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Sir Richard Colt Hoare, 1758–1838, was an English antiquary, archaeologist and traveller, who inherited a large estate centred on Stourhead in Wiltshire. He was independently wealthy, and could afford the luxury of travel. His Recollections abroad, published at Bath in the years 1815–18, were based on his tours of continental Europe between 1785 and 1791. He visited Ireland in 1806.

In later life he developed a particular interest in the archaeology of his own area, and published the findings of his local archaeological excavations in two volumes on The ancient history of Wiltshire (1812; 1821; reprinted 1975). He assembled a large private library on the history and topography of Britain and Ireland; the printed catalogue of his library ran to 361 pages.

Sir Richard Colt Hoare visited Ireland in 1806 and created an album of pencil and watercolour sketches of castles and monastic buildings. Royal Irish Academy, MS 3 C 40 is a bound album entitled ‘Views of Ireland’ and comprises 104 pencil and watercolour sketches illustrating his extensive tour in Ulster, Munster, and Leinster. He also wrote at length about his journey, and this was published in the following year: Journal of a tour in Ireland in 1806 (London & Dublin, 1807). The 1807 book does not contain illustrations.

In introducing his narrative of his Irish journey, he observed that in contrast to Wales and Scotland, ‘the Island of Hibernia still remains unvisited and unknown’. He lamented the lack of books about Ireland’s history and antiquities, and he prefaced his narrative with an overview of the books that were available to him.

His interest in antiquities was clearly revealed in his visual record of his tour of Ireland preserved in RIA, MS 3 C 40. Rather than sketching landscapes, he devoted his attention to depicting castles, monasteries, and occasional round towers.

The sequence of sketches in his Irish album is in reverse order as compared with the journey described by Sir Richard Colt Hoare in his 1807 book (Journal of a tour in Ireland in 1806). Thus, unlike the printed book, the album of drawings begins in west Ulster with Enniskillen, Devenish, Ballyshannon, Belleek and Donegal. These sketches are followed by places on the north Antrim coast, including the spectacular sites at Dunluce and the Giant’s Causeway as well as Coleraine. Further south, he sketched Shane’s Castle in County Antrim and Rostrevor, County Down.

The complex medieval site at Fore and other places in County Westmeath also feature, followed by sketches from Tullamore, Nenagh, Kilmallock, and Adare. In County Kerry he sketched antiquities in Ardfert but concentrated mainly on the Killarney area. In the south, Cloyne, Lismore, Mallow and Buttevant attracted his attention, and he also sketched ecclesiastical buildings at Cashel, Hore Abbey and Holy Cross in County Tipperary. While in north Leinster, he sketched in Kildare town, and visited monastic sites at Monasterboice and Mellifont. He also depicted Slane castle, County Meath, and sketched the interior of the ancient burial mound at Newgrange. The final drawings in his Irish album show the principal medieval ecclesiastical remains and the Anglo-Norman castle in Trim, County Meath. The artist had arrived in Ireland from Holyhead, in Anglesea, and he included sketches of the castles at Conwy and Holyhead at the beginning of his Irish album.

The 104 original antiquarian drawings in Sir Richard Colt Hoare’s ‘Views of Ireland’, RIA, MS 3 C 40, have been digitised. Thumbnail images of each sketch can be viewed in the Royal Irish Academy online catalogue of prints and drawings.

Further reading

Timothy Darvill, The concise Oxford dictionary of archaeology (2nd ed. Oxford, 2008).

Sir Richard Colt Hoare, Journal of a tour in Ireland in 1806 (London & Dublin: W. Miller, J. Archer & M. Mahon, 1807). [copy in RIA] Hathi Trust Digital Library(link is external).

Sir Richard Colt Hoare, Recollections abroad (4 vols, Bath: Richard Cruttwell, 1815–18). [Hathi Trust Digital Library]

Sir Richard Colt Hoare, A catalog of books relating to the history and topography of England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland … compiled from his library at Stourhead, in Wiltshire (London: William Bulmer, 1815) Hathi Trust Digital Library(link is external).

Royal Irish Academy online catalogue of Prints and Drawings.