In the early 1770s Thomas Taylor, the first Earl of Headfort, commissioned Irish architect George Semple to build Headfort House. It was designed in a severe unadorned neoclassical style with an impressive scale and position. The interior contains a magnificent suite of six state rooms designed by the renowned Scottish architect Robert Adam. Adam’s influence on domestic architecture in the UK and Ireland during the 18th century cannot be overestimated and history has given his name to the distinctive design style he created.
These Adam rooms are the only major commission of his to survive in Ireland and the interiors hold a unique place in Ireland’s architectural history. Headfort is important also in that a valuable archive of drawings, correspondence and photographs survive. A set of the Adam drawings is housed in the Mellon collection in the US and other drawings are with the Sir John Soane museum in London. The remarkable archive is of great importance to architectural historians and being twinned with existing historic fabric is even more unique.
Headfort remained the private residence of the Taylor family until 1949, when the family removed to one wing and the central pavilion was leased to the newly formed Headfort School. In 1996 ownership of the buildings was transferred to a building preservation trust, The Headfort Trust, and the buildings are currently leased back to Headfort School. This relationship has saved the interiors from the fate of many similar sized properties which have suffered from alteration and over-repair.
She is grey and somewhat austere nowadays, as befits a lady of her years, and she exudes an aura of permanence and mystery.
M. D. C. Bolton