Dresden, the Rectory and the  Demesne


Image courtesy Trinity College, Dublin

For the house of the planter is known by the trees

These lines by Austin Clarke from his poem The Planter’s Daughter could refer to Dresden built  by Daniel Mc Laughlin (Domhnall Gorm), Rector of St Columba’s Straid from 1672-1711. Accessed via the gate at the end of the Green Lane at the side of the Church, the Dresden demesne, part of Church Land, was quite extensive  and included the present Glen House. Around  Dresden  (and the Old Church) were planted chestnut, oak, elm, and beech trees but sadly  these venerable old trees are gone or decayed and only the footprint of the original building can be made out in aerial photographs.   Sir William Smith’s 1807 sketch of Dresden, the Minister’s House with the mountains in the background is the only surviving evidence of the scale of the dwelling.

The influence of Dutch and other European architecture in Ireland after the Battle of the Boyne is only recently being rediscovered. The design of curved Dutch gable fronted buildings, a feature of Dresden as you can see from the sketch, became the fashion after William’s victory at the battle of the Boyne.  The construction of buildings with ornate gable fronts was a statement of taste and the reassertion of political stability for the Protestant Ascendancy for several decades after 1690.  There is evidence of similar buildings in the cities – Dublin, Limerick Waterford  and further north  gabled fronted buildings survive at Springhill House, Moneymore, Co. Derry.  

After Domhnall Gorm the Dresden demesne was owned by a Henry Clarke from Co. Armagh who built the Corn mill at Keelogs on the Binnion Road. The next occupant of Dresden was Rev. William  Chichester, rector of Clonmany and relative of the Marquis of Donegal who often spent the summer at Dresden.   After Dr Chichseter’s death in 1815 Captain Metcalfe who had a distinguished military career abroad bought Dresden and resided there from 1816 till 1841. He was the last occupant of that house which fell into ruins. Captain Metcalfe went to live with his daughter in Carndonagh where he died in 1858 and is buried there in the Catholic graveyard.   The Dohertys, the  Glen House landlords  then bought the farm  and after their day the Land Commission  divided it up among local tenant farmers.