Springfield House, Mount Lucas, Daingean, Tullamore, Co. Offaly

Contact: Muireann Noonan, Tel: 087-2204569

www.springfieldhouse.ie

Listed open dates in 2022: Jan 1-9, 1pm-5pm, April 15-19, May 21-29, June 10-12, 17-19, July 1-3, 8-10, 15-17, Aug 13-28, 2pm-6pm, Dec 26-31, 1pm-5pm.

Fee: Free

Springfield House, photograph courtesy of Muireann Noonan.
 

Owners Muireann and Tony, who purchased Springfield in 2005, were kind enough to let us visit their home in January 2022, when Covid was still going strong. I was intrigued to see it as the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage dates its building to around 1750 [1]!

It was not the “big house” of an estate but is related to the nearby Mount Lucas estate, whose house, unfortunately, is there no longer.

The main entrance is closed off so one enters into the yard through some outbuildings, with a lovely old arch. This leads into a yard and the door into the kitchen area.

The current entrance, which leads in to the kitchen and overlooks the outbuildings. Each end of the house has two gables.
The garden front, Springfield. The extension, rebuilt but part of which existed on the same footprint, contains the kitchen.

The house is of seven bays and two storeys, with outbuildings to the east and with the remains of a walled garden to the north. We walked through the house from the kitchen to go out the front door, which is no longer used as the front door as the old drive to the house is no longer used.

Old drive of the house, leading to the front door, which runs along the side of the trees, beyond the stone pier. The front field is “the lawn.”
I didn’t manage to capture the entire front of the house in a photograph.

The house has a pedimented breakfront of three bays wide, containing the front door flanked by two narrow windows. The timber sash windows have stone sills. The garden front has a round-headed window that lights the staircase, and next to that, a Diocletian window.

Springfield House, photograph courtesy of Muireann Noonan.

The National Inventory tells us that this country house, situated within extensive grounds, was built for the third son of the Lucas family who lived at the nearby Mount Lucas estate. Andrew Tierney suggests the house was built or rebuilt in 1764 by Samuel Lucas of Mount Lucas (1.2km sw, demolished) for his son, Samuel. [2]

There is an entry in Burke’s Genealogical and Heraldic Dictionary of the Landed Gentry of Great Britain and Ireland about the Lucas family of Mount Lucas. Benjamin Lucas (1704-1774), a Lieutenant Colonel in the army received sometime in the seventeenth century extensive grants of land in the counties of Clare, Limerick, Tipperary and King’s County (Offaly). He was father of Nathaniel Lucas, who married Eleanor Cooke of Cookesborough, County Westmeath. They had several daughters and six sons: Samuel, who died unmarried, John, Samuel, Robert, Cooke and Richard. The second son, John, inherited Mount Lucas. The first Samuel must have died and the next, third, son, must be Samuel, who built the house for his son Samuel. 

The Lucas family lived at Mount Lucas until 1922, when they moved following an attack on the house. At that time Mount Lucas had been occupied by Deborah Elizabeth Ball, daughter of Benjamin Manly Ball and the Mount Lucas heiress Elizabeth Lucas. Deborah lived in  Mount Lucas along with her aunt, Eleanor Lucas. The 1922 attack was traumatic, and Deborah was stripped and tied to a tree. [3]

You can read more about Mount Lucas in the book Mount Lucas a Quiet Hamlet by Kenneth Smyth and Damien Smyth. [4]

I could not find much information about the Cookes of Cookesborough, County Westmeath, except for stories about a later Cooke of Cookesborough, the eccentric Adolphus (1792-1876)  who believed in reincarnation and that his father or grandfather had come back to life as a turkey-cock, or that his father might come back as a bee which explains the beehive structure of Adolphus’s father’s tomb, built around 1835. [5] Adolphus was the illegitimate son of Robert Cooke of Cookesborough, and since Robert’s sons predeceased him, Adolphus inherited Cookesborough.

Photograph from the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage of Robert Cooke’s Mausoleum, located within the grounds of St. John the Baptist’s Church of Ireland church in the countryside to the southwest of Delvin.

Adolphus thought he himself might be reincarnated as a fox and had massive fox holes/covert built around his estate of Cookesborough, but also created a mausoleum with fireplace and library for himself for after his death in which, however, the local priest refused to bury him and he was instead interred in the beehive structure. [6]

The Springfield website, created by its current owners, tells us that the house was extensively modernised circa 1857 and all the joinery in the principal rooms date from this time, as do the chimneys and stone coping to gables. Andrew Tierney tells us that the house changed hands in 1857. [see 2] The western bays of the rear pile also appear to be an addition of this date. [7] Tony and Muireann showed us different parts of the house which led them to their conclusions. The house had been largely unaltered since the 1857 renovations until the current owners, who have undertaken considerable sensitive renovation and updating. The work included applying new lime render to the walls which were crumbling, and fixing the roof, and also the space under the house. They also lined one chimney – the other hasn’t been done yet as it is filled with a bees nest! – and renovated or replaced timber flooring and modernised and installed new bathrooms.

The door from the yard through which we entered leads to this area, with the kitchen on the left in the photograph. Tony is standing at an inner door and before him is the outer door. 

