Newpark House and Demesne, Newpark, Ballymote, Co. Sligo

contact: Christopher & Dorothy-Ellen Kitchin

Tel: 087-3706869, 087-2894550

Listed Open Dates in 2021 but check in advance: March 1-5, 8-12, 15-19, 22-26, May 10-16, 24-27, 31, June 1-17, Aug 14-22, Sept 7-8, 9am-1pm

Fee: adult €7, OAP/student/group €5 

We visited Newpark House during Heritage Week, when we went on holidays to Sligo. We were delighted to discover that the owner, Christopher, is a cousin of Durcan O’Hara, with whom we were staying at Annaghmore in nearby Collooney.

Burke’s A Genealogical and Heraldic History of the Landed Gentry of Ireland tells us that Newpark was built for Robert King Duke (1770-1836), Justice of the Peace and Deputy Governor of Sligo, but the Historic Houses of Ireland website points out that he was only a boy of ten in 1780 when the house was built, so it was probably built for his father Robert (1732-1792). The Duke family descends from John Duke, who came to Sligo at the time of Oliver Cromwell and was granted land in Sligo in 1662. One can still see traces of their presence in the decorative plasterwork in the house. [1]

In 1910, the In 1910, the Duke family left Newpark, and it was purchased by Richard O’Hara, a younger son from nearby Annaghmore and Coopershill.

The house may have been designed by John Roberts of Waterford, who also may have designed Enniscoe in County Mayo, another house we visited during Heritage Week [2].

The house has a main rectangular block of three bays and two storeys, with a basement and dormer attic, built in 1780. The house was extended in the 1870s and lost some of its original features, but the original staircase remains.

A two-bay two-storey over basement wing was added around 1920.

The house is lime rendered with a tripartite entrance: a round-headed door-case flanked by narrow rectangular sidelights. There is another door in the front in the newer section of the house.

Two storey addition to the house.
The round-headed doorcase with side windows and fanlight.
Eaved roof rests on corbels, i.e. blocks projecting from the walls supporting the roof.
The Kitchens have recently received a grant to fix their gabled windows, which are on both sides of the house, and have decorative wooden bargeboards.
Gabled windows with decorative bargeboards, seen here above the later two storey addition.

The Historic Houses of Ireland website tells us that architect and writer Jeremy Williams observed of Newtown: “What strikes one is the harmony of the whole ensemble. Entrance gates and lodge, lime avenue, house, carriage-house, farm yard and partly walled demesne are all proportionate to each other and reveal the unpretentious lifestyle of a typical west of Ireland squireen, a rare survival today.” 

The gate lodge is available for hired accommodation. [3]

The entrance gates to Newpark.
My photograph of the picturesque gate lodge of Newpark – I did not realise it is much bigger than it looks from the side facing the driveway. You can see the lower storey in my photograph below.
Photograph taken from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage, since I did not like to walk around the gate lodge, unsure if it had residents! In this photograph you can see the lovely arched window at the front.
The gate lodge is much larger than it looks from the photographs I took, since I did not walk around it. This photograph taken from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage shows that the side of the lodge away from the driveway has another storey, lower than that facing the driveway. This extension was built in about 1960 onto the original c. 1840 cottage. [4]
Entrance drive to Newpark.

Robert Duke (1732-1792) of Newtown married Lucinda Parke, daughter of William Parke of Dunally, County Sligo. The Parkes of Dunally were a branch of the Parkes who owned Parkes Castle in County Leitrim, which we also visited during Heritage Week.

Parkes Castle, County Leitrim, built in the early seventeenth century by Captain Robert Parke on the foundations on an old O’Rourke castle built by Brian O’Rourke, Prince of Breffne.

Robert King Duke (1770-1836) also married a Parke from Dunally, Anne. Newpark passed down through the family and it must have been his great-grandson, Roger Philip Duke (1874-1944), who sold Newpark.

Richard Edward O’Hara (1863-1948) who purchased Newpark in 1913 was the son of Charles William Cooper (1817-1898) of Coopershill, who took the name O’Hara when he inherited Annaghmore from his uncle, Charles King O’Hara (1784-1860) (the “King” may have been from Charles King O’Hara’s mother’s mother, whose maiden name was King). Charles William Cooper O’Hara married Anne Charlotte Streatfield, a wealthy heiress, and they lived in Annaghmore. They had many children, one of whom, Richard Edward O’Hara (1863-1948), purchased Newpark. He moved to Queensland, Australia, where he farmed, and married Ethel Fisken in 1911. They returned to live in Ireland and he purchased Newpark.

