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Francis Bindon
(c. 1698 - 1765)

Portrait painter and architect, Francis Bindon was born at Clooney, County Clare about 1698. His exact birth date is not known. He was the fourth son born to David Bindon (M.P. for Ennis) and Dorothy Burton, daughter of Samuel Burton of Buncraggy. Little is known about his early life but the Bindon family owned a considerable amount of land in Counties Clare and Limerick. His mothers family, the Burtons, controlled the Ennis Parliamentary Borough for much of the eighteenth century. Francis had four brothers and three sisters. His brothers Henry and Thomas studied at Trinity College Dublin. Henry was a barrister-at-law and Thomas became Dean of Limerick. Two of his brothers, David (who was a writer on economic affairs) and Samuel, were members of Parliament for Ennis in 1731, a position Francis himself would hold in later life.

It seems that Francis studied at the Academy of Painting in London, under the guidance of Sir Godfrey Kneller. Kneller was born in Germany and was a respected portrait painter. Francis Bindon travelled widely and studied art and architecture in Italy and other parts of Europe. On returning to Ireland he seems to have lived mainly in Dublin, on an income derived from his estates in Clare and Limerick. In 1723 his father had assigned the family estate at Clooney to him and Francis retained these lands and house for the remainder of his life.

Francis was a member of the Royal Dublin Society. He developed an interest in portrait painting and because he was a wealthy gentleman with good connections he soon attracted some notable patrons. He is best known for his many portraits of Dean Swift, in particular, the full-length portrait painted in 1739 for the Chapter of St. Patrick's Cathedral. He also painted many of the leading churchmen of the time including Archbishop Boulter, Dr. Sheridan, Dr. Delany and Archbishop Cobbe. It also seems likely that Francis Bindon was the artist who painted the blind harper Turlough O'Carolan. This portrait now hangs in the National Gallery of Ireland. In recent years a portrait of Francis Bindon was discovered at Carrigerry House near Newmarket-on -Fergus. The painting, in oils, may be a self- portrait. It depicts Francis as a young man wearing a large wig.

He painted successfully for several years and was presented in 1733 with the Freedom of the Guild of St. Luke, the Corporation of Painters-Stayners. Around this time he began to study architecture in the office of the Surveyor-General, Sir Edward Lovatt Pearce. Bindon and Sir Edward were connected through marriage. Francis Bindon's brother Samuel was married to Edwards aunt. Francis had little formal training in architecture. Some people are of the opinion that his architectural works are not particularly distinguished and that his buildings were often unsophisticated and gloomy. He designed large country houses, including Carnelly, Newhall and Castlepark in County Clare and Bessborough, Woodstock and Castle Morres in County Kilkenny. He worked with the Palladian architect Richard Castle on the design of Russborough House, County Wicklow, completing it after Castle died in 1751. St. John's Square in Limerick was designed by Bindon and it seems likely that the house of George Evans Bruce, the banker in Patrick Street, was also one of his.

It is believed that he discontinued painting after 1758 because of his failing eyesight. In 1759 he drew up his last will and testament, leaving most of his possessions in Dublin and an annuity of 75 for life to Francis Ryan, a house painter of Dublin, who had lived and worked with him for many years. His brother Nicholas was to be granted the lands of Clooney with the remaining property to be divided between his nieces and nephews. In 1761 when his brother David died Francis succeeded to more of the family property in Clare and became M.P. for Ennis. In 1762 he was made a Freeman of Limerick.

He died in 1765 "suddenly in his chariot on his way to the country." An obituary notice in "Faulkner's Journal" described him as "one of the best painters and architects this nation ever produced. He was a most polite well-bred gentleman and an excellent scholar, which he improved with his travels abroad."

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Carnelly House

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New Hall