Dromana Gate

The Dromana Gate


Aiden Feerick B.A., M.A.G.I.

Three miles south of Cappoquin in Co Waterford is one of the most unusual gate lodges in Ireland. It is the impressive entrance to the Dromana Demesne, Dromana House and Villierstown beyond. It has been photographed since the earliest days of the camera and has attracted thousands of visitors to Waterford; in addition, it is an outstanding feature of the architectural heritage of the country.

The idea for this gate lodge was dreamt up by the tenants of Villierstown to welcome home the recently married Henry Villiers-Stuart and his Austrian bride, Theresia Pauline Ott in 1826. They may have got the idea from what was happening in Brighton especially from the design of the Royal Pavilion by John Nash. Since the newly-weds spent most of their honeymoon in Brighton, the tenants made a papier-mâché timber structure like what they had seen in Brighton, a daring introduction of fanciful themes from the Orient. The structure that we see today was probably built in about 1849 by Martin Day, the favourite architect of Villiers-Stuart.

The gate lodge has two symmetrical facades; one greets the visitor arriving over the Finisk River and the other saying goodbye to the departing guest. The central carriageway has a pointed arch whose roots lie in medieval Gothic while the copper onion-shaped dome evokes the Orient. The finely carved sandstone walls of the gate lodge change according to the seasons; it glows golden in the late summer sun and has a silver gleam on winter days.

To the great surprise of everyone in Ireland and England, Henry Villiers-Stuart stood as a candidate in the general election of 1826 and supported Catholic Emancipation. In his choice, he was supported by Daniel O’Connell and by the powerful Catholic Association. He opposed the sitting MP for Waterford Lord George Beresford, the youngest son of George de la Poer Beresford, of Curraghmore. The campaign was long and bitter, but Villiers-Stuart was victorious. And it forced a very reluctant Parliament and King to grant Catholic Emancipation in 1829.

Although Henry Villiers-Stuart lost his seat in 1830, his election was a pivotal moment in a time of crisis for most of the people of Ireland.