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Carlow County - Ireland Genealogical Projects (IGP TM)

Braganza Villa

Braganza, Bishops Palace, c.1923
Map of Braganza House, Carlow
Braganza, Bishops Palace, Carlow

How Cobden's palace became a ruin...

Hidden at the rear of a housing estate is one of Carlow's oldest and most important buildings — Braganza. Once the seat of the bishops of Kildare and Leighlin, the beautifully designed mansion has, with the passing of time, been reduced to a ruin.
Designed by Thomas Cobden, the English architect who was also responsible for the construction of the Cathedral of the Assumption, Braganza Villa, according to Fr. P. J. Brophy in the 1949 issue of Carloviana was built for Sir Dudley St. Leger Hill in 1819.
In fact, to be precise, work on the house, said to have been modelled on Portuguese architecture, began on Monday, August 26, 1819.

Elegant breakfast

According to the local newspaper of the time, The Carlow Post, "the first stone was laid by Mrs. Hill, mother of Sir Dudley. About 9 am Mr. and Mrs. Hill, with a large party of friends to the number of forty, sat down to an elegant breakfast prepared for the occasion."

Mother laid first stone

"Mrs. Hill proceeded with a silver trowel and an appropriate apron to lay the first stone, which having done. Mr. Cobden, the architect, made a few suitable remarks and concluded the ceremony by giving the signal for three cheers."

But progress on the building was slow and, three years later, it still was not completed. Sir Dudley, who had distinguished himself in battle in both the South American War and later with Wellington at Corunna and Talavera, was obviously growing weary of the country squire life and opted to re-join the British Army, being appointed Major in the 95th Derbyshire Foot in December, 1823.

At that time, he also offered for sale the now completed and fully-furnished Braganza Villa on six acres of lands. Anxious to show their appreciation for the work their bishop Dr. James Doyle (JKL) had done for the diocese, the clergy met and passed a resolution "That anxious to signify to our Revered Prelate the sincerity of our attachment and gratitude, we do forthwith institute a subscription in order to procure for him such a residence as will fix the attention of posterity on the period and on the prelate."

The committee decided to purchase Braganza for the sum of 2,500 and in 1826.  Dr. Doyle left his residence at Old Derrig and came to live in Carlow.
From then, until the death of Dr. Thomas Kehoe in 1969, Braganza was the residence of the bishops of Kildare and Leighlin, and was referred to as the bishop's palace. However, on his elevation to Bishop, the late Dr. Patrick Lennon opted to break with tradition and bought a house on Station Road. His official residence was later built on the grounds of the presbytery at Dublin Road. On July 12, 1972, Braganza Villa, standing on approx. seven acres of land, was sold by public auction.
A local construction company erected 25 private houses on the site and Braganza was walled off, leaving only one entrance at the rear.
As a listed building, under the Town Development Plan, a developer is required to get the consent of the local Urban District Council before carrying out any alterations or before demolishing the building.
In 1978 An Bord Pleanala granted planning permission to a developer to convert the building to three apartments but this was never done.
An application is currently before the UDC for the conversion of the building to six apartments. As yet, no planning permission has been granted.

Source: The Nationalist February 16th 1990

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