They had a daughter, Sheela, who married Finlay Kitchin, grandfather of the current owner, Christopher. Christopher’s parents moved out of Newpark only a few years ago to a house built on the property, yielding the house to their son and his wife, Dorothy-Ellen. Our week took a serendipitous turn when we learned that Dorothy-Ellen is the daughter of Mary White of The Old Rectory, Killedmond in Carlow, where we were going to be staying later that week! [5]

Dorothy and Christopher had arranged for a special event for Heritage Week, so Stephen and I purchased tickets for this: a nature talk and walk by Michael Bell of Naturelearn [6]. Christopher told us that the house would be open to visitors during the event.

Dorothy-Ellen in front of her home.
The gardens in front of the house.

Christopher greeted us and was kind enough to take time from his busy preparations for the Heritage Week event to give us a tour of the house. He pointed out that the geometrical plan is most unusual, and reminded the architectural historian Maurice Craig of a swastika, with four principal rooms of unequal size arranged around a small central hall. Another Section 482 property, Oakfield Park in County Donegal, also has this arrangement.

Front hall of Newpark, with “cobweb” fanlight.
The front hall of Newpark, with lovely plasterwork on ceiling: a decorative cornice and central ceiling rose feature.
The plasterwork on the front hall ceiling, of acanthus leaves and floral swags and a geometrical design.
Isaac Nicholson, b. 1840, a Kitchin ancestor.

The drawing room also has fine stucco work, with garlands and flowers and urns.

Above the fireplace the frieze of plasterwork has a shield with the arms of the Duke family, a chevron between three terns. The frieze also features the crest of the Dukes, a sword plunged in a plume of nine ostrich feathers. Robert O’Byrne points out that there is a cornet with plumes rising from it, and that this may represent the coat of arms of Lucinda Parke, wife of Robert Duke. [7]

The crest of the Dukes features in the cornice frieze, a sword plunged in a plume of nine ostrich feathers.

The other main reception room is the dining room.

Dorothy-Ellen took us downstairs to show us the basement, and the room in which she is creating a museum of the old things from the house.

All the heating is supplied by this passat boiler which Dorothy-Ellen showed us.

Dorothy and Christopher have converted their barns into a beautiful event space which they call the Juniper Barn. [8] They run it according to eco-conscious principals very like those of Dorothy-Ellen’s mother, a former Green party TD. We headed over to the barns to attend the nature talk.

The names of Christopher and Dorothy-Ellen’s children are carved in the swing.
I asked Christopher about the “S” shapes on the barns – they are part of the construction of the barn.
Barn with bellcote.
The beautiful interior of the barn, which is available for hire.
I was very impressed by the hanging plume pampas grass decorations, created by Dorothy-Ellen.

I was even impressed by the “decor” of the bathroom in the outbuildings, and especially like the stirrup incorporated into the chain of the cistern.

The animals and skulls brought by Michael Bell, including a huge vertebrae, and a dolphin skull.
A “death’s head” hawkmoth with what looks like a skull on its head. Michael Bell set up a moth catcher, and showed us the typical types of moths of the area.
Michael and his daughter brought us down to the lake to see what wildlife we could find. We saw different types of dragonflies, and he told us about the lonely swan, whose mate had died. I hope it won’t be lonely for long!

We then headed back to see the gardens around the house, including the herb garden and walled garden.

The herb garden, created by Christopher’s parents.
The walled garden contains a polytunnel.

[1] http://www.ihh.ie/index.cfm/houses/house/name/Newpark

[2] http://www.ihh.ie/index.cfm/houses/house/name/Newpark and see my entry about Enniscoe, County Mayo, https://irishhistorichouses.com/2021/11/25/enniscoe-house-gardens-castlehill-ballina-co-mayo/

[3] https://www.juniperbarn.ie/accommodation

[4] https://www.buildingsofireland.ie/buildings-search/building/32403317/newpark-house-newpark-sligo

[5] https://irishhistorichouses.com/2020/07/16/the-old-rectory-killedmond-borris-co-carlow/

[6] https://www.naturelearn.com

[7] https://theirishaesthete.com/2019/01/30/frieze-it/

[8] https://www.juniperbarn.ie/venue

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