Since 2008 Dr Philip Bull, an historian of Irish political history of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, has been organising and cataloguing the extensive archive at Monksgrange, an old landlord house in county Wexford in Ireland. While generally in good physical condition, over the years the documents have become significantly disorganised and dislocated principally because of successive moves around the house. Philip Bull spent a total of six months in 2016, two months in 2017 and two months in 2018 working in Ireland on this project, these being the fourth and fifth major periods of work on it since 2013, which in turn followed three briefer exploratory visits between 2008 and 2012.
Prior to his appointment to La Trobe University in 1975 Philip Bull began his career in the Department of Western Manuscripts at the Bodleian Library in Oxford so, in addition to his knowledge of Irish history, he brings significant archival experience to this task. It is estimated, that the organisation and cataloguing of the collection will be completed by 2019, when a catalogue will be available. Priority has now been turned to the writing of the book for which a manuscript is to be completed by November 2018. A contract for publication of this book is currently being negotiated with Four Courts Press in Dublin. Three sample chapters and a detailed outline for the book have been favourably received by the press.
The Monksgrange Archive Project is a joint venture of its owners the Hill family and of the Centre for the Study of Historic Irish Houses and Estates at Maynooth University, which for three years has provided funding support for Philip Bull, who has also been appointed a Visiting Professor at Maynooth University. The academic outcomes from the project so far are extensive. La Trobe University has been acknowledged in all of them. The culmination of this work will be a book titled ‘Monksgrange: Portrait of an Irish house and family, 1769-1969’ to be published in time for the 250th anniversary celebrations of the house in August 2019.
Monksgrange (up until the 1890s called Grange) in county Wexford was built between 1759 and 1769 on the site of an outpost of a medieval Cistercian monastery. An extensive collection of papers has survived in the house dating back to the middle of the eighteenth century but mostly from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. After the marriage of Adela Richards—heir to the property and herself leaving substantial literary manuscripts—to Goddard Orpen in 1880 the collection was greatly augmented as a result of the latter progressively bringing into the house very large collections of papers from his own family, itself a significant Irish landlord and legal family. In addition, as a result of his work as a distinguished historian of medieval Ireland, there is a very large collection of his research and scholarly papers, many of his notes and drawings of future value to medieval scholars. In the next generation Edward Richards-Orpen and his sister Iris Orpen were involved in the Arts and Crafts movement, to which Monksgrange significantly contributed, and the former became actively involved in social, economic and political issues in the Irish Free State and later the Republic of Ireland, as did his son John Richards-Orpen. The papers of all of these are held in the collection.