Covid times, and planning ahead

Ideally I would like to continue publishing a blog entry every week but I am still catching up on places I have visited, writing and researching and seeking approval from home-owners, and am unable to keep up the pace!

Doneraile Court, County Cork.
deer in the park at Doneraile.

We visited some big houses that are not on the Section 482 revenue list when we were in County Cork last year during Heritage Week, including Doneraile Court and Fota, both open to the public and well worth a visit. [1] If I run out of places to write about on the section 482 list, I will write about them! But I still have to write about our visit to Cabra Castle, County Cavan, before Christmas last year! [2] We had a wonderful treat of being upgraded to a bedroom suite in the Castle, the Bridal Suite, no less, with our own rooftop jacuzzi.

The Bridal Suite at Cabra Castle, County Cavan.

The 2021 Revenue list of 482 Properties has not yet been published, and I am not sure when we will be able to visit places again, due to Covid transmissibility. I have already mapped out a year’s worth of visits, all around Ireland, and have even booked to stay in some exciting looking houses, but I don’t know what is going to be open – I have been planning around the 2020 list, assuming opening dates, once places do open, will be similar to last year.

In the meantime I can look at photographs and dream, and work on my own home (I painted the bedroom sage green) and garden (my potatoes are chitting) and research upcoming visits. I’m currently reading Turtle Bunbury’s book about the landowning families in County Kildare, and Mark Bence-Jones’s Life in an Irish Country House, and Somerville and Ross’s The Real Charlotte.

We were privileged to be able to stay in Mark Bence-Jones’s house last year for a wonderful week. [3]

Glenville Park, the home of the late Mark Bence-Jones, County Cork.

I will be writing soon about more big houses and in the meantime, I hope you are able to stay safe and healthy and happy in these Covid times.

Fota House, County Cork.

[1] http://doneraileestate.ie

https://fotahouse.com

[2] https://www.cabracastle.com

[3] http://www.glenvillepark.com

Moyglare House, County Meath

https://moyglarehouse.ie/

Contact: Angela Alexander, Tel: 086-0537291

Listed open dates in 2020 but check due to Covid: Jan 1-3, 6-10, 13-17, 20-24, 27-28, May 1-22, 25-29, June 1-3, Aug 15-24, 9am-1pm

Fee: adult €7.50, OAP/ student/child €5

Moyglare House is listed as being in County Meath under section 482 but the postal address is County Kildare – it lies on the border, just outside the town of Maynooth. The house has a long avenue approach, between trees and fields.

Having been a hotel called Moyglare Manor in the 1970s-90s which boasted high profile guests such as Hilary Clinton and Robert Redford, the house is once again a home, restored by Dr. Angela Alexander, the foremost academic on Dublin cabinet makers from the Irish Regency period, and her husband Malcolm. [1] The construction of the house may have begun as early as the 1750s but was not completed until twenty years or so later.

It is three storeys over a basement and two rooms deep. The entrance front has five bays, with two flanking curtain walls, and the garden front has six bays. It has wings which were added at a later date. The front central three bays form a bow rising the full height of the house. The one-story balustraded portico containing the front door was added in 1990. The doorcase has Ionic columns, which Christine Casey and Alastair Rowan tell us in their book on North Leinster, are “taken exactly from William Pain’s Builder’s Companion (first published in 1758).” [2] The original doorcase with its fanlight, mirrored in the outer doorcase, is inside the portico. The finishing of the new door and windows matches the original limestone doorframe and protects it from the elements. There is a window on either side of the front door in the porch. 

The sloped roof is partly concealed by the parapet. The corners have raised limestone quoins. When it was converted into a hotel it was enlarged on the west side.

Construction began sometime after 1737 when the land was acquired by John Arabin (1703-1757), son of a French Huguenot who fled France when his land was seized after King Louis XIV revoked the Edict of Nantes in 1685. [3] The Edict of Nantes, of 1598, signed by King Henry IV of France, granted rights to the French Protestants to practise their religion without persecution from the state. When revoked by the Edict of Fontainebleau, Louis XIV’s dragoons destroyed Protestant schools and churches and the Huguenots were forced to convert or flee. John’s father, Bartelemy, or Bartholomew, joined the army of William III and fought in Ireland in the Battle of the Boyne in 1690, as did another Huguenot, Jean Trapaud, whose property in France was also seized. Bartholomew and Jean both settled in Ireland, and Bartholomew was closely connected to the Huguenot community in Portarlington. He died in 1713. [4]

The area in Dublin where I live was also a Huguenot area. In Dublin they brought their skills in weaving and cloth-making, which brought prosperity and recognition to the Liberties of Dublin. They brought their business acumen also. 

Bartholomew’s son John Arabin also served in the military. He married Jeanne Marie Bertin, also of French background: her father was a wealthy merchant from Aquitaine who settled in County Meath. John was made Captain-Lieutenant of the 1st Carabiniers in Ireland in 1733, and became a Freemason, serving as Treasurer. Soon after becoming Treasurer of the Irish Grand Lodge he purchased land at Moyglare. 

A room inside the Freemasons Hall on Molesworth Street in Dublin. This wasn’t built until 1866 but perhaps John Arabin sat in halls like this one. Photograph from the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage. One can visit the Freemason Hall usually on Culture Night in Dublin.

John’s sister Elizabeth married a cousin, John Adlercron Trapaud, son of Jean Trapaud. John Adlercron purchased some of the Moyglare land from John Arabin in 1737. [5]

In 1745 John Arabin was appointed Lieutenant-Colonel of the 8th Dragoons. They were deployed to Scotland as part of the response to the Jacobite rising in 1745 when James II’s grandson tried to regain the British throne.

The Historic Houses of Ireland website tells us that:

“The colonel also had a successful army career with the 8th Dragoons. He took part in the capture of Carlisle and the relief of Blair Castle during the Jacobite rebellion, and subsequently commanded his regiment in Gibraltar, after England declared war on France in 1756. He died there the following year when his fellow officers erected a monument in the King’s Chapel.” [see 3]

The King’s Chapel is in Gibraltar.

Colonel Arabin’s son John (1727-1757) followed him into the army. He died before his father, so it was the Colonel’s grandson Henry (1752-1841) who was Colonel Arabin’s heir.

Both the Arabins and the Adlercron Trapauds owned land at Moyglare. 

Turtle Bunbury writes that “Henry [Arabin] was living at Moyglare, the Adlercron home, at the time of his marriage.” [my italics] In 1781 he married Anne Faviere Grant, who was from a Scottish based Huguenot family, but was brought up in Dublin.

In 1756 Colonel John Arabin’s daughter Elizabeth, Henry’s aunt, married Lt-Col Daniel Chenevix (1731-1776), of the family who owned the Corkagh Gunpowder Mills near Clondalkin in Dublin. The Chenevix family was also of French Huguenot extraction, and Daniel’s grandfather Colonel Philip Chenevix also fought in the Battle of the Boyne on William III’s side. Colonel Philip Chenevix married the French Susannah Grueber whose brother Nicholas Grueber (also the son of a French Huguenot) constructed the Corkagh Gunpowder Mills in 1719.

Henry Arabin became a lawyer, studying in Trinity College Dublin and Lincoln’s Inn. However, instead of pursuing law, he assumed responsibility for the running of the Corkagh Gunpower Mills. Turtle Bunbury writes that after their marriage in 1781, Henry and Ann Arabin moved to Corkagh, taking over management of the business which had passed through the Huguenot families by marriage. Unfortunately the house at Corkagh no longer exists. We can see how the Huguenots who escaped France to Protestant Holland or England served in the military under William III of Holland, fought in the Battle of the Boyne and then settled in Ireland, and established business and intermarried. In Ireland we tend to regard the fighting between William III and James II at the Battle of the Boyne as a battle over who would sit on the throne in England. For William III, however, it was part of a larger struggle for the domination of Europe and of Holland’s wars against France. The Corkagh Mills supplied gunpowder to the military in which the Huguenot Arabins, Trapauds and Chenevixes had fought. By joining the Dutch army fighting against the Catholic French, the Huguenots supported Holland’s William III in his ousting of James II of Britain, who was supported by Louis XIV and the French. Continuing in the military, John Arabin fought to prevent James II’s grandson “Bonnie Prince Charlie” from taking the British throne. By this time, 1745, George I (son of the British King James I’s granddaughter Sophie) had already reigned as monarch of Britain and died, and his son George II was on the throne.

I learned about the Corkagh Gunpower Mills first when Stephen and I went on a walk with the “Friends of the Camac” last year – we were eager to see more of the Camac River as we are familiar with the part of it which runs through Inchicore and Kilmainham. The River Camac provided the energy for the mills. We learned about the accidental gunpowder explosion which occurred in 1733, which would have been before Henry Arabin’s time. There was another explosion in Arabin’s time, in 1787. [6]

In the meantime, the Adlercron family lived at Moyglare. The Landed Families website tells us that John Adlercron Trapaud and Elizabeth Arabin’s son John (b. 1782) added Ladaveze to his surname after inheriting property in Europe, and dropped the name ‘Trapaud.’ This John Ladaveze Adlercron (1738-1782) married and had a son, John Ladaveze Adlercron (1782-1852). This son married Dorothea Rothe, daughter of Abraham George Rothe of Kilkenny. They had a son George Rothe Ladaveze Adlercron (1834-1884), who was born at Moyglare. [7] The Rothe House in the city of Kilkenny is well worth a visit, a house built from 1594-1610, open to the public as a museum. It is unique and there is nothing like it open to the public in Dublin.

Rothe House, Kilkenny.

John Ladaveze Adlercron and his wife Dorothea travelled extensively. Dorothea kept diaries about their travels, and was interested in art and architecture. They lived in Moyglare and also had a house in Fitzwilliam Square in Dublin. [8]

Moyglare House was sold around 1840. [9] It passed through a few owners before Colonel William Tuthill bought it in the 1850s. [see 3]

According to the Landed Estates Database:

The Tuthills of Moyglare, county Kildare, descend from the Reverend Christopher Devonsher Tuthill, fourth son of John Tuthill of Kilmore, county Limerick. Captain William Tuthill of Moyglare owned 286 acres in county Limerick in the 1870s and a further 821 acres in the same county in association with William Bredin.” [10]

Several generations of Tuthills seem to have lived at Moyglare. By the 1960s, Dr. and Mrs. William George Fegan lived in the house. Dr. Fegan, known as George, was a surgeon, academic and art collector. When he sold Moyglare in the 1970s it was separated from the bulk of the estate, which now houses Moyglare Stud. 

The west wing was added and it became a boutique country house hotel. The hotel closed in 2009 and the house stood empty for several years before the Alexanders purchased it. It was full of dry rot, and the beautiful original staircase had to be rescued by insertion of a steel beam.

Angela is an expert in antiques and Malcolm in paintings, and they have an obvious passion for their project. Before they purchased the house they had already collected some paintings, furniture and even a chimneypiece that fit perfectly.

The front hall is high ceilinged and corniced, with a fine plaster frieze with a combination of musical instruments and military trophies, which reflect the military background of its originators. There is a decorative niche between two doors. [10] Leading off the hall are the library, dining room and drawing room, all tastefully and sensitively renovated and furnished. You can see more photographs on the facebook page for the house, which charts the progress of work in the house and garden.

The Alexanders have renovated the west annex and outbuildings for further B&B accommodation.

We had a great chat about an unusually shaped picture of the Great Exhibition in London, and the Alexanders also have pictures from the Great Exhibitions in Ireland. Angela gave us recommendations for an upholsterer, and she brought us into the private part of their house, the kitchen, which we loved – it’s in the newer part of the house which was built on when it was a hotel. The good taste continues into their private area with more fascinating collectable pieces, including a door I admired with lovely stained glass panels. Chatting with them, we participated in their excitement about the house, a work in progress. I envy them – I would love to have such a project! Visiting and staying in such houses is the next best thing!

[1] Yvonne Hogan, Irish Independent, June 11, 2009. 

[2] p. 408. Casey, Christine and Alistair Rowan. The Buildings of Ireland: North Leinster. Penguin Books, London, 1993.

[3] https://www.ihh.ie/index.cfm/houses/house/name/Moyglare%20House

[4] Bunbury, Turtle. ‘CORKAGH – The Life & Times of a South Dublin Demesne 1650-1960’ by Turtle Bunbury, published by South Dublin County Council in May 2018.

[5] Ibid.

[6] https://localstudies.wordpress.com/2013/09/25/the-1787-explosion-at-corkagh-gunpowder-mills/

[7] https://landedfamilies.blogspot.com/search/label/Meath?updated-max=2016-01-29T17:52:00Z&max-results=20&start=3&by-date=false

The Peerage website claims that George Rothe Ladaveze Adlercron was born in 1834 at Moyglare. www.thepeerage.com

[8] Byrne, Angela. The European Travels of Dorothea Ladeveze Adlercron (nee Rothe) c. 1827-54. Old Kilkenny Review: Journal of Kilkenny Archaeological Society, vol. 65, 2013. 

[9] According to the Historic Houses of Ireland website, Henry’s son, another Henry Arabin, sold Moyglare in 1842. 

Turtle Bunbury writes that it was Henry’s youngest son, John Ladaveze Arabin, who consented to the sale of the estate in 1839, and sold it to his cousin, Henry Morgan Tuite. [Elizabeth Arabin who married Daniel Chenevix had a daughter, Sarah Chenevix, who married Hugh Tuite].

The Landed Families website claims that it was John Ladaveze Adlercron (1872-1947) who sold Moyglare. This places the sale quite a bit later than Bunbury’s date. According to Angela Byrne (see [7]) the Adlercrons were referred to as “of Moyglare” until the 1880s. This discrepancy can be explained by the fact that there were two houses at Moyglare.

[10] http://landedestates.nuigalway.ie:8080/LandedEstates/jsp/estate-show.jsp%3Fid=3552

[11] You can see a photograph of the front hall on the Irish Aesthete’s blog, https://theirishaesthete.com/2016/09/17/restoration-drama-2/

Dromana House, Cappoquin, Co. Waterford

Contact: Barbara Grubb Tel: 086-8186305

Open dates in 2021: May 1 – 8 and 22 – 31; June 1 – 30; July 1 – 10 closed
Mondays; Aug 14 – 22. 2pm-6pm. Groups and other times by
appointment.

Fee: guided tour of house €10, garden €6, house & garden €15, groups of 10 or more guided tour of house €9, garden €5, house and garden €12, children under 12 free for house and garden.

On Sunday 5th May 2019, Stephen and I attended a day of talks in Dromana House on “Pursuit of the Heiress.” This is an apt topic for Dromana since the property passed down to the current generation via an heiress, Katherine FitzGerald (1660-1725). In fact, you could say that even in this generation the property was passed down through an heiress, or through the female line, as Barbara Grubb is the daughter of James Villiers-Stuart, descendent of the FitzGeralds of the Decies who originally built the house. “The Decies” is the county of Waterford west of the River Mahon.

We didn’t have a tour of the house on the day of the conference, so we returned during Heritage Week in 2020.

Parts of the house date back to the 1400s, and fortifications on the grounds date back even further. Its situation perched above the Blackwater River gives it stunning views.

the view of the Blackwater River from Dromana. During lunch at the 2019 conference we sat in the sun and chatted, and watched the Blackwater River recede. Later in the afternoon, it filled the banks again.

