Joseph Evans Gift to Kilkenny

During the Cromwellian conquest of Ireland in the 1600s, many English people were granted land across the country, including in County Kilkenny, and settled in what was a new English Commonwealth. Joseph Evans was the descendent of an English soldier who had come to Ireland with Oliver Cromwell and been granted land in Kilkenny.

In 1818, the year Joseph Evans died, he willed his entire fortune and extensive properties to charitable purposes. These included a school, support for orphans, apprenticeships and marriage dowries for the poor and a home for impoverished domestic servants.

There were plenty of servants in 19th century Kilkenny, many of whom had no family to support them in old age. In 1831 the census reported 276 males, and 1,038 female servants in a population of nearly 24,000.

Evans’ Home was built in 1818 at a cost of £5,000 on the former site of a military barracks. It was designed by the Kilkenny Architect William Robertson to provide a home for twelve men and twelve women. In 1911, we know that Evans’ Home had a matron, Margaret MacFarlane who in turn had her own domestic servant. The building would later accommodate an infant school, and the overflow holdings of the adjacent Carnegie Library.

As a protestant landowner, Evans’ stipulated that ‘in the selection of the objects and inmates of which asylum, a preference be given to protestants’. As the protestant community in Kilkenny declined, the Evans’ Home admitted increasing numbers of catholics.

Joseph Evans financed Evans’ Home well enough for it to survive until the 1990s. The building remained in use as a Care Home until the 1996 under the provisions of the trust.

Evans' Home to Butler Gallery, 1997 - 2020

Evans' Home came into Council ownership in 1997 and various proposals for a new use were considered before agreement was reached in 2009 to develop it as the new Butler Gallery in a partnership with Kilkenny Local Authorities. The development of a cultural quarter was prioritised as key to the economic and cultural development of Kilkenny City & County.

The Butler Gallery is regarded as playing an integral part in this development for Kilkenny and thus this project received unanimous endorsement by the Elected Members of Kilkenny County Council. It was always important that the building be adapted for an appropriate use and in a sensitive manner.

McCullough Mulvin Architects were contracted by Kilkenny County Council to transform Evans' Home into use as a cultural space and in July 2018 ground was broken. The works have transformed the existing building, its gardens and boundary walls into a destination for art, archaeology, history, education and leisure and brings a very significant building in the City’s history back into public use.

For more information about the conservation of Evans' Home and the approach taken by McCullough Mulvin Architects, see below:

PDF Download: The New Butler Gallery at the Evans Home: A Transformative Project for Kilkenny.
By McCullough Mulvin Artchitects.

PDF Download: Conservation and Extension of Evans’ Home, Kilkenny for the new Butler Gallery.
A report by Evelyn Graham, FRIAI. Kilkenny County Council Project Liaison Architect.

The conservation and transformation of Evans' Home was made possible due to funds generously committed by Kilkenny County Council (c. €3m), the Department of Culture, Heritage and Gaeltacht (€2m) and Fáilte Ireland as part of Irelands Ancient East Initiative (€1.135m).

Evans' Home Photography Commissions - Before & During Restoration

Gypsy Ray (1949 - 2020) was commissioned to create a series of images of Evans’ Home in 2012, as part of the Re:Collecting project.

Brian Cregan was invited by Kilkenny County Council and Butler Gallery to document the physical changes to the Evans’ Home as it underwent a transformation to become the new Butler Gallery.

More to Explore

The O’Malley Collection

The O’Malley Collection includes work from Tony O’Malley (1913 – 2003) and Jane O’Malley (1944 - 2023).

Heritage & Archaeology

Several archaeological digs were carried out from 2010 onwards as part of the Evans' Home refurbishment.

Monastic Site

The site of Butler Gallery has a long and diverse history spanning over 800 years.

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