Lewis Vulliamy
1791 – 1871

The building of Emo Court was accomplished by three main architects, and Lewis Vulliamy was the second of these, assisted by an obscure firm of Irish architects, A and J Williamson.

Lewis Vulliamy was an English architect of French descent. His family had been Clockmakers to the Crown since the early 18 century, and lived and worked in Pall Mall. His father Benjamin was invited to tender for designing and installing the clock at Big Ben in Westminster in 1846, but he was not successful in this. An earlier commission had been the clock which is now at St Paul’s Church in Portarlington.

Benjamin Vulliamy,Clockmaker to the Crown

Vulliamy spent some years as a pupil in the office of Sir Robert Smirke who had the largest practice in London, and who designed the Wellington Monument in the Phoenix Park in Dublin in 1817. Vulliamy won the Royal Academy Gold Medal in 1813 and in 1818 won a travelling scholarship. He spent four years in Italy, Greece and Asia Minor, differing greatly from his predecessor at Emo Court, James Gandon, who never left the shores of England and Ireland, despite an invitation from Catherine the Great to work in St Petersburg. During Vulliamy’s long life as an architect, it was apparent in many of his designs that he had absorbed the influences of foreign culture.

On his return in 1821, he established a large and lucrative architectural practice in London and became a very fashionable architect. Vulliamy received many commissions to design public buildings such as cathedrals, churches and court houses, and also for private residences.

The 2nd Earl of Portarlington engaged him to complete Emo Court, for building had slowed down considerably after the 1 Earl’s death in 1798 and the 2nd Earl was determined to spend money (more than he actually had) on beautifying the house. It is agreed that Vulliamy completed the dining room with its magnificent ceiling during the 1830s. However, there is a mention in the earl’s diary of finally sitting down to dinner in the “new dining room” in February 1840. (Check this) He also designed the impressive garden front portico with its four giant Ionic columns which was completed 1824 – 36, and the magnificent double height domed rotunda (inspired by the Pantheon in Rome) which was completed by Caldbeck.
Illustration Nat Arch back portico etc here

The 2nd Earl died penniless in 1845, and the house remained unfinished. When Emo Court became the principal residence of the 3rd Earl, he commissioned William Caldbeck, a Dublin architect, to complete the building in the 1860s.

Lewis Vulliamy was involved in a number of important plans for buildings in England, most notably in 1864 at Westonbirt in Gloucestershire, a grand Italian Renaissance style mansion for the millionaire R S Holford, which cost over £125,000.

He had previously designed Dorchester House (on the site now occupied by the Dorchester Hotel) in 1848 as Holford’s London home. It is an interesting connection that the old Dorchester House had been built for the Damer family, the Earls of Dorchester, of Milton Abbey in Dorset, part of whose estates had been sold by the 3rd Earl of Portarlington in order to raise money to purchase back Emo Court in Ireland.