The house was once larger and grander than what we see today. Unfortunately, part of the house was demolished in the 1960s as upkeep and rates were too expensive (it shares the fate of Lisnavagh in County Carlow and Killruddery in County Wicklow). It retains part of the older elements, however, and remains a relatively large, comfortable home. The garden is impressive and the sun brought out its beauty – we were lucky with the weather.

this poster board prepared for the 800th anniversary of Dromana shows a photograph of the house as it was before the demolition of a large part of it.

The lectures in 2019 took place in what used to be the old kitchen. On my way in, I admired the cloakroom hallway with its old floor tiles, long mirror and row of hooks for hats and coats. I learned the following year that this mirror used to be in the Ballroom, which has been demolished. The mirror now lies on its side but originally stood vertically, so the room would have been an impressive height.

History of Dromana and the Fitzgeralds

First, a little background about the house. From the website:

Dromana House is a true gem, perched on a rocky outcrop overlooking the strikingly beautiful, unspoilt river Blackwater. It is surrounded by a 600 acre privately owned estate with numerous woodland and garden walks. Several interesting historic follies are also to be seen throughout the grounds including an ancient outer fortification, boathouse and slipway down to the river. This period property has been lovingly maintained by its owners whose family have lived on this location since 1200, the present owner being the 26th generation.” [1]

From the 13thcentury onwards the property was the seat of the FitzGeralds, Lords of the Decies, a junior branch of the Earls of Desmond. Information boards in the old kitchen, created with the help of University College Cork, describe the history of the estate. In 1215 King John of England granted a charter to the Norman knight Thomas fitz Anthony, giving him custody of the present-day counties of Waterford and Cork. Through the marriage of his daughter the estates came into the possession of the FitzGeralds – the first instance of the property passing through the female line. The earliest fortifications of Dromana date from this period.

The title of Lord the Decies split from the Earl of Desmond title when James FitzGerald the 6th Earl of Desmond (who died in 1462) granted the land of the Decies to his younger son Sir Gerald Mor FitzGerald, whose descendants have lived in Dromana ever since. The tower-house which forms the core of today’s Dromana was built at this time.

One can see the oldest part of the house from a balcony which overlooks the river, or from the gardens below.

We wandered up an overgrown path in the garden looking for the “lost garden” and found ourselves on the steep slopes by mistake – but fortuitously, from here we could see the oldest parts of the house – see below also, which is a continuation of the wall in the photograph above. See also the balcony, above; below are two photographs taken from the balcony.
view from the slopes below, looking up toward the balcony.
View looking down toward the slopes, from the balcony – you can see the bow in the wall. There was originally a floor above this, also bowed.
The view from the balcony looking the other direction. You can see an extremely old Gothic style window with hood moulding. The tower house structure part of the house was built in the time of Gerald Mor FitzGerald around 1462.

The Earls of Desmonds asserted their claim to the Decies until the Battle of Affane in 1565, in which the Earl of Desmond’s army [that of the 14th Earl of Desmond, I think] was overthrown. In January 1569 Queen Elizabeth granted Sir Maurice FitzGerald of Decies (great-grandson of Gerald Mor FitzGerald) letters patent creating him Baron of Dromana and Viscount Decies. His titles became extinct, however, when he died three years later without a male heir.

Katherine Fitzgerald of the Decies, granddaughter of Gerald Mor FitzGerald, married her cousin Thomas, who in 1529 became the 11th Earl of Desmond (the information panel below says he was the 12th Earl but I think he was the 11th). He died in 1534 but she survived him for 70 years, dying in 1604 at the age of 140 years. She lived as a widow, as the Countess of Desmond, in Inchiquin Castle in East Cork. She died supposedly from falling out of a cherry tree, having allegedly worn out three natural sets of teeth. The current owners have planted a cherry tree in her honour. They have a bookcase supposedly made from the cherry tree from which she fell!

I found this information about Katherine FitzGerald in St. Mary’s Collegiate Church in Youghal, County Cork!

The website states:

“The castle of Dromana was attacked and damaged in the wars of the 1640s and 50s, though its base can still be identified from the river, and indeed is still inhabited. In about 1700, instead of rebuilding the castle, two new ranges were built at right angles to one another along the courtyard walls. Both were simple gable-ended two storey structures, possibly just intended for occasional occupation, their only decoration being a robust, pedimented block-and-start door case in the manner of James Gibbs.” This door was moved when part of the house was demolished and is still the front door.

the “robust, pedimented block-and-start door case in the manner of James Gibbs” was moved and is still the front door.

Julian Walton, one of the speakers at the “Pursuit of the Heiress” conference in 2019, has gained access to the archives at Curraghmore and is eliciting many interesting facts and details. This was great preparation for our visit to Curraghmore House the next day! [2] He told us of the heiress Katherine FitzGerald.

Stephen in the garden in 2020.

Descendents of the Fitzgeralds in Dromana

In 1673 the young heiress of Dromana, another Katherine Fitzgerald, was married against her will by her guardian Richard Le Poer, the 6th Baron of Curraghmore, to his son John. She was the only child of Sir John FitzGerald, Lord of Dromana and Decies and heir to Dromana. Her mother was Katherine Le Poer, daughter of John Le Poer 5th Baron of Curraghmore. Her mother’s brother, the 6th Baron of Curraghmore, wanted to unite the Curraghmore and Dromana estates. Both parties were underage – she was 12 and John Le Poer was only eight! Three years later Katherine escaped and married a cavalry officer named Edward Villiers (son of 4th Viscount Grandison). The courts upheld her second marriage and her first husband had to return her estate of Dromana and renounce the title of Viscount Decies. Her second husband’s father was a cousin to Barbara Villiers, mistress to King Charles II, and Barbara intervened on behalf of her cousin. When her second husband’s father, the 4th Viscount Grandison died in 1700, she was granted, in lieu of her now deceased husband, the title of Viscountess Grandison. She lived in Dromana until her death in 1725. 

History of the Development of the House, and the Villiers-Stuarts

The son of Edward Villiers and Katherine Fitzgerald, John Villiers, c.1684 – 1766, became the 5th Viscount Grandison, and later, the 1st Earl Grandison. He repaired the house in the 1730s after it was partly destroyed in the political turmoil of the 1600s. Our guide, Barbara, told us that he was an enterprising landlord: in the 1740s he brought weaving from Lurgan, County Armagh, to start the linen industry in the area, and he built the village of Villierstown for the workers. He also planted 52,000 trees.

The 1st Earl of Grandison’s sons predeceased him so the estate passed to his daughter, Elizabeth. She married Alan John Mason, an MP for County Waterford and a merchant, and on her father’s death she was created 1st Countess Grandison and and 1st Viscountess Villiers. [3] Their son became the 2nd Earl of Grandison and added the surname Villiers to become George Mason-Villiers. In 1780, he added a larger new house in front of the old one, adding an impressive staircase and ballroom. Of his building work, Mark Bence-Jones describes the back of the new block forming a third side of a courtyard with two older ranges, and a low office range forming the fourth side. The Gibbsian doorway was hidden from sight in the courtyard. [4]

A panel about the architectural evolution of Dromana states: “The second Earl Grandison, George Mason-Villiers, added on a larger new house, commencing in about 1780, directly in front of the longer 1700s range. The principal façade was of two storey and nine bays, quite plain, with a parapet and a rather curious segmental-headed armorial doorcase. The river façade contained a shallow double-height bow and was actually an extension of the smaller 1700s range. Together these three buildings faithfully followed the line of the original bawn or courtyard. There was a spacious hall with a grand staircase, and a large circular ballroom.”

In this old picture you can see the house with the bows.

George Mason-Villiers too had only a daughter as an heir: Gertrude Amelia Mason-Villiers (1778-1809). In 1800, she married Lord Henry Stuart (1777-1809), third son of the 1st Marquess of Bute, of the Isle of Bute in Scotland. Henry Stuart’s grandmother was the famous writer Lady Mary Wortley-Montagu, who wrote about her experiences of travelling in Ottoman Istanbul.

Gertrude and Henry were succeeded in 1809 by their son, Henry, when he was just six years old. Henry added “Villiers” to his name in 1822, becoming Villiers-Stuart. The architect Martin Day was hired first in 1822 by trustees of Lady Gertrude – Henry didn’t come of age until 1824. Martin Day came from a family of architects in County Wexford. He designed several Church of Ireland churches for the Board of First Fruits and the Irish Ecclesiastical Commissioners between 1822-1849. In the 1820s, Day worked on the interiors of Dromana. He assisted Daniel Robertson at Johnstown Castle (now open to the public) and Castleboro House in County Wexford in the 1840s, and around the same time did more work for Henry Villiers-Stuart, adding parapets, pediments and mouldings to the windows, and an elaborate surround to the entrance doorway which incorporated the family arms. [5] He also fitted out a suite of very grand reception rooms and a massive imperial staircase.

Henry served as MP for Waterford 1826-1830 and for Banbury, Oxfordshire, England in 1830-1. He also served as Colonel in the Waterford Militia. He was admitted to the Irish Privy Council in 1837, and was created, in 1839, Baron Stuart de Decies, a title that recalled his long family connection with the region. Henry Villiers-Stuart was Lord-Lieutenant of County Waterford, 1831-74.

The Dromana website tells us that Henry Villiers-Stuart was “a Protestant aristocrat and large landowner with radical views. As a young man he defeated the Waterford establishment in the famous 1826 election to give Daniel O’Connell and the Catholic Emancipation movement their first Member of Parliament.” Daniel O’Connell signed documents in Dromana House, and the Catholic Emancipation Act of 1829 was drawn up at Dromana.

In 1826 Henry Villiers-Stuart married Theresia Pauline Ott. When they returned from their honeymoon, the tenants of Villierstown constructed an elaborate papier-mache archway gate for them to drive through. Martin Day may have had a hand in the original gateway, and later drew up plans to create a more permanent structure, which Stephen and I visited later in the day.

The Hindu-Gothic Bridge, over the River Finisk.

The Bridge is now on a public road. One used to need a ticket to enter through the gate. When King Edward VII arrived at the gate in a pony and trap, on his way to Lismore, he had no pass, so was turned away! The Gate was restored by the Irish Georgian Society in the 1960s and again by the local city council in 1990. [6] The “bishop” like structures either side of the top of the central part have been replaced by fibreglass “bishops,” as the original copper ones are too heavy, and one of the originals now sits in the garden of Dromana.

Pauline Ott has been married before, and her husband was thought to have died in the army. However, he later reappeared. Her marriage to Henry Villiers-Stuart was thus rendered invalid, and her children illegitimate. She and Henry had a son, Henry Windsor Villiers-Stuart and a daughter Pauline. Pauline married into the Wheeler-Cuffe family of Lyrath, County Kilkenny (now a hotel). Their son was unable to inherit the title of Baron Stuart of the Decies and the peerage expired with his father’s death in 1874.

Despite becoming illegitimate, the son, Henry Windsor Villiers-Stuart (1827-1895) [the name Windsor came from his father’s maternal family], did very well for himself. He served first in the Austrian then the British Army, then went to university. He was ordained in the Church of England but later resigned Holy Orders in order to pursue a political career. He became MP for County Waterford from 1873-85, Vice Lord-Lieutenant of County Waterford, 1871-73, and High Sheriff of County Waterford in 1889. In 1865 he married Mary, second daughter of the Venerable Ambrose Power, Archdeacon of Lismore. He travelled extensively and wrote books, studied hieroglyphics, and did pioneering work in Egypt. He brought many artefacts back from Egypt, which have since been dispersed.

Henry Windsor Villiers-Stuart (1827 – 1895) travelled extensively and wrote books, studied hieroglyphics, and did pioneering work in Egypt. He was a British soldier, clergyman, politician, Egyptologist, and author.
In the old kitchen, which houses the information boards, there was a museum case of fascinating artefacts, many from Egypt from Henry Windsor Villiers-Stuart’s travels.

His eldest son, Henry Charles Windsor Villiers-Stuart (1867-1908), who served as High Sheriff of County Waterford, 1898, espoused, in 1895, Grace Frances, only daughter of John Adam Richard Newman of Dromore, County Cork. Their heir, Ion Henry Fitzgerald Villiers-Stuart (1900-48), wedded, in 1928, Elspeth Richardson, and was succeeded by his only son, James Henry Villiers-Stuart (b. 1928), of Dromana, who married, in 1952, Emily Constance Lanfear and had two daughters, Caroline and Barbara, one of whom was our tour guide and who now lives in the house. [7]

The website states that: “by the 1960s Dromana had become something of a white elephant. The estate was sold and subdivided, and the house bought by a cousin, Fitzgerald Villiers-Stuart [a grandson of Henry Windsor Villiers-Stuart], who demolished the 1780s block in 1966 and reduced it to more manageable proportions.”

“James Villiers-Stuart was able to repurchase the house in 1995 he and his wife Emily moved into Dromana and began restoring the house and garden. Now a widow, Emily still lives there, along with her daughter and family.”

Back to the Conference

Barbara, heir to the house, and her husband Nicholas, attended the “Pursuit of the Heiress” conference. Nicholas gave us an impromptu lecture of sorts about how forces merged to make the upkeep of the big houses in Ireland almost impossible, with the high rates charged by the government, and the decline of salmon fishing, etc. 

We had more lectures after lunch. First up was “The Abduction of Mary Pike,” by Dr. Kieran Groeger, which interested Stephen as she too was a Quaker. [8] The last lecture was by Dr Dagmar Ó Riain-Raedel, on her research on Irish exiles to the Austrian army. [9] This was fascinating. I have much to study, to learn the history of the Habsburg empire.

Afterwards we had tea on the lawn, then Nicholas gave us an almost running tour of the garden – we had to be quick to keep up with him as he bound ahead describing the plants. The website states that “the steeply sloping riverbanks are covered with oak woods and the important mid-eighteenth century garden layout, with its follies, the Rock House and the Bastion, is currently being restored.” There are over thirty acres of garden and woodland, including looped walks.

When we visited in 2020, we had more time to explore the garden. We were given a map when we arrived. The current owners are enthusiastic gardeners and do nearly all the work themselves.

From the Conference in 2019, a view of the gardens.
The sweep of lawn in front of the house.
Looking toward the gas house wood.

We headed down to see the Bastion and Rock House.

Inside the Bastion.
The Bastion.
I had Stephen stand by the wall of the Bastion to show how tall it is!

Next we went to see the Rock House, further along the path.

It has graffiti that is 150 years old!

In 2015 there were celebrations of the 800th anniversary of the house [10].

You can see photographs taken inside the house on the Dromana website, where you can also see self-catering accommodation that is available.

[1] www.dromanahouse.com

[2] https://dromanahouse.com/2019/03/20/the-drawbacks-and-dangers-of-heiress-hunting/

[3] http://lordbelmontinnorthernireland.blogspot.com/search/label/County%20Waterford%20Landowners

[4] p. 108. Bence-Jones, Mark. A Guide to Irish Country Houses. (originally published as Burke’s Guide to Country Houses volume 1 Ireland by Burke’s Peerage Ltd. 1978); Revised edition 1988, Constable and Company Ltd, London.

