Ulster rugby star Ian Madigan and his bride Anna Kirwan pictured outside Gloster House, near Birr, following their wedding in July. Photo: Ian Madigan Instagram.

Exclusive Offaly wedding venue set to expand

Gloster House, an exclusive wedding venue, near Birr, which played host to the nuptials of Ulster rugby star Ian Madigan and Anna Kirwan during the summer, looks set to add to its current offering.

Tom and Mary Alexander, who bought the historic building in 2001, have got the green light to reconstruct a previously demolished two-storey pitched roofed wing with entrance arch and a two-storey extension to the rear of the main building. This wing and the extension will provide five bedrooms with associated living spaces.

A protected structure, Gloster House dates back to 17th century from a design attributed to Edward Lovett Pearce. Home to the Lloyd family for over 200 years, Gloster House is described in the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage (NIAH) as an “exceptional country house” displaying a “high degree of architectural detailing and embellishment”. The present appearance of the house dates to major remodelling of the earlier house by Trevor Lloyd circa 1730.

Unlike many country houses from this era which can appear imposing and austere, the NIAH listing dubs Gloster House as “overwhelmingly playful and almost frivolous” in “exterior appearance and an interior that will astonish” with a double height entrance hall richly decorated with flamboyant plasterwork.

The Lloyd family lived in the home until 1958, when it was sold to the Salesian Order of Nuns, who operated a boarding school on the site for many years before it closed. It changed hands several times afterwards, having been an educational site for Macra na Feirme at one time, it was later owned by industrialist Edward Haughey before falling into decline in the 1990s.

According to a Built Heritage Impact Assessment, lodged in support of the planning application, the current owners acquired the building in 2001 which was “in poor condition” and the character of the structure was “under threat” from neglect. They set about the careful and success conservation of the structure, it explains, adding that the main building was primarily used as a residence until recently when Gloster House opened as a spectacular wedding venue.

A view of Gloster House.

While the main house is still used a residence, the report says when a wedding is taking place the house is used for accommodation and drinks receptions, the family vacate their home. The residential element of the planning application will allow the family to live close to the main building when weddings are taking place.

Gloster House, located along the N62 between Birr and Roscrea, is a building of “national architectural significance”, according to The Built Heritage Impact Assessment which argues that the reinstatement of the demolished element of the northwest wing will have a “positive impact” on the special character of Gloster House.

A popular wedding venue in recent years, Gloster House, which sits on 140 acres also boasts beautiful gardens with terraces, lakes, ponds etc, is also marketed as an exclusive event venue and country house rental and has featured in Harpers Bazaar, Martha Stewart Weddings, Image and Period Living among others.

Offaly County Council approved the planning application subject to compliance with eight planning conditions.

Ian Madigan's spectacular wedding party at Gloster House, near Birr.