Wilkinstown is a quaint little village with great community spirit. Located 9 miles from Navan and 13 miles from Kells, there is a Community Centre, school and a public house called Tiernan's Cross Roads Bar.
Wilkinstown's most famous historic buiding is Arch Hall. Today stands a
fragmentary shell of a large,
early-Georgian house. All that survives is a three-storey, nine-bay entrance front with cylindrical turret-like bows at each end and a broader three-bay semicircular bow at the centre of the façade. Arch Hall is one of a small group of Irish buildings in Vanbrugh’s castle style making use of bows and circular rooms at an early
date. For this reason it is suggested that the design may be attributed to Sir Edward Lovett Pearce (Craig 1996). Pearce, acknowledged to be the most influential architect in Ireland in the early part of the eighteenth century, also contributed both architecturally and legislatively to the development of the use of brick in Ireland. His building act, passed in 1730, was an attempt both to improve building construction 222 Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy standards and to promote good brick-making practice in Ireland. These standards
influenced and enhanced the work of his assistant and successor Richard Castle, and the work of subsequent Irish architects throughout the eighteenth century.
Behind the surviving façade Arch Hall is only one room deep and is built over a brick, vaulted basement. The hall, originally a large space with curved ends, was flanked by a reception room on each side. The room to the right of the hall retains its original dimensions and is roughly eighteen feet square. Throughout the ruin,
fragments of plaster panels cling to the brickwork and, in one of the circular towers,a shallow saucer dome is ornamented with plaster coffering and egg-and-dart mouldings. Remodelled in the nineteenth century, the front façade, formerly of brick, is now rendered and curious paired, Romanesque windows and Italianate sills were added to the attic storey. The main structural walls are of red brick with lime mortar joints. The bricks are of slightly varying size indicative of their hand-made status. They measure from 9 to 91/2 inches long, 41/4 to 41/2 inches wide, and are generally 21/2 inches deep.
An eye-catching arch flanked by obelisks designed in the Vanbrugh (therefore also Pearce) manner gives Arch Hall its name. The grand arch, in a field south of the house, is a large, folly-like, rubble archway with a rustic pinnacle and low, flanking wings, all in an eighteenth-century romantic idiom. Other garden follies
include a tall, grotto-type, rubble bridge over a narrow canal to the east of the house crowned by a square, chimney-like construction, possibly a plinth for a monument (Howley 1993).
An extensive lake is shown to the south-west of the house. The landscaped etting of the house is depicted in several nineteenth-century images. A painting by JW. Baldock dated 1854 shows the building owner of that time, Mrs Garnett, on horseback, with her sons; the house is depicted with steeply-pitched roofs and conical towers. A photograph of the house from a similar location, c.1860, presents aview of the house from across the lake (Pl. II).
Arch Hall, in the townland of Newtown-Clongill, is associated with both the Payne (also Paine) and Garnett (also Garnet) families. While the precise building date is not known, a 1714 deed (Registry of Deeds, Meath 1708–45, Book 20, 62) records a transfer of lands at Clongell (sic) from John Raphson to William Paine
(510 acres). William had two sons, Lawrence and John. Anne Paine, daughter of Lawrence, married Benjamin Woodward of Drumbarrow in 1737. Her marriage settlement included the town and lands of Clongill and Newtown Clongill (Registry of Deeds, Meath 1708–45, Book 92, 257). From this information, and from stylisticprovenance, it seems certain that the mansion house was constructed in the 1730s,
and therefore could have been designed by either Pearce or Richard Castle.