[5] https://www.dia.ie/architects/view/1424/DAY-MARTIN#tab_biography

[6] https://theirishaesthete.com/2014/09/27/bridging-cultures/

[7] http://lordbelmontinnorthernireland.blogspot.com/search/label/County%20Waterford%20Landowners

[8] https://dromanahouse.com/2019/03/20/the-abduction-of-mary-pike-and-that-fateful-night-in-vernon-mount-cork/

[9] https://dromanahouse.com/2019/03/20/the-irish-wild-geese-in-search-of-fortune-in-the-habsburg-empire/

[10] https://theirishaesthete.com/2015/07/01/an-octocentenary/

Happy holidays! And coming up next year…

I haven’t a house entry for last week, so here is a list of places on Revenue Section 482 that were scheduled to be open in January 2020 which might be open in January 2021. With Covid restrictions, maybe nothing will be open to the public, so check in advance.

In the meantime, I hope you have a safe, healthy and happy Christmas Season!

Cavan

Cabra Castle (Hotel)

Cabra Castle, in 2011.

Kingscourt, Co. Cavan

Howard Corscadden.

Tel: 042-9667030

www.cabracastle.com

Open in 2020 (but check due to Covid restrictions): all year, except Dec 24, 25, 26, 11am-12 midnight

Fee: Free

Corravahan House & Gardens

Corravahan, Drung, Ballyhaise, Co. Cavan

Ian Elliott

Tel: 087-9772224

www.corravahan.com

Open in 2020 (but check due to Covid restrictions): Jan 6-7, 13-14, 20-21, 27-28, Feb 3-4, 10-11, 17-18, 24-25, Mar 2-3, 9-10, May 24-31, June 1-18, 2pm-6pm, Aug 15-28, 9am-1pm, Sunday 2pm-6pm

Fee: adult €7, OAP/student/child/concessions €5

Clare

Newtown Castle

Photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

Newtown, Ballyvaughan, Co. Clare

Mary Hawkes- Greene

Tel: 065-7077200

www.newtowncastle.com

Open in 2020 (but check due to Covid restrictions): Jan 6-May 29 Mon-Fri, June 1-30 Mon -Sat, July 1-Aug 31 daily, Sept 1-Dec 18 Mon-Fri, 10am-5pm

Fee: Free

Cork

Ashton Grove

Ballingohig, Knockraha, Co. Cork

Gerald McGreal

Tel: 087-2400831

Open in 2020 (but check due to Covid restrictions): Jan 28-29, Feb 4-5, 11-12, 25-26, Mar 3-4, 10-11, 24-25, 31, Apr 21-22, 28-29, May 12-13, 16-17, 19-20, 23-24, 26-27, June 16-17, 20-21, 23-24, 27-28, 30, July 1-2, Aug 15-23, Sept 1-2, 8-9, 12-13, 15-16, 22-23, 29-30, Wednesdays 2pm-6pm, Tues, weekends & National Heritage Week 8am-12 noon

Fee: adult €6, OAP/student/child €3

Blarney Castle & Rock Close

Blarney, Co. Cork

C. Colthurst

Tel: 021-4385252

www.blarneycastle.ie

Open in 2020 (but check due to Covid restrictions): All year except Christmas Eve & Christmas Day, Jan- Mar, Mon-Sat, 9am-sundown, Sun, 9am- 6pm Apr-May, 9am-6pm, June-Aug, Mon-Sat, 9am-7pm, Sun, 9am-6pm, Sept, Mon-Sat, 9am-6.30pm, Sun, 9am-6pm, Oct, Nov, Dec Daily 9am-6pm,

Fee: adult €18, OAP/student €15, child €10, family and season passes

Brideweir House

Photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

Conna, Co. Cork

Ronan Fox

Tel: 087-0523256

Open in 2020 (but check due to Covid restrictions): Jan 1-Dec 24, 11am-4pm

Fee: adult €10, OAP/student €5, child free

Woodford Bourne Warehouse

Sheares Street, Cork

Edward Nicholson

Tel: 021-4273000

www.woodfordbournewarehouse.com

Open in 2020 (but check due to Covid restrictions): all year except Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, 1pm-11pm

Fee: Free

Donegal

Cavanacor House

Photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

Ballindrait, Lifford, Co. Donegal

Joanna O’Kane

Tel: 074-9141143, 085-8165428

www.cavanacorgallery.ie

Open in 2020 (but check due to Covid restrictions): Jan 26-31, Feb 1-14, May 1-31, Aug 15-23, 1pm-5pm

Fee: adult €8, OAP/student/child €6

Dublin City

Bewley’s

78-79 Grafton Street/234 Johnson’s Court, Dublin 2

Peter O’ Callaghan

Tel 087-7179367

www.bewleys.com

Open in 2020 (but check due to Covid restrictions): all year except Christmas Day, 8am-8pm

Fee: Free

Doheny & Nesbitt

4/5 Lower Baggot Street, Dublin 2

Niall Courtney

Tel: 01-4925395

Open in 2020 (but check due to Covid restrictions): all year except Christmas Day, Mon-Tues 9am-12.30am, Wed-Thurs 9am-1am, Fri-Sat 9am-2am, Sunday 10.30-12 midnight

Fee: Free

Hibernian/National Irish Bank

23-27 College Green, Dublin 2

Dan O’Sullivan

Tel: 01-6755100

www.clarendonproperties.ie

Open in 2020 (but check due to Covid restrictions): all year, except Dec 25, 10am-7pm

Fee: Free

The Odeon (formerly the Old Harcourt Street Railway Station)

57 Harcourt Street, Dublin 2

Mary Lacey, Tel: 01-6727690

www.odeon.ie

Open in 2020 (but check due to Covid restrictions): all year, 12 noon to midnight, closed Sundays

Fee: Free

Powerscourt Townhouse Centre

59 South William Street, Dublin 2

Mary Larkin

Tel: 01-6717000

Open in 2020 (but check due to Covid restrictions): All year except New Year’s Day, Easter Sunday, Easter Monday, Christmas Day, St. Stephen’s Day & Bank Holidays, Mon-Sat, 10am-6pm, Thurs, 10am-8pm, Sundays, 12 noon-6pm

Fee: Free

10 South Frederick Street

Dublin 2

Joe Hogan

Tel: 087-2430334

Open in 2020 (but check due to Covid restrictions): Jan1-20, May 1-31, June 1, Aug 15-23, 2pm-6pm

Fee: Free

The Church

Junction of Mary’s Street/Jervis Street, Dublin 1

Ann French

Tel: 087-2245726

www.thechurch.ie

Open in 2020 (but check due to Covid restrictions): all year except Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and St Stephens Day, 11am-11 pm

Fee: Free

County Dublin

Farm Complex

Toberburr Road, Killeek, St Margaret’s, Co. Dublin

David Doran, Tel: 086-3821304

Open in 2020 (but check due to Covid restrictions): Jan 2-5, 11-12, 18-19, 25-26, Feb 1-2, 15-16, 21-23, March 6-8, May 1-4, 8-10, 15-17, 22-24, 29-31, June 1, 5-7, 12-14, Aug 15-23, Sept 5-6, 12-13, 19-20, 26-27, Jan, Feb, Sept, 12 noon-4pm, Mar-Aug 2pm-6pm

Fee: adult €6, student/OAP/child €5

“Geragh”

Sandycove Point, Sandycove, Co. Dublin

Gráinne Casey

Tel: 01-2804884

Open in 2020 (but check due to Covid restrictions): Jan 14-17, 21-23, 28, Feb 18-20, 26-28, May 6-8, 11-24, 27-29, Aug 11-12, 15-23, 26-27, Sept 7-11, 15-16, Nov 3-6, Dec 3-4, 2pm-6pm

Fee: adult €7, OAP €4, student €2, child free

Meander

Photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

Westminister Road, Foxrock, Dublin 18,

Ruth O’Herlihy,

Tel: 087-2163623

Open in 2020 (but check due to Covid restrictions): Jan 6-10, 13-17, 20-24, 27-31, May 1-2, 5-9, 11-12, 19-23, June 8-13, 15-20, 23-27, Aug 15-23, 9am-1pm

Fee: adult €5, OAP/child €2

Tibradden House

Photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

Mutton Lane, Rathfarnham, Dublin 16

Selina Guinness

Tel: 01-4957483

www.selinaguinness.com

Open in 2020 (but check due to Covid restrictions): Jan 10-12, 17, 24-31, Feb 2, 7-8, 28, Mar 6, 20, 27-29, Apr 3-5, 24-25, May 7-8, 14-15, 21-24, 28-29, June 4-5, 11-12, 18-24, July 14-19, Aug 15-25, Sept 12-13, weekdays 2.30pm-6.30pm, weekends 10.30am-2.30pm, tours weekdays 3pm & 4.30pm, weekends 11am & 12.30pm

Fee: adult/OAP €8 student €3, child free, An Taisce members/Irish Georgian Society members €5

Kerry

Derreen Gardens

Lauragh, Tuosist, Kenmare, Co. Kerry

John Daly

Tel: 087-1325665

Open in 2020 (but check due to Covid restrictions): all year, 10am-6pm

Fee: adult/OAP/student €8, child €3, family ticket (2 adults and all children under 18 and 2 maps) €20

Kildare

Farmersvale House

Badgerhill, Kill, Co. Kildare

Patricia Orr

Tel: 086-2552661

Open in 2020 (but check due to Covid restrictions): Jan 19-31, Feb 1-7, May 1-12, July 27-31, Aug 1-23, 9.30am-1.30pm

Fee: adult €5, student/child/OAP €3, (Irish Georgian Society members free)

Harristown House

Brannockstown, Co. Kildare

Noella Beaumont

Tel: 087-7414971

Open in 2020 (but check due to Covid restrictions): Jan 13-24, Feb 3-14, May 5-29, June 2-5, Aug 15-23, Sept 7-11, 9am-1pm

Fee: €10

Kildrought House

Photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

Celbridge Village, Co. Kildare

June Stuart

Tel: 01-6271206, 087-6168651

Open in 2020 (but check due to Covid restrictions): Jan 6-25, May 1-14, 18-26, Aug 15-31, 10am-2pm, Garden permanently available to Celbridge walking tours     

Fee: adult €6, OAP/student/child €3, child under 5years free, school groups €1 per head

Moyglare Glebe

Moyglare, Maynooth, Co. Kildare

Joan Hayden

Tel: 01-8722238

Open in 2020 (but check due to Covid restrictions): Jan 13-17, 20-24, 27-31, Feb 3-7, May 1-27, Aug 15-23, Sept 4-7, 8.30am-12.30pm

Fee: adult €6, OAP/student/child €3

Kilkenny

Kilkenny Design Centre

Photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

Castle Yard, Kilkenny

Joseph O’ Keeffe, Tel: 054-6623331

www.kilkennydesign.com

Open in 2020 (but check due to Covid restrictions): all year,10am-7pm

Fee: Free

Tudor Building (Hole in the Wall)

Rere of 17-19 High Street, Kilkenny.

Michael Conway

087-8075650

www.holeinthewall.ie

Open in 2020 (but check due to Covid restrictions): all year, closed Christmas Day, Jan- Feb & Nov 7pm-11pm, Mar- Sept 1pm-11.30pm, Oct 1pm-11pm, Nov 7pm-11pm, Dec 1-14, 26-31,7pm-11pm, 15 -24, 1pm-11.30pm

Fee: Free

Laois

Ballaghmore Castle

Borris in Ossory, Co. Laois

Grace Pym

Tel: 0505-21453

www.castleballaghmore.com

Open in 2020 (but check due to Covid restrictions): all year except Christmas Day, 10am-6pm

Fee: adult €5, student/child/OAP €3, family of 2 adults + 2 children €10

Leitrim

Manorhamilton Castle (Ruin)

Castle St, Manorhamilton, Co. Leitrim

Anthony Daly

Tel: 086-2502593

Open in 2020 (but check due to Covid restrictions): Jan 7-Dec 21, closed Sat & Sun, 9.30am-3.30pm

Fee: adult €5, child free

Limerick

Ash Hill

Photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

Kilmallock, Co. Limerick

Simon and Nicole Johnson

Tel: 063-98035

www.ashhill.com

(Tourist Accommodation Facility)

Open in 2020 (but check due to Covid restrictions): Jan 15-31, Feb 1-15, Mar 1-May 31, June 1-15, July 1- Sept 20, Oct 1-20, Nov 1-20, Dec 1-15, 9am-4.30pm

Fee: Free

Glebe House

Photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

Bruff, Co. Limerick

Colm McCarthy

Tel: 087-6487556

Open in 2020 (but check due to Covid restrictions): Jan 6-10, 13-17, 20-24, 27-31, May 5-13, Aug 10-23, Sept 14-30, Mon-Fri, 5.30pm-9.30pm, Sat-Sun, 9am-1pm

Fee: Free

Mayo

Brookhill House

Photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

Brookhill, Claremorris, Co. Mayo

Patricia and John Noone

Tel: 094-9371348

Open in 2020 (but check due to Covid restrictions): Jan 13-20, Apr 13-20, May 18-24, June 8-14, July 13-19, Aug 1-23, 2pm-6pm

Fee: adult €6, student €3, OAP/child/National Heritage Week free

Meath

Cillghrian Glebe now known as Boyne House Slane

Slane, Co. Meath

Alan Haugh

Tel: 041-9884444

www.boynehouseslane.ie

Open in 2020 (but check due to Covid restrictions): all year and National Heritage Week, Aug 15-23, 9am-1pm

Fee: Free

Dardistown Castle

Dardistown, Julianstown, Co. Meath

Lizanne Allen

Tel: 086 -2774271

www.dardistowncastle.ie

Open in 2020 (but check due to Covid restrictions): Jan 9-11, 13-18, 20-24, 27-31, Aug 15-31, Sept 1-5, 7-12, 14-19, 21-26, 10am-2pm

Fee: adult €6, child €3, student/OAP free, all proceeds to Irish Cancer Society.

