1870 – Humewood, Kiltegan, Co. Wicklow

Architect: William White



Humewood Castle was built between 1867 and 1870 to the design of an extraordinary architect, William White. The original concept was for “an occasional resort in the summer or the shooting season”. However the project grew and developed until White had over-run his budget by more than one million Euro in today’s currency. His refusal to pay the builder, Albert Kimberley, led to one of the most celebrated law cases in architectural history: Kimberley v White & Dick. The case, won by the builder, became a landmark in architectural case law. White’s career suffered, and he never received another important commission. But, as historian Mark Girouard, author of The Victorian Country House, observes, the loss was really architecture’s, “for this odd, original, gifted, cranky, over-sanguine and unconventional architect had designed one of the most remarkable of Victorian country houses.”

“Mr. White’s name has hitherto been mentioned only in connection with church architecture, and it is with this department of design that it has become most generally associated. But he has also been engaged in the design and erection of many Gothic buildings of a domestic character, among which that of ‘Humewood’ in Ireland is one of the most notable. It was begun in 1867 for Mr. W. Fitzwilliam Dick, M.P. for Wicklow, and represents for special reasons a combination of Scotch and Irish characteristics in its design. It is built of granite, a material obviously involving a plain massive treatment, in which the lintel must supersede the arch, and delicate mouldings become impossible. To compensate for this deficiency in refinement of detail, the mansion has been most picturesquely grouped with projecting bays, angle turrets, stepped gables, and high pitched roofs, rising above which a square tower, surmounted by a battlemented parapet, gives great dignity to the composition. Though much given to antiquarian re- search, and especially orthodox in the internal arrangement of his churches, Mr. White has not allowed his acquaintance with Mediaeval architecture to affect the character of his plan, which is studied with great attention to modern convenience and requirements, nor has less care been bestowed on the details and fittings whether of a constructional or ornamental character. They exhibit, in many features of the house, evidence of that artistic design by which alone we can hope to revive in these degenerate days thr true spirit if ancient handiwork.” A History of the Gothic Revival by Charles Eastlake, 1872.

“Illustrations are given in our present number of a mansion in the course of erection at Humewood, Ireland, for Mr. W. W. Fitzwilliam Dick, M.P. for the county of Wicklow. It stands in a commanding position, well surrounded with rich woods and mountain scenery.

The walls are entirely of granite, and the roofs are covered with tiles. The kitchen oflloes are in the basement, a few feet below the ground level, giving considerable elevation to the ground floor, which is approached by a stone staircase from a vaulted hall about 40 ft. in height. This hall forms the base of the tower.

The fittings of the interior aro being constructed of various coloured woods, the staircase being iu oak. Provision is made in various ways for defensive purposes, if necessary. The house being intended chiefly for a short summer residence, provision has been made for a system of warming and ventilation throughont during the time that it will be unoccupied. The whole of the basement is vaulted in brick. The ceilings and floors over the dining-room, drawingroom, &c., are supported by massive oak beams, and finished with cornices of wood. The kitchen is open to the I’oof, and well separated from the habitable part of the house. There is a lift for coals and luggage from the bottom to the top of the house, aud dinner is to be served by a traversing wagon, passing up the stairs to the serving-room. The windows of the hall and staircase and the upper portions of those of the living-rooms will be filled with stained glass, containing the armorial bearings, &c., of the family, Mr. Dick having a fine folio illustrating the heraldic history of the family from the earliest times.

The contract is being carried out by Mr. Kimberley, of Banbury, from designs by Mr. William White, F.S.A” The Builder, August 8 1868