On Tuesday afternoon, 26th August, as part of the National Heritage Week events, Colm Murray whom is the architectural officer with the Heritage Council gave two very insightful tours to a number of very interested visitors!
Colms tours looked at the early history of the house in its social, political and religious context but focused for a greater part of his tour on the architectural elements of the houses and courtyards; helping the visitors understand what the fabric of the building can teach us about times past and not only the founders of the house, the Rothe family, but subsequent tenants of all social classes whom inhabited the house since.
As a functioning set of buildings it has existed for over 400 years in various guises; from the grandeur of a fine cloth and fabric shop to dark and dire tenements, but, that each one of these layers and what they have added to the history of the houses is important. The conservation of the house has been ongoing for over a hundred years Colm explained when Timothy O’Hanrahan took ownership of the complex in the late 19th century, at a time of Gaelic revival. His alterations to the house, although very much of their time, incorporated some features of the original house, but unfortunately aren’t true to the late Tudor origins of the house. However, these alterations, or modernization’s done with the best of intentions in that particular time made the house habitable and possibly saved it from ruin; thus adding another fascinating element to the old story.
Its worth noting too that the restoration and preservation of Rothe House goes on; and has done since the Kilkenny Archaeological Society took ownership of the buildings in the 1960’s. Even today, with the Renaissance Project, the preservation of the houses and garden is paramount so that such a fine, and unique site can be maintained and enjoyed by all whom visit.