Moyglare House

Moyglare, Co. Meath

Postal address Maynooth Co. Kildare

Angela Alexander

Tel: 086-0537291

www.moyglarehouse.ie

Open in 2020 (but check due to Covid restrictions): Jan 1-3, 6-10, 13-17, 20-24, 27-28, May 1-22, 25-29, June 1-3, Aug 15-24, 9am-1pm

Fee: adult €7.50, OAP/ student/child €5

Slane Castle

Slane, Co. Meath

Jemma & Pamela

Tel: 041-9884477

www.slanecastle.ie

Open in 2020 (but check due to Covid restrictions):Jan4-5, 11-12, 18-19, 25-26, Feb 1-2, 8-9, 15-16, 22-23, 29, Mar 1, 7-8, 14-15, 21-22, 28-29, 12.15pm-4pm, April 1-30, May 1-31, June 1-30, July 1-31, Aug 1-31, Sept 1-30, Oct 1-31, 11.15am-5.15pm, Nov 1, 7-8, 14-15, 21-22, 28-29, Dec 5-6, 12-13, 19-20, 26-27, 12.15pm-4pm

Fee: adult €12, €14 from Feb, OAP/student €10.80, €11from Feb, child €7.20

St. Mary’s Abbey

High Street, Trim, Co. Meath

Peter Higgins

Tel: 087-2057176

Open in 2020 (but check due to Covid restrictions): Jan 20-24, Feb 24-28, May 11-15, June 29-30, July 1-3, 13-19, Aug 15-23, Sept 7-13, 21-27, Oct 19-23, Nov 2-6, 2pm-6pm

Fee: adult €5, OAP/student/child €2

Tankardstown House

Rathkenny, Slane, Co. Meath

Tadhg Carolan, Tel: 087-7512871

www.tankardstown.ie

Open in 2020 (but check due to Covid restrictions): All year including National Heritage Week, 9am-1pm

Fee: Free

Monaghan

Castle Leslie

Glaslough, Co. Monaghan

Samantha Leslie

Tel: 047-88091

www.castleleslie.com

(Tourist Accommodation Facility)

Open in 2020 (but check due to Covid restrictions): all year, National Heritage Week events August 15-23

Fee: Free

Offaly

Ballybrittan Castle

Ballybrittan, Edenderry, Co. Offaly

Rosemarie

Tel: 087-2469802

Open in 2020 (but check due to Covid restrictions): Jan 4-5, 11-12, 18-19, 25-26, Feb 1-2, 8-9, 15-16, 22-23, 29, Mar 1, 7-8, 14-15, 21-22, 28-29, May 2-3, 9-10, 16-17, 23-24, 30-31, June 13-14, 20-21, 27-28, July 4-5, 11-12, 18-19, 25-26, Aug 15-23, Sept 5-13, 2pm-6pm.

Fee: free – except in case of large groups a fee of €6 p.p.

Corolanty House

Photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

Shinrone, Birr, Co. Offaly

Siobhan Webb

Tel: 086-1209984

Open in 2020 (but check due to Covid restrictions): Jan, Feb, July, Aug, Sept, daily 2pm-6pm

Fee: Free

Crotty Church

Photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

Castle Street, Birr, Co. Offaly

Brendan Garry

Tel: 086-8236452

Open in 2020 (but check due to Covid restrictions): All year, except Dec 25, 9am-5pm

Fee: Free

Gloster House

Photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

Brosna, Birr, Co. Offaly

Tom & Mary Alexander

Tel: 087-2342135

Open in 2020 (but check due to Covid restrictions): Jan 6-31, Mon-Fri, May 1-31, Aug 15-23, 9am-1pm

Fee: €6

High Street House

High Street, Tullamore, Co. Offaly

George Ross

Tel: 086-3832992

www.no6highstreet.com

Open in 2020 (but check due to Covid restrictions): Jan 3, 6-10, 13-17, 20-24, 27-30, May 1-12, Aug 15-23, Sept 1-20, 9.30am-1.30pm

Fee: adult/student €5, OAP €4, child under 12 free

Tullamore Dew Heritage Centre

Photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

Bury Quay, Tullamore, Co. Offaly

Maurice Conway

Tel: 057-9327740

Open in 2020 (but check due to Covid restrictions): Jan 2-Dec 24, 28-30, 9.30am-6pm,

Fee: adult €17, OAP/student €15, child €13

The Maltings

Photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

Castle Street, Birr, Co. Offaly

Brendan Garry

Tel: 086-8236452

(Tourist Accommodation Facility)

Open in 2020 (but check due to Covid restrictions): all year

Roscommon

Strokestown Park House

Photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

Strokestown Park House, Strokestown, Co. Roscommon

Ciarán

Tel: 01-8748030

www.strokestownpark.ie

Open in 2020 (but check due to Covid restrictions): Jan 2-Dec 23, Jan, Feb, Nov, Dec 10.30am-4pm, April-Oct 10.30am-5.30pm, Mar 1-16 10.30am-4pm, Mar 17-31 10.30am-5.30pm

Fee: adult €14, €12.50, €9.25, OAP/student €12.50, child €6, group €11.50, family €29

Tipperary

Beechwood House

Photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

Ballbrunoge, Cullen, Co. Tipperary

Maura & Patrick McCormack

Tel: 083-1486736

Open in 2020 (but check due to Covid restrictions): Jan 3-6, 10-13, Feb 28-29, Mar 1-2, 6-9, Apr 24-27, May 8-11, 15-18, June 5-8, July 10-13, 24-27, Aug 15-23, Sept 11-14, 18-21, 25-28, 10.15am-2.15pm

Fee: adult €5, OAP/student €2, child free, fees donated to charity

Westmeath

Lough Park House

Photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

Castlepollard, Co. Westmeath

Liam O’Flanagan

Tel: 044-9661226

Open in 2020 (but check due to Covid restrictions): Jan 1-7, Mar 15-20, Apr 9-15, May 1-7, June 1-7, 27-28, July 18-26, Aug 1-5, 15-24, 2pm-6pm

Fee: adult /OAP €6, child/student €4

Wexford

Clougheast Cottage

Photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

Carne, Co. Wexford

Jacinta Denieffe

Tel: 086-1234322

Open in 2020 (but check due to Covid restrictions): Jan 11-31, May 1-31, August 15-23, 9am-1pm

Fee: €5

Wilton Castle

Photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

Bree, Enniscorthy, Co. Wexford

Sean Windsor

(Tourist Accommodation Facility)

Tel: 053-9247738

www.wiltoncastleireland.com  

Open in 2020 (but check due to Covid restrictions): all year

Wicklow

Castle Howard

Avoca, Co. Wicklow

Mark Sinnott

Tel: 087-2987601

Open in 2020 (but check due to Covid restrictions): Jan 13-15, Feb 3-7, Mar 2-4, 23-25, June 8-13, 20, 22-27, July 6-12, 20-23, Aug 14-23, Sept 7-12, 26, Oct 5-7, 12-14, 9am-1pm

Fee: adult €8.50, OAP/student €6.50, child €5

Mount Usher Gardens

Ashford, Co. Wicklow

Caitriona Mc Weeney

Tel: 0404-49672

www.mountushergardens.ie

Open in 2020 (but check due to Covid restrictions): all year 10am-6pm

Fee: adult €8, student/OAP €7, child €4, no charge for wheelchair users

Powerscourt House & Gardens

Powerscourt Estate, Enniskerry, Co. Wicklow

Sarah Slazenger

Tel: 01-2046000

www.powerscourt.ie

Open in 2020 (but check due to Covid restrictions): All year, closed Christmas day and St Stephens day, 9.30am-5.30pm, ballroom and garden rooms Sun, 9.30am-1.30pm

Fee: Mar-Oct, adult €11.50, OAP €9, student €8.50, child €5, family ticket €25, Nov-Dec adult €8.50, OAP €7.50, student €7, child €4, family ticket 2 adults + 3 children €18, children under 5 free

Kilshannig House, Rathcormac, County Cork

contact: Hugo Merry Tel: 087-2513928

Open dates in 2020 (but check due to Covid restrictions): May 1-3, June 1-30, July 1-31, Aug 1-31, Sept 2, 4, 7, 9, 11, 14, 16, 18, 21, 23, 25, 28, 30, May & Sept 8.30am-2.30pm, June-Aug 10am-4pm

Fee: adult/OAP €10, child €7, student €8

Stephen and I visited Kilshannig House in Rathcormac, County Cork, in August 2020, during Heritage Week. Kilshannig is most notable for its wonderful stucco work.

I rang Mr. Merry in advance, and he was away but told me his housekeeper could show us around. Stephen and I were spending a few days on holidays with our friends Denise and Ivan, and Denise decided to join us to come to see the house. I was excited to show someone what it is like to visit the section 482 houses. In most cases, like this day visiting Kilshannig, we are going to see someone’s private home. It is not like visiting a place normally open to the public, like Fota House or Doneraile Court, two houses which Stephen and I also visited while in Cork, which are now owned and run by Irish Heritage Trust and the OPW (Office of Public Works) respectively. [1] I always feel that I am an inconvenience, requesting a visit someone’s home. I must remind myself that it is visitors like me and you who ensure that the section 482 revenue scheme continues. I envy owners of these beautiful homes, but maintaining a Big House is almost a career choice. In fact owners often express their belief that they are the caretaker of a small part of Ireland’s built heritage. In this case, Mr. Merry runs an equine stud, and it is the success of that which enables him to maintain the upkeep of his home. He has also converted an extension into self-catering accommodation [2].

The house, as you can see from the photograph of the entire sweep, is Palladian [3]. It was built in 1765-66 for Abraham Devonsher, an MP and a Cork banker. The date 1766 is written on a “hopper” and probably commemorates the completion of the house.

Cast-iron rainwater goods having ornate hoppers, dated 1766, with gambolling lion and winged cherub head, square-profile down pipe and moulded joints.” [see 9]

It was designed by Davis Ducart [or Duckart], whose Irish career began in the 1760s and continued until his death in about 1785. The Dictionary of Irish Architects tells us:

According to William Brownlow, writing to the Earl of Abercorn in 1768, he ‘dropped into this Kingdom from the clouds, no one knows how, or what brought him to it.’ [4]

The Irish Historic Houses website tells us that Ducart worked as a canal and mining engineer as well as an architect. With engineering skill, he was committed to good design and craftsmanship. The Dictionary of Irish Architects tells us of criticism of his work, however:

An attack on him in the Freeman’s Journal for 3-4 February 1773 states that he had given up architecture by this time: ‘Our French architect … never could bring any thing to perfection he put his hands to; he made some of his first (and, alas! his last) experiments as an architect, at the cost of the public and many private gentlemen, in the country and city of Cork, the latter of which bears a large monument of his insipid, uncooth taste in the art of designing; he was actually ignorant of the common rules and proportions of architecture; eternally committing mistakes and blunders, and confounding and contradicting his own directions, until he himself saw the folly of such proceedings, and (not without certain admonitions) quitted the profession he had no sort of claim to.’

I do not know enough about architecture to contradict the writer in the Freeman’s Journal but the Irish Historic Houses website claims: “Ducart was arguably the most accomplished architect working in Ireland between the death of Richard Cassels and arrival of James Gandon.” [5] In an article in Country Life, Judith Hill suggests that criticism was motivated by professional jealousy of a foreigner. [6]

Other works associated with Ducart are the Mayoralty or Mansion House, Cork (1765-1773); Lota Lodge in County Cork (1765); Castletown Cox in County Kilkenny (1767); Brockley House, Laois (1768); Custom House of Limerick (1769) which now houses the Hunt Museum; Castlehyde House, County Cork; Drishane Castle, County Cork (which is also a section 482 property, not to be confused with Drishane House – about which I will be writing shortly). [see 4]

The cherrypicker out front mars the photograph, but Anne the housekeeper explained that work was being done in the house. The front door is approached by a flight of limestone steps.

The house consists of a central block of two storeys over basement (with a mezzanine level), with wings either side that are described by Mark Bence-Jones as “L” shaped but to me they look U shaped, almost like a pair of crab claws. [7] Curved walls close in either wing into courtyards. Frank Keohane describes it in The Buildings of Ireland: Cork, City and County:

At Kilshannig, Ducart developed his own interpretation of the ubiquitous Irish Palladian country-house plan, which he also used with modification at Castletown Cox, Co Kilkenny, and The Island, Co Cork (demolished). Eschewing the Pearse-Castle tradition, Duckart’s central block is flanked by inward turned L-shaped (rather than rectangular) wings which project forward to form a cour d’honneur. Curved screen walls connect the inward-facing ends of the wings back to the house and enclose kitchen and stable courts. The principal North front, looking across the park to Devonsher’s parliamentary borough of Rathcormac, comprises a neat central corps de logis flanked by six-bay blind arcades, representing the back ranges of the courts, which terminate in domed pavilions. The plan has been likened to that of Vanbrugh’s Castle Howard, Yorkshire.” [8]

The view from the front, overlooking Rathcormac.

Keohane suggests that Davis Ducart was probably assisted by Thomas Roberts of Waterford. The front of the house is of red brick with limestone quoins, and the centre block is seven bays across with a single-storey three bay Doric frontispiece which the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage tells us is of cut sandstone. [9] The frontispiece has Doric style pilasters, and the door and window openings have fluted scroll keystones with plinths that look like they should hold something, in circular niches. The pilasters support an entablature which the National Inventory describes: “with alternating bucrania and fruit and flowers metopes and triglyphs.” The metopes are the squares with the pictures of “bucrania” (cow or ox skulls, commonly used in Classical architecture, they represent ancient Greek and Roman ceremonies of sacrifice) and fruit and flowers, and the triglyphs are the three little pillars between each square picture (wikipedia describes: “In classical architecture, a metope (μετόπη) is a rectangular architectural element that fills the space between two triglyphs in a Doric frieze, which is a decorative band of alternating triglyphs and metopes above the architrave of a building of the Doric order.“) [10]

Above this stone frontispiece is an empty niche which Bence-Jones tells us contained, in a photograph taken in approximately 1940, a statue or relief of a warrior or god.

There is a mezzanine level, which is unusual in such a house, and we can see that the windows at this level are squeezed between ground and first floor levels. The Irish Historic Houses website tells us that the house has four formal fronts. Unfortunately we did not walk around the house so I did not photograph the other fronts. The basement windows are semicircular, which is apparently characteristic for Ducart.

photograph from the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage [9].
the basement windows, “charmingly glazed with cobweb-like astragals,” as Casey and Rowan describe them. Photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

The wings have five arched windows each and Keohane tells us that the wings are actually low two-storey buildings. The copper domes and timber cupolas have been reinstated by the present owners.

On the back facade the arcades have plain Tuscan pilasters supporting a deep entablature with small blind roundels above each arch.

Photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage – you can see that this was taken before the domes were reinstated.

Anne the housekeeper welcomed us and brought us into the impressive Baroque hall.

Front Hall. Excuse the dirty floor, from ongoing repair work.

Keohane writes that the plasterwork in Kilshannig is by two different people with distinctive styles. He writes: “The accomplished decoration to the Saloon and Library ceilings is the work of the Swiss-Italian Filippo Lafranchini, here combining emphatic late Baroque modelling with the refinement of small-scale ornament of a Rococo character. The remaining decoration, which is vigorously naturalistic and in places ungainly, is by an unknown, and presumably Irish, hand.” For more on the Lafranchini brothers, see the Irish Aesthete’s entry about them. [11]

The stuccadore of the wonderful Rococo plasterwork in the hall is therefore unknown. Our guide, Anne, pointed out that the birds, that reminded me of birds at Colganstown by Robert West of Dublin, stick out too far and that the heads have a tendency to be knocked off. The ceiling is deeply coved, and features acanthus leaves, flower and fruit-filled baskets and garlands with draped ribbons.

The floor of the front hall is of Portland stone with black insets. The walls have Corinthian columns and the corners of the ceiling decoration are curved.

The hall has a beautiful Portland stone fireplace with a mask flanked by garlands, and two male Grecian bearded Herms (“a tapering pedestal supporting a bust, or merging into a sculpted figure, used ornamentally, particularly at the sides of chimneypieces. Roughly similar to a term.’) [3]. Herm refers to Hermes, the Greek god.

Here we see one of the birds who has had its head broken off.

The entrance hall leads to a three bay saloon, with dining room on one side and library on the other. To one side of the front hall is a corridor leading to the wonderfully curving staircase. The stone floor and stuccowork continue into the corridor, which has panelled walls.