The house is “double pile” which means that it is two rows of rooms thick, each row consisting of two or more rooms. When someone refers to a house as a “pile” this is an architectural term! A “pile” is a row of rooms and is usually used in the term “double pile.” [7] 

Muireann showed us the width of the wall via a lovely opening, which is part of what led her and Tony to believe that the rear pile was added later than the original build.

This opening can be used to pass dishes from the kitchen into the dining room. At the moment it serves as a lovely nook for books!

The website describes the house: 

“The plan of the house comprises a central hall flanked by Drawing and Dining Rooms on the front, with above them the Upper Hall leading to the two principal bedrooms. To the rear is the Stair Hall, slightly off centre with a somewhat crude wreathed and ramped staircase with cut brackets and turned spindles. Flanking this there is a narrow bay which probably housed the service stair and in the corner, over the Kitchen, are two bedrooms (one very small) served by a short corridor, and in the 19th century addition, over what may have been a billiards room with a considerably higher ceiling, are again two bedrooms.”

The Central Hall, with the front door and ceiling rose of acanthus leaves.

It is such a beautifully solid house and I particularly love the large windows with their shutters, especially in the front hall and upstairs in the Upper Hall. The Upper Hall causes my heart to catch – there is something about the vastness of the space, with its lovely wooden floorboards and current emptiness, which struck a deep chord in me!

The Upper Hall, which made me want to linger and caused a wistful aesthetic yearning.
The Upper Hall, with the arched window lighting the stairs.
The Drawing Room, which is in the front pile, along with the Front Hall and Dining Room. The drawing room has a simple plaster ceiling cornice and a picture rail, and the original marble fireplace.

The house is a work-in-progress so I didn’t take many photographs inside.

The door between the Drawing room and the room in the rear pile. You can see the width of the wall between the two rooms. Muireann told us that when the children of the former owners the Gill family, Doris and her sister, were naughty, the Nanny threatened to close them into the space between these two doors!
A photograph of Doris, as an adult visiting the house and as a baby on the front steps!
A photograph of Doris and her sister who used to live in the house.

The ceilings in different rooms of the ground floor are of different heights, which also leads to the theory that the two piles were built at different times.

There is a cellar under the western part of the front pile which may originally have been a basement. Tony opened the hatch for us which is in the floor of the Drawing Room, and we climbed down into the basement. The basement only extends under the western part of the front pile.

The basement area has an earthen floor. In one area was a circle of cobblestones and we speculated as to why they were so placed – I suggested that maybe there was a well. As Tony pointed out, the house is called “spring” field.

The cobblestones in the basement.
The stair hall. Andrew Tierney describes the staircase: “Dog-leg staircase with volute newel post and bracketed ornament on the tread-ends.”
A rosette detail in the ceiling plasterwork in the stair hall.
The arched window lighting the stairs.
The beautiful wood flooring runs throughout the upstairs, and the doors have fine moulded frames.

The bedrooms upstairs have original fireplaces in situ which I am sure were very necessary before central heating!

One bedroom has a particularly high ceiling, and a lovely little fanlight over the door.

Unfortunately I didn’t take a photograph in the kitchen but it is modern and spacious, and it extends out to a single storey enlargement with ceiling windows. It is where the original kitchen used to be. The flagstones which were originally on the floor are now outside forming a path.

Springfield House, photograph courtesy of Muireann Noonan.

There is a lean-to building outside the kitchen housing domestic offices. This area was overgrown and tumble-down when Muireann and Tony began to renovate. Muireann described discovering the “extra room”! It even has a fireplace, and has become a cosy reading room.

The back garden opens directly to the walled garden. Tony has done a lot of work to create a vegetable garden but it is not shown to best effect in cold January! They have also started an orchard.

You can see the ruins of an outbuilding beyond the garden.
The outbuilding, and last year’s raspberry canes. 
A central area of the garden has lavender bushes and an old salvaged fountain, photograph courtesy of Muireann Noonan.
 
The orchard of apples and pears.
Photograph courtesy of Muireann Noonan.

Muireann and her family have done terrific work creating their home, and we wish them best of luck in the future!

[1] https://www.buildingsofireland.ie/buildings-search/building/14919002/springfield-house-ballyhugh-or-springfield-offaly

[2] p. 305, Tierney, Andrew. The Buildings of Ireland: Central Leinster, the Counties of Kildare, Laois and Offaly. Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 2019.

[3] https://www.historyireland.com/mount-lucas-offaly-lucas-ball-estate/

[4] for purchase on https://www.offalyhistory.com/shop/books/mount-lucas-a-quiet-hamlet-kenneth-smyth-damien-smyth

[5]  https://www.historyireland.com/from-the-files-of-the-dibthe-kook-of-cookesborough/

[6] https://www.buildingsofireland.ie/buildings-search/building/15401309/cooke-mausoleum-st-john-the-baptist-church-of-ireland-church-reynella-westmeath

[7] www.springfieldhouse.ie

[8] p. 652, Tierney, Andrew. The Buildings of Ireland: Central Leinster, the Counties of Kildare, Laois and Offaly. Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 2019.

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