Room to Improve?

TCD MS 11183-V-119ab_58v Courtown

If you were to conjure an image of a drawing room in a great Irish house circa 1822, what would spring to mind? Book shelves stacked with very fine bindings, perhaps? An orderly arrangement of expensive furniture and ornaments, maybe? An elegant chaise longue, a clutter free writing desk and neatly arranged cupboards? Not quite the case at the residence of the Earls of Courtown, County Wexford.  A tongue-in-cheek letter, with an accompanying numbered room plan sketched by Lady Charlotte Stopford, describes something a little different. Among other descriptions of junk and clutter she writes‘…Bookcase the height of Door, only two shelves kept with books, the rest filled with James’s rubbish…; …Green chairs with the backs knocked off, & thus gives a careless effect to the whole…; …A long couch, no particular shape, or character except that of being very ugly… ‘My writing table, usually chaos; …A most blackguard table with painted legs, & pepper & salt jacket, devoted to rubbish; …A huge ugly cupboard, painted a sickly yellow…’ Bizarrely, she also records ‘2 wooden sculls (sic), one under jaw of a real man with a real tooth in it and a buzzard’s foot…’ resting atop ‘a very handsome Glass over the Chimney.’ (TCD MS 11183/V/119a-b/58). The original letters can be consulted in the Manuscripts & Archives Research Library, and the full transcription of TCD MS 11183/V/119a-b can be consulted on our online catalogue at

Aisling Lockhart