The circular cantilevered Portland stone staircase rises two full rotations to the first floor. The domed ceiling has more stuccowork. There’s also a lovely circular pattern with geometrical black and grey shapes on the floor below the stairs.

You can see the mezzanine level in this photograph, and the Portland stone cantilevered stairs.

The doll house is an architectural model of Kilshannig! It even has electricity! It was made for the young girl of the house, Sophie.

Amusingly, the Kilshannig doll house is more advanced than the actual house, as the attic has been converted! The actual attic of Kilshanning House has not been converted. As the owner charmingly told me: “The two [bedrooms] in the dolls’ house are poetic license to give the owner of the dolls’ house the opportunity to decorate and fit it out bedrooms.”

Denise, duly masked for Covid, in the hallway at the bottom of the staircase.

We entered the library first. The current owner’s father, Commander Merry, and his wife, bought the house. With his DIY skills, the Commander installed the library shelves, acquired from a Big House built in the same period as Kilshannig. The room has another spectacular ceiling, which is deeply coved. The centre features a rondel with Diana and Apollo, and the corners have oval plaques depicting the Seasons. The cove features female portrait busts, eagles, standing putti and garlands. Christine Casey has noted the likeness of the cove to that formerly in the Gallery at Northumberland House in London, which was decorated by Pietro N. Lafranchini, perhaps in collaboration with his brother Filippo.

The rondel in the centre of the library ceiling featuring Diana and Apollo.
The female heads in rondels in the library are believed to portray members of the Devonsher family [10].

The doors have been stripped back to their original timber.

The next room is the Saloon, or Salon. It has a particularly splendid ceiling, also by Filippo Lafranchini, “combining emphatic late Baroque modelling with the refinement of small-scale ornament of a Rococo character” (Keohane):

“Joseph McDonnell has established that the figurative work is derived from an engraving of 1717 of a now lost ceiling painting by Antoine Coypel, the Assembly of the Gods, at the Palais-Royale in Paris. The centre depicts Bacchus and Araidne, with Pan and a sleeping Silenus, reclining on almost imperceptible clouds. The lavishly intricate border consists of six cartouches framing plaques depicting the Four Elements – Water (a dolphin), Air (an eagle), Earth (a lion), and Fire (a Phoenix) as well as Justice and Liberty. These are linked by a sinuous frame populated by charming putti with dangling legs. The corners feature trophies dedicated to Architecture, Painting, Music and Sculpture.” [12]

“The centre depicts Bacchus and Araidne, with Pan and a sleeping Silenus, reclining on almost imperceptible clouds.”
Justice, blindfolded. The Art of painting is represented in the right corner. Other corners represent architecture, music and sculpture.
Here we see architecture represented in the corner trophy.
The lion on in the left rondel, symbolising Earth, and the eagle on the right, symbolising Air. The other of the four Elements are represented, by a dolphin for Water and a Phoenix for Fire. I love the way the legs and feet of the putti and especially Ariadne stick out from the ceiling.

The final room we were shown was the dining room. Keohane writes that the stuccowork is by a different hand than the Lafranchini brothers. “The deep cove has four large oval cartouches of naturalistic foliage with masks depicting Bacchus, Ceres, Flora and Diana, the last framed by trophies of the chase and a rather insipid fox.” [13]

I believe the figure at the bottom, next to the rather sadly draped hanging game, is the “insipid” fox.
The head of Bacchus, encircled by grapes.

It was in the dining room under Bacchus that we stopped to consider how odd it was that a Quaker, as Abraham Devonsher was, had such an elaborate ceilings created in his home. Indeed, he was expelled from the Quaker community before he had the house built, in 1756, for “conformity to the world.” This was because he entered politics that year and became an MP for Rathcormac. [14] My husband Stephen, a Quaker, tells me that in order to serve as an MP, Devonsher would have had to swear an oath, and Quakers do not believe in swearing oaths – they believe that their word suffices (George Fox said: “My yea is my yea and my nay is my nay.”). The borough was very small – in 1783 it had only seven electors. Devonsher won his seat by appealing directly to the electors, unseating the Barrys who had traditionally held the seat. He entertained grandly in order to woo the electors. He also served as High Sheriff for County Cork in 1762. The Devonsher family had settled in Cork as merchants in the mid seventeenth century. [15] The article in Country Life tells us that toward the end of his life the sociable Abraham Devonsher “lives a recluse life with a Harlot.” He led a rather rakish life, apparently, and he died childless in 1783 – or at least left no legitimate heirs – and left the estate to a grand-nephew, John Newenham, of Maryborough, County Cork (now a hotel) who then assumed the name Devonsher.

John had a son, John (1763-1801), who inherited the house and passed it to his son, Abraham Newenham Devonsher. He ran into financial difficulties, and at some date before 1837, sold the estate to Edward Roche (1771-1855). [16] Edward Roche used it as a winter residence, and lived the rest of the year in his other estate, Trabolgan, as did his son, Edmond Burke Roche, who was raised to the peerage as 1st Baron Fermoy in 1856. He was also an MP and served as Lord Lieutenant for County Cork 1856-1874. According to the Landed estates database, at the time of the Griffith Valuation, James Kelly occupied Kilshanning. The Griffith valuation was carried out between 1848 and 1864 to determine liability to pay the Poor rate (for the support of the poor and destitute within each Poor Law Union). The 1st Baron Fermoy’s sister, Frances Maria, married James Michael Kelly, another MP (for Limerick), of Cahircon, County Clare, and James Kelly was their son. According to the Landed Estates Database, in 1943 the Irish Tourist Association Survey mentioned that it was the home of the McVeigh family. Mark Bence-Jones adds that other owners were the Myles family, and Mr and Mrs Paul Rose. The property had a succession of owners until it was purchased in 1960 by Commander Douglas Merry and his wife.

When they purchased it, the cupolas had disappeared and one wing was ruinous and the rest in poor condition. Commander Merry set about restoring the house. His son Hugo has continued the work, partly with help from the Irish Georgian Society [17]. This work included repairing a sagging saloon ceiling, and restoring the pavilions and cupolas, recladding them in copper. The entire main house, arcades and both courtyards have been completely restored and re-roofed. One wing is used for self-catering and events, and the other contains stables. There are fourteen bedrooms in the wing, and six in the main house, Anne told us.

We did not explore the outside, and did not get to see inside the pavilions or wings. That will have to wait for another visit!

[1] https://fotahouse.com/

http://doneraileestate.ie/

[2] http://thecourtyardkilshannig.com/

[3] Palladian architecture is a style derived from the designs of the Venetian architect Andrea Palladio (1508-1580). Palladio’s work was strongly based on the symmetry, perspective, and values of the formal classical temple architecture of the ancient Greeks and Romans. https://irishhistorichouses.com/2020/04/18/architectural-definitions/

[4] https://www.dia.ie/architects/view/1660#tab_biography

[5] https://www.ihh.ie/index.cfm/houses/house/name/Kilshannig

[6] Hill, Judith. “Pot-Walloping Palladianism.” Country Life, June 15, 2016.

[7] Bence-Jones, Mark. A Guide to Irish Country Houses. (originally published as Burke’s Guide to Country Houses volume 1 Ireland by Burke’s Peerage Ltd. 1978); Revised edition 1988 Constable and Company Ltd, London.

[8] p. 465. Keohane, Frank. The Buildings of Ireland: Cork, City and County. Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 2020.

[9] https://www.buildingsofireland.ie/buildings-search/building/20904408/kilshannig-house-kilshannig-upper-co-cork

[10] https://irishhistorichouses.com/2020/04/18/architectural-definitions/

[11] https://theirishaesthete.com/2015/05/18/exuberance/

[12] p. 466. Keohane, Frank. The Buildings of Ireland: Cork, City and County. Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 2020.

[13] Ibid.

[14] http://lordbelmontinnorthernireland.blogspot.com/search/label/County%20Cork%20Landowners?updated-max=2018-07-21T07:33:00%2B01:00&max-results=20&start=8&by-date=false

[15] Keohane writes that Abraham Devonsher’s parents are Thomas Devonsher and Sarah Webber. The website The Peerage says his mother was Sarah Morris. https://www.thepeerage.com/p30600.htm#i305998

See also the article in Country Life from June 15 2016, by Judith Hill, that is linked to the Kilshannig courtyard website. Hill says Abraham Devonsher’s father was named Jonas, and that his family began to acquire the land at Kilshannig from the 1670s.

Keohane says that John Newenham was Abraham’s nephew, the Peerage website has John as the great nephew: Abraham’s brother Jonas had a daughter Sarah who married Richard Newenham, and it was their son, John Newenham, who inherited Kilshannig.

The home of the Newenhams, Maryborough, is now a hotel:

https://www.maryborough.com/index.html

[16] http://landedestates.nuigalway.ie/LandedEstates/jsp/estate-show.jsp?id=2764

[17] https://www.igs.ie/conservation/project/kilshannig


a holiday treat

I haven’t written a blog entry this week, but have booked a little holiday for myself and Stephen next year, for a stay in a section 482 property. Wilton Castle, Enniscorthy, County Wexford.

https://wiltoncastleireland.com

It looks a real treat! Most of it seems to be a ruin – here is a picture from the National Inventory.

photograph from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage, https://www.buildingsofireland.ie/buildings-search/building/15702561/wilton-castle-originally-wilton-house-wilton-co-wexford

Ballymurrin, Kilbride, County Wicklow

contact: Philip Geoghegan.  086-1734560

www.ballymurrinquakerfarmstead.eu

Opening dates in 2020 but check due to Covid: May 1-3, 5-10, 12-17, 19-24, 26-31, Aug 1-2, 4-9, 11-23, 25-30, Sept 1-6, 2pm-6pm, Guided Tours 2pm and 4pm

Fee: adult/OAP/student €5, child free under 16 years but must be supervised.

Philip coming out to greet us.

Stephen and I drove to Ballymurrin House on Saturday 27th July 2019. We were looking forward to it as we had seen the house on “Home of the Year” on RTE, and I particularly love its style, and we knew it was originally a Quaker farmhouse. Stephen is a Quaker so it is special for him, to see part of the history of Quakers in Ireland. I emailed Philip beforehand, to let him know that we were coming. I knew that the current owners are not Quakers, but the website describes the Quaker history of the house.

Philip was friendly and delighted to welcome a Quaker. The house was built in around 1668, and was formerly a pair of houses, according to the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage. [1] On the Ballymurrin website, the part of the building with the pink painted exterior is identified as the farmhouse, and the white end is the coach house and forge. The pink part of the house was originally two dwellings: a five bay main house, and a dower house of two bays. We did not get to see inside the Dower House, which is now called Box Tree Cottage in honour of a tree in its garden, but you can see pictures on the Ballymurrin website. The buildings form a U shape around a yard, although the buildings to the right hand side when facing the house have not yet been renovated, although they have been stabilised. These would have been the stables. On the left hand side of the U is what was formerly the milking parlour. [2]

The former milking parlour. We did not get to visit inside as it was being used for guests, as it is converted for self-catering.

At the time of the English Civil War (1642–1651), many “dissenting” Christian groups formed, including the Quakers, or the Religious Society of Friends, as it is also known. The founder of the Quakers, George Fox (1624-1691), was dissatisfied with the teachings of the Church of England and of the other nonconformist, or dissenting, groups. He sought a more pure faith. Wikipedia tells us that in 1652 Fox had a vision on Pendle Hill in Lancashire, England, in which he believed that “the Lord let me see in what places he had a great people to be gathered,” and after this, Fox travelled around England, the Netherlands and Barbados preaching and teaching with the aim of converting new adherents to his faith. He found many other “seekers” who also felt the churches had become bogged down with traditions, rituals and power politics, and together they tried to live out the Christian message more simply. [3] and [4]

The Quakers spread to Ireland very early after George Fox started the Society in England in 1652: the first recorded Friends Meetings for Worship in Ireland were held in 1654 at the home of William Edmundson in Lurgan, Co. Armagh [4]. As Ballymurrin Farmstead was built from around 1668, some of the first Quakers in Ireland settled in this area in Wicklow. Turtle Bunbury writes that William Edmundson served in Cromwell’s army during the Civil War (and thus fought against those loyal to King Charles I) and settled in Ireland in 1652, and that by 1656 Quaker ideals were making a negative impact on the morale of the Cromwellian army – so much so that Cromwell purged the army of Quakers. This would explain why Quakers settled so early in Ireland – they had been in Cromwell’s army in Ireland. [5] It may seem odd that Quakers were in the army, but it was only during Charles II’s reign that they embraced pacifism.

The Quakers chose a beautiful area to settle in Wicklow, with a view of rolling hills. The house itself is tucked into a hillside so that the hill behind shelters the house.

A Quaker settlement was also established in the late 17th century in Ballitore, County Kildare, by two Quakers, John Bancroft and Abel Strette, who began farming in the area, and Ballitore is still known as the Quaker Village. A Quaker School was founded in Ballitore by Abraham Shackleton (1697–1771) in 1726. Stephen and I visited Ballitore the following month, in August 2019.

Before we began our tour, Philip brought us through the house to the kitchen for a refreshment as it was a particularly hot day. We drank water with fresh mint and sat at the big kitchen table, joining his wife Delphine.

Philip and Delphine are both architects. I love their style, which respects the history and original architecture of the home. The house preserves the traditional cottage air with its thick limewashed stone walls, window alcoves, and exposed wooden beams and lintels. I love the old farmhouse doors. Philip led us into the house via a room which has display boards explaining the history of the house and the Quakers, which we had time to study later. Philip and Delphine purchased the property over twenty-five years ago and have done much renovation work. Philip explained that the setting, with its square courtyard, reminded him of the type of farm houses which he loved in Jersey, the Channel Island, where he had previously worked.

In this explanation board, created by Philip Geoghegan, you can see the farmhouse, with the three-sided courtyard, in the aerial photograph. The third side, the stables, have not been converted.

To begin the tour, Philip brought us out first to see the remains of a cottage out behind the house, built in the 1600’s.

The cottage has been stabilised, but not roofed. The walls were fixed painstakingly to maintain their integrity and heritage. Originally covered in ivy, this was cleared and the floor also levelled.

See the wooden lintel over the door.

Ballymurrin, or “Ballymooranbeg” (Ballymurrin Lower) is identified on the Down Survey Map, made by Sir William Petty for Oliver Cromwell in 1654, and it listed as belonging to Sir William Parsons, who lived in Milltown, Rathnew. [6] William Parsons, the 1st Baronet of Bellamont, was a Lord Justice of Ireland and served as Surveyor General of Ireland. In this position he was able to discern faulty titles for land and appropriate this land for himself. [7] There were Quaker families in Dunganstown and Kilmacow, County Wicklow.

Information panel in the cottage, created by Philip Geoghegan.

Philip has done much research to establish who lived in Ballymurrin. In this 1760 map pictured above, Ballymurrin is identified, and a Quaker Burial place in Kilbride. There is also a Quaker meeting house in Ballykean. Quakers do not have church “services” or masses, they have “meetings,” which are mostly silent.

The Eves family from Leicestershire settled on land also owned by William Parsons. In 1667 Anne Eves married Ambrose Judd, who had moved from Suffolk in England to Ireland in 1651, and their first child, Robert, was born in Ballymurrin in 1668. This couple built up Ballymurrin and had a large family. In 1687 their first child, Robert, died and was buried in the “Friends burying place” just a small walk from the farmhouse, a graveyard that is still there today.

