Saturday, July 9, 2011

The Casino in Marino

My post on Wednesday about the OPW doing a free day every month reminded me of the existence of  the Casino in Marino.  Shamefully, I had never been there so I set about rectifying that today.  For a mere €3, we got a tour of the house with a very knowledgeable guide. 

Here's the history.  The Casino was designed by Sir William Chambers for the first Earl of Charlemont.  It was built at the height of the 18th century's love affair with ancient Greece & Rome, which spawned the neo-classical style of architecture.  Lord Charlemont had spent 9 years on the mother of all Grand Tours, describing Italy as his mistress, but eventually coming home to Ireland, his wife.  The Casino was based on Palladio's masterpiece, Villa Rotunda, which Charlemont had seen on his tour.  Chambers was an in-demand architect, who worked on what would later become Buckingham Palace, amongst many other fine buildings in the UK and he never actually came to see his buildings in Ireland, which also included Charlemont House on Parnell Square.  It might interest you to know that Marino (as in "beside the sea" in Italian) was developed by Charlemont because it reminded him of Italy.  Casino means little house, and you can see the Wicklow mountains from it.  Of course the bay is built up now, but when it was originally built in the 1750s, the house would have afforded a spectacular view of Dublin Bay.  Sadly, the main line of the Charlemonts had died out within 2 generations and over time the building became delapidated, with most of the original furniture sold off.  The State took it over in the 1930s and a 10 year restoration took place from 1974 - 1984, after which it was opened to the public.

The Casino was purely for socialising and fun.  Charlemont built it to impress his friends, and having seen it, I can safely say they must have been.  Unfortunately, you can't take photos inside.  The 4 facades of the house are perfectly symmetrical, with doric columns surrounding it.  It's built from Portland stone, from England, from which the Customs House is also made.  James Gandon, the architect of the latter was the favourite pupil of William Chambers. With mirroring and complementing features, everything in this building is neo-classical in style.  The rooms are quite small inside but you might be surprised to hear there are 16 rooms over 3 floors, with one being completely hidden from view from the outside.  Some windows light more than one room and the massive door (of Irish Oak, specified by Chambers never to be varnished or painted so it would age to the colour of the building) only opens in the middle to again allow symmetry of the 4 sides.  The funerary urn on the roof disguises a chimney.  There are 8 tunnels, some used for storage, 2 are toilets today and one linked to the Charlemont Estate house, which no longer exists but was less than a mile away. 

Take a minute to think how our city has grown.  His townhouse is on Parnell Square and his estate house was in Marino, with the Casino nearby.  All within 3 miles of each other.  Further north on both sides of the Malahide Road was all fertile agricultural land.  The Casino featured on definitive stamps in the 1980s and has been described as Ireland's most important neo-classical building.
It's open Monday - Saturday from 10am to 5pm.  The tour takes less than 30 minutes.  Totally worth your time.


  1. I have to see it now!

  2. The Marino Casino is one of the treasures of Dublin. It is not on the major tourist path as it is somewhat outside the city. But it’s easily accessible by local bus - just inquire for the Malahide Road then request the driver to stop when you are near. I would suggest everybody to go and see it.