Context 156 - September 2018

34 C O N T E X T 1 5 6 : S E P T E M B E R 2 0 1 8 Saturday 24 June Saturday tours Armagh: transforming space and place Led by Keith Gilmour, Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council The visit to Armagh was informative and stimu- lating – a real treat for those who selected this well-organised study tour. Armagh, the ecclesi- astical capital of Ireland, contains some of the finest Georgian architecture outside of Dublin. The first port of call was Archbishop Richard Robinson’s Library, housed in an elegant Georgian building which dates from 1771. This remarkably complete library, designed by Thomas Cooley and the oldest public library in Ireland, is a wonderful survival from the age of enlightenment. The original decision to shelve books by size rather than subject facilitated a most satisfactory and well-ordered architectural interior, which is reinforced by historic cabinets designed to hold collections. Among the library’s treas- ures is a first edition of Gulliver’s Travels with hand-written corrections by Jonathan Swift.The group was treated to an excellent explanation of the history and significance of the library by the enthusiastic and knowledgeable Carol Conlin. The tour moved on to No 5 Vicar’s Hill, built in 1772 as the Diocesan Registry, where the group was shown around by Stephen Day. The fascinating interior features octagonal-plan rooms designed to hold records for both the cathedral and Armagh diocese. We were led around the imposing St Patrick’s Cathedral by Leigh Vage. The cathedral Delegates visiting Archbishop Richard Robinson’s Library and, below, a detail of the bookcases, with books shelved by size rather than subject (Photos: Roy Lewis)

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