Emo Court House & Gardens, County Laois

Emo Court House & Gardens, County Laois

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Emo Court, located near the village of Emo in County Laois, Ireland, is a large neo-classical mansion, formal and symmetrical in its design and with beautifully proportioned rooms inside. It was designed by the architect James Gandon in 1790 for John Dawson, the first Earl of Portarlington. It is the only house to have been designed by Gandon. Other buildings by him include the Custom House and Kings Inns, both in Dublin. Gandon was so busy with his work in Dublin that he found little time to work on Emo Court. This may be one of the reasons that it took so many years for Emo Court to be made habitable, let alone finished.
 
In 1930 the house was acquired by the Jesuits. One of the first Jesuit priests to live there was Father Browne, best known as a brilliant photographer of Irish people and scenery over the first half of the 20th century. The Jesuits were excellent landlords and turned the grounds into a productive farm and orchard and used part of them for playing fields. Some drastic changes were made in the interior, to provide a chapel and assembly room. The Jesuits wanted functional space and the architecture was not their primary concern. But, without their intervention, it is more than likely that Emo Court would have suffered the fate of many big houses at the time. They were simply abandoned and left to fall into decay. Some stand as picturesque ruins, others have disappeared without a trace.

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