Built in the eighteenth-century for the wealthy Damer family, Damer House was constructed in the courtyard of the thirteenth-century Roscrea Castle. With its strict symmetry, tall narrow windows spread over nine bays, and elegant swan-neck pediment flanked by Corinthian pilasters at the primary entrance, the building is graceful and commanding. The attention to detail and superb craftsmanship are evident in the interior finishes, especially in the hand-carved pine staircase with Corinthian newel posts, slender, fluted balusters, and gooseneck handrail. The building remained the Damer family residence until the last family member to live in the home, Joseph Damer, first Earl of Dorchester, died in 1798.
As with similar upper-class houses in Ireland, the building survived over time due to its use in the 20th century as an army barracks, a school, a tuberculosis sanatorium, and a library. In the 1970s local authorities planned to demolish the building, but vehement community opposition, led by the Irish Georgian Society, ensured the building’s survival. In 1995, the Irish Georgian Society brokered a 99-year lease of the entire complex to the Roscrea Heritage Centre, which then assured much needed attention to developing comprehensive conservation plans and advancement of public enjoyment of the buildings and surrounding grounds. How We HelpedIn the early 1980s, WMF, in collaboration with the Irish Georgian Society, began a project to restore the exquisite pine staircase as a demonstration of the importance of the building and its potential for reuse. The program was successful, and today the house is open to the public.
Why It Matters
The conservation of Damer House and opportunity to create a public venue was catalytic in the formation of the Roscrea Heritage Centre. The entire Damer complex and its restoration grew out of a growing awareness of the importance of presenting history and heritage in a meaningful way to local and international visitors. Roscrea Heritage Centre continues to manage Damer House, the Damer complex, and the surrounding gardens. All are open to the public. Site interpretation, period rooms, educational activities, and exhibition programs allow the public to understand the history of the region and its contributions to the heritage of Ireland.