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Building of the Month - July 2011

Adare Village Hall and Club House, ADARE Td., Adare, County Limerick

Adare Village Hall 01 - Representative View 

Figure 1: Front elevation of the Club House located where the main road divides in Adare.  The hall is to the rear.  The building was opened in 1911.  The cottages, designed at the same time, can be seen to the far left

When in 1907 the architect William Clifford Smith (1881/2-1954) was asked by Windham Wyndham-Quin (1841-1946), fourth Earl of Dunraven, to design a community hall in Adare, the village, strung out along a road that formed the western boundary of the Adare Manor demesne, had no single unifying focus.  The village was not without landmarks: in the centre there was the recently enlarged Catholic Church; to the north the restored Augustinian Friary buildings.  Three demesne entrances punctuated the street.  Most people lived at the south end where the road forked and the smithy, post office, constabulary barrack, dispensary and shops were located.  It was on the fair green, located where the road divided, that the Earl proposed that a village hall and group of cottages be built.

The Earl, a journalist, sportsman and politician was working tirelessly in the early decades of the twentieth century to circumvent Home Rule and implement constructive unionist policies at both national and local level.  He had been instrumental in setting up the land conference, resulting in the Land Act of 1903, which was proving to be the finally effective spur to land sales.  Elected in 1899 to the newly instituted Limerick County Council, he hoped to make his mark in local government.  His attitude to the selling of property on his estate was to maintain the paternalism of his father and grandfather.  In Adare this resulted in the commission, unusual in Ireland at that time, for a village hall containing a reading room, club room, billiards room and a large hall with a stage (fig. 1).

William Clifford Smith was an English architect from Poole in Dorset who had won a competition to design a similar building (minus the hall) for Shannon Rowing Club in Limerick in 1902 when he was 22.  Clifford Smith may have moved to Limerick (he was lodging in Ardara Terrace on the Ennis Road by 1911) to produce the working drawings, which survive, dated March 1904, and to oversee the construction work.  By 1906 he was designing cottages for the Earl with gables, dormers and rustic posts defining verandas.  Embedded in the 1907 commission for the village hall and further cottages was the Earl’s dual concern with past family traditions and provision for an independent future for his former tenants.  Talented designer that he was, Clifford Smith was able to express this in the buildings he designed.

Adare Village Hall 02 - Sketch 

Figure 2: A preliminary sketch, dated 1907, showing the Club House to the left and the hall, separated by a passage, to the right.  Courtesy of Clifford Smith and Newenham Mulligan & Associates

The survival of an early sketch design dated 1907 reveals that although Clifford Smith was aware of the double demand he did not immediately alight on the full solution (fig. 2).  This design shows two buildings: a single-storey club house next to a two-storey hall.  The club house is designed in the Edwardian Arts and Crafts idiom of the Shannon Rowing Club, with gables, bays, half timbering, a strong horizontal emphasis and prominent chimneys, although, unlike the earlier building, it is symmetrical, and the more dominant roof and heavier stone windows make it more appropriate for its rural location.  The hall displays similar Arts and Crafts features, but two strong vertical projecting piers on either side of the door in a stripped Classical idiom emphasise its larger scale.  A line of cottages was sketched to the south.  The proposed buildings faced the shops and houses of the Rathkeale Road.

The Arts and Crafts style, derived from English traditions, was being applied to Irish public buildings in the early twentieth century, including the simple post offices, Carnegie libraries and banks of small towns and villages.  Nearest in style and confidence to the Adare village hall were the Carnegie libraries of Ballyboden, designed by Thomas Joseph Byrne; and Cabinteely by Rudolph Maximilian Butler, both in Co. Dublin.  In Adare, the style had particular relevance because the village had a range of nineteenth-century vernacular buildings.  These included thatched cottages, possibly designed by James Pain (c.1779-1877), with their references to the English Picturesque of Blaise Hamlets, the single and two-storey slate-roofed houses and cottages with the gables, dormers and details of the Victorian vernacular revival, as well as a row of thatched cottages behind the fair green that owed much to Irish vernacular traditions.

Adare Village Hall 03 - Elevations and Plan 

Figure 3: A drawing of the front and rear elevations and the ground floor plan of the proposed village hall signed by W. Clifford Smith and titled Proposed Hall & Club House, Adare, Co. Limerick. for The Right Hon. The Earl of Dunraven 1909.  In the revised scheme dressing rooms and toilets were put on the first floor.  Courtesy of Clifford Smith and Newenham Mulligan & Associates

In his final design for the village hall Clifford Smith did two significant things (fig. 3).  He let the Arts and Crafts style and domestic scale predominate by placing the hall behind the club house, hiding its bulk and disguising its large size with dormer windows.  However, by leaving a single symmetrical front façade he retained the Classical formality that he had initially felt was appropriate for the building.  The second decision, a natural progression from this, was to orientate the building so that it faced down the length of the main street, becoming its focus in the manner of a Classical building.  Marginally raising the building with a dormered second storey surmounted by one of the hall’s roof vents, and widening it with lateral gables, he gave it greater presence.  The cottages, designed to complement the hall stylistically, were set behind and at right angles to the hall.  With these alterations Clifford Smith produced a design which integrated both of the Earl’s concerns for Adare.  He distilled the vernacular styles that had characterized the paternalistic interventions made by the Earl’s predecessors in Adare.  By placing the new buildings in a formal manner in the heart of the village he enabled this most recent intervention to point confidently to the future; from now on the village would have an identity and life that was independent of the manor and centred upon itself.

Click here to view the record for Adare Village Hall from the NIAH Limerick County Survey

Judith Hill is an architect, architectural historian, and writer and is the author of the NIAH publication An Introduction to the Architectural Heritage of County Limerick

Adare Village Hall 04 - Introduction 

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