Howley Hayes who has written The Follies and Garden Buildings of Ireland originally published in 2003. Download Eleven Follies in County Offaly, Condition Survey and Measured Drawings by Howley Hayes Architects.

In 2014, conservation works were carried out on the Tower on Mullagh Hill by the owners, the Dillon family, with support from the Follies Trust and Offaly County Council.  In 2018, the owners of Gloster Arch conserved the folly with assistance from Offaly County Council and with grants from Creative Ireland, the Built Heritage Investment Scheme, the Follies Trust and the Apollo Foundation.  In 2019 Ballycumber Folly was conserved with assistance from Offaly County Council and with  grants from Creative Ireland, the Follies Trust and the Built Heritage Investment Scheme. in 2020 Acres’ Folly to the rear of Tullamore Municipal District Offices and adjacent to the town park was conserved with support from the Historic Structures Fund and Creative Ireland.  

View the presentation by Rachel McKenna, architect with Offaly County Council on the conservation of Gloster Arch.  (Please open the link in Chrome or Edge to view the presentation)

In 2009, Offaly County Council commissioned a report on the column in Emmet Square in Birr designed by Samuel Chearnley which was subsequently conserved. Download The Column in Emmet Square report by Howley Hayes Architects. can be searched under ‘Offaly’ and building type ‘follies’ for more information.    

Birr Courthouse Comes into Offaly County Council Care and Conservation Master Plan is completed

In 2021 the Office of Public Works handed over Birr Courthouse to Offaly County Council.  The Courthouse had last held a court in 2013 and was not used in the intervening years.  Offaly County Council commissioned a conservation master plan for the Courthouse from Howley Hayes Cooney.  This was supported under the Offaly Heritage Plan 2017-21 Heritage Council funding with a contribution from Creative Ireland funding.  Click here to download the Birr Conservation Master Plan by Howley Hayes Cooney

2021 Emergency Repairs 

Offaly County Council then arranged for emergency works to be done with particular focus on the valleys in the roof which were letting in considerable water.  The windows on the front facade were also in poor condition and were repaired or replaced.  This work was supported by a grant from the Heritage Council of €220,000 under the Historic Towns Initiative and €50,000 from the Historic Structures Fund along with matching funding from Offaly County Council. 

Future Plans

Offaly County Council are examining all options for funding support to continue the works at Birr Courthouse and are working with Birr 20:20 group who have expressed an interest in using the Courthouse as a community artist Creative Hub.  It is estimated that close to €2,000,000 is needed to bring the Courthouse to a usable condition. 

Mills in Offaly

This is Fancroft Mill in south Offaly which is occasionally open for tours.

In 2003, Fred Hamond, industrial archaeologist, was commissioned by Offaly County Council to undertake a study of all of the mills, distilleries, breweries and maltings throughout Offaly. The initial paper survey brought up 274 individual mill related buildings and structures at 193 locations in the county. Most sites are on private land but two mill sites open on occasion to the public Belmont Mill in West Offaly and Fancroft Mill in south Offaly, close to Roscrea.

Download the full Mills of Offaly report with high resolution pictures

Offaly Mills Part 1 General Review 346 MB

Offaly Mills Part 2 Site Gazetteer 553 MB

Bridges of Offaly

Belmont bridge

The survey of all named bridges in Offaly was carried out by Industrial Archaeologist Fred Hamond in 2005.

This survey covers all 407 named bridges in the county.

Offaly Bridges Study Part one 

Offaly Bridges Study part two

Stained Glass in Offaly Churches

21/08/2011 Features Slide show Stained glass detail from the Harry Clarke studios at Mount Saintt Joseph Anbbey Roscrea, Co Offaly. Photograph: Cyril Byrne / THE IRISH TIMES

Church of Ireland Churches

A database of information about stained glass in Church of Ireland churches throughout Ireland has been compiled by David Lawrence, commissioned by the Representative Church Body with funding from the Heritage Council. All of the Church of Ireland churches in Offaly have been surveyed. The information is available from

Roman Catholic Churches

The Offaly Historical and Archaeological Society, with support from Offaly County Council and the Heritage Council, commissioned David Lawrence to examine a number of Roman Catholic Church stained glass windows during 2009. The churches are in Tullamore, Edenderry, Clara, Birr, St Brendan’s and the County Library, and Tubber. Download the Offaly Stained Glass in 6 Catholic Churches by David Lawrence report. Printed copies of this report are with the  Offaly Library Service.

Harry Clarke and Clarke Studio Windows in Offaly

The website is recommended for information on Harry Clarke and the Studios. Offaly Library Services has the following books and DVDs on loan

  • The Life and Work of Harry Clarke – by Nicola Gordon Bowe 1984. This is useful showing many of his drawings as well as windows.
  • Strangest Genius – by Lucy Costigan and Michael Cullen, 2010. This documents the entire stained glass collection of Harry Clarke (not his studios) world wide.
  • Lumen Christi – by Laurence Walsh OCSO, 2009. This looks at all of the stained glass windows in Mount St Joseph Abbey in Offaly and has chapters on the studio windows from 1931, 1941 and 1961. It also features the Stations of the Cross made by the Harry Clarke Studios.
  • Harry Clarke, Darkness in Light, 2003, a DVD by John J Doherty with many interviews.
  • Stained Glass Windows, Six Roman Catholic Churches by David Lawrence, 2010

There are a number of Harry Clarke and Clarke Studios windows in Offaly.

  • Tullamore – Church of the Assumption. These windows were originally located in Rathfarnham Castle and were donated to the church by the Jesuit Community. There are five windows in the south transept depicting St Brendan, St Patrick, St Benignus, St Peter and St Paul. 
  • Lis Church (now a private residence). The two windows are from 1929 and 1932 called ‘Music and Literature’.
  • St Manchan’s Church, Boher – 5, 1931 windows with a striking one of St Manchan, his cow and the shrine.
  • St Mary’s Roman Catholic Church in Pollagh – There are a pair of Harry Clarke studio windows of the Virgin Mary and the Sacred Heart from 1936.
  • Mount St Joseph Abbey– An interesting site with windows from 1931, 1941, 1961. The first set are in the Former Infirmary Oratory, the second in the Collage chapel and the third is St Patrick in the Abbey Church.
  • Killina Convent Chapel, near Rahan. There are two late Studio windows from 1967, Our Lady and the Resurrection.

The Windows at Mount St Joseph Abbey

The book Lumen Christi – by Laurence Walsh OCSO, was  published in 2009. This looks at all of the stained glass windows in Mount St Joseph Abbey and has chapters on the studio windows from 1931, 1941 and 1961. It also features the Stations of the Cross made by the Harry Clarke Studios. Copies can be bought at the Monastery shop, Offaly History at Bury Quay Tullamore or from local bookshops.

The Care of Stained Glass

The Care of Stained Glass was written on behalf of the Heritage Council by David Lawrence. Download Care of Stained Glass