Rothe House, Kilkenny

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We’re delighted to be working with the Rothe House Trust on their plans to redesign the visitor experience at Rothe House in Kilkenny. It is a really beautiful site with a fascinating story to tell, as the house has witnessed hundreds of years of history in one of Ireland’s most important cities.

Rothe House was built by John Rothe in the early 17th century and this townhouse complex survives intact, along with the entirety of its burgage plot. The Rothes were one of several important merchant families in Kilkenny in the 17th century, and this building gives visitors an unparalleled opportunity to understand day-to-day life in Ireland during the 1600s.

We’re incredibly lucky to have a full transcript of John Rothe’s will, written just before his death, in which he lists all of his properties and most of his belongings. He also names all of his children. For our work on this project, this document is our “go to” when we’re considering the set dressing, props and interpretation options and the will itself will feature in our exhibition. We also have the treasure trove that is the collection of the Kilkenny Archaeological Society, know as the KAS. The oldest historical society in Ireland, the KAS is the owner of Rothe House and, for years, has been the custodian of a wide and eclectic collection of artifacts from both Rothe House and Kilkenny city as a whole. We will be incorporating many of these original items into our exhibition design as well as working closely with many members of the society, who know the history of this unique place better than we could ever hope to, they really are a mine of information.

The true star in this project is Rothe House itself, which has gone through many uses and phases during its 400-year life. A complex of 3 linked houses, we are working in a variety of spaces, from large grand rooms, to smaller Victorian spaces, each with its own challenges and opportunities when it comes to telling the story of Rothe House and all the people who have passed through it. If these walls could talk, they would have some tales to tell and we are looking forward to tapping into these stories and presenting them in an enjoyable and engaging way to a wide variety of visitors.

Building works are expected to start shortly, as we busy ourselves with the extensive content research and detailed design. Rothe House will re-open to visitors in April 2014 just in time for the busy tourist season in Kilkenny, and we will be looking forward to seeing how visitors react to our new interpretation of this very special site.

Laura Murtagh