Village hall and clubhouse, Adare, Co. Limerick

Published in 20th-century / Contemporary History, Features, Issue 4 (July/August 2011), Volume 19

Village hall and clubhouse, Adare, Co. Limerick 1Early twentieth-century Adare, a village in the possession of the earl of Dunraven, was strung out along a road that formed the western boundary of the Adare Manor demesne. It had two prominent churches, neither of which was situated at the nucleus of the village, where the road forked. A fair green stood at that point. It was here that in 1907 the 4th earl commissioned William Clifford Smith to design a village hall and a group of cottages.
The 4th 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. His most significant achievement was his role in setting up the land conference, which had resulted in the Land Act of 1903. There was a blend of traditional paternalism and forward-thinking pragmatism in his political activity, which was also evident in the commission for the village hall in Adare.
He no doubt approached the young English architect William Clifford Smith because he had designed a similar building (minus the hall) for the Shannon Rowing Club in Limerick, winning a competition in 1902. The survival of an early sketch design for Adare, dated 1907, reveals that, although Clifford Smith was sensitive to both the nostalgic and future-shaping elements of the commission, he did not immediately hit on the full solution. It shows a single-storey clubhouse containing a reading room, clubroom and billiards room, next to a two-storey hall. The clubhouse 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, though, 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 English-derived Arts and Crafts style was being applied in early twentieth-century Ireland to some of the post offices, Carnegie libraries and banks of small towns and villages. It had particular relevance for Adare because of its nineteenth-century vernacular buildings that ranged from picturesque thatched cottages to the slate-roofed cottages of the Victorian vernacular revival. Clifford Smith’s proposal for the Adare hall displays similar Arts and Crafts features to the clubhouse, 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 shown to the south. The proposed buildings faced Rathkeale Road.
In his final design Clifford Smith did two significant things. He let the Arts and Crafts style and domestic scale predominate by placing the hall behind the clubhouse, hiding its bulk and disguising its large size with dormer windows, but by leaving the single symmetrical front façade of the clubhouse he retained the classical formality. Secondly, he orientated the building so that it faced down the main street, becoming its focus in the manner of a classical building. The cottages were set behind at right angles. With these alterations Clifford Smith produced a building which integrated both of the 4th earl’s concerns for Adare—distilling the vernacular styles of his predecessors, and presenting it in a formal manner so that it pointed confidently to a future in which the village would have an identity that was independent of the manor and centred upon itself.  HI

Judith Hill is an architectural historian and writer of the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage’s book on County Limerick, to be published in autumn 2011. Series based on the NIAH’s ‘building of the month’, www.buildingsofireland.com.

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