This is the tragic scene in Kilkenny this morning as one of our most important historic buildings goes up in flames. The Bridge House, on the east side of John’s Bridge, has been called ‘one of the finest buildings in Kilkenny’ by Lanigan and Tyler and is a protected structure of national importance.
Built in the mid 18th century the Bridge House was a dower house for the widow of the second Duke of Ormonde who rebuilt an old Tudor mansion (much of which still remains) along with her son, the Earl of Arran. It was a centre of social life in the city during the Georgian and Victorian periods when Sir Walter Scott and Maria Edgeworth were guests in the heydays of the Kilkenny Theatre.
It was full of original fixtures and fittings, including fine fireplaces and a stucco ceiling that adorn what were regarded as some of ‘the finest rooms in Kilkenny’. During the Civil War it was attacked and bullet holes can be seen on the outside wall.
In around 1998 the house was sold and planning permission was granted by An Bord Pleanala for the Rivercourt Hotel, on condition that the Bridge House would be conserved and restored. This never happened and the building was let go to rack and ruin for the past 20 years. We don’t know yet what precisely has happened but it is maddening that yet another of our historic buildings has now been lost.