Welcome to Emo Court & Parklands

John Dawson, 1st Earl of Portarlington commissioned the building of Emo Court in 1790 although the house was not finally completed until 1870, eighty years later. Emo Court is one of only a few private country houses designed by the famous English architect James Gandon. In the early 18th century, Ephraim Dawson, a wealthy banker, after whom Dawson Street in Dublin is named, purchased the land of the Emo Estate and other estates in the Queen’s County (Co. Laois). His grandson, John Dawson, was created 1st Earl of Portarlington in 1785. Three years later, he married Lady Caroline Stuart, daughter of the Earl of Bute, who was later Prime Minister of England. John Dawson commissioned Gandon to design Emo Court in 1790.

The gardens and parkland were first laid out in the 18th century and are renowned for their sweeping formal lawns, statuary and fine tress. Woodland walks include 1.5km long Wellingtonia Avenue, flanked by giant sequoias.

Emo court remained the seat of the Earls of Portarlington until 1920, when the house and its vast demesne of over 4500 ha, (11,150 acres), was sold to the Irish Land Commission. After the Phoenix Park in Dublin, Emo Court was the largest enclosed estate in Ireland. The house remained empty until 1930 when 150 ha., including the garden, pleasure grounds, walled garden, woodland and lake were sold to the Society of Jesus for a novitiate. The Jesuits made several structural changes to the building to suit their purposes, including the conversion of the rotunda and library as a chapel. The distinguished Jesuit photographer, Fr Frank Browne lived at Emo Court from 1930-57. A notable novitiate was the Irish author, Benedict Kiely.

The Jesuits remained at Emo until 1969 and the property was eventually sold to Major Cholmeley Dering Cholmeley-Harrison. He embarked upon a long and enlightened restoration, commissioning the London architectural firm of Sir Albert Richardson & Partners to effect the restoration.

In 1994, President Mary Robinson officially received Emo Court & Parklands from Major Cholmeley-Harrison on behalf of the Nation.

What’s On

Check out the full calendar of events here.

10:00 am
BOTANICAL – Watercolour Paintings and Prints by Mary Dillon at the CaToCa Café Gallery, Emo Court. What is it about flowers and plants that stir us, that make us stop in our tracks to take a[...]
Emo Court & Parklands
May 27 @ 10:00 am – Sep 30 @ 5:00 pm
10:00 am
EMO COURT: AN EXHIBITION OF ARCHITECTURAL DRAWINGS This exhibition of original architectural drawings for Emo Court, Co. Laois, by James Gandon and others, curated by architectural historian Dr Judith Hill, marks the 25th anniversary of[...]
Emo Court & Parklands
May 27 @ 10:00 am – Sep 30 @ 5:00 pm
10:00 am
FRANK BROWNE, S.J  – PHOTOGRAPHIC EXHIBITION Frank Browne’s album of photographs from the first stages of the Titanic’s fateful maiden voyage (from Southampton to Cherbourg to Cobh) are world famous. As one of the Jesuits’[...]
Emo Court & Parklands
10:00 am
IN LIVING MEMORY – AN EXHIBITION OF CONTEMPORARY STILL LIFE To celebrate the 25th anniversary of Emo Court being bequeathed to the nation, Oliver Sears Gallery is delighted to present an exhibition of contemporary Still[...]
Emo Court & Parklands
7:30 pm
“GROUND OUT” by IAN WILSON featuring TRÍONA MARSHALL (harp; The Chieftains) & DUŠICA MLADENOVIĆ (violin, from Serbia) – a LAOIS COUNTY COUNCIL COMMISSION “Ground Out” is a new work by Ian Wilson, one of Ireland’s most acclaimed[...]
Emo Court & Parklands
Jul 27 @ 8:00 pm – 10:00 pm
8:00 pm
THE HEART OF SUMMER Enjoy a feast of music and poetry in one of Ireland’s great historic houses, introduced by Olivia O’Leary, acclaimed journalist and presenter of RTÉ Radio 1’s Poetry Programme. Olivia’s guests will include some of[...]
Emo Court & Parklands
Jul 28 @ 7:30 pm – 9:30 pm
7:30 pm
NAVÁ Navá is a group of young musicians exploring the relationship between the ancient musical cultures of Ireland and Persia. It is comprised of folk/bluegrass musicians Paddy Kiernan and Niall Hughes, and Iranian-born brothers Shahab[...]
Emo Court & Parklands
3:00 pm
ROBERT O’BYRNE – ‘LADY CAROLINE DAWSON: AN 18th CENTURY COUNTRY HOUSE GUEST’ In January 1778, Lady Caroline Stuart, a daughter of the third Earl of Bute, married John Dawson, future first Earl of Portarlington, and[...]
Emo Court & Parklands

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