The History Behind These Walls

- Posted on: 21/08/2019 -


Davis Ducart originally built Vienna Woods to a Regency design in 1765 as Lota Lodge on a large parcel of land surrounding Lota Beg.  Some of the features include its beautifully curved bays that are distinguished by a graceful wrought-iron verandah, which surrounds the ground floor.  An imposing double doorway marks the front entrance with a Greek Key pattern cut into the stone arch over its heavy oak doors.  Inside these doors the second doorway is lighted by an oval glass and leads into a graceful hall with an impressive fireplace and an oak stairway leading to an arched landing.  Throughout the public rooms, the hall and the stairs there is some very attractive, if under-stated, plaster work in designs of scallops, doves and ferns lightly interweaving.

Sharmon Crawford rebuilt the house in 1903 after a fire.  His uncle was William Horatio Crawford, who gave his name to many of the institutions of the city including the Crawford College of Art and the Art gallery formerly incorporated in it.  These were the Crawford of the famous Cork Brewers “Beamish & Crawford” trading in the city since 1792.  William Horatio Crawford was a remarkable gardener, specialising in the nurturing of new, rare and tender shrubs and trees in his house in Blackrock, where he developed what was described as a perfect arboretum.  It was there for example that the Himalayan Magnolia Campbell flowered for the first time in Ireland.  It was from Blackrock also that he bequeathed hybrids of his Brownea species to Kew Gardens and the Botanical Gardens in Glasnevin.

There is a single astonishing room in this house: the dining room is officially called the Oak Room and for an extremely good reason.  Not only is it beautifully paneled, but also it features an elaborate, strutted skylight roof, the light fixture a pride of gryphons (In Greek mythology a fabulous creature with the head and wings of an eagle and the body of a lion).  The fireplace is a dais recessed into the wall and surrounded by heavily carved oak, matching the doors.  In both doors there is a face with open eyes, this reveals the origin of this room as a billiard room.  The courteous practice was never to interrupt the player about to shoot, and the eyeholes allowed one to time one’s entrance.

Lota Lodge was purchased in 1951 by the Brothers of Charity where they then trained Seminarians for the next 13 years.  The Brothers of Charity purchased the House in 1951 (presumably from one of Directors of Beamish & Crawford).  It was purchased with the objective of being a College of Education for boys from the age of 14 – 16. The first boys arrived in February 1952 and the numbers built up until they reached 35/40 towards the end of 1952.

The Grounds were magnificently laid out with beautiful Rose Beds meticulously cut into ornamental patterns in a beautiful Green Lawn on the left side of the drive. Pathways and surrounding driveways and roads gave simple access to the house whether on land or through the woods. There was a Lodge House at the end of the drive on the right and coming up the drive there was a pathway with steps which gave a shortcut on foot to the house. There were additional paths leading off this main path and these gave access to the woods in many directions and connected with other paths and roadway, which led to the Kitchen Garden and Farm.

There was a large lawn laid out where there is now a bungalow built. This is where Tennis and Croquet were played. The lower wood area between the road and the driveway had paths running the full length emerging at opposite ends of the driveway.

The Cellar of the building was used for Multi- Shower Units as well as for Storage.

The Shortcut to the City was achieved by the back road, which connected with the road going to Lota - still under the supervision of the Brothers of Charity for the education and Care of Young People with Learning Difficulties.

As told to us by Dave McGinn who was educated here from February 1952 to December 1954.     

Joan Shubrook saw the potential of such a beautiful regency building, tucked into 22 acres of Glanmire’s leafy backdrop, and was responsible for transforming the old Hunting Lodge into Vienna Woods Hotel in 1964. Having spent a number of years in Austria the new owner remarked on how similar the forests and woodland of the Glanmire Valley are to the famous forests near Vienna and hence her choice of name for the Hotel.

Michael Magner purchased the hotel in 2006 in partnership with The Fitzgerald family, owners of the four-star Fitzgerald’s Woodlands House Hotel & Spa in Adare, Co. Limerick.

Together they have, over the years, completely restored the 18th century property back to its former glory, adding on a luxury ballroom and eight modern self-catering villas, bringing the total bedrooms on site to 77. In 2019, Michael Magner has acquired full ownership of Vienna Woods Hotel, along with his father in law Mr Brian Scully, having bought out the Fitzgerald family. They plan to further invest in the hotel.

Having first opened its doors as a hotel 30 May 1963, Cork dignitaries, local businesses, previous owners and the Glanmire community gathered on the eve of its 50th Anniversary in 2013 to celebrate generations of family memories during an Old Vienna themed soirée. During the 50th anniversary celebrations locals recalled with affection ‘The Dance’ which was held weekly in the hotel ballroom during the 70s and 80s and the annual Hunt Ball which the hotel was famously connected to.


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