In the marriage register pictured below, of 1680, a Mark Eves (related to Anne) signs as a witness, along with William Bate of Ballymurrin. William Bate, Philip has determined, was born in Stepney St Dunstans East End of London in 1635. He was a carpenter, and he and his wife Anne and five children lived in Ballymurrin for ten years. He probably built most of the buildings at Ballymurrin. He was put in Wicklow Gaol, at the Black Castle, along with twelve other Quakers, for attending a meeting in 1671. The Quakers left England hoping to escape persecution but they were still persecuted in Ireland, for dissenting from the official Church.

Due to persecutions and after his imprisonment, in 1681 William and Mary Bate[s] and their children left Wicklow and helped to set up a township in Newton Creek, West Jersey, in land set aside for Irish Quakers by William Penn, who had that year founded Pennsylvania. William Bates became a senior administrator in the West Jersey government and was buried in 1700 in the Newton Quaker Burial Ground.

Based on the registered births, Philip has calculated that there were about 150 Quakers in County Wicklow between 1661 and 1700. A Meeting House was established in Wicklow Town for monthly meetings at Thomas Trafford’s house in 1669. In details published on Ballymurrin’s website, we see that Thomas Trafford was committed to prison in 1680 for opening his shop (a drapers) on Christmas day! Many Quakers do not celebrate Christmas, since it is every day that Jesus is in their heart.

Inside I was delighted to see the original animal trough inside the cottage:

Animal trough: the Quakers would have kept cows, sheep and pigs, hens, ducks and geese. They grew barley, wheat, oats and vegetables and fruit.

If you look closely you can see a division in the floor. This would have been a wall, dividing the living quarters from the animal quarters. You can see the original door lintel. The fourth wall has been levelled, as you can see in the next picture, from the back of the cottage:

We were curious about the round column at one end of the cottage, while the other is a square column. Philip doesn’t know why there is the rounded column or what it signifies, but it is very impressive, considering it stands there since the 1600s! There are similar rounded gate posts by the stables.

Stephen and Philip speculate on the rounded column to the left, in the barbeque area next to the old cottage.

Next we headed back to the house, and entered the door leading into the forge. You can see the fireplace, with some equipment, in the background, and I took a picture looking upward into the fireplace.

The beehive chimney in the Forge sits on a tree trunk built into stone walls and is a timber frame filled with woven hazel twigs and covered with clay and cow dung inside and plaster outside. It is, Philip points out, a remarkable structure from the 17th century and, even more remarkable, remains intact.

There are more information boards which Philip has made.

Ambrose was “convinced of the blessed truth” in 1672, i.e. became a Quaker.  “Convincement” is when a person realizes that he or she wants to join the Quakers (“Convincement” and officially becoming a Quaker don’t necessarily happen at the same time. Nowadays a person attends Quaker meetings for years before applying for membership). The next information board tells us that Ambrose Judd had to pay for his Quaker faith, with hay and barley, wheat and oats. These were “forcibly recovered,” taken as tithes to be paid to the established church, the Church of Ireland. Catholics also had to pay these tithes. Quakers refused to pay the tithes, so a “tithemonger” took the goods, and refusing to pay tithes would be a reason that Quakers were put in gaol.

In 1689 King James II granted toleration to the Quakers, which means that they no longer had to pay the tithes to the Church of England/Ireland.

Here is another part of the forge:

In the Timeline for Ballymurrin which Philip compiled, we can see that in 1754, Susanna Ashton, born Eves, a widow, marries Joseph Pim from Nurney, County Kildare, who moves to Ballymurrin. He dies in 1764 and is buried in Ballymurrin Burial Ground. His son may have built nearby Woodville House, in Kilbride, County Wicklow (built around 1780). [8]

Above the exhibition room is a loft, which still has its original roofing timbers. The forge below would have kept the bedrooms above warm.

In 1855 Ballymurrin Upper, 163 acres was sold by Joseph Pim through the Emcumbered Estates Court. The Encumbered Estates Act was passed in 1849 to facilitate the sale of Irish estates whose owners could not meet their financial obligations due to losses during the Famine. Ballymurrin Lower was sold in 1874 or 1891, this time by Lydia Pim, through the Landed Estates Court, which had taken over from the Encumbered Estates Court. Ballymurrin and Woodville were bought by the Catholic Byrne family: Edward, Bernard and Mary, according to Philip’s research.

According to Philip’s records, Mary Byrne dies in 1926 and after this, the O’Sullivans live in Ballymurrin. Alterations were made to the house, dated 1927 and 1935.

In 1990, David and Mary Strawbridge moved in to the house and initiated restoration of the main house. In 1994, Delphine and Philip Geoghegan purchased and extended restoration of the house over a twenty year period. In 1995, they re-roofed the agricultural building on the left of the main house, which incorporated a dwelling, two buildings for agriculture, a forge and a cart shed with loft above. This part of the house now includes the exhibition space, a studio and bedrooms upstairs.

We moved on into the next room then, which would have been the living area of the original house.

The living area of the original house.

This contains another huge fireplace. This is called an “inglenook” fireplace. It had been boarded up for perhaps two hundred years!

Next to this is the kitchen, which would have been a later addition to the Quaker house. Its size indicates a good standard of living. The beams of the ceiling are original but the secondary joists were replaced in 1927. The stairs appear to be a later addition as the beam supporting the ceiling joists was cut to make head room for ascending the stairs. Originally the upper level was probably accessed by a steep ladder. You can see a huge oak beam spanning across the kitchen fireplace, which is original.

Kitchen, with yet another huge fireplace, with the airbnb guest inside!

Inside the fireplace is a special feature which Philip and Delphine discovered during their renovations, unique as far as they know to this house for this time period: a bread oven.

The bread oven. I love its wooden door, which you can see at the right hand side of the photograph.
The stone floor of the fireplace is from a local quarry, and has fossils of wormy creatures.

In the last room of the tour, now the family sitting room, there is a wonderful old original cupboard, which contains more Quaker history, which Philip calls the “Minutes cupboard,” as it may have held the minutes of meetings. This cupboard is original to the house, as are the window shutters and doors.

A facsimile of the the front page of a book, History Rise and Progress of the People called Quakers in Ireland, from the year 1653 to 1700.

Before the visitors arrived, Stephen was able to have detailed discussion with Philip about the Quakers, and Philip showed us documents he had transcribed which Stephen admired, especially because he himself has been attempting to copy old documents, and has found them sometimes impossible to decipher. He asked if he could send a copy of a document to Philip to see if he is able to help in deciphering! Since our visit, Philip has indeed aided Stephen in his transcription. Philip prepared the information boards for a 350 year celebration of the Quakers which took place in the farmhouse. He has also prepared a booklet for visiting schoolchildren.

Another event the Geoghagans hosted, which you can see on the website, was a visit by the Bates family of America, descendants of the Quaker Bates who moved to Pennsylvania.

We were delighted not only to see the beautiful house, but to meet this wonderful couple!

After we left the house we visited the nearby Quaker graveyard.

Although about 140 people are buried in this Quaker burial ground, there are only four headstones. This is because in 1671 the Quakers stopped using headstones, perhaps they did not like the overly ornate headstones becoming popular at the time, as these did not convey their belief about the equality of all people. However, by 1850 this restraint was dropped, and the four headstones memorialise members of the Pim family. The Pim family transferred ownership of the Burial ground to the Quakers in 1812.

[1] https://www.buildingsofireland.ie/buildings-search/building/16403107/ballymurrin-house-ballymurrin-lower-kilbride-co-wicklow

[2] https://www.ballymurrinquakerfarmstead.eu/index.html

[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quakers

[4] https://quakers-in-ireland.ie/history/background/

[5] p. 75. Bunbury, Turtle and Art Kavanagh. The Landed Gentry & Aristocracy of County Kildare. Published by Irish Family Names, 11 Emerald Cottages, Grand Canal St, Dublin 4 and Market Square, Bunclody, Co Wexford, Ireland. 2004.

[6] Information taken from information boards created by Philip Geoghegan:

[7] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sir_William_Parsons,_1st_Baronet_of_Bellamont

Nora Robertson writes about him in her book, The Crowned Harp. Memories of the Last Years of the Crown in Ireland. published by Allen Figgis & Co. Ltd., Dublin, 1960.

[8] https://www.buildingsofireland.ie/buildings-search/building/16403106/woodville-house-ballymurrin-lower-kilbride-co-wicklow

[9] I examined the census to see if I can work out more about who lived in Ballymurrin farm, but it is confusing as I don’t know what other habitations exist in the area of “Ballymurrin Lower” and “Ballymurrin Upper” and the numbering system seems to change from 1901 to 1911, as well, perhaps, as the specification between which habitations are “upper” and which “lower,” unless the families moved about quite a bit, which is possible. I don’t know whether all the habitations listed are actually part of the current Ballymurrin farmstead. I have made charts but it is all guesswork.

Philip Geoghegan mentions Mary, Bernard and Edward Byrne purchasing Ballymurrin, but looking at the census, ownership appears to be more complicated.

The 1911 census has a Mary Byrne as head of household, single and Catholic, in house “1.2” in Ballymurrin Lower. The 1901 census has Bernard Byrne and his sister Mary in house 6 in Ballymurrin lower, along with servants who include Laurence Farrell and two youger Farrells who are probably his sons, as well as Peter Penrose, Julia Bull and Patrick Murry. It looks like the numbering system changed from 1901 to 1911 as I doubt the occupants moved between the dwellings.

In 1911 in house 1.1 there is Mary Farrell, head of household, and her sons John, Laurence and James, and daughter Mary – all also Catholic. These are probably the Farrells listed as servants to the Byrnes in 1901.

It looks like a nice little community, with tailor, postmen, shoemaker and dressmaker along with farmers and agricultural labourers, although they may be on the edge of poverty with the dwelling places only classed as type 0, with perishable materials in 1901, but nearly all of the habitations are improved by 1911. Furthermore, by 1911 all but one of the homes are owned by their inhabitants. The families are extended and many are related by marriage. The main families in 1901 are Byrne, Farrell, Arthur, Smyth (or Smith), Douglas, Meade, Redmond (Byrne daughter married a Redmond), Carly (or Carty). Additionally, owners include Colonel Ellis and Mary Cullen. In 1911 the main familes are Byrne, Farrell, Arthur, Smith, Douglas, Meade (daughter married a Farrell), Murray, Lawless and Doyle, as well as owners Michael Kavanagh and Mrs Stampher. All of the inhabitants are Catholic.

Historic houses in County Wicklow listed in the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage

I would like to share with you some examples of the houses in Wicklow listed in the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage (photographs are all taken from the National Inventory):

i. Avondale, open to the public. Built in 1779, designs may have been by James Wyatt. It was the home of Charles Stewart Parnell, the Nationalist leader in Ireland.

ii. Avonmore

Avonmore House, built around 1830.

iii. Ballyarthur

Ballyarthur, built in 1680.

iv. Ballycurry

Ballycurry House, built in 1807 to designs by Francis Johnston.

v. Ballykeane

Ballykeane, built around 1780.

vi. Ballymoney

Ballymoney, built around 1800.

vii. Ballynure House

Ballynure House, built around 1800.

viii. Baltiboys

Baltiboys, built around 1840.

ix. Carnew Castle

Carnew Castle, built in the late sixteenth century, re-roofed and remodernised ca. 1817 by 4th Earl Fitzwilliam whose Irish seat, Coolattin, is nearby.

x. Castle Kevin

Castle Kevin, built in 1813.

xi. Clonmannon House (Old)

Clonmannon House (Old), built around 1700.

xii. Cronroe, now Bel Air Hotel

https://www.belairhotelequestrian.com/hotel/

Cronroe, now Bel Air Hotel, built in 1890.

xiii. Donard House

Donard House, built in 1813-14 to the designs of William Vierpyl.

xiv. Fortgranite

Fortgranite, built around 1730.

xv. Glanmore Castle

Glanmore Castle, built around 1804, to designs by Francis Johnston.

xvi. Glenart Castle, was a hotel, now private again, built around 1820.

xvii. Grangecon Parks

Grangecon Parks, built around 1820.

xviii. Hollybrook House

Hollybrook House, built in 1835 incorporating an earlier house, to designs by William Vitruvius Morrison.

xix. Humewood Castle

Humewood Castle, built 1867-70 to designs by William White.

xx. Mount John

Mount John, built around 1800.

xxi. Rathsallagh, now a hotel

https://www.rathsallagh.com/

Rathsallagh, built as stables around 1750, converted to a house in 1798.

xxii. Rosanna House

Rosanna House, built around 1720.

xxiii. Roundwood

Roundwood, built around 1800, remodelled later in the nineteenth century.

xxiv. Slaney Park House

Slaney Park House, built around 1810, reduced by one storey after a fire in 1946.

xxv. Tinakilly House, now a small hotel

Tinakilly House (now a hotel), built around 1876 to designs by James Franklin Fuller.

xxvi. Tinode House (you can visit June Blake’s garden www.juneblake.ie )

Tinode, built in 1864 to designs by W.F. Caldbeck, partly demolished in a fire in 1922 and restored in 1973.

xxvii. Tulfarris – now a hotel https://www.tulfarrishotel.com/

Tulfarris – now a hotel, built in 1760, porch from around 1860.

xxviii. Woodbrook, now a golf course

Woodbrook, now a golf course, built around 1840.

xxix. Woodstock House, now Druid’s Glen Golf Course and hotel

Druid’s Glen hotel, formerly called Woodstock, built around 1770.

Loughton House, Moneygall, County Offaly

Sat May 25th 2019, Loughton, Moneygall, Birr, Co Offaly

Opening dates in 2020: June 9-13, 16-20, 23-27, July 1-4, 7-11, 14-18, 21-25, 28-31, Aug 4-9, 11-30, 11am-4pm.

contact: Michael Lyons and Andrew Vance, 089 431 9150

Fee: adult €5, child €3, OAP/student €4, family ticket €15

www.loughtonhouse.com

We drove up a long tree-lined avenue to Loughton House. Stephen rang from the car on our way and spoke to Michael Lyons, who was out chopping wood, so told us that Andrew would be at the house to meet us.

This would have been the front of the house in 1777, as it has the bow in the centre. This is the side which we saw first as we drove up, the North facing side.

Loughton House was built on the site of a previous house, in 1777. When we arrived, we wondered why there were two front doors. I think Andrew Vance, who greeted us, explained, but we were so busy introducing ourselves and immediately got along so well, that I forget what he told me about the two doors. That’s a question for next time!

single storey addition with crisp limestone pilasters, and pediments on console brackets over the doors.

According to the website, alterations were made to the house in 1835 by James and George Pain. I don’t know who the architect of the 1777 house is, but originally the house faced north, with a shallow full-height half hexagon bow in the centre.

I would consider this to be the back of the house since we went out of the door in the single-storey addition, above, after our tour, to see the garden, but is officially the front, the South facing side. The windows have pediments with console brackets on the ground and first floors. The three storeys are over a concealed basement.

