“Houses of the Nobility and Gentry”: Big Houses of County Galway
Heritage Week Photographic Exhibition
In 2016 Skehana Heritage Group first began displaying images of some of Galway’s “Big Houses”, the buildings from which landed estates large and small were managed for over 200 years. They were the multi-nationals of their day in providing employment. Sadly, however, their legacy was frequently one of control and which perpetuated an increasingly unsustainable economic model. The estates’ demise principally came about in the first decades of the twentieth century when the government-sponsored Land Acts advanced the money to tenant farmers to purchase their holdings and become owner-occupiers.
It has been estimated that east Galway, in particular, had a larger proportion of such houses, large and small, than any other county in Ireland. The Skehana initiative complements the research conducted at NUI Galway’s Moore Institute in the Irish Landed Estates project which has been in existence since 2007. For more information on the Irish Landed Estates project see http://www.landedestates.ie/.
The Heritage Week event will see over 400 photographic images of these houses - some intact, some ruined, some whose memory only exists on the landscape in the form of a map or drawing from the nineteenth century – on display in banner format in the O’Donoghue Building foyer, from 19 to 24 August. An added attraction will be facsimile copies of leases, maps, memoirs and marriage settlements from the over 20 landed estate archival collections housed in the James Hardiman Library’s Archives and Special Collections.
NUI Galway will also host a half day seminar, Galway Estates from the Archives, on Saturday, 24 August from 9.30am to 1.30pm. The seminar will explore how historians and other researchers employ these documents to tell the stories of their families, local areas, landscapes and communities.
Marie Boran, NUI Galway Special Collections Librarian and Landed Estates researcher, said: “This is the first time the Galway Big Houses banners will be on display in Galway City, though they have been exhibited in various parts of the county. It will be a wonderful opportunity for Galway people and visitors alike to learn more about these buildings which are so central to our past.”
Attendance at the event is free. Details of booking and information are available at: https://www.heritageweek.ie/whats-on/event/galway-estates-from-the-archives
You are most welcome, if you get an opportunity to drop in next week to the display and we hope you will have an enjoyable and informative experience.