There were three gate lodges serving Duckett’s Grove mansion which is considered to be one of the finest Gothic mansions in Europe at that time. The three gate lodges are known locally as The Towers, Chain Lodge and The Iron House.
The main gate lodge of Duckett’s Grove was designed by Sligo born Architect, John MacDuff Derick (1810-1859). It was built circa 1845 and is one of the most elaborate castellated gate lodges in Ireland of considerable architectural importance. It comprises of two centre towers with crenellations, lancet and mullioned windows, and has two impressive and empowering archways with two distinct avenues. The centre archway featured a portcullis over which is found a large coat of arms with a Latin inscription “Spectemur Agendo” meaning “Let us be judged by our Acts”. This centre archway was used as the entrance for the Ducketts, their Royal and Gentry visitors while the archway to the left was used as the workers and deliveries entrance. To the left of the workers and deliveries entrance, a small arched gateway contains a small crest with a French inscription, “Je Veux Le Droit”, meaning “I want the right”, which refers to “the right” with regards to justice and the law.
Following the sale and division of the estate in the 1920s, The Towers Gate Lodge was extended at the rear and converted to a private residence and public house/lounge bar which remained open until the mid 1990s. During that time many Irish showbands and singers including “The Indians” and the late Joe Dolan entertained many people from near and far. Following the sale of The Towers as a public house in the 1990s, the lounge bar extension, the front steps and doorway was removed. The Towers Gate Lodge remains in private ownership and is a protected structure located at Russellstown Cross, Palatine, Co. Carlow on the L1009.
Chain Lodge is the second largest of the gate lodges of Duckett’s Grove and serves as the Northern entrance to Duckett’s Grove. Chain Lodge has been extended in recent years with two small porches added, one to the North and one to the East. Chain Lodge is currently in private ownership and located on the R418 close to the Carlow/Kildare border.
The Iron House
The Iron House was the smallest of the three gate lodges and served the eastern entrance to Duckett’s Grove. This gate lodge, made of galvanised corrugated metal, was ornate in character and of gothic design with decorative entrance railings and gates. The Iron House was in private ownership before it was demolished in the 1980’s. It’s last resident was John Byrne, cousin of John Sweeney of Kneestown, Duckett’s Grove. The Iron House was located on the L1009 close to Friarstown Cross.
The History of Gate Lodges & The Gatekeeper:
Gates to castles, monasteries and cities had existed for centuries, but the small lodge at the entrance to the country mansion was a trend in the 18th and 19th century. The gates with their lodges were initially built to retain animals and at the same time to prevent unwanted guests or intruders. Within the following 150 years gate lodges changed from their initial function to a status statement of grandeur and wealth. Landowners and gentry expressed their wealth, power and authority by having a strong visual statement at the main entrance leading to the ‘big house’. This expression was carried through by exceptional workmanship used on main entrances to these estates, with the intent of creating a statement and good impression to the visitor before arriving at the ‘big house’.
The style of the gate lodges changed over the years from a classical style in the 18th century to more decorative structures in the 19th century. This inspiration and change was due to the romantic movement. Gate lodges were built in a vast range of different architectural styles ranging from simplistic styles such as ‘The Iron House’ gate lodge of Duckett’s Grove to the gothic “Towers’ gate lodge which still exists today. This was the beginning of a new style of gate lodge and a new career in the gatekeeper or porter.
Traditionally castles and gentry estates required someone to guard their entrance gates from uninvited guests or intruders and so a shelter was required for the gate keepers.
As the manor houses in the 16th century developed, they were surrounded by a wall for protection, therefore, they also required a gate lodge. They started as simple wooden buildings but over time they became more decorative and aesthetically pleasing to impress visitors and to gain respect. The gate lodge was a large structure usually with the family coat of arms and other sculptures used as decoration. This can still be seen on the front façade of ‘The Towers’ gate lodge today which bears the Duckett Coat of Arms over the central main entrance which was used as the residential and visitor entrance.
During the Georgian period (1714 – 1830), it became fashionable to have a landscaped park in the estate grounds. At the main entrance to the walled park, a gate lodge was usually built or a matching pair for symmetry, a common requirement during the Georgian period. A large demesne usually had more than one entrance which provided opportunities for architectural variations in gateways and lodges. Duckett’s Grove estate consisted of three gate lodges detailed below.
Throughout the Georgian period, appearances were very important, therefore, the entrance and avenue played a significant role as an introduction to the main event, which was the ‘big house’. Duckett’s Grove was no different, with native woodlands and statues lining the avenue from ‘The Towers’ gate lodge to the ‘big house’. Aimed at visitors, the gate lodge was often an indication of the style of the big house, or sometimes it was a complete contrast. Occasionally a lodge was built across the road from the entrance into the estate to advocate that the proprietor owned land on both sides of the road. Again, ‘The Towers’ gate lodge is a fine example of this with the central entrance used for residents and visitors, and the entrance to the left used for goods, deliveries and workers. Visitors were often made aware of the ‘big house’, even before reaching the gates, due to trees planted behind the stone walls of the estate which created a change in the landscape.
A gate lodge was deliberately designed as an architectural introduction of what was to follow. The vision of the lodge and avenue leading to the main house included the full pictorial experience. The Rural Residences (1818) highlights that ‘the park gate was built to catch the attention of the traveller, for the entrance of a property effecting the earliest impression on the mind of a visitor, it is of some importance that it should be of the favourable kind’. This provided great opportunities for architectural experimentations. Gate lodges were built in a vast range of different styles including Classical and Gothic. Most of these lodges mirrored the architecture of the main residence until the nineteenth century when it became more fashionable for owners to use adventurous designs and styles.
The interior of the gate lodge was generally very small with only one or two rooms to accommodate the gatekeeper. It was very important that the position of gate keeper was assigned to dependable person, for example a faithful attendant such as a retired butler. And there is evidence that the position was sometimes passed on from one generation to the next. It was essential that they were vigilant; in permanent attendance; experienced enough to monitor visitors and recognise who they should allow through the gates of the estate. The position suited usually suited a retired servant. The estate always had the worry that the gate keeper might become too complacent, so they were encouraged to keep garden in the immediate vicinity of the gate lodge clean and tidy.
The State saw a dramatic social reformation, to the detriment of domestic buildings and the ‘big house’. The tradition of gate lodge buildings mainly continued as a program of hospital-building in the country.
Today, the gate lodge is considered by many as an important part of Irish heritage. They provide historical evidence of the past and in particularly the architectural designs, how and why the lodges were built and the social structure of society during the 18th and 19th centuries. Unfortunately most of the gate lodges were left abandoned as they were no longer required in the 20th century. Thankfully, some gate lodges such as Russellstown Park gate lodge and Duckett’s Grove northern gate lodge have been preserved and are still lived in today. It is with great hope that more gate lodges across the country will be restored, preserved and lived in to bring life back to these beautiful structures and to the communities in which they are nestled and as a reminder and a symbol of our invaluable heritage.
‘The History of Gate Lodges & The Gatekeeper’:- Source of reference for some text courtesy of Oifig na nOibreacha Poiblí (Office of Public Works).
Article by J. Doyle – Founder, Owner and Administrator of DuckettsGrove.ie