Mark Bence-Jones describes the house in his A Guide to Irish Country Houses:

“Of elegant and restrained late-Georgian character, the main front consisting of two wide and shallow three sided bows of three bays each, with a two bay centre between them. Single storey wing of two bays, adorned with pilasters. Pediments and entablatures on console brackets over ground floor and first floor windows. Parapeted roof. Very handsome Georgian stables.” [1]

The 1777 house was built for Major Thomas Pepper. Thomas, born around 1735, of Ballygarth, Julianstown, Co Meath, son of Lambert Pepper and Jane Otway, was Major in the 14th Light Dragoons. The Peppers acquired Ballygarth Castle (now a ruin) and lands in County Meath after the Restoration of Charles II to the British throne in 1660, for their loyalty to the Stuart monarchy. [2] Thomas Pepper married Mary Ryder, daughter of John Ryder, the Archbishop of Tuam, County Roscommon. The 14th Light Dragoons was originally called James Dormer’s Dragoons, and were raised in the south of England in 1715 in response to the Jacobite Rebellion. They were sent to Ireland in 1717. In 1747 they were renamed the 14th Regiment of Dragoons, and became the Light Dragoons in 1776 [3]. Loughton House passed to their son Thomas Ryder Pepper (1760-1828), who in 1792 married Anne Bloomfield, daughter of John Benjamin Bloomfield and Charlotte Anne Waller, of Newport, County Tipperary. The Bloomfield family had originally settled at Eyrecourt, County Galway.

When Thomas Ryder Pepper died, the house passed to his brother-in-law, Benjamin Bloomfield, 1st Baron Bloomfield (1815) of Oakhampton and Redwood (1768-1846). Redwood House in County Tipperary no longer exists. Oakhampton, also in Tipperary, still stands. He was Lieutenant General in the British Army and fought the rebels in 1798 at Vinegar Hill, County Wexford. He rose in the ranks to become Keeper of the Privy Purse for King George IV. This was a particularly difficult job – we came across King George IV before at several houses listed in the Revenue Section 482 Property list. The king enjoyed a romance with Elizabeth Conyngham of Slane Castle, and relished the good life: food, drink and beauty in the form not only of women but in architecture, with the help of John Nash. He was therefore rather a Big Spender. Naturally, therefore, he came to resent Benjamin Bloomfield and his efforts to tighten the purse strings.

We have already seen that several houses underwent alterations in expectation of a visit from King George IV in 1821. In Charleville, County Wicklow, a new floor was installed at great expense. Here in Loughton, a bedroom was done up for the King. Unfortunately, the King never made it to Loughton.

It was later that Bloomfield hired James and George Richard Pain to renovate Loughton House, in 1835.

James and George were sons of James Pain, an English builder and surveyor. Their Grandfather William Pain was the author of a series of builder’s pattern books, so they had architecture in the blood. According to the Dictionary of Irish Architects, James and his younger brother George Richard were both pupils of John Nash, one of the foremost British architects of his day responsible for the design of many important areas of London including Marble Arch, Regent Street and Buckingham Palace. He was architect to the prolific lover of architecture the Prince Regent, later King George IV. When Nash designed Lough Cutra Castle in County Galway for Charles Vereker in 1811, he recommended that the two brothers should be placed in charge of the work, so it was at this time that they came to Ireland. Lough Cutra is an amazing looking castle privately owned which is available for self-catering rental. [4] James Pain settled in Limerick and George in Cork, but they worked together on a large number of buildings – churches (both Catholic and Protestant), country houses, court houses, gaols and bridges – almost all of them in the south and west of Ireland. [5] In 1823 James Pain was appointed architect to the Board of First Fruits for Munster, responsible for all the churches and glebe houses in the province.

The Pains Gothicized and castellated Dromoland Castle in County Clare at some time from 1819-1838, now a luxury hotel. [6] They took their Gothicizing skills then to Mitchelstown Castle in 1823-25, but that is now a ruin. In 1825 they also worked on Convamore (Ballyhooly) Castle but that too is now a ruin. They also probably worked on Quinville in County Clare and also Curragh Chase in County Limerick (now derelict after a fire in 1941), Blackrock Castle in County Cork (now a science centre, museum and observatory which you can visit [7]), they did some work for Adare Manor in County Limerick (also now a luxury hotel), Clarina Park in Limerick (also, unfortunately, demolished, but you can get a taste of what it must have been like from its gate lodge), Fort William in County Waterford, probably they designed the Gothicization and castellation of Ash Hill Towers in County Limerick (also a section 482 property!), alterations and castellation of Knoppogue Castle, County Clare (you can also visit and stay, or attend a medieval style banquet), Aughrane Castle mansion in County Galway (demolished – Bagots used to own it, I don’t know if we are related!), a castellated tower on Glenwilliam Castle, County Limerick and more.

The Pain brothers reoriented Loughton House to face south, and the main doorcase was put to the east end, the Loughton House website tells us. In his Buildings of Ireland: Central Leinster. Counties of Kildare, Laois and Offaly, Andrew Tierney tells us that this oblique approach of typical of James Pain. [8]

The National Inventory of Architectural Heritage claims that Loughton House is probably the Pain’s finest Classical work [9]. The exterior is relatively plain, with limestone window dressings with keystones. The north facing side is the original house, whereas the south facing side, of eight bays instead of the seven in the north side, is by the Pain brothers. The windows on this side have moulded cement detailing: architrave, cornice and consoles, and pediments. We saw more of the Pains’ work inside, in the Drawing and Dining Rooms which date from their renovation, and the wonderful curved stone cantilevered staircase.

The current owners, who acquired the house in 2016, are both medical doctors, as was the previous owner, Dr. James Reilly, who was also a former Minister for Health in the Irish government. When we visited, the house exuded a comfortable quirky chic, with marble busts on pillars in the front hall and a touch of whimsy, with a stag’s head draped in a fur at the bottom of the sweeping cantilevered staircase. 

The Loughton House website tells us:

“The house has very fine detailing – traces of the late eighteenth-century decoration can be seen in the house as well as early nineteenth-century changes in internal layout.

“The ground floor is laid out with bright and generously proportioned formal reception rooms with magnificent decorative cornicing and ceilings, ornate plaster work and large original period fireplaces. The original wood floors remain throughout and the grand sash bay windows permit torrents of light into the house. Most notable are the wood-carved shutters and door panels in the original Billiard room.” [10]

Loughton passed to Bloomfield’s son, John Arthur Douglas Bloomfield (1802-1879). He succeeded as 2nd Baron Bloomfield on his father’s death. He was a diplomat and travelled widely, was envoy to St. Petersburg and Ambassador to Austria. He was appointed Privy Counsellor on 17 December 1860. He was created 1st Baron Bloomfield of Ciamhaltha, Co. Tipperary on 7 August 1871. In 1834 his father had a hunting lodge built, Ciamhaltha House, County Tipperary, so the new title referred to this house [11]. He and his wife Georgiana Liddell had no son and the titles ended with his death. Georgina served as a Maid of Honour to Queen Victoria between 1841-45. Upon Georgiana’s marriage to Baron Bloomfield in 1845, when Georgiana left her position in the house of the Queen, Victoria gave her a cutting from a vine, which still grows at Loughton House today. Georgiana wrote the book Reminiscences of Court and Diplomatic Life, published 1883. It sounds fascinating!

The house passed to the Baron’s sister, Georgina, and her husband, Henry Trench, of Cangort Park, County Offaly (still standing, privately owned). The Landed Estates website tells us that in the 1870s, Henry Trench owned 4,707 acres in county Tipperary, 2,113 acres in county Offaly, 1,926 acres in county Limerick, 1,581 acres in county Galway, 704 acres in county Clare and 432 acres in county Roscommon. [12]

When James Reilly sold Loughton House, he unfortunately sold its contents, including an archive of family papers. Michael Parsons of The Irish Times wrote of the auction:

Lot 2066, The Loughton Papers circa 1749-1960 – an archive of documents including correspondence, diaries, journals, sketch books and recipe books created by the various families who had lived at Loughton House – sold for €12,000 (above the estimate of €5,000-€8,000).

Sheppard’s said the buyer was Galway businessman Pat McDonagh, founder and managing director of the Supermac’s fast-food chain and owner of the Barack Obama Plaza – a services area on the M8 motorway just outside the village of Moneygall built following the visit of the US president.”

Fortunately, the article continues to reassure the readers that the documents will be properly preserved and accessible:

“In a statement issued via the auction house, Mr McDonagh described the archive “part of a tapestry of history” and that his “first priority” was its “preservation for historians, the community and the country”.

“The statement said: “Mr McDonagh commended Offaly County Council for their interest in working with Supermac’s for the preservation of the papers” which will be digitised, and that “historians owe a debt of gratitude to the owners of Loughton House, Dr James Reilly and his wife Dorothy”.

“Mr McDonagh “confirmed also that the visitor centre at the Barack Obama Plaza will host a Loughton House section, where extracts from the archive will be displayed on a rolling basis.” He said the plaza would work to ensure that the heritage of the house was not lost to the community, adding that he would encourage local and expert input to ensuring that the archive would be educational, appropriate and accessible.” [13]

The wood carved panels shutters and door panels in the billiards room, now a dining room, were decorated by one of the Trenches, Dora. The form of decoration, with details rendered by a hot poker, is exquisitely done. The portrait of the artist, Dora, hangs next to the doors. Dora was Henry Trench’s son Benjamin Bloomfield Trench’s wife, Dora Agnes Caroline Turnor. Dora Trench died in 1899, after a brief illness. Benjamin and Dora had two daughters, Sheelagh Georgiana Bertha and Theodora Caroline. [14]

Dora illustrated the doors with crests and intricate patterns, and all of the doors from the room are decorated, along with the shutters. I was delighted when Stephen asked if I could take a photograph of the door – I didn’t like to ask, knowing that most section 482 houses forbid indoor photography. Andrew’s assent typified his warm welcome. You can see photographs of the room, called Dora’s Room, on the Loughton website, along with photographs of the other reception rooms, the Library, Dining and Drawing Rooms. “Dora’s Room” contains a long table and chairs, and an intricately carved fireplace.

The fireplace in Dora’s Room can be seen on the Loughton website. It is, Andrew Tierney tells us in his Buildings of Ireland: Central Leinster, Tudor Revival, of 1862. The male caryatid figure on the right is the original, Andrew thinks, whereas the figure on the left is a copy. It’s strange how such fireplaces are carved in wood and manage to survive the fire they contain. Andrew said it throws out great heat. It has a second flue behind, from which the fire can draw its oxygen, rather than drawing from the warmed air inside the room.

The Loughton website tells us that the Trenches remained in residence until 1973 when the property was passed to the Atkinson family.

Major Anthony Guy Atkinson (b. 1909) inherited Loughton in 1970 from his cousins Thora and Sheelah Trench (Dora’s daughters). Henry Trench, Georgina Bloomfield’s husband, had a sister, Anne Margaret Trench. She married Guy Caddell Atkinson. They inherited Cangort Park in County Tipperary and Major Anthony Guy Atkinson was a descendant of Anne Margaret Trench. [15] He made Loughton over to his son, Guy Nevill Atkinson (b. 1950), who sold it in 2001.

From Dora’s Room we came upon the hallway with the sweeping floating stone cantilever staircase. This was originally the entrance hall, before James Pain added the staircase and moved the entrance to the east end.

Andrew drew our attention to an old tall clock with barometer. It was from Lissadell House, and, appropriately, was made by a man named Yates – not the poet Yeats who frequented the house, note the different spelling, but in a nice touch, the picture hanging beside it was of the poet. Incidentally, one of the Trench family, a sister of Benjamin Bloomfield Trench who inherited Loughton, Louisa Charlotte, married Colonel James Gore-Booth, of the Lissadell family. The owners have taken their time to populate the house appropriately, with respect for its history and a dash of humour.

I was most enamoured with the next room, the library, with its floor to ceiling built in bookshelves. It retains original wallpaper, worn but still in situ.

“This is where we sit in the evenings, with a glass of wine,” Andrew told us. I could just see myself there too, in the well-worn couches, facing the fireplace. You can also see this room on the website, with its comfy leather armchairs. The Equine pictures are appropriate as Andrew is Master of the local Hunt!

In the Drawing Room, a formal room with sofas, carpets and lovely salmon pink walls, gorgeous cabinets, piano and ornate gilt overmantel mirror, Andrew pointed out another treasure: the fire insurance plaque from a building. The various insurance companies had their own firetrucks and teams, and they only put out fires of the buildings insured by them. Unfortunate neighbours burned down. I was excited to see the plaque as I had seen one on the Patriot Inn in Kilmainham, one of the few remaining, and learned about them in a lecture in Warrenmount in Dublin.

We then entered the second dining room (if we consider Dora’s Room, the former Billiards room, to be a dining room also, as it is currently furnished), a larger room than the first. This dining room also has a clever fireplace, this one of steel, with secret cabinets at the sides to keep the plates and dishes hot. It also had vents, and further vents built into the walls of the room, to control temperature and air flow.

A painting above the door is by Sarah, Lady Langham, an artist, who has also applied her creative skills to the house, and who manages the day-to-day operation of the house. She has made curtains and even the wallpaper of The King’s Bedroom. On our way to the back staircase we ran into Sarah herself, as I was photographing the chain that was used to pull the coal to the upper floors.

The final rooms we viewed are Sarah’s piece de resistance, “the King’s Suite,” which comprises two rooms – the room where George IV was meant to sleep, and a room next to it also furnished with a bed, which might have been his dressing room or a parlour.

Sarah created the wallpaper. It features a crest of a unicorn and a lion around the top – and a stag that is pictured in the recurring motifs below. She also made the magnificant curtains and pelmet.

The fireplace is interesting. It is made of limestone, which contains fossils of tubular sea creatures:

This, along with other rooms, is available for guest accommodation.

There is a stable complex to one side of the house. Andrew brought us out to show us the function room, which was originally a coal shed. It’s huge, and would be wonderful for parties, and is available for hire. The garden outside it, which would also be available for the functions, is romantic and beautiful, with a pond and stone walls.

Then we sat at a table outside and Andrew brought us coffees – such a lovely touch!

Michael joined us briefly and shared with us a photograph he had found in the national archives in England, of a group gathered at what is now the back of the house.

Andrew then urged us to wander in the gardens. We walked over to what looks like a Norman keep. It is Ballinlough Castle (not to be confused with Ballinlough Castle of County Westmeath), which dates back to the early seventeeth century, and belonged to the O’Carroll family. I climbed nearly all the way to the top (at my own peril!)!

We then found our way to the walled garden. Michael told us he hopes to restore the glasshouse.

I’d love such a large growing space, with space for fruit trees and sheltering walls. I have had my own allotment for seven years!

The vine, above, which was taken from a cutting from a vine belonging to Queen Victoria and given to her lady-in-waiting, Georgiana Liddell, when she married Baron Bloomfield.

I’d love to stay in the cottage, which is also available to rent.

[1] Mark Bence-Jones. A Guide to Irish Country Houses. (originally published as Burke’s Guide to Country Houses volume 1 Ireland by Burke’s Peerage Ltd. 1978); Revised edition 1988 Constable and Company Ltd, London.

