Posted by: marthabernie | September 4, 2015

FRASCATI HOUSE – Blackrock, County Dublin, Ireland – About 1900

005aAlthough this image is labeled “Frascati House, Blackrock,” the house was originally known as Frescati House.  It was built in 1739 for the family of John Hely Hutchinson, the Provost of Trinity College.  The gentry had houses in Dublin but went south along the coast to embrace the sea air.  In the 1750’s, the Hely-Hutchinson family sold the house to the FitzGeralds (The Duke of Leinster), Ireland’s largest landowners.  Their main home was Leinster House in Dublin, which now houses the Parliament of the Irish Free State (since 1922).  The FitzGeralds spent their summers at Frescati House and expanded the house three fold, adding flanking wings and bay windows to take advantage of the sea views.  It was at that time that the FitzGeralds gave the house its name, Frescati, a deliberate corruption of the Italian resort of Frascati.  The entrance was located where the Blackrock Shopping Centre stands today.  Thomas Paine is said to have visited in the 1790’s and one of the FitzGerald sons, Edward,  was a prominent commander of the United Irishmen.  He eventually had a reward put on his head for his capture and died in Newgate Prison in 1798 of a gunshot wound received when trying to escape his captors.

During the Victorian era, the house was owned briefly by Sir Henry Cavendish, and it also housed Reverand Craig’s boys school from 1804.  The Craig family sold the house in the 1850’s.  Nothing much happened then until residential buildings were built on the estate, such as Frescati Park.  By the late 1960’s, the grounds remained substantial and were sold for commercial development and also to make way for the dual carriageway that runs through Blackrock.  What ensued were several years of controversy during which the conservationists wanted to save the house and the developers wanted to put up department stores, hotels and office buildings.  The dispute continued for years and the house continued to deteriorate.  The house was vandalized and many of the fittings were stolen, which made the house more and more difficult to restore.

In the early 1980’s, permission was finally granted for the wings of the house to be demolished (70% of the house).  The department store was finally built and the main part of the house continued to deteriorate.  The Corporation of Dun Laoghaire was criticized for not protecting the condition of the house since it was now not feasible to restore the house.  The house was razed to the ground on 4 November, 1982 after a battle of 13 years.

The Roches Stores, who built the department store, are now out of business.  The building is now known as the Frascati ShoppingCentre and houses a Marks & Spencer and a Debenham’s Department Store.  By the time I first visited Ireland in 1990, all the controversy was history and I happily shopped there, not knowing the history until a few months ago when I obtained this image of Frascati House and did a little research.  There is a plaque to Lord Edward FitzGerald by the entrance of the store than I have never seen, probably because a hedge has been planted in front of it.  There are also blocks of granite scattered around the car park which I will have to have a look at next time I am there.

It’s sad that the conservationists were so rabid in their desire to save the entire house as had they compromised in 1971, at least some of the original house might have been preserved.  But as it was, it all was destroyed.  The one good thing to come out of all this is that hundreds of houses and buildings in the area were listed for preservation immediately after Frescati was demolished.  And since the developers intentionally neglected Frescati in the hopes it would fall down, legislation was introduced in which owners of historic buildings can go to prison or be fined up to one million euro for negligence.

The photo above shows only the very center part of the house, which was much, much larger.


  1. Poor Frescati. The shell’s interior was complete if extensively damaged, right until the final demolition.
    Roches Stores sold the land in 1995 and later bought it back in 2005 at a much higher price shortly before the property bubble burst in 2008. There’s retribution there…


    • Yes, very sad that it could not be saved, but after Roches bought it, there wasn’t much left to the interior when they sold it in 1995.


  2. Sadly a major loss to our architectural heritage. There are still too many buildings in similar vulnerable state in Ireland – Vernon Mount in Cork being one. We have learned very little from our poor history of conservation.


    • I belong to a facebook site that focuses on Dun Laoghaire, and every time a new building goes up in the town in the name of progress, something old is demolished forever. In some cases, it’s probably no great loss, but every old building tells a story…


  3. I am descended from a David Kelly esq whose family gave their address , in the 1830s as frescati house black rock dublin. He had 10 children 9 girls and a boy. so i was wondering if he could have been the owner at that time. ? or perhaps a tenant ? If anyone knows perhaps you could email me – andrew


    • I don’t have any further information, but if someone posts something, I will let you know.


  4. Fitzwilliam Lodge was one of the buildings located on the Frescati estate. Does anyone have any information on this? Thanks!


  5. Hi my name is Monica Connolly mulligan my auntie Eileen and her husband leslie hanna lived in a n apartment in the house back in the 60’s I can remember visiting her every sunday for tea and racing up and down the wonderful staircase there was also horses kept there too and she lived in a wonderful round room it looked very modern inside everything was white but beautiful ceiling cornice and windows


  6. I am descended from the Kellys (David Kelly) who owned Frescati in the 1820s and 30s. Several of their children came to Australia. I was wondering if Lord Edward Fitzgerald was in residence in the 1790s when he was shot and arrested ?


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