Waterford City boasts the finest collection of Georgian architecture in Ireland, outside Dublin.
The 1743 Bishop’s Palace was the residence of Church of Ireland bishops until the early 20th Century. Since this time it has been a boys’ school and council offices.
In 2010 the City Council began a major restoration project, converting the Bishop’s Palace into a museum for Waterford’s treasures from the 18th Century to the present day. Waterford’s great legacies from the period include elegant silverware and fine glassmaking. Visitors to the museum can see the oldest piece of Waterford Crystal in the world, a decanter from the 1780s.
The €2 million restoration programme was shortlisted for the Irish Georgian Society’s Conservation Award 2012. It is part of a trio of buildings known collectively as the Waterford Museum of Treasures.
Museum Director Eamonn McEneaney said: “The brief requested the restoration and re-presentation of the building as the Bishop’s Palace once again, while combining the modern requirements of a museum to display the important treasures of Waterford from the 18th Century to the present day.”
Principal Architect John J. O’Connell stated: “The design paid particular attention to reinstating the original layout of the Bishop’s Palace, and ensuring all the modern services are harmonious and carefully integrated into the historic building. However, before the building could act as a museum, extensive restoration was required.”
In the past, the building’s exterior had been coated with cementitious render and the inside of external walls had been covered in cementitious plaster. This led to significant issues with damp over the years. The restoration included removing all cementitious render and plaster and replacing it with breathable lime harling externally and lime plaster finished with Earthborn Claypaints internally.
Project architect Audrey Farrell, of John O’Connell Architects Ltd, explained: “It is important for walls to be able to breathe. If water gets trapped inside by impervious materials or finishes, it can cause issues within the wall and lead to plaster failure and/or paint to peel off.
“Historic buildings, due to their age, often have damp problems caused by various issues such as a leaking gutter or a crack in an unsuitable cementious wall render, which allows rain in but prevents moisture working its way back out again. This moisture can build up over a number of years. Therefore, even when the original breathability of the structure is reinstated, it can take a year for the moisture to slowly work its way out of thick stone walls. For this reason, breathable Claypaint on lime plaster is ideal. It facilitates the evaporation of moisture from within the walls, while remaining stable so that it does not flake or discolour.”
Claypaint’s breathability is achieved by combining natural ingredients with advanced technology to maximise performance. It is also very environmentally friendly, being free from all harmful emissions and VOCs. Its eco credentials include compliance with the stringent standards of the EU Ecolabel.
Earthborn Claypaint was specified for all internal paintwork: joinery as well as walls, ceilings and cornices. The colour selection comprised Arbouet, Birdwatchers Green, Café au Lait, Cordoba Blue, Lemony, Mushroom or Vietelton Sienna for the walls. Mont Blanc was applied to ceilings, cornice and frieze throughout, while internal woodwork featured Achat, Arbouet, Blau or Scholobraun.
Eamonn McEneaney added: “Claypaint’s natural pigment colours are ideal, providing a welcoming, authentic appearance that is appropriate for the building and sets off the rooms and treasures beautifully.”
The restoration was undertaken by BAM Contractors Ltd and the paint was supplied by Earthborn’s national distributor for Ireland, Stoneware Studios.
Now open to the public, visitors to the Bishop’s Palace can take a guided tour of the principal reception rooms on the first floor, which are presented in 18th and 19th century style. The second floor houses the 20th Century exhibition galleries, while there’s a reception and café on the ground floor.