[2] http://www.patrickcomerford.com/search/label/castles?updated-max=2017-03-10T11:30:00Z&max-results=20&start=79&by-date=false

[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/14th_King%27s_Hussars

[4] http://www.loughcutra.com/

[5] https://www.dia.ie/architects/view/2640/PAIN-JAMES

[6] https://www.dromoland.ie/

[7] https://www.bco.ie

[8] p. 472. Tierney, Andrew. Buildings of Ireland: Central Leinster. The Counties of Kildare, Laois and Offaly. Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 2019.

[9] https://www.buildingsofireland.ie/buildings-search/building/14946003/laughton-house-ballinlough-cl-by-cullenwaine-ed-moneygall-co-offaly

[10] https://loughtonhouse.com/

[11] https://www.buildingsofireland.ie/buildings-search/building/22403202/ciamaltha-house-garraunbeg-tipperary-north

[12] http://landedestates.nuigalway.ie/LandedEstates/jsp/estate-show.jsp?id=2352

Redwood was inherited by Henry Trench’s son William Thomas Trench (1843-1911).

[13] https://www.irishtimes.com/life-and-style/homes-and-property/fine-art-antiques/owner-of-supermac-s-buys-loughton-house-archive-1.2818308

[14] http://www.thepeerage.com

[15] https://landedfamilies.blogspot.com/search/label/Ireland?updated-max=2017-02-19T16:18:00Z&max-results=20&start=23&by-date=false Atkinson of Cangort and Ashley Park

Barmeath Castle, Dunleer, Drogheda, County Louth

contact: Bryan Bellew. Tel: 041-6851205

Opening dates in 2020: May 1-31, June 1-9, Aug 15-23, Oct 1-20, 9am-1pm  

Fee: adult /OAP/student €5, child free

photograph taken from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage [1]
photograph taken from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage [1] I myself didn’t manage to take a photograph of the entire building.
photograph taken from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage [1]. Square tower which was added in 1839, with its Romanesque arch and portcullis.
photograph taken from National Inventory of Architectural Heritage [1]

I was excited to see Barmeath Castle as it looks so impressive in photographs. We headed out on another Saturday morning – I contacted Bryan Bellew in advance and he was welcoming. We were lucky to have another beautifully sunny day in October.

We drove up the long driveway.

The Bellew family have lived in the area since the 12th century, according to Timothy William Ferres. [2] The Bellews were an Anglo-Norman family who came to Ireland with King Henry II. The Castle was built in the 15th century by previous owners, the Moores, as a tower house. The Moores were later Earls of Drogheda, and owned Mellifont Abbey after the Dissolution of the Monasteries, which became the Moore family home until 1725. [3]

We were greeted outside the castle by Lord and Lady Bellew – the present owner is the 8th Lord Bellew of Barmeath. I didn’t get to take a photograph of the house from the front as we immediately introduced ourselves and Lord Bellew told us the story of the acquisition of the land by his ancestor, John Bellew.

The name “Barmeath” comes from the Irish language, said to derive from the Gaelic Bearna Mheabh or Maeve’s Pass. Reputedly Queen Maeve established a camp at Barmeath before her legendary cattle raid, which culminated in the capture the Brown Bull of Cooley, as recounted in the famous epic poem, The Tain.

The Historic Houses of Ireland website tells us:

“Barmeath Castle stands proudly on the sheltered slopes of a wooded hillside in County Louth, looking out over the park to the mountains of the Cooley Peninsula and a wide panorama of the Irish sea. The Bellew family was banished to Connacht by Cromwell but acquired the Barmeath estate in settlement of an unpaid bill.” [4]

John Bellew fought against Cromwell and lost his estate in Lisryan, County Longford, and was banished to Connacht.

Theobald Taaffe, Lord Carlingford, also lost lands due to his opposition to Cromwell and the Parliamentarians and loyalty to King Charles I. The Taaffes had also lived in Ireland since the twelfth or thirteenth century, and owned large tracts of land in Louth and Sligo. Theobald Taaffe, 2nd Viscount, was advanced in 1662 to be Earl of Carlingford. He engaged John Bellew as his lawyer to represent him at the Court of Claims after the Restoration of King Charles II (1660). Theobald’s mother was Anne Dillon, daughter of the 1st Viscount Theobald Dillon. John Bellew, while banished to Connacht, married a daughter of Robert Dillon of Clonbrock, County Galway. The Clonbrock Dillons were related to the Viscounts Dillon, so perhaps it was this relationship which led Lord Carlingford to engage John Bellew as his lawyer. Bellew won the case and as payment, he was given 2000 of the 10,000 acres which Lord Carlingford won in his case, recovered from Cromwellian soldiers and “adventurers” who had taken advantage of land transfers at the time of the upheaval of Civil War. Lord Carlingford may have taken up residence in Smarmore Castle in County Louth, which was occupied by generations of Taaffes until the mid 1980s and is now a private clinic. A more ancient building which would have been occupied by the Taaffe family is Taaffe’s Castle in the town of Carlingford.

The Baronetcy of Barmeath was created in 1688 for Patrick Bellew, the lawyer John’s son, for his loyalty to James II. [see 2] Patrick, who was High Sheriff of County Louth, married Miss Elizabeth Barnewall, sister of Sir Patrick Barnewall Baronet of Crickstown Castle, County Meath (a little bit of a ruin survives of this castle). His son John inherited Barmeath and the title, 2nd Baronet Barmeath.

John’s second son, Christopher, remained in Galway and established the market town, Mount Bellew.

A three storey seven bay house. Two round corner turrets were added on the former entrance front, which is now the garden-facing side.

The castle we see today was built onto the 15th century tower house, in 1770, for Patrick Bellew, 5th Baronet, and enlarged and castellated in 1839 by Sir Patrick Bellew, 7th Bt, afterwards 1st Baron Bellew. The title Baron Bellew of Barmeath was created in 1848 for Sir Patrick, who had previously represented Louth in the House of Commons as a Whig, and also served as Lord Lieutenant of County Louth. Part of a genuine tower house is still part of the castle, detectable by the unusual thickness of the window openings at the northeastern corner of the building. [5] Before the 1839 enlargement, it was a plain rectangular block, two rooms deep and three storeys high, with seven windows across the front, and a central main door.

Mark Bence-Jones suggests in his A Guide to Irish Country Houses that the design for the enlargement may have been by John Benjamin Keane. [6]. Lord Bellew recalled Mr. Bence-Jones’s visit to the house! However, the Irish Historic Houses website names the Hertfordshire architect, Thomas Smith, as the designer of the Neo-Norman castle.

John Benjamin Keane worked first as an assistant to Richard Morrison, and went into independent practice by 1823. According to the Dictionary of Irish Architects, during the next two decades he received several important commissions including the new Queen’s College, Galway, and a number of major Catholic churches in Dublin and elsewhere, and in 1846-48 he was engineer to the River Suir Navigation Co. [7] He also designed several houses, such as Stradone House in County Cavan for Major Burrowes (1828), Cloncorick Castle County Leitrim for Edward Simpson (1828), Ballybay House in County Monaghan for Lt. Col. Leslie (1829), Laurah in County Laois for Sir Walter Burrowes (1829), Belleek Manor in County Mayo (around 1830), Gothicization of Castle Irvine County Fermanagh in 1831-1835, Glencorig Castle County Leitrim, probably Pilltown House County Meath (1838), Edermine County Wexford in 1840, Magheramenagh Castle, County Fermanagh for James Johnston (1840, now a ruin), Oak Park mausoleum in County Carlow, and Glencara House County Westmeath. It makes sense that he could have Gothicized Barmeath since he worked on Castle Irvine in that period.

However, the Dictionary of Irish Architects attributes Barmeath to Thomas Smith (1798-1875). He also worked on Castle Bellingham in County Louth (another magnificent castle which is available for weddings) [8], and Braganstown House in County Louth (privately owned).

The faces in the carving around the windows reminded me of Borris House.

At this time, Bence-Jones tells us, two round corner turrets were added on the former entrance front, which became the garden front. A new entrance was made under a Romanesque arch guarded by a portcullis on a square tower which was built at one end of the side elevation. On the other side of the castle, a long turreted wing was added, enclosing a courtyard. The castle kept its Georgian sash-windows, though some of them lost their astragals later in the nineteenth century. The entire building was cased in cement, lined to look like blocks of stone, and hoodmouldings were added above the windows.

The Bellews brought us inside, and Lady Bellew had us sign the visitors’ book. I told them I am writing a blog, and mentioned that we visited Rokeby Hall and met Jean Young, who had told us that she is reading the archives of Barmeath. Lord Bellew proceeded with the tour. 

On the staircase, we chatted about history and enjoyed swapping stories. Lord Bellew pointed out the unusually large spiral end of the mahogany staircase handrail, perpendicular to the floor – it must be at least half a metre in diameter. The joinery of the staircase is eighteenth century, with Corinthian balusters.

Mark Bence-Jones describes it:

“Staircase of magnificent C18 joinery, with Corinthian balusters and a handrail curling in a generous spiral at the foot of the stairs, opening with arches into the original entrance hall; pedimented doorcases on 1st floor landing, one of them with a scroll pediment and engaged Corinthian columns.”

Bence-Jones continues his description:

“Long upstairs drawing room with Gothic fretted ceiling. Very handsome C18 library, also on 1st floor; bookcases with Ionic pilasters, broken pediments and curved astragals; ceiling of rococo plasterwork incorporating Masonic emblems. The member of the family who made this room used it for Lodge meetings. When Catholics were no longer allowed to be Freemasons, [in accordance with a Papal dictat, in 1738], he told his former brethren that they could continue holding their meetings here during his lifetime, though he himself would henceforth be unable to attend them.” Bence-Jones writes in his Life in an Irish Country House that it was Patrick Bellew, the 5th Baronet, who remodelled the house and had the ceiling made. [9]

When in the library, I told Lord Bellew that I’d read about his generous ancestor who continued to allow the Freemasons to meet in his home despite his leaving the organisation. Lord Bellew pointed out the desk where Jean works when she visits the archives. What a wonderful room in which to spend one’s days!

The rococo details pre-date the exterior Gothicization. The egg-and-dart mouldings around the first floor doors, Corinthian columns and staircase all seem to date, according to Casey and Rowan, to approximately 1750, which would have been the time of the 4th and 5th Baronets; John the 4th Baronet (1728-50) died of smallpox, unmarried, and the title devolved upon his brother, Patrick (c. 1735-95), 5th Baronet. The library might be from a little later. Casey and Rowan describe it:

“The finest room, the library, set on the NE side of the house above the entrance lobby, is possibly a little later. Lined on its N and S walls with tall mahogany break-front bookcases, each framed by Ionic pilasters and surmounted by a broken pediment, it offers a remarkable example of Irish rococo taste. The fretwork borders and angular lattice carving of the bookcases are oriental in inspiration and must reflect the mid-C18 taste for chinoiserie, made popular by pattern books such as Thomas Chippendale’s Gentleman and Cabinet Maker’s Director (1754). The ceiling has a deep plasterwork cove filled with interlaced garland ropes, a free acanthus border, oval motifs and shells set diagonally in the corners. Free scrolls, flowers and birds occupy the flat area with, in the centre, a rather artless arrangement of Masonic symbols, including three set-squares, three pairs of dividers, clouds and the eye of God.”

an example of Masonic symbols from the wonderful Freemasons Hall interior in Molesworth Street in Dublin, open during Open House Dublin each year.
Freemasons Hall interior in Molesworth Street in Dublin, Open House Dublin 2010.

We saw some of the bedrooms next, which provide accommodation when the house is used as a wedding venue. [10] A wing of the house is also advertised for accommodation on Airbnb. [11]

Next we headed outside, and Lord Bellew took us on a tour of the garden. According to the Britain and Ireland Castles website, Barmeath Castle is set on 300 acres of parkland with 10 acres of gardens, including a lake with island. I found a short video of Lord Bellew discussing the castle on youtube, and he tells how his son made the “temple” on the island, in return for the gift of a car! The temple is very romantic in the distance, and extremely well-made, looking truly ancient.

The Irish Historic Houses website tells us about the gardens:

“The lake and pleasure grounds were designed by the garden designer and polymath, Thomas Wright of Durham (1711-1785), who visited Ireland in 1746 at the invitation of Lord Limerick and designed a series of garden buildings on his estate at Tollymore in County Down. Wright explored ‘the wee county’ extensively and his book “Louthiana“, which describes and illustrates many of its archaeological sites, is among the earliest surveys of its type. His preoccupation with Masonic ‘craft’ indicates that Wright is likely to have been a Freemason, which probably helped to cement his friendship with the Bellew of the day [this would have been John the 4th Baronet]. He may well have influenced the design for the Barmeath library and indeed the mid-eighteenth century house.

Wright’s highly original layout, which is contemporary with the house, is remarkably complete and important, and deserves to be more widely known. It includes a small lake, an archery ground, a maze, a hermitage, a shell house and a rustic bridge, while the four-acre walled garden has recently been restored.”

Thomas Wright also designed the perhaps more famous “Jealous Wall” and other follies at Belvedere, County Westmeath. He may have designed them especially for Robert Rochfort, Lord Belvedere, or else Lord Belvedere used Wright’s Six Original Designs of Grottos (1758) for his follies. The Jealous Wall was purportedly built to shield Rochfort’s view of his brother George’s house, Rochfort House (later called Tudenham Park).

The lake was created to look like a river, and indeed it would have fooled me!

The topiary is unique:

We walked along the lake to the specially created bridge by Thomas Wright. We walked over it, and I marvelled at how it stands still so solid, after two hundred and fifty years!

The view through to the archery ground:

 The current owners have been working to restore the four acre walled garden. Lord Bellew and I discussed gardening as he showed us around.

A cottage in the garden contains beautiful painted walls:

The walls depict scenes of Venice.

The gardens are open to the public as part of the Boyne Valley Gardeners Trail. [12]. More visitors were scheduled to arrive so Lord Bellew saw us to our car and we headed off.

Later, on a visit to the Battle of the Boyne museum, we saw the Bellew regalia pictured on a soldier. I also took a photo of this information panel:

[1] https://www.buildingsofireland.ie/buildings-search/building/13901817/barmeath-castle-barmeath-co-louth

[2] http://lordbelmontinnorthernireland.blogspot.com/search/label/County%20Louth%20Landowners

[3] http://www.turtlebunbury.com/history/history_family/hist_family_mooredrogheda.html

[4] http://www.ihh.ie/index.cfm/houses/house/name/Barmeath%20Castle

[5] p. 152-154. Casey, Christine and Alistair Rowan. The Buildings of Ireland: North Leinster. Penguin Books, London, 1993.

[6] Mark Bence-Jones. A Guide to Irish Country Houses.(originally published as Burke’s Guide to Country Houses volume 1 Ireland by Burke’s Peerage Ltd. 1978); Revised edition 1988 Constable and Company Ltd, London.

[7] https://www.dia.ie/architects/view/2896/KEANE%2C+JOHN+BENJAMIN#tab_biography

[8] https://www.bellinghamcastle.ie

[9] p. 38. Bence-Jones, Mark. Life in an Irish Country House. Constable and Company Ltd, London, 1996.

[10] https://www.britainirelandcastles.com/Ireland/County-Louth/Barmeath-Castle.html

[11] https://www.airbnb.ie/rooms/14447440?source_impression_id=p3_1571074477_5G4k1LLpF4gKSz4n

[12] https://www.garden.ie/gardenstosee/